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Time to turn the PAGE

This is my last post, so okay, I confess to not always having a clear idea on what was going on with our NGO (PAGE). And I dare to say that this applies to my teammates as well. Because we were divided in small groups and everybody had a different task, none could really have all the information at all times. So, no, confusion never left this building. Sometimes it was like walking in the dark: there was movement, but was is in the right direction? Well, apparently yes, because, in this past week, light reached us; it was really rewarding to see how everything comes together and actually make some sense.

The end derivable for this course is a video for our client that should voice our advice for improvement. And what have we learned about expressing ourselves visually? Make our brand message recommendation clear for our customer.  How do we do that? Identify our sweet spot solution and communicate it properly.

First off, in order to identify our recommendations for PAGE we had to gather and start with clearing out everything in our project. We want to spare Liz of the confusiasm we shared (maybe let her experience only the enthusiasm part) so we organized our information and research into two linked solutions. Receiving feedback from Meggie facilitated this process, as she gave us a pretty important tip: don’t confuse the actions that we recommend PAGE to take with the tools that they should use to do it. Thus, the following are solutions:

  • Digital volunteering – has both short and long-term benefits for the organization (for starters it raises awareness, builds networks and gets volunteers locally, but could develop into reaching a wider audience through digital internships and exchange programs) and for the girls (promotes digital literacy and self-development)
  • Getting technical equipment – so that they can establish the digital volunteering.

The reason why we recommend the focus on the local community and not to go big about it using crowdfunding is simply because currently this is the logical choice for our NGO; think of the ripple effect: it’s a broadening process, so it starts from the small circles and then expands. PAGE is targeting the same process, so, for now, it is one of the small circles, and thus crowdfunding does not make much sense here: it could help a little. But within the area there are three more universities besides Duke that PAGE can collaborate: namely more chances to raise awareness and make use of crowdsourcing. Moreover, starting local means that the process is sustainable because the new developed networks are easier to maintain.

Then, we searched for ways to express it. The organization we are promoting is about young girls and education; the audience we are targeting is still a young one, consisting of mostly university students. Taking this into consideration, we chose to do an animated video and to visualize our solutions through handmade cartoonish drawings. Now, there are a lot of professional ways of doing that, but due to lack of knowledge amongst our group in programs such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, etc. we have opted the traditional approach: the whiteboard! Unfortunately, we encountered some technical problems, such as the lack of a whiteboard that is big enough (the University is closed on the weekends and well that would have been a problem if we wouldn’t have finished filming on Friday). Fortunately, Danny remembered not long after that she has actually brought her graphic tablet with her from Bulgaria, just in case. So, being the case, we are now using her tablet!  Again, the downside here is that I had less than a day to get accustomed to drawing on something like this (to be mentioned that I have a sinuous relationship with technology); but there is also a good part! (Dizzy yet?) I just missed my night of sleep because I kind of like it! (Now I hope I am at least decent at it) So, following the same division of task approach, there are three teams working for our video: Danny and me are working on the visuals of the video, the technology steward in our group, Melvin, is in charge of the editing of the video, while Maira, Elle and Ava wrote the script. Should turn out right… right?

Till next time!  

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

Suit up!

We all remember the confusiasm at the beginning, don’t we? Well… for me, it’s happening again. I mean, it’s week 7! I am so enthusiastic about seeing the final result of all these weeks… But then, it’s week 7!!! I am so confused and scared about seeing the final result of all these weeks.

The enthusiastic part comes mostly from acknowledging how much have I learned so far, especially about the virtual world associated with innovative design. For me, it’s really a come around, as now I understand that there is this other word (I kind of used to always evoke “addiction” and “decay”) that I can use when talking about the online space –benefits. Making use of the online communities and networks can yield you anything you need: information, funds, ideas and feedback. But they don’t call it “space” for no reason: it is indeed like that -a massive community. Therefore the crowd and the information you reach can be impressive… but just if (a big one) you have to have the right “equipment” for it and if (an even bigger one) you know how to make use of it. So, as frustrating as it might have been to be bombarded now with all this information and concepts like crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, spider grams, teamwork, reflection and marketing, I think that somehow it left me with a sense of independency and it will turn out to be an asset: it’s like learning how to swim; it is scary for a kid, but that’s the best time to learn it. Going through this hectic process now ensures me that I will not end up as a designer confused and paralyzed in the face of competition; so when I go swim with the sharks I know, well… how to do it. This way I might have a chance against them.

Now, whenever I will decide to launch myself in the online space, this are my principles for meeting those two big “ifs”:

  • Reflect, reflect and reflect – Know my goal. I have to spend some quality time with those why/what/when/where/who/how questions. This is pretty much knowing what “equipment” I need and suits me the best;
  • Research… then research some more -Not all the information or services offered meet my needs, so choosing the right network requires painstaking selection. This is getting the “equipment” I need;
  • With great power comes great responsibility –The power of the masses is greatly available but no one will simply grant it to me, it’s my responsibility to ease the process of getting it. So when I need something the catch is to clearly ask for it.  This way I’m efficiently making use of that “equipment” I got.
  • Keep the flame alive –Fostering always calls for personal involvement. There is no difference with online communities and networks: if I want a healthy and thriving one, I have to maintain it, check it regularly and participate to it. So, if I want to retain the “equipment” I’d better make sure I am keeping it in a good shape.

No, confusion, I have not forgotten about you… As I said before, I am not keen on spending too much time at the computer/laptop/mobile: thereby, my primary concern with designing and fostering an online community is the part that requires the maintenance of it. So I would not mind learning how to balance the digital and real world, especially with this overwhelming amount of undoubtable useful networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, 99Design,etc. (Any suggestions here?) And there is more… I also intend to foster strong skills regarding working with Adobe Systems such as the Adobe Creative Suite. Video making already came across in mostly all of our classes, so it seems I’m having an early start with this one. So this is all for now, time to get equipped, I’m going to explore YouTube today!

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

How to stand out from the crowd through the crowd

Making use of groups of people for personal means is not such a new to the world concept.  The exploitation of the power of the masses is an ongoing process that dates back to the era of the caveman; he wanted that mammoth down, but couldn’t do it all by himself- so they would hunt in groups; kings and emperors wanted to conquer the world, but they alone did not possess all the information nor strength- so there were war councils and armies. So the concept of connecting to a community in order to benefit from it is not new: just the fancy name- crowdsourcing- and the manifestation of it, as nowadays the digital space represents the most convenient means of reaching the targeted crowds.

Although it’s not that hard to deduct the usefulness of crowdsourcing, many still feel skeptical about it and relate it to begging: for money, for knowledge, for manpower, etc. But is this association relevant?  When begging, one has nothing to offer back, so the process relies solely on… well, on nothing much. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, develops around the exchange of individual knowledge, values and aspirations: one offers a vision, so people sharing it can contribute to and support. Most of the times, the beneficiary is not only the one receiving help, but also the one providing it; people that have the skills/information and the desire to do something, but not the means to go big about it.

The appeal of such practice comes from its utility: first off, it is highly available for anyone and everything (no matter what kind of an organization or project, there is sure to be a platform fit for it); secondly, because of its extensive accessibility it enables the harvesting of mass knowledge, skills or resources quickly and effectively with minimum to zero costs. Moreover, there is also the free publicity acquired through the campaign, as it adds to an individual/organization’s awareness level.

But, as the caveman can tell you as well, there is no fire without smoke: there are many ways in which crowdsourcing creates huge advantages for those who engage in it, yes, but for every pro there is a con. Firstly, similar to what happens with the credibility of products that are greatly versatile, people might not feel comfortable with crowdsourcing and because of its openness and wide availability; it can trouble the very ones that come up with ideas, because outsourcing can expose it both to improvement and theft; it can also affect the crowd, as there is no guarantee that none of the projects turn out to be scams.

Then, one of the most common mistakes is to think that once you have found the right platform you are all set. Crowdsourcing platforms provide you with only the tools you need to obtain what you need, not the crowd that can offer it to you as well nor does it ensure your campaign’s success: you still have to make the connections yourself. This problem we encountered while thinking about crowdfunding for PAGE: the easiest crowd to reach is, of course, the community of Appalachia… but, it is a community that could benefit itself from some funding. So what if the network you can connect to has the desire but not the means to help?

Another drawback of crowdsourcing is the potential need of compromising on your morals or values in order to make your intention meet the requirements of the mass. Yes, after it has been exposed and influenced by outside sources, even if it has led to improvement, an idea might not feel yours anymore… and this can be kind of an itch for some that call themselves designers/innovators. This raised a second issue when considering crowdfunding for PAGE: when talking about this process, Tom Dawkins, the co-founder of StartSomeGood, a platform to raise funds for non-profits and change makers, identifies fundraising with storytelling; namely, the success of your cause depends on how you present it in order to appeal to a group. For example, we are all aware of the reaching power of pity causes, aren’t we? Now take let’s think about PAGE, a NGO that is committed to ensure learning and enrichment opportunities for young girls growing up in rural mountain communities, but that is focused on not presenting the girls as targets for sympathy… do you see the incongruity?

I, personally, am very intrigued by crowdsourcing, because, nowadays, there is a big variety of problems that need to be addressed. But you don’t have to know it and do it all by yourself:  we do not lack the diversity of knowledge, skills or resources to find solutions to these matters, but the right combination of them. 

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

Is bigger always better?

Ask Hitler this question and he will firmly say “YES!” (or rather “JA!”). But then again, nobody remembers his for his righteous and healthy reflections… So here is mine:

It is said that there is power in numbers, yes, but you might have also heard that with great power comes great responsibility (for those of you thinking of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, well, he is for that matter citing Voltaire); so it is easy to deduce that numbers come with a certain degree of responsibility. And this is not only applicable inside a team; through our connection with our NGOs we now share the responsibilities to help them. The three teams working for PAGE partake of the same desire; though we may have different approaches we do have the same responsibilities:  to maintain a proactive attitude as part of a group; to deliver realistic and sustainable solutions to the staff; to ensure through these solutions the wellbeing and future development of the girls; we are also responsible for the people we come in contact with throughout the process and so on. I googled “team” and got this: “come together as a team to achieve a common goal”. So there are Team 7, Team 8 and Team 9 working with PAGE… Or is it actually a Team working with PAGE? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a TEAM working with NGOs?

As I see it, if the common goal is –prepare yourself, a big cliché is coming- making the world a better place, then we are a really big group, which, in order to achieve the goal was then split in smaller ones: the teams (kind of sounds familiar to the practice described by Chris Corrigan). When referring to this TEAM the challenge is, like in any other really big and diverse group, communication.

When talking about Team 8 you could add a few things to that list: being on time at the meetings and being organized. Because we fall in the category of big groups, as well as being culturally diverse, the team had its moments of incongruity. There was also a lot of confusion surrounding our group, as the team actually reached its final form of 7 just this week.  So, yes, it might have been a bit of a struggle to start working as a group. And then it was the struggle to keep up with the ideas we had….

 But “Heil rules and division!”. Breaking down in smaller groups and assigning roles to each member worked really well for us. Now each of us focuses on a certain topic so we are slowly but surely improving our teamwork through organization which further eases the way for a better communication. As for the being on time part, we thought of a rule that whoever is late has to bring food for everyone… that’s what we call “food for thought”! So we either get really fat or really productive!

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

Hudson, we have a question!

The good news first or the bad? The good? Okay…

I have finally reached land! And what a free fall this week was! My team’s brainstorming brought a lot of ideas to the table, each with concepts that required further research, thus providing us with some answers while surfacing an abundance of new questions, which then led to further investigation and so on. After all, it is a learning process, with a lot of ups and downs. And, boy, didn’t we have them! So you could say it was much like a roller-coaster ride… yes, with the fast forward motion included… and the occasional going backwards part… But now it is do time! We have to get moving, take some action. We know the destination, so we need to start exploiting the information gathered, find the right direction and take our first steps towards it.

image

The bad news? Umm, I hit the ground. image

The speed of the process and the quantity of information acquired struck me, leaving me somehow confused. How do I get where I want to if I don’t know which way leads me to it? Our group knows the destination: we need to raise awareness about PAGE. And we have identified some possible routes: we could bring people to PAGE (through exchange programs between other educational institutions and our NGO) or we can bring PAGE to people (creating an active online activity as well as a strong image by making use of/joining existing networks). But how do we know which is the right way? Where and how do we start? You could say I am kind of in the dark here…

image

Research the unknown! We divided roles in our team and ended up with a group of researchers… So, as part of it, I get to be, surprise, a researcher! As I see it, going on the “online space” chasing answers is really like that… going to space; I know that most of the information I need is out there, it just comes down to being able to discover it. And this ability of finding the answers to questions is actually the ability of knowing how and where to search for them, namely how to make use of networks. As I see it, networks are much like telescopes: they enable me to wonder around, browsing through the mass of random content, liking, following, sharing, chatting, stalking, but it is also the right tool for focusing on an area of interest, allowing me to explore my curiosities.

Take Facebook for example: I cannot brag with a history of meaningful accomplishments related to this platform, as so far I have only used it for mostly entertainment and social means; so you could say I was looking aimlessly through that telescope… until now! Because of my interest in Arts, I joined on Facebook a while ago a society for young Romanian artists, a group created by a friend of mine; she started out from the request of a friend to offer painting lessons to his 6 year girl and is currently offering Art Classes to both children and grown-ups and holding annual exhibitions with the members’ work. Someone who started out small… sounds familiar? Yes, I may have no clue which is the right path to follow when trying to raise awareness on a cause, but there might be someone else that does. Someone who has walked down this road before. So I asked some of my questions there… And, surprise again, I got some answers! I focused my telescope and found a star.

Same goes for the Open Innovator group: being part of it, even if more as a spectator still facilitated my development as a future innovator, by allowing a considerable flow of information to reach me, knowledge that maybe I could never uncover all on my own. I find it quite impressive how easily we can expose ourselves to useful information just by tapping in the right network. And we focused our telescope on a big one: Nancy! We are having our first hangout with her so ,hopefully, today it will be a starry, starry night.

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

How To Train Your Attention and Be Effective When Working Online

How To Train Your Attention and Be Effective When Working Online:

Funny thing is that reading it was still kind of a distraction from my work, but totally worth the while.

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

” I was blind but now I see “

Remember me, right? 

As both weekly courses and gravity are following their natural course, I find myself still in freefall! But don’t worry, Mother! The big difference from last week is that I don’t mind it anymore; it doesn’t frighten me, it intrigues me! Once I got over the “OMG! OMG! WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO NOW?!” faze, I could really pay attention to what is happening to me and around me… or, to use the term I keep bumping into, I began to reflect. Many of you might ask yourself (please tell me I was not the only one) “Why is reflecting so Goddamn important?!”. Hmm, how can I put this into words?… 

I WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE!

Don’t get me wrong, I am still in a Goddamn freefall; I know it is too soon for me to grasp anything concrete yet, to fully comprehend things. But now I am able to see that there is more to this freefall: there are concepts, there are ideas, there are possibilities… and (Thank Goodness!!) there are more people like me!… Do you know what I mean?

“Oh, wait, what? Did you say no more fear?? Is the confusion in «confusiasm» fading away?” BAM – TECHNOLOGY!!

It’s already week 3 so I’m going to share a secret with you… I never feel at ease when it comes to technology (Am I the only one?). I don’t get overly-excited by new developments in this area (Anyone?). The whole concept of the digital world does not appeal to me, honestly, it intimidates me… this probably has an impact on my technology knowledge… or -if we are already sharing secrets- my lack of it. In fewer words, this is how I feel about it.

 

But that doesn’t mean I deny its place and importance in the modern world nor that I refuse to make use of it. Technology is a great resource, if not the biggest. It is rapidly growing and it effectively reaches everything and everyone. Kind of the tool you need if you want to raise awareness on an educational enrichment program for Appalachian girls (PAGE); or when creating an online platform for CNCPTMKR; or for crowdfunding and crowdsourcing for Children of Mexico. You get my point.

So, repeat after me: “I’m an OPEN innovator!”. I’m open minded and no longer afraid of unknown contexts and challenges. I’m intrigued by online societies and networks, by online tools and their use, spidergrams and by Technology Stewardship… especially interested in the last one, as I clearly need a technology steward of my own!

Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)

“Birds flying high you know how I feel”

Ok, ok, ok.. You can do this !!.. Blogging must be simple, right ?

'Cause everybody is doing it… right ???

… so, here I go ! 

As I am floating my hands above the keyboard procrastinating at my best, I keep telling myself that “What the heck ?! I have nothing to write about!!” .. well, truth to be told, I have too much to write about ! For example about what awesome experience I have had last night, in the amusement park in Haagse Bos (like seeing the Hague at night upside down.. and please note that no beers were harmed in the making of this experience.. nor weed..); or how I’m in love with the noisy and busy Haagse Markt; about how much have I learned in just a week here at De Haagse Hogeschool; how I can’t get enough of the beach at Scheveningen; or about how hard it is for me to pronounce all these names.. BUT !! do I have anything interesting to write about ?.. will I meet the expectations ? How do I keep it short, but meaningful ? ( too late for this one, I guess ? )

So, in the quest of writing a decent story, I have decided that the most appropriate way to write about my experience so far is not to write at all !!

That being said, this is why, when my Mom inquired about my impressions and experience so far, I simply told her that I truly feel like a bird. "Why is that, Roxi ? Is it because you feel free like a bird in the sky ?" .. Oh, Mother, little do you know.. 

Oh, and Mother, pray this doesn’t happen..

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Posted in Community, Group 8, Students
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Made in RO(xi)