Digital + Culture = Creative Economy

Archive for the category “Kenya”

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.

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 – What we expect

We’re here on the ground in Lagos, where the Culture Shift programme will be focussed on festivals: developing digital tools for managers, audiences, and festival artists. We’re fortunate that we can tag on to the back of a master class by the excellent Paul Gudgin, who has done lots of work with festivals all round the world after getting his start in Edinburgh.

Most of the master class attendees (about 12 festival organisers) join 48 other digital, arts, and business professionals in just 48 hours’ time.

What’s going to happen?

The question is: what will they build? This is the question that I’ve been getting all day. The honest answer is: we don’t know. That’s what makes it exciting and innovative. We’ve done some similar things before, though, and we’ve got some ideas or inspiration.

A few examples of things that fit the Cultural and Creative Economy that fit the bill of what we’re looking for are:

Edinburgh Book Festival microsite

This is probably the classic design of what we’d imagine: This is a site that you can visit on a smartphone or web browser, and it lists events & venues for the festival – they Festival were told they’d need an app, but in the end, they built a mobile site that works with everything in 24 hours and is easier to maintain, to boot.

Enabled by Design

Enabled by Design takes the dis- out of disabled, by linking designers up with those who have physical disabilities to find & improve attractive, functional devices to help the disabled.

FestaFriend

FestaFriend was started by Social Innovation Camp alumni James Baster with help from Sarah Drummond out of Culture Hack Scotland. FestaFriend answers the question “How do I find an interesting person to go to a festival show with?”

Cowbird

We’ll be trying out Cowbird during this event – and we’ll link to it on this blog. Cowbird asks what kinds of stories we can tell using images – and how we can link them together. It was a project put together by one person, and they’re featuring a story a day.

It all starts tomorrow evening

In Nigeria, we’re focusing on support for festivals – the dozen festival organisers are going to go through one of our itch workshops tomorrow afternoon to jump-start the weekend, and then we’re off. We’re excited to see what they come up with – they’ve shown great creativity today already!

Culture Shift applications going strong

Final days of preparation

There are just a few days left ‘til our first Culture Shift kicks off in Lagos, and we are deep in the throes of reading all the applications for the Nigeria event and the event in Johannesburg the following week.

We’re completely blown away by the quality, number, and variety of people who want to come together and work, very hard (often after a full week’s work, or taking days off) to participate in this event. The people who attend make these events successful, so thank you all in advance for being so generous with your time and skills.

What we’re looking for

Remember, we’re getting high-potential creative types (museum managers, festival organisers, artists, filmmakers, writers) together with people they might not otherwise meet – top quality business brains, software developers, and designers—to explore how blending these two groups of people might spark new, interesting, and innovative projects & ventures.

It’s not too late – sign up!

There’s still time to sign up for the Johannesburg event as well as the Nairobi event.

Announcing Culture Shift

We are proud to announce Culture Shift, an experiment with the British Council’s Creative and Cultural Economy programme and Social Innovation Camp. It will pilot in four markets, with the intention of creating new digital tools for the creative economy, new cross-sector conversations, and to bringing innovative ideas back to the UK from four exciting cities.

Between now and mid-April, we’ll be traveling to visit the ccHub in Lagos, Nigeria, The Hub in Johannesburg, South Africa, the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, and the TEDx Egypt in Cairo, Egypt getting creative pioneers – including artists, designers, festival organisers, museum managers, and other creative workers –  together with designers, businesspeople, and developers, and digging into the needs of the Creative economies in those countries. The events will culminate with a pitching session where the teams will pitch the projects they’ve developed in 48 hours to a panel of UK and local investors, and they’ll receive some support from the local partners in the process.

We reckon we’ll learn a thing or two that we can bring back to the UK in the process.

Not only that, but we’re bringing along a brilliant selection of people to each event – both UK investors and some experts in digital and creative sectors. These include Kelly Clark from Marmanie, Tim Kindberg of Matter2Media, Ryan Bowman of Circle Digital, Siân Prime, of Goldsmiths University & East African Entrepreneurship Diploma Stephen Rockman from Merism Capital, and James Baster from Here’s a Hand.

We’ll be blogging and taking photos to let you out there know what’s going on. Stay in touch with the project on https://bccultureshift.wordpress.com, and we’re looking forward to seeing the outputs!

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