Digital + Culture = Creative Economy

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Culture Shift Kenya – results!

Over the past three days, a team of 45 of Kenya’s premiere creative, cultural, design, technical, and business talent came together for an experiment: to explore the challenges faced by the creative and cultural people of Kenya. The teams began with an analysis of the challenges these creative groups face – from musicians and fine artists, to traditional craftspeople and graffiti artists.

What they did

They built new business ideas with the stakes forming an investment of £5,000 along with help turning their prototypes to reality, ranging from mentorship and access to Nairobi’s iHub to space on a Creative Entrepreneurship course being created by the British Council in partnership with the GoDown Arts Centre.

The judging

The standard set by the teams was rather high: the judges had great difficulty choosing a winner, the judges tore up the rulebook, splitting the first-place investment prize into two prizes, and reaching into their own pockets to provide a modest investment for a pair of runner-up team.

The winners: Pakacha

Pakacha (chest, or kit, in kiSwahili) is a platform to help artists find and sell art supplies – from paint to theatre lights to camera lenses. Sellers can list art supplies for hire, barter, or sale, and buyers text an SMS shortcode at 5 Kenyan Shillings (about £.04) to contact the seller. Art supplies are irregularly available in Kenya, and the barter and hire economy is critical for a range of arts.

Pakacha will receive £4,000 in funding for their idea, plus mentorship, 6 months’ access to the iHub, and a place on the Creative Entrerpeneurship course.

Second place: Rubiani

Rubiani sought to connect buyers of local, handcrafted goods directly with the makers of those goods, by building a mobile application with information on local crafts in different areas. They will start with the Maasai Mara, a highly sought tourist destination and will seek to partner with tourist agencies and target the over 1 million tourists coming to Kenya each year.

Rubiani will receive £1,000 in funding for their idea, plus mentorship, 6 months’ access to the iHub, and a place on the Creative Entrerpeneurship course.

Runner-up: artivism

artivism is working to coordinate on- and off-line activism with artists. They will start by documenting a current campaign of street art in Kenya to encourage a conversation about the upcoming elections, adding QR codes to those street art works and encouraging online conversations.

Runner-up: creatory

The creatory team thought that the stories created through the creation and experience of visual artists was critical to the arts’ appreciation. They are building a platform to help artists share the stories of their creation, and using some clever social engineering to get users to share their stories.

creatory and artivism will each receive £r00 in funding for their idea, plus a place on the Creative Entrerpeneurship course.

Rule of Thumb

Rule of Thumb built a working prototype of a ratings site for events organisers’ service providers – by collecting and presenting information on service providers from both events organisers and event attendees, they want to increase service providers’ reasons to provide top customer service.


e-Kwality is seeking to bring Kenyan musicians to the international stage. They will act as a music label and management company for Kenyan hip hop and r&b music, curating up-and-coming talent and marketing them abroad.


The C-Fund aims to connect artists, investor, and industry through an online community. They will create an on- and off-line community where performing artists can meet, collaborate, and find resources to help them build solid business plans around their work. These business plans can then be showcased to industry and investors.

Congratulations and thanks

The standard of projects was particularly high in Kenya – several teams worked through at least one night, and at least two teams performed well under particular challenges, including losing team members.

We’d also like to thank our judging panel, our mentors, the British Council in both Kenya and London, the iHub, and Social Innovation Camp for all their help.

We’re off to a well-deserved night’s sleep.


Culture Shift Nairobi Pitching Day!


The Culture Shift teams are preparing their pitches – the mentors have just seen all the draft pitches, and we don’t envy the judges the task ahead of them – to choose the top pitch from amongst the seven ideas being developed this weekend.

Several teams have pulled all-nighters, and teams are currently grabbing food to take back to their pitches – which start in 45 minutes.

Good luck to all 7 teams. We expect only the best.

Culture Shift Kenya – the ideas


About 50 professional designers, developers, creative, and business people came together at the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday afternoon, not sure what to expect. The teams met each other over breakfast, and covered each other with labels like “Designer”, “Doer”, “Thinker”, and “Troublemaker”.

After a rousing morning of samosas, tea, ideas generation, tea, post-it notes, lunch, and tea, these were the 7 ideas that our teams settled down to work on:

–          Creatree is a way to engage audiences and other artists with the stories of creation of the artwork

–          BlackThumb a way to rate service providers for events & creative

–          Tupo is a repository of local creative content online

–          C-Fund is there to bridge the gap between creative entrepreneurs and capital

–          Robini wants to even the playing field for rural craftspeople in the market

–          F!Act wants to coordinate arts with on- and off-line activism

–          CreativeMe is an online marketplace for hard-to-find creative industry supplies in Kenya

Good luck to all the teams, they’re deep in working at the moment, and we’re excited about the direction in which they’re moving.

Creativity in context

We had a high-energy day at the iHub in Nairobi yesterday, thinking of problems or “itches” that need scratching in the creative sector, and ideas for sustainable solutions. Forming groups, getting to know one another, talking across the business/tech/creative sectors. Eight ideas/groups emerged, from finding creative materials such as canvas to paint on, to connecting creative start-ups with investors. Discuss, drift, re-focus, encounter a gotcha and take a different path. All of this could be happening anywhere.

But this isn’t happening anywhere. It’s happening in Kenya, full of entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy but a place that is more “developing” than “developed” in some respects — like the difficulty of obtaining canvas and other basic arts supplies.

The longer I spent talking to the groups about their ideas, the more it seemed that working to the specifics of the Kenyan context was critical in developing their value propositions. Their concern, by and large, is about making Kenyan businesses to meet the particular needs of Kenyans, not (necessarily) for the global market. They want to fix the problems and grasp the opportunities they see around them in their everyday and business lives.

Appropriateness and appropriation are both important. “Obvious” questions came up for me like “Why wouldn’t someone just use Amazon for this or Kickstarter for that?” Amazon doesn’t exist in Kenya, whether that’s because of the very different means of payment or distribution networks or warehousing opportunities — or something else — I don’t know. Kenyan ecommerce does exist, however. And no doubt many new ideas are to come that will originate from here, and which the West will find itself appropriating.

There are plenty of ways of appropriating technologies, to provide solutions for the local context. Equally, there are road blocks due to lack of infrastructure. It’s great to see creatives working on exploiting technology to create value for Kenya. Not only do the solutions need to be imaginative, but creatives thrive on dealing with constraints and gotchas. At the same time, they have expectations of technology that tend to pull technologists out of their comfort zone. And that is a good thing. Technologists are  creative in their own ways, too – more than many think.

What are these teams going to come up with today as they advance their ideas?

Tim Kindberg

Culture Shift Nairobi kicks off

In 30 minutes, we expect about 65 of Kenya’s best cultural, creative, technical, business, and design professionals to come into the iHub to participate in our third Culture Shift in as many weeks.

We had a great meeting yesterday with the iHub organisers and spent a some time going over the lessons and challenges from Nigeria and South Africa to see how we could use those lessons to best advantage.

We’ve got an espresso bar (above), tea, coffee, and some excellent food, as well as all the post-its, marking pens, and flip charts that we could find in Nairobi.

Between now and 2PM on Saturday, teams will put their heads down and get to work, try to get Glen to speak more slowly, and build new solutions incorporating technology and the power of the Internet to work out new solutions to creative sector challenges in Kenya.

Stick with us here, @bccultureshift, on Facebook, and following the hashtag #CultureShift on twitter.

Culture Shift Johannesburg – Result!

Over the past 2 ½ days, 50 developers, designers, and cultural & creative people came together at the Hub Johannesburg to build digital tools to challenges presented by cultural and creative professionals. There were highs, lows, and challenges for all six teams who were trying to do the nigh-impossible in just 48 hours.

Here’s what they built.

The Winners: QRiocity

The QRiocity team wanted to understand, explore, and share all the fascinating stories of South Africa. They hit on gathering data about areas in Johannesburg and putting that factual information curated into QR codes & SMS short codes on buildings, statues, and locations – a bit like English Heritage’s Blue Plaques. They then wanted to crowdsource personal stories around those stories – so if you read the QR code you are taken to a place where you can share an individual experience of that place.

The runners-up: Indabo

Indabo is a combination of the Zulu for “event” and “venue”. The Indabo team is building a platform to allow church halls, community centres, and sport fields to manage their venue spaces online, as well as to make that space available, with a revenue share between venues and the Indabo team.

Culture Club

Culture Club brings points-based real-time gaming to finding cultural events; they seek to curate unusual, underground, and interesting events around Johannesburg, and then get individuals to use their mobile app (Blackberry, the major platform in South Africa) to check in at events – further points come from rating, blogging, or reviewing events.


Prescholar builds a range of “preschool in a box” tools – noting that individuals who attend preschool do much better throughout their life, Pre-ScholaR tries to bring an inventive, creative toolkit to mothers and primary caretakers of children aged 3-6 to prepare Early Years children for literacy and creative expression.


Arts-In uses a digital platform to find business mentors and match them up with young, up-and-coming, and emerging artists. Through an online skills-sharing platform and regular networking and mentorship events, the Arts-IN team hopes to bring opportunities and business savvy to emerging artists.

Family Match

Family Match matches families from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to promote cultural understanding. Modeled on a programme put in place in reunified Germany, Family Match attempts to bridge the cultural divide within one of the most diverse countries in the world.

Congratulations to all six teams – a lot of hard work went into this weekend (not to mention a fair amount of wine, beer, cider, and food) and the teams did some stellar work. We’re off to sleep now.

Work continues in Johannesburg

It’s been a hectic two days here in Johannesburg, and as the participants sit down for some talks about the balance between legal protection and the good of society and pitching to investors, I finally can find some time to write.

As always, I am struck by how when you get people from different backgrounds together to discuss ideas freely people get really energised and enthusiastic. Any profession or group of people has their own world view, and it’s easy to get stuck in that after a bit. Being open minded and discussing issues with the participants here is fascinating.

While the teams work on the 6 chosen ideas, there were also other great ideas that I hope will be taken forwards. Ideas about making government more transparent, the jobs market, buying local and growing your own food were all discussed this weekend.

One of the particular aspects of this weekend has been a lack of developers to help turn the solutions into working prototypes. But I’m pleased to say the teams haven’t let them hold that back, and they shouldn’t – this weekend is all about developing ideas, and as long as a team can clearly explain what they want to do and can demonstrate they have considered the issues it’s fine.

Tools that have been used to do that include user stories, where people think up a list of imaginary characters with names and details. The characters should want to use the the service for different reasons, and come from different backgrounds. This ensures you consider your idea from many different viewpoints.

For instance, if your working on a service to encourage people to buy local goods you have to think about the shoppers and how and why they will use your service. But you also have to think about the local producers and shop keepers; why or how would they use it?

Other tools used have been wireframing, where people sketch out how a website will look in a very simple style. Keeping the style simple helps people concentrate on the functionality and not the design. Doing this properly helps you discover problems and solve them.

For instance, if your working on what a search page for your users will look like you may say “we want users to be able to search by this variable” and so you draw a box on your wireframe plan. But then your suddenly think “wait; is that possible – do we have that data?” and you realise that you need a bit more information for your idea to work.

Finally, it’s important to really focus on a core set of features. It’s easy to come up with a long list of features doing this, but you have to be ruthless and really cut back to the one simple thing that your service does and start with that.

Especially remember that with any idea and especially a idea that involves building a community, your users will probably have different ideas. You always have to be open and listen to feedback from your users, and change your plans if necessary.

The final pitching and judging starts in several hours and the teams are busy; stay tuned!

Departure Points @ Joburg CS……

With the sun beaming through The Hub’s wall to wall ceilings and our bellies full of energizing ‘smartfood’ salads, the afternoon of Culture Shift Joburg (Day 2) is brimming with great ideas, new friends, and a lot of neon post-it notes.

Groups have now been formed around six key ideas and are entering into the final evening of preparations before the highly anticipated pitching session tomorrow to a panel of revered panellists, including:

Stephen Rockman – Merism Capital, UK

Louise Willington – Founder of Unlimited, Johannesburg

Anne Shongwe – Founder of Afroes Transformational Multimedia

Sisa Ntshona – Head of Enterprise Development, Absa Bank

Let’s take a peek at what exactly the challenges are that the six groups are trying to tackle within the creative industries and/or cultural fabric of South Africa.

-Not only is there not enough sufficient online exposure to local and regional markets for artists and creative practitioners in South Africa, but there’s very limited ability for them to access mentorship around key issues such as promotion, distribution, market access, financial planning, models of creative entrepreneurship, and leadership skills. Perhaps some kind of online portal could collates these challenges and link creatives to local businesses which offer sustained support and mentoring. These ‘business mentors’ will be attracted to participate in the portal for their own branding and visibility, but also to tap into potentially investable ideas (and people).

-There are huge cultural chasms and class divides in South African society. What kind of cross-cultural offer could attempt to bridge gaps which, rather than work through a political or NGO platform,  are instead, based on a family-to-family support network? Is there a way to create a digital mechanism to encourage neighbourhood -based support systems, modelled off the project experiences seen between communities in West and East Germany? Expected outcomes would be improved cultural understanding, enhanced cross-generational relationships, and community building through culturally sensitive place-making and joined-up advocacy work.

-There is currently no effective way for audiences and artists to connect with each other online in South Africa. What kind of application could support the collation of cultural content, events, exhibitions with user reviews, links to similar work, and other multimedia feedback from twitter, facebook, online publications, etc.? How would centralizing this data benefit artists and their work? How would this help forge new connections with new audiences?

-I’m someone who wants to put on a cultural event in a given locality in South Africa. However, I have no idea what kinds of venues are out there, what their technical specifications might be, who their target audiences are, what certain external costs might occur, or which potential sponsors might be interested. Indeed, this Culture Shift group has identified a real need in the creative and cultural landscape for potential venues to be linked up with specific artists, agencies, promoters, performing arts groups, cultural organizations, community groups, etc., through a market-driven and highly informed online matchmaking tool.

-Folk stories and oral traditions are slowly being diminished in the face of urbanization, lack of culture-specific education and, let’s face it, enough interest within younger generations. So, how can traditional stories and cultural objects – and their connections to spaces, places and local heroes – be more easily understood and accessed? This group is looking at using QR codes around Joburg to take citizens on a digital journey of discovery about their own towns and its overlooked and increasingly forgotten stories and spaces.

-Early years creative educational curriculum is sparse, underdeveloped and often relegated to small demographics of South African society who can afford it. What kind of intervention could more easily equip families and informally trained educationalists with creative resources to make a difference in children’s cognitive development between birth and school entrance? What kind of ‘School in a Box’ could affordably offer child-led tools which enhance early reading, innovative play, imagination and creativity This group is looking at crowdsourcing funding options as well as attracting potential public and private sponsors around a revolving set of particular themes for their outreach ‘box’.

Watch this space to see what the next 24 hours bring to the budding ideas above! One thing is for sure – there is no lack of enthusiasm, talent and a palpable desire to create change in this room.


Culture Shift Johannesburg – Day 1 and a half

We’ve just finished an excellent lunch by Soup Salad Sandwich, our excellent local, simple food caterer this weekend.

Culture Shift Johannesburg is deep into work. Yesterday, the teams did some ideas generation to generate 8 new ideas, and presented ideas they’d brought along. We used some Open Space to get teams a sense of the ideas and the potential of the people.

Walter Pike gave a talk on marketing for start-ups and new projects – including his experience bringing the Slutwalk to South Africa, and a talk about diving in and trying new things by Stafford Masie, including agreeing to invest R50,000 in projects as well. Exciting stuff.

An early morning start on day 2 ended up with choosing these 6 ideas to work on at the weekend:

–          Creative Culture Intervention – a platform to help people find cultural events

–          Wasuke Sukele – a framework to use QR codes to tell the rich stories of Johannesburg

–          Community Event Engine – helping connect events with venues

–          School in a Box – focuses on pre-school creative learning & preparation for reading

–          Business & the Arts Connect – helps artists find mentors in the community

–          Match SA – matches families from oppositely privileged backgrounds

We’ve had a round of board meetings with all teams, and are preparing for a second, shortly. Excited buzz is going on all round, teams have settled down, and everything’s cracking along, fuelled by tea, coffee, cooldrinks, and snacks.

Culture Shift Johannesburg about to kick off


It is a gorgeous morning here in Johannesburg; we’re in the midst of the final preparations for the second Culture Shift event in Johannesburg, put together by the Creative and Cultural Economy group of the British Council and facilitated by Social Innovation Camp and The Hub Johannesburg.

In just a few hours, 48 people from the creatuve and cultural sector, along with business brains and digital developers, will come together to try out new things. The Hub have also brought on an additional dozen or so mentors from a range of disciplines. The British Council have brought in a couple of experts as well.

We’re organising tables, chairs, food, and dealing with the thousand last minute crises. We’ve picked up some learning not only fromthe experience of the ccHub, but from last week’s Culture Shift event in Nigeria as well.

We’ll be blogging here, on Twitter, with the hashtag #CultureShift, and posting photos on Facebook. Do keep in touch.

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