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The future of Egypt is a bright future: Culture Shift results

A challenge

54 people, approximately 1/3 technical, 1/3 creative and cultural, and 1/3 business focussed, came together last Thursday evening with little idea of what would happen.

They’d been asked to think about what challenges and opportunities faced the creative and cultural sector in Egypt. After an evening brainstorming solutions and voting, they got down to work to try to build a proof-of-concept solution to address these challenges.

These teams had a bit of help from both UK and Egyptian mentors, and a prototyping workshop courtesy of Snook and a workshop on investment readiness from FirstPort.

Here’s what they built:

In first place, with project funding of £3,000: Meshabbek.

This is a platform to help creative people find the right talent and skills to make their projects come alive – from mash-ups (I’d like a musician to make a soundtrack to my book) to collaborators to agents and skilled technical specialists, you’ll be able to find the collaborator you need for your project.

In joint second place, with project funding of £1,000 each: Torathna and Tour Story.

Torathna will build tools for communities of readers to find the next book to read – from coordinating offline meetings to online discussion forums, they are targeting high-value readers. They’re working with the Cairo Hackerspace who are working with the open-source DIY Scanner project to get out-of-print and hard-to-find Arabic language texts scanned as well.

The Tour Story team built a working prototype of their app, which will be a location-aware information tool providing information about architecture, art, and public spaces. Tour Story will be a free app over the web, but provide paid-for downloadable contentfor tourists to access offline information.

Honourable mention, with free mentorship from Gemiza: Ididi

Ididi tackled the problem of motivation for artists – building a community to help creatives get encouragement for different types of projects – including using gaming technology and badges to keep artists moving in the face of day-to-day challenges. Several other teams said this was an application they needed themselves!

7eita w Zeita

This means “Walls and noise” in Arabic. 7eita w Zeita wants to challenge the notion of public space and make it creative space, initially preserving and archiving street art and publishing t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets (while splitting the profits with the artists and art programmes) and eventually starting a street art and music festival in Cairo.

Quest.ly

This team’s application would give points-based challenges to tourists to find out more about the local culture – from taking public transport (a hard one, as we found out today whilst leaping from the moving platform) to eating Koshari (an easier, lovely simple dish). The app would move you from “khawaga” status to that of a local over time.

If this is Cairo’s future…

Then that future is a bright one – thus spoke Beatrice Pembroke, director of the Cultural and Creative Economy’s team, and she is utterly correct.

The response to these teams was overwhelming – the judges and the audience were blown away and Twitter is alive with discussion about the projects.

Moataz Nasr el din, the founder of Darb17/18, decided on the spot to organise a second pitching session at Darb17/18 in a month’s time so that teams can speak with other potential funders. One of the mentors, Ramy Habeeb, has offered the Quest.ly team mentorship to make their idea a reality. The Cairo Hackerspace offered help and support to any of the six teams – from space to technical assistance.

We’re thrilled with the turnout, and are looking forward to seeing what the team brings forth in future.

Don’t forget to check out (And upload your!) photos on our Facebook page as well.

Day 2 – Friday

Sarah leads us in a great workshop in how to make a prototype. Seeing a room full of people acting out how to apply for an Egyptian driving license says more about Egyptian culture than words can ever describe. We follow this up with each of the groups story-boarding their ideas – and I start to understand what some of the projects are really going to be about.

After the break, work on projects begins in earnest (and in a fun way too!)  One of the mysteries about Cairo is that the word “bus” seems somehow obscene – ask about busses and people give you a strange look and start on a long and complicated explanation about Cairo taxis.  From a group whose project is to help people understand cultural differences I finally find that busses are overcrowded and “inhuman” – but I still have to see this for myself…

Dinner is server, and although people eat, no-one actually stops working (a good indication of the high levels of enthusiasm around).

A group from the Cairo Hackerspace (who I’ll visit before I go home) are working on a project on book scanning to try to preserve some of the old Arabic books in collaboration with a group who are interested in promoting reading collectives.

The energy is still high – and now the problems the groups have to overcome are starting to become clearer.  Nearly all have a different set of problems – how to work on projects that aren’t closely connected; how to concentrate on content instead of technology; how to focus on a key aspect of a project to help their thinking and final presentations;  how do community projects get funding that isn’t business oriented – are just some.

Expecting tomorrow to be full on and exciting.

Day 1 – Thursday

First impressions of Cairo are heat, traffic and extremes of wealth and poverty.  One block away from the opulent hotel are crumbling concrete apartment blocks from a different world.  All this is more or less what the guide books say.

What the guide books don’t tell you is the incredible level of energy and enthusiasm amongst the Culture Shift participants.  People are really eager to chat and explore ideas.  So many people come with new ideas that we schedule an extra session of one minute presentations for people to present potential projects to be voted on.  At least one gets through and several get incorporated with existing ideas.

In some ways, the projects themselves seem less important than the ways people are starting to work together.  Everyone seems really hungry to be creative and tomorrow we explore ways to direct this amazing energy.

Culture Shift Cairo: The Ideas

Yesterday evening, 62 of Cairo’s best cultural and creative professionals, business folk, designers, and software & hardware makers came together. Most of them had never met before, but they’d sent in a list of issues, challenges, and opportunities for the creative and cultural sector in Egypt.

They worked ’til nearly midnight, doing a round of brainstorming on over 20 different topics, mixing and mashing up some and excluding others, coming up with 11 well-fleshed out ideas, and choosing 6 to work on at the weekend.

Their task will be to turn these ideas into a reality between 6PM on Thursday evening and 6PM on Saturday evening (For those outside of the Arab world, Friday and Saturday is the weekend in Egypt).

These are the ideas that will be developed at over the weekend:

Melting Pot is an application to help people avoid cultural misunderstandings – a gesture that means “wait” in Egypt means something much more rude in Italy (and other things other places)

Bookscanner is going to combine Arabic-language book scanning technology with tools to create communities around reading – helping people find what they want to read next.

Creative Jam are building a connection platform for artists to collaborate with each other as well as share contacts with agencies, publishers, or other technical support.

Just Do It are tackling the problem of keeping creatives motivated, through building peer- and mentor-support communities.

Street Art investigates the use of public space for visual and performing arts, preserving and printing street art.

Egyptory provide contextual information on buildings, monuments, and mosques.

We’ll be posting photos on Facebook, tweeting from @bccultureshift, and tweeting on the hashtag #cultureshift as well as blogging here.

Culture Shift Egypt starts this evening

We’re finalising preparations for Culture Shift Egypt, which starts at 1800 local time.

We’ve got a cracking list of 62 people who are coming, with a good balance between creative people, technical experts, and business brains.

We’ve done things a little differently in asking people to articulate some challenges and opportunities for the creative and cultural sector that they think are important, timely, or useful.

The Culture Shift Egypt team met up earlier and went through those, and we found a list of about 11 themes in common. The groups are going to narrow those 11 themes down to 6 that they’ll work on over this weekend to make real live projects and ventures out of these challenges.

Most of the panel who will be selecting the final winners will be in tonight, to offer some advice and encouragement. We’ve got a group of international and local mentors coming in to work with the teams…

 

It’s all about to kick off, and we’re excited about the next few days of sleepless nights and hard work to see what new ideas will come of this – a high standard was set in Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, but we’re confident that the six Egyptian teams will easily reach that standard.

 

Watch this space, our Twitter, our Facebook page, and the #CultureShift hashtag on twitter for updates throughout the weekend!

Keats, Negative Capability and Digital Ideation

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John Keats died very young (at 25) and a very long time ago (1821). To his contemporaries he was a sickly Romantic poet (Tuberculosis) whose lyrical genius (his dying wish was that his gravestone be engraved with ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’ – how great is that?) was deeply underappreciated in his time (Shelley insinuated Keats’ ‘fiery particle’ was extinguished by a particularly critical review).

Keats was born a hundred years too early.

Alive today, he would be out-Mark-Zuckerberg-ing Mark Zuckerberg. He would have more Twitter followers than Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Jeff Koinange…combined. Klout would be renamed Keats.

Here’s why.

In his letters, Keats – who died too young to have a real shot at developing the sort of comprehensive, mature poetic themes you see in older poets – was a giant ideas machine, churning out moment after moment of inspired thought. One of these moments – his idea of ‘Negative Capability’ – convinces me he would thrive, if not dominate, a digital world.

Negative Capability is a state of mind where we are ‘content with half-knowledge’, ‘capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’. For Keats this state of mind was critical to the creative act. To create, a creator needs to live in the shadows of his mind; to accept a lack of definition as temporary and, counter intuitively, helpful.

In other words, Negative Capability perfectly describes the attitude of the Hackathon expert. To deal with the preposterous timescales, delicate relationships and the constant destabilizing influence of mentors and facilitators that are Hackathons, a Hacker needs a nimble mind au fait with uncertainty, mystery and serious doubt.

The only way to get from zero to Hackathon hero is to accept that the ideation process is long and it starts with nothing. That the temporary frustration which defines the early creation process – where so many participants seem drop away physically or mentally – is hugely significant and, weirdly, crucial to the end result. In other words, a mind prepared to accept mystery and uncertainty is primed to succeed.

Here at the Culture Shift Hackathon, all 6 groups have been perfect examples of the Keats philosophy. Each of them struggled in the beginning with the squishiness of their ideas. As I move through the iHub talking to each of them, I hear a lot of frustration, understandably, at their circumstance. But I have noticed the most flexible participants, the ones who embrace the fickleness of the process are the ones, three days later, who have the clearest, cleanest and most exciting ideas. Sometimes the practical needs a dose of impractical to get going.

Also, Keats for Internet President!

-Ryan Bowman (ryan (at) circle.co.ke)

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

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.

C-Fund

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!

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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.

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.

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