Peckham is a real community

When I tell people I live in Peckham, I am often faced with the question ‘why?’  Known for being the home of ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ from the tv show Only Fools and Horses and the place where Damilola Taylor was murdered, I can understand the question but it’s clear whoever asks hasn’t visited!

It’s a very creative neighbourhood with Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmith College close by, the South London Gallery and numerous art projects – Frank’s cafe, the pop-up Campari bar on the NCP carpark is a great example of the creative projects happening in the neighbourhood.

Peckham was hit by the sad events of the London Riots – shops were vandalised and a shop and bus were set on fire.

Photo from The Guardian website

Photo from The Guardian website

The riots were heartbreaking, sad and scary but over the last couple of days an even stronger sense of community has emerged. Peckham clearly has such a strong sense of togetherness that people have turned the Poundland boarded up window into a place to stick post-it notes of their feelings.
Peckham Poundland, Rye Lane

I went down to have a look to see what messages people were putting up. It had drawn a crowd of people reading what the community had to say and it has turned into a real piece of artwork. Peckham felt colourful, full of life and meaningful. The following messages really stuck out:

‘Peckham is home’
‘I love Peckham. I hate rioters’
‘Need discipline’
‘Community, don’t do it’
‘Crime doesn’t pay’
‘Burger King will reopen and you are barred’

Peckham post riot messages

These messages are important, not only for people to get their feelings across to others but to strengthen the community, make the rioters realise that the critical mass of poeple is made up of people wanting to live in a pleasant place, that if we empower people to make a difference we can live in happiness. The riot clean up was amazing, I wish I could taken part to help clean up after the riots – I would say I’ll be there next time but my hope is that this community won’t allow this to happen again.

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

Bicycles helping women in Uganda

I recently came across this website for a community program, Ride 4 Women that empowers women in Uganda and provides them with bicycles so that they can reduce the time to travel, become economically stable and in turn safer in their community. The women in Uganda tend to do all the jobs around the house for a smooth running community but this ‘leaves no time for them to learn a trade to earn money and very little time for them to learn from each other’

Ride4Women

Ride4Women

With the following objectives:
1. Set up our Women’s Community Centre to be the women’s safe haven.
2. Equip women with vocational skills and adult education.
3. Set up income generating activities.
4. Train women in improved agriculture and animal rearing.
and use of bicycles, I’d love to get involved and wanted to share this discovery with everyone.

I have a personal connection with Uganda and a passion for the country and realised when I visited that they face many challenges which are not always easy to solve. It was clear that women do all the hard work, that adult education is non existent and setting up income generated activities would really benefit a large number of women. They did not appear very entreprenurial but maybe this is because the women need empowering for their communities to be more successful.

This type of project is an example of the type of concepts being posted by the OpenIDEO community.

Inspired by children

The Design Council’s Water Design Challenge has given me the opportunity to work with pupils at a secondary school to help them understand how design can be used to reduce their water consumption.

Today was a kick off session with the pupils to discuss the findings they had discovered from doing an audit on the school’s water consumption. Maybe I was a little naive as to what they would have discovered or maybe I am not used to working with eleven year old girls but I came away really impressed and inspired.

We discussed water consumption in general to get them thinking more broadly than water use at the school and when showing them the virtual water chart, one girl boldy told me that ‘we should not worry about the amount of water in meat production as animals are treated badly, not given enough water to live on and are injected with antibiotics!’ I only had a two hour session to inspire and guide the pupils and had not prepared myself for answering comments like this!

Using the Design Council’s ‘double diamond‘ design process we were able to throw all their ideas onto the table, let the range of ideas be very broad and then see how they could be used to define the brief. I love the fact that the girls had really explored the school, noticed every single dripping tap, are concerned with families in Africa not having enough water to live and feel that this year’s school fund raiser should not be throwing wet sponges at the teachers as it is bad for the environment.

I felt so happy that girls who haven’t chosen their preferred subject route at school yet can be this passionate and knowledgeable about environmental issues. I was expecting to need to really tease ideas out of them but instead had to really work hard to make sure their ideas were captured properly.

The pupils have two weeks now to define their idea and come up with a brief that they want to develop. I’m so excited to see what update they email me on Monday so I can see how best to guide them down an effective, engaging and creative route.

Taking part in this challenge has really made me understand the power of empowering the younger generation. Give them a subject that they can relate to (I asked the pupils to list the moments when they use water in their day and one of the first ones was ‘when I go swimming’ – I hadn’t thought of that one!), add some creativity, tell some stories and they will run with it. Guideance, of course is essential to keep the ideas flowing in the right direction but the fresh minds and active brains are priceless!

My thoughts are now looking at how we can get children involved in other environmental problem solving. Has anyone considered an OpenIDEO platform for children?


Since writing this blog post I’ve read a great article about how ‘children are among the world’s most important innovators’ in Knowledge Wharton Today – worth a read!