Much more than an app developers camp…

Ohrid is located on the shore of a big lake with crystal clear water in the south west of Macedonia. It bears a diverse ecological system and is millions of years old. The UNESCO accepted Lake Ohrid as Natural World Heritage Site. Tiny fish tickle your body when you keep still for a while. It is a holiday paradise and i wonder why i’ve never heard of it before.

There we met last weekend to choose the 3 winning projects of an international app development project called mYouth 2.0 which provides space for youth that is already in the field of new technologies in order to develop further their potentials and ideas.

4 participants from Asia, 4 from Africa and 4 from Europe pitched in front of a 12 member expert jury.
The jury chose one winner of each continent.
The 3 winners are invited to the European Youth Award festival in Graz in November 2018.

 

photo (c) Mladiinfo

It took me several days to write this recap. Why? Cause it was such a valuable experience that i didn’t want to cut it down to a few words. Nor would some pictures show what really fascinated me about this event. I’ll give it a shot…

We spent 5 days together. More than 30 people from 3 different continents: East African Region (Kenya and Tanzania), West African Region (Senegal and Ghana), North Asian Region (Vietnam and Hong Kong) and South Asian Region (Singapore and Philippines) as well as the European Region that involves Poland, Germany, Austria, Macedonia and Romania  – I thought of justing naming a few exemplary countries but it is so impressive if you make yourself aware of this diversity. Just being in the middle of this vibrant community was already worth travelling to Ohrid. I felt an excitement that i experience seldomly these days. A feeling that there is a vibrant and positive world beneath frightening news and fascist governments. That there are people who are actually making a change by helping their local communities and therefore bringing valuable ideas to the global society.

And the contestants do exactly that. Some of them experienced hard times in their young lifes and decided to protect people in the future from those experiences. Some of them observe problems in their communites and decide to do something about it. Some have a smart idea and want to develop it further. They get creative and use mobile technologies to help for example pupils who want to learn more about the world but simply don’t have learning material. Or to make dental service affordable for people who can’t rely on a health care system. Or to give an effective tool to people who want to make music but have no idea where to start – Spoiler: Those are the winners 😉

Jurying and choosing those 3 winning projects was tough. Many of the presentations where very convincing, several of the pitches where brillant, all of the projects are worth to be supported. It took us hours to discuss and decide. Sometimes i ask myself if competitions like this one are just wrong when all of them deserve to win. But then again it is a big boost for your motivation if you strive towards a goal.

The competion itself tough was just one aspect of the whole event. We coached the contestants and their projects and we learned a lot from them as well. So it was in fact a win-win situation. And we had time to spare. Some of the most interesting and deepest conversations emerge while you have lunch together or enjoy the sunset on a hill in Ohrid.

There would be so much more to say about the event, about technological aspects, about how important a proper design process is for an app project and so on but i think i already implied what was most important for me:
People from different cultures, of various ages, with different backgrounds came together in a peaceful, respectful and joyful way. We worked together, supported each other and simply had fun. It was organised by a careful and dedicated team (thanks so much Mladiinfo!). Jumping into this intercultural experience was one of the best things i did recently.

To be fair: It was an almost perfect setting and it is not easy to organise such intercultural events. But i think you can scale it down to your daily life as well. Even short contacts between persons with different cultural backgrounds can be interesting and authentic if you kick yourself in the butt and step our of your comfort zone. Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed. And it doen’t matter if you speak the same language or not.


Much more than an app developers camp…
was published on 30.09.2018 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under east africa, east asia, eastern and central europe, Europe, global, middle east and north africa, south asia
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foreverloops – making music with gears

Is it a game? Is it an application? Is it an instrument? A tool maybe? … Well everyone of these answers might be right.
Another question: What is the connection between gears and music?
In this case the answer is simple: foreverloops.

The interface of foreverloops

In September i met Ulrich from foreverloops at the “Play Austria” fair in Vienna. After talking to several exhibitors and game developers, after hours of playing i felt the need to end my visit. One last game caught my eye, at least it seemed to be a game at the first glance. It was the beginning of a really nice half hour of playing and talking to Ulrich, one of two programmers of foreverloops. We decided to stay in contact for a potential workshop.

This workshop took place last week in the Kulturzentrum of “Flucht nach Vorn” in Vienna. We invited young refugees to participate and to spend a few hours of playful beat producing together. Our friend and ICT4D.at member Chloé was also part of the fun. The setting reminded me of a LAN party: One big table with laptops, concentrated facial expressions, headphones. Ulrich and i gave a short introduction about the functions and features. It only took us a few minutes to explain the basics. When you try out foreverloops yourself you know why: It is by all means playful and it is of utmost fun to discover the variety of beats and possibilities on your own. After the first hour we already saw quite complex gear systems on each screen. Ulrich showed some tricks during a coffee break for the participants to dig even deeper into the world of drum’n’gears (might this become the newest genre in the pop music industry?).
What particularly fascinates me of foreverloops is that you can build very complex gear systems with totally simple methods. The concept of loops and adding sound sample after sound sample works almost immediately without reading a handbook or playing an annoying tutorial. You can create very short loops but it is also possible to build really big pieces of music that go on for hours and hours before looping for the first time. Ulrich said that even he doesn’t know by far all the possibilities of this gear system. Fascinating!
Another cool feature is that you can produce even visuals in an intuitive way. Just use video or picture samples out of the sample library. Or use your own music and video pieces. A true source of neverending inspiration for hobby and professional musicians. As well as a potential tool to do awesome live art performances… I admit it…i became a real fan boy.

In the end we presented the brand new creations with a projector and quite powerful speakers. It was great to hear and see all those different audiovisual pieces: Some sounded happy, some dark, some fast, some slow…in a feedback round we discovered that people can use foreverloops as a powerful way to express feelings or dreams. And we all agreed that it is just fun to play with gears to make music.

Thank you Ulrich and Marlene from foreverloops! You brought a wonderful new tool into this world. I hope many will discover your work in the future.

You can get foreverloops via Steam:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/725610/foreverloops/

Or take a look at the youtube channel first:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWZcM997e6oae9iGfJu2lOw

Have fun!

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foreverloops – making music with gears
was published on 18.12.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe
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Erase all kittens! – spending quality time at the European Youth Award Festival 2017

I am no newbie to the EYA. Four years ago Paul, me and two friends of us won the Award in the category “Go Green” with our App/Game Woody. So i already knew the organising team and over the years we kept contact. I was a juror in 2016 for the first time and it was so much fun that i was looking forward to do it again this year…

In my last post i talked about our network as a small and stable yet dynamic family. I can find many of these qualities in the community of the EYA. Although in a different way. It is large and shrill and posh and everyone seems to be busy being the next big Start-Up CEO. In an interesting workshop, conducted by two wonderful friends from Syria, my group amongst others noticed that we all lack a significant resource: Time. For ourselves.
I want to compare the well organised and tight festival program with a river steadily and strongly flowing. Sometimes you can find people floating next to you at the same velocity. I had many such encounters throughout the last two days. And although it sounds stressful, in fact it has always been energetic and pleasurable. As well interesting and demanding. Personal background stories mixed up with social business models. Example: My dear friend Attila and i just met again after one year and had to catch up in a 10 minute coffee break which ended up having a conversation about how the factor “efficiency” can affect design in a very negative way. When the bell rang we were still standing in line for coffee but almost forgot the river running towards the next workshop.

In the afternoon the winning teams presented their projects to the jury and the festival audience. After last year’s experience i knew in advance that our mission to choose the overall winner would not be easy. The rules for each contestant: exactly 3 minutes of presentation time and 3 minutes of Q&A by the jury. 17 projects and about 2 hours later we were all pretty much filled up with inspiring ideas … and we were exhausted. The contestants were free to spend a nice evening in Graz. For the jury the work just started at that point. At around 11pm and after a we discussed the presentations and projects we finally elected the overall winner.

The winning teams and the moderators of the EYA 2017

“Erase All Kittens” confused with it’s name but also won the hearts of many people in the jury and the audience immediately. As they state on their website: “E.A.K. is a revolutionary, online game that provides kids aged 8-14 with knowledge of both computational thinking and professional coding languages, to effectively prepare them for 21st Century degrees and careers.” Not only it was clearly the most innovative project but it was also the best presentation: I had no struggle at all to understand the concept and their goals within the 3 minutes (almost no questions needed). It amazes me how the team combines the logic process of coding with the ease of playing a fun game about kittens.

Here are the winning teams of the 9 different categories.

Erase All Kittens is the EYA overall winner 2017

In a big evening ceremony on the next day the winning teams were honored by officials and celebrated themselves afterwards. We all know how important partying and dancing is. Sometimes it feels like shaking of the weights of hard work. Especially after so many hours of conceptualizing, creating, designing, coding, calculating, marketing etc. I congratulate and thank the teams and the organisers for making it once more a special experience!

The European Youth Award is a wonderful source of inspiration and gives insights into the young social entrepreneur and start-up scene. At ICT4D.at it is nice and helpful to be part of this international network. I talked to several people about our work as an NGO and there might emerge collaborations in the future. What i definitely know though is that i will be happy to spend some quality time at the EYA again next year.

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Erase all kittens! – spending quality time at the European Youth Award Festival 2017
was published on 03.12.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under eastern and central europe, Europe, global, middle east and north africa
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“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”

Big words for a small NGO. Aren’t they? I am sure at some points we are innovators. Even big ones. And so yesterday i had the honor of representing ICT4D.at the UNIDO General Conference 2017. Before i go any deeper: This was definitely an interesting experience and it startet right at the entrance when the severe security measures reminded me of the international importance of the UNO. After receiving my badge i took a look around and was amazed by all the people from all over the world being busy keeping the nations united… And all this right in the middle of the well-known and cosy suburbs of Kaisermühlen in Vienna – surreal somehow…

 

The setting was simple: A round table, 4 panellists, 1 moderator and a small but interested audience. We were asked to talk about our work, our projects and our achievements. Our statements were followed by two questions:

  • Which problems are you solving?
  • How is it impacting society?

In our Vision Meeting recently we asked ourselves who we are and who we want to be as an NGO. And i also asked the other members: “What should i tell those guys at the UNO?…” And the coclusion was to go there without pressure and present ICT4D.at as what it is: A small and very precious family network. We don’t have many members but we support each other in a sustainable way. Once connections are established they are taken care of by our members in Austria and the World.
As it is stated on our website we believe in the empowerement of people through ICT. During my preparation for the event I went through former posts and weblinks and noted a few things:

  • tech will just support and is not the key to success – thinking of our Nimble-project online platforms have always supported the organising process in efficient and effective ways and therefore take some pressure of us so we can focus on our team relationships
  • if it’s not broken don’t fix it – we work not only as a team but also as friends and it feels like a family – it has always been like that in our NGO and we are happy to keep it that way
  • opportunities are endless for good programmers – with code people can create wonderful things, no matter were they live and the barrier to get access to crucial technology is relatively low – a wonderful example are Django Girls

So looking back at the two questions above i have an opinionated conclusion: We are solving our own problems by working on the problems in the world. Sometimes the entire world is small and ends at our front doors, sometimes it seems to have no ending. We are a stable yet dynamic group cause everyone can bring in ideas that will be reviewed and supported and we dont have to climb steep hierarchies within our NGO. Yet it amazes me that we collaborate globally. Thanks to ICT. We connect dots around the world for our impact on society.

Happy and thankful for the opportunity and experience i go on with my work by representing ICT4D.at the European Youth Award Festival in Graz this weekend as a jury member. Wuhuuu! Stay tuned…

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“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”
was published on 30.11.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe, global
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Nimble Building Days 3 – Integration through collaborative work

A year and a half ago Chloé, Paul, Florian and me started the project “Team Nimble” on behalf of ICT4D.at and organised a big event called “Nimble Building Days” in a refugee home in Vienna in July 2016.

The world has turned and a lot happened over the last months. The necessity of integrating migrants into the Austrian society is obvious for many reasons. This need is very difficult to communicate to a lot of natives though. Right-wing populists influence the political scene heavily and even moderate politicians spread words of fear instead of reasonable thoughts. Despite of a big movement of solidarity back in 2015 the common motivation decreased after terrorist attacks and mostly negative media coverage. Sustainable engagement with the new citizens is more necessary than ever though. Every time I work with refugees I see how difficult it is to overcome cultural gaps. It takes time, it takes many small engagements, it takes many misunderstandings before every one feels comfortable and knows what to do. You learn to appreciate tiny improvements, nice little gestures. Like a Syrian cup of coffee after trying fruitlessly to explain the purpose of voluntary work with a few German words.

The spirit of “Team Nimble” is no magical wand that cures intercultural problems instantly. It is the feeling of not being alone in a complex and fast-changing society where no one wants to be left behind. It is the concept of using the work on common housing and living space as a catalyst for the development of social links and networks. From all my experiences up till now I can say that it is a veritable path for enabling integration. Collaborative work on projects for the benefit of the entire community might be a potent strategy for connecting cultures and for the sake of a more interwoven society.

In 2016 the Red Cross Vienna rented a former guest house and cafe in the Altmannsdorfer Straße in the 12th district of Vienna for the project IWORA (“Integrationswohnraum”). 7 families live there and it serves them as an intermediate step on their search for proper affordable housing in the city. One family inhabits a flat several months in average. Right now those families are mostly of Kurdish origin and fled from the war in Syria.

Our connection to the Red Cross Vienna has already been very strong before the start of this project. So we met in October 2016 to take a look and check out the situation. It turned out to be a place with a lot of potential for community living space. The cafe on the ground floor of the building seemed to be the perfect place for making a community room out of it. The big courtyard outside bears potential to make a comforting place with outdoor furniture, raised-bed gardening and a playground for the children. We decided to initially focus on the community room.

 

First step: Cleaning the room. Before the Red Cross took over the place it was a rather filthy and dark bar. We had to clean thick layers of dirt and flush half empty bottles down the drain before getting a notion of the room’s potentials. Funny anecdote: The seating furniture of the bar was covered in black fake leather which obviously did not help to brighten up the room. Scratching the surface revealed cream-colored real leather on every bench.

Second step: Planning and writing a concept. It was profound enough to get funded with 2500 euros from the C&A Foundation and the Red Cross. We met again before Christmas to buy materials and tools for the event. The general credo was to make the room bright and to create a family-friendly space and a practical learning environment.

The main event of the Nimble Buidling Days 3 took place on a weekend in the end of January. From our first event at Kurierhaus we learned that strict schedules don’t go along well with the creative chaos of Team Nimble. As a result we simply tried to give it a vague frame and wrote down a checklist with our daily goals, potential risks and unanswered questions.

What came out was nothing less than the creative chaos mentioned before. On day zero I made preparations with the Hausleiter and some curious residents. Although they were told what was about to happen some of them didn’t get it at this point.

On the next day several helpers joined the event and it slowly became a vivid working environment. We got familiar with some motivated residents. In total we were about ten people working together during Saturday and Sunday. The mood was relaxed andwe had a lot of fun. Anders filmed the whole process (watch his documentary below). Our loose schedule helped keeping an eye on the most important steps without beingtoo strict. There was enough room for spontaneous decisions. Time flew by of course and on Sunday in the evening we were exhausted. And happy.

It was not perfect of course. We didn’t manage to involve most of the residents in the process. It was hard to motivate them to leave their flats for some hours to join us. But we also had to simply accept that some families and mostly women had to deal with more profound problems.
We had to rethink some of our plans during the process. We had to buy additional material and tools. Some things we bought or planned turned out to be superfluous. Some steps took us much longer than expected. That’s why we had to add two additional days for finishing the renovation work.

In the end it paid off though. The community room is bright and comfortable now. It provides solid infrastructure to use it as a learning environment and for group meetings and workshops. A corner for children with blackboards and toys will hopefully motivate also women and children to spend more time in the community room from now on.

So the first part of the Nimble Building Days 3 has been a valuable and beautiful experience again. We connected with some of the residents. They connected with us. We have something in common now. A nice project we worked on together. Although our efforts are nothing more than just a tip of the iceberg called integration they are also nothing less. The best thing that can happen is that our project inspires other people to join or start a social movement. We will find out eventually.

PS: To demonstrate you how nimble and fun collaborative work can be, Anders made also a brilliant little timelapse film 🙂

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Nimble Building Days 3 – Integration through collaborative work
was published on 10.04.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe
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Nimble Building Days

Connect and collect…

More than half a year ago we participated at the Helpathon TU Vienna. Can you remember? – An emotional rollercoaster at Helpathon TU Vienna
After winning the 2nd price we decided to continue the work on our concept. So we moved on and started to meet the organising team of the Red Cross Vienna to gather more information. Also we met the teams of two refugee houses in the Vordere Zollamtstraße and in the Lindengasse. Lots of photos and notes were taken, several interviews were made, overall we collected valuable inputs for our concept to become a really helpful system that enables easier communication between refugees and employees of the Red Cross.

A good talk can save hours of work…

Packed with impressions we returned to our desks and tried hard to figure out the next steps. We thought of the best possible way to pull off the implementation of an easy to use visual communication system. It seemed so clear in the beginning: Work out a concept, gather information, refine your idea and a raw diamond turns without a doubt into a perfect one. However we realized that there is in fact so much more to consider. What we did before was important investigative work but also just a scratch on the surface. And so after a really nice and intense meeting our small team decided to push the project to another direction.

An event to help those in need…

What we learned after hours of research was a wide overview of the variety of challenges the Red Cross faces every day in the refugee houses. Some are big, some are smaller but often the staff can’t solve even the smallest problems because they simply don’t have enough time or the problems are too specific. That’s why we came up if a new concept: Organise an event where volunteers and refugees work together to solve as many of those big and small problems as possible. And so six months after the initial event the foundation stone of the Nimble Building Days was laid.

The conclusion of a piece of hard work…

The Nimble Building Days are an event that gives us the opportunity to help people who where forced to leave their homes behind. The ones who received shelter are living in temporary refugee houses like the Kurierhaus Lindengasse. The Red Cross Vienna satisfies basic needs however they lack infrastructure like free internet access and the overall atmosphere of the rooms is rather spare.
Together with the inhabitants of the Kurierhaus and employees of the Red Cross we try to help those people and their families to live normal lifes again.
Now we are looking for support! Participate in the Nimble Building Days or make a donation! Send us a private message on our Facebook page or write an email to office@ict4d.at
Here is our event page.

Our dear friend Anders made a short film to promote the event. It reflects the positive energy of our team. Enjoy!

Together, creative and effective for families in need!
Team Nimble is looking forward to hear from you!

 


Nimble Building Days
was published on 13.06.2016 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under eastern and central europe
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An emotional rollercoaster – Team Nimble at Helpathon TU Vienna

The Helpathon is a Hackathon where participants focus on developing IT-solutions for people in need. This kind of event gained a new level of importance since more and more refugees from Africa and the Middle East are seeking shelter in european countries. It took place at TU Vienna throughout the weekend on November 14th and 15th.

Our freshly re-elected chairman Paul (member of the INSO and one of the organisers of the Helpathon) invited us (Chloé Zimmermann, Florian Sturm and me) to team up and try our best. Which was not easy for anyone in the beginning – just a few hours ago Paris was hit by terrorist attacks and the news spread like a shockwave. It was difficult to focus under these circumstances. But we tried hard and figured out a nice concept after talking to Ulrike Karpfen and Elisabeth Palugyay from the Viennese Red Cross and Jochen Petri from Train Of Hope. Because two thirds of us weren’t able to write code for an IT-programm we decided to take the exact opposite direction.

The idea: Provide a flexible information system for buildings and rooms that is easy to understand for both refugees and helpers.

The key: Well designed Pictograms which can be sprayed or sticked easily onto walls and also be rearranged quickly. Furthermore the pictograms can be downloaded from a website. New pictograms can be uploaded and users can recommend well designed pictograms. All pictograms should also have a positive “attitude”, which means there should not be any signs that show prohibitions. In our opinion it is better to show people in need what they can do instead of what they must not do. It may be a way to contribute to the well-being of refugees and prevent frustration.

Our credo: Doing it as low-tech as possible to make it useable for every organisation.

When an architect, an IT-developer and a graphic designer combine their skills there might be some chaos first but in the end something beautiful can happen. As the deadline approached on Sunday we felt the pressure growing but we didn’t give up. We finished in time and presented our idea to a jury next to 5 other teams. After a thrilling hour of waiting the result finally relieved us: 2nd place and 1000€ for the realisation of the project. A wonderful ending of this rollercoaster ride called Helpathon.

We are looking forward to the next steps of this exciting project! Stay tuned!

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An emotional rollercoaster – Team Nimble at Helpathon TU Vienna
was published on 21.11.2015 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under eastern and central europe, global
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