Jan 23-29, 2016
Meet our Fellows!
Our 3rd fellowship was in our founder's home town of Melbourne, Australia, meet the 16 fellows who joined us for the week-long brain-activating adventure!
In just a few days #UNSCHOOLMELB kicks off in Melbourne, Australia! Our team has been busy putting the final touches on the incredible week-long adventure we'll be embarking on January 23rd through 29th. With all ready and set to go, it's time to present our amazing cohort of 16 creative rebels and change agents that will be joining us for our Melbourne Fellowship Program in sustainability, systems thinking, disruptive design and creative change making:
Chris lives in Sydney, Australia. Currently, he is working in a collaborative, peer-based social justice initiative at UTS. He has an interest in systems thinking, collaboration, poetry and new models of teaching and learning. @stofbrewChristopher says: “I’m excited to be part of the Melbourne cohort, and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in an environment full of people working on change-making and systemic disruption.”
Fiona Clements is Senorita AweSUMO – Zerowaste textile design, Just Atelier Trust – Community Engagement for sustainable fashion. Conscious consumer advocate, Craftivist, Pakeha, Kai Tahu, Clan Gordon.
Fiona says: "I'm excited to start 2016 off with a BANG!, a chance to expand my thinking, find tools to help my community of Dunedin and New Zealand to grow a sustainable fashion industry and cultivate some disruption for good measure" Instagram Twitter
A Biomedical Scientist and Environmental Engineer, Sara currently works as the Education for Sustainability Manager at Macquarie University and is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. Additionally, she recently completed a fellowship with the Centre of Sustainability Leadership and a few months ago did a TEDx talk on 'How to ninja-neer a sustainable future'. Sara's ultimate goal is to be a disruptive change agent - creating a world where people are no longer viewed in terms of income and accumulation of possessions, but by their restorative impact on the planet.
Sara says: "I'm excited to meet Melbourne's cohort of disruptive change agents - with the intention of figuring out how we can leverage each other, to have a restorative impact on the planet. I want to be challenged, motivated and inspired! I also want to make some friends along the way - the more ninjas in this ever growing sustainability army the better!" Website TEDx Talk
Koel is a recent graduate of Melbourne University with a Masters of Urban Planning. She has empowered youth in Australia, South Africa, and Vietnam to be environmental leaders and drive positive change in their communities as part of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Australian Ambassadors for Development, Fossil Free Melbourne University and many others community groups.
Fiona says: "I'm most excited about working with the incredible mentors, building great skills and networks to support my future work in community engagement for sustainability." Website
Jay is passionate about creating positive social change and believes in the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. While living in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, Jay founded Promise or Pay, a web-based platform that motivates people to make positive behavioural changes while creating a more engaging and empowering way to donate to charitable organisations. In 2015, Jay was selected as one of Australia’s top 50 young social entrepreneurs by the Foundation for Young Australians, received a Innovation Fellowship from the Myer Foundation, and was selected as the Young Entrepreneur Finalist in the Sydney SHINE Awards.
Jay says "I am excited about joining the Fellowship and the opportunity to connect with, and learn from, other aspiring changemakers and experienced mentors"
Alexia is an all-sorts. She is interested in all sorts of things, people and places. She focuses her creative practice on building engaging programs that experiments with interdisciplinary collaboration and community cultural development. She is currently the Community Connector for the Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) Initiative where she works with a great team to develop learning experiences that celebrates 60,000 years or more of Indigenous innovation with new and emerging technologies.
Craig is the Head of Design at Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand.
What's Jay excited about? "From meeting awesome people, to sharing, debating and deconstructing ideas, I’m excited to embrace this experience. I can’t wait to be able to implement what I learn in a professional and personal sense after the fellowship." Instagram Linkedin Website
Mim Kempson Anda
Originally from Perth, Mim moved to Melbourne to study a degree in photography, but in 2014 she moved to Montreal where she studied journalism and wrote for the university student newspaper. She returned to Melbourne in July last year to complete and graduate from RMIT's Bachelor of Professional Communications, and is about to embark on an internship at Vogue Australia after the Un-School Fellowship.
Mim says: "What better way than to learn about sustainability and social change than through the people who live and breathe it? It'll be such an extraordinary experience being mentored by those who are helping to shape the world in wonderful ways. I am also looking forward to exercising my brain in ways that tertiary education hasn't challenged me with"
Abby is PunkPDs Principal Consultant, a self-confessed ‘education junkie’, University Lecturer, Education and Empowerment Writer, Behaviour and Change Specialist and artistic thinker. Abby is also a Performance Architect for a wonderful company called Yellow Edge. In this role she leads individuals, teams and organisations through developing their own outstanding levels of dynamic leadership. As a senior facilitator, executive Meta-Coach and dedicated education junkie, she draws on a range of cutting-edge techniques and skills to build capacity, bust through past organisational 'blockers' and create new possibilities for those ready for the journey to greatness.
Abby says: "I thrive on new challenges to design for education and change and the concepts behind disruptive leadership are incredibly appealing to me. I am really excited to be meeting individuals from a range of backgrounds with a range of skills and experiences to share and having some fun along the way!"
Erik is passionate about creating positive ecological change within small communities. Originally from Venezuela, Erik moved to Australia to do a Bachelors in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development. After university he has been working on a life cycle analysis comparing board short textile in the surfing industry.
For Erik: ”I am ready to absorb it all. To meet inspiring like-minded fellows. To flow through a crazy wave of knowledge. And, to come out feeling recharged and inspired.”
Jessie Borrelle makes good fun at Creative Cause which is exactly what it sounds like, an outfit dedicated to embracing the lateral, the creative and the unconventional when considering solutions to environmental, social and political challenges. Jessie is exactly what she sounds like, a woman dedicated to fending off pessimism with overuse of the word creative. Website
Isabella is a designer currently working as a customer experience consultant in Sydney, Australia. After completing a Masters of Design in 2014, her curiosity for people and a desire to use her skills for social good encouraged her to shift her focus from digital to user experience design. In this role, she embraces design thinking to solve complex problems and to deliver great customer experiences.
"I am looking forward to opening my mind to new people, skills and ideas to challenge my role as a designer and human being in 2016"
Charlotte Rose Mellis
After attending The University of Melbourne as a Science student, Charlotte has continued her tertiary journey in pursuit of becoming an Environmental Psychologist. As a qualified scuba diver and yoga instructor, Charlotte is driven to incorporate nature within societies to inspire health and wellbeing. Her current projects include involvement in an Australia-wide aged care initiative, working within a team to design and build holistic, preventative health based strategies for retirement living, along with a personal project with her partner; a sustainable, online start-up due to launch in February.
"I am excited to delve into inspiring content, with passionate fellows across the week of adventures at Un-School Melbourne. Observing from a psychological schema, my predominant passion is to evoke a paradigm shift within societies towards our planet, through the use of intrinsic motivation and bad-ass environmental strategies."
Melbourne - Day 1 January 23, 2016
We're all in this together
Showing uncanny similarities to the first episode of ‘Lost’ combined with the opening credits of Friends …. it was with a mixture of excitement, fear and wide-eyed eagerness that our first Australian fellowship kicked off in Melbourne today! The animation and anticipation was palpable as our fellows arrived at Donkey Wheel House with bright eyes and bushy tails and memory sticks full of ideas and dreams this rainy Saturday afternoon.
We started the day with thanks to the traditional owners of the land on which was are meeting and thinking and learning: The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. This thanks means more to us than lip service, especially this week when most of Australia is celebrating Australia Day. The Un-School is committed to exploring and exposing the stories and cultural learnings of native peoples around the world.
We began proceedings with a now regular Fellowship ‘getting to know you’ exercise—who would have thought, standing on one leg and going around in a circle remembering names and traits actually works. Infact, the further around the circle you proceed, the better the memory banks seem to work. Did I mention that our Melbourne cohort are extremely smart, well balanced (as far as balancing on one leg goes) and (not that it matters) extremely good looking… They are also super keen, smart as whips and wonderfully different.
Next up came a session of individual Pecha Kucha presentations by both fellows and Un-School team members. Three minutes each, nine slides x 20 seconds each with no way to stop the progression and no extra time at the end. Three minutes to sum up who you are, what you do, and what you want to get out of the week. It’s harder (and more daunting) than it might sound... We heard a lot of personal narratives, private quirks and details, fantastic achievements in diverse lives and generally everyone left the presentation with insight and awe of their fellow fellows.
So, the days ahead are already promising to be absolutely chock full of invigorating and challenging discourse and learning outcomes on all sides. These fellows are definitely going to give us a run for our money—and we can’t wait!
"Bridging the gap between knowledge and action" - Leyla Acaroglu
Leyla explained how the Fellowship week would work, laying the foundations for our "strong house”, encouraging fellows to interject, participate and "pimp their knowledge”. Tactics were discussed and the un-school idea of developing a mental toolbox, followed by a loud and somewhat animated exercise that involved each fellow coming up with the top 5 things they wanted to get out of the fellowship in 5 quick connections with other fellows, kinda like speed dating, but for purpose.
Themes surrounded the distillation of messages, communication of ideas, waste systems, networks and how to best utilise them, motivation of self and others, practical tools (not theoretical ideas), how to hold onto ones passion, incorporating ideas in a system that is already established, the infiltration of standard corporate and government structures, entrepreneurial tactics, how to challenge yourself to really make the changes you think and talk about, how to maintain focus and a core agenda, authentic leadership, intentionality
After a short break we stood up, dusted off our already full brains and walked out into the very timely Melbourne sunshine to begin our walking, talking and socialising tour of Melbourne.
It wasn’t just any walking tour though...
We forged a winding trail up, down and around the Melbourne city, hitting on the following spaces and places:
· Queen Victoria Markets (QVM Precinct Masterplan)
· 1000 Pound Bend (for a quick refreshment stop)
Finishing up for dinner, a well earned drink, a meal, and a seat in the wonderful surroundings of Shebeen.
Stevie who manages Shebeen gave us a quick rundown of their not-for-profit model that gives back to the countries from which they source their beer, wine and cider—a wonderful example for our fellows of how giving a leg up to those less fortunate and working to lift communities out of poverty can also be a viable business model and engender pride and loyalty in staff and customers.
The end… of day one… of seven!
Melbourne - Day 2 January 24, 2016
Laying The Foundations
Day two began, as every good rainy Sunday should, with a magnificent homemade pancake breakfast served up on a long communal table with all the possible trimmings. Some of the fellows shared their special and/or secret and/or weird and wonderful items from home that they brought with them to the fellowship for group show-and-tell.
Jessie made the comment that it was “so much fun not knowing what the day holds, it’s almost like being held hostage”. Hearing this warms our hearts and makes us confident that our program is working exactly the way we want it to...
Breakfast discussion topics included whether banana bread was actually cake, where one could legally source Yerba Mate in Australia, and whether straight line tattoos are a good, bad or ‘let’s go and get one right now’ idea!
The team went all out with a beautiful pancake breakfast
Following breakfast we got straight into some activation, with Leyla kicking off a long day of deep diving into systems theory, running a powerhouse workshop on how systems work and the practice of systems mapping. After a lengthy discussion of physical and constructed systems, the conversation turned to human social systems such as religion, government, families, marriage, behavioural constraints, and corporate structures. Industrial Systems came next, with utilities, telecommunications, transport, and manufacturing getting a mention, followed by ecological systems. Leyla started to lay the foundations for using systems thinking as a framework for designing activated social change.
Teams of fellows then mapped divergent systems and pitched them back to the group, and Leyla took the floor again to invigorate our brains with an overview of the idea of synthesis—how divergent ideas are the result of a disruptive practice—it’s not reductive, but the outcome of thorough analysis and the emergence of ideas.
"You want to be a problem lover, not a problem avoider” - Leyla Acaroglu
Continuing on with systems thinking, we dove headlong into Feedback Loops and the difference between reinforcing loops as opposed to balancing loops as opposed to positive loops, which work to reinforce negative outcomes. Population growth was a confronting example to Fellows of a reinforcing loop—facilitating its own continual growth. Whereas balancing loops produce stability and are self correcting—although not always socially positive (like disease) and compensating loops are also well intentioned but end up being detrimental to the system and environment (such as some forms of recycling).
"When you intervene in a system, you need to use the correct tactics to influence the specific agenda of your intervention" - Leyla Acaroglu
Then we headed down the slippery slope of Disruptive Design! Leyla discussed how the aim of the game is to intervene in the most dynamic and effective way possible and thereby make the most change and leverage even bigger change by working within the parameters of the current system—to identify the points within the system that you can leverage.
This led to a prolonged discussion of Buckminster Fuller’s trim tab theory, and his (fulfilled) desire to have “call me trim tab, Bucky” on his tombstone. We love Bucky at the Un-School!
"Systems are constantly evolving things, relinquish blame and remember that every problem has a solution"
Leyla explaining systems thinking and its application to creative problem solving
The afternoon session began with bellies full and bodies stretched and replenished, and then took off running with a crash course in the theory of applied disruption and disruptive design by Leyla again (she gets the rest of the week off teaching after today!). The difference between interruption and disruption is the intent, the meeting of the core agenda of activating the intent.
We also heard about the Action Research Cycle—capacity, knowledge, and skills create a constant loop of selection and action—a hierarchy of actions if you will… The fellows then took themselves off in groups and worked on a theory of change exercise. This ended with everyone throwing almonds at each other’s mouths. But I digress…
Leyla explains feedback loops and the foundations of a systems thinking approach
The final (or so we thought) session was all about Cognitive Bias starting with the sticky issue of cognitive dissonance—the difference between people's ethics and their actions (recycling for example) and the discomfort it causes along with the dangerous repercussions of people changing their behaviours to suit easier or more negative options.
Talk wended it’s way between fake flies in urinals to improve aim, to how best to express yourself and incorporated one minor laughing fit, a slight group sugar slump (eradicated by the appearance of a perfectly timed packet of biscuits), and a tinge of group hysteria by the end of the session.
Next up it was all about grey matter... Beginning with the neuro chemicals that influence how we make choices, to what makes us desire things, to what makes us fear things, to how we can create or challenge these innate impulses, and on through to cognitive biases—socially constructed norms (bystander effect, loss aversion, confirmation bias, change blindness, selective perception, choice paradoxes etc) that guide so many of our behaviours. There are hundreds of them and by this stage we were beyond taking legible notes, you can find a list of most of them here.
Our next (and actual) final session was an added (and group requested bonus) all about gamification and game theory, as well as the tactics for utilising these theories for creating engaging experiences that evoke change (Leyla’s pet favourite topic area).
Once our fellows were well and truly mentally spent, we surprised them with their evening plans...
Peer Dinners! Curated by the Un-School team in four groups of four Fellows at four amazing restaurants in Fitzroy complete with gamefied conversation starters and their first mini challenge (due 24 hours later). Obviously the Un-School team didn’t go out with the Fellows to dinner, but here are some photos that filtered back to us via social media...
Melbourne - Day 3 January 25, 2016
Day 3 is our final day at the beautiful Donkey Wheel House where we started off with the sun shining and a warm group following the fellows peer-to-peer dinners last night (groups of four at four awesome Melbourne Restaurants). We got right into it with a ‘tasting plate’ of presentations from three different social enterprises.
David from Children’s Ground was first up, sharing with us the idea that problems within the indigenous sector are largely systems and to do with governance. He explained, Children’s Ground had developed its own model of integrated, locally-led leadership and programming to enable excellence in learning, wellbeing and development in indigenous communities around Australia. Children’s Ground harnesses all the abilities and knowledge of the people and communities in which they work.
Hannah, the founder of SCARF --- we at the Un-School LOVE what SCARF is doing in the training and hospitality space in Melbourne. You have all probably heard of SCARF already, but if not, look them up, and if you can support them either by attending events or partnering with them on a project. SCARF is a social enterprise (and charity) that provides 10 weeks training, mentorship, and assistance with work placement to refugees. They work in close association with some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and hospitality professionals. Hannah was open and honest about some of the ups and downs she faced in starting the social enterprise, how her amazing team works, and how it might not work without volunteers.
The main take-away from Hannah’s talk was her advice to have faith in your idea and then run with it. "I would’ve been more ballsy in the beginning to allow more impact sooner". If you know your idea is good, get going! Make sure you start with a clear mission and a positive culture. Partnerships are key—work and collaborate with others in your space, not against them as rivals, network and work together to support and grow together.
And lastly, in our quick blast round of Donkey Wheel House tenants and friends, came Ishani from The Difference Incubator. Ishani had the room do a quick survey of what keeps us up at night, and found out that we, like the rest of the world adhered to the universal fact that ‘self belief’ is most people’s number one worry, with funding/money coming in at only number 3 following co-founders/collaborators/team at number 2. The Difference Incubator works with social entrepreneurs to take their businesses “feasibility, desirability, viability” to grow an investable Social Enterprise.
"Think of investors like a marriage, you need to want each other equally"
After a very brief stretch, networking and caffeine break, our Mentor Trent Jansen took to the floor to run our morning workshop on creative approaches. Trent describes himself as a furniture and object designer “I’m the guy who makes stuff” and a Design Anthropologist. From a background in sustainability, he now sees himself as a proponent of longevity and re-use. Trent explained how this gave him insight into the fact that people react to objects differently—some discard and some hold on.
Trent explained to the fellows that he believes that social change, creative thinking and sustainability are the crossover links between practices, with the last two being the main motivators for his practice. Design Anthropology, as described by Trent, involves the study of human behaviour to reflect that behaviour back, and Trent sees himself as a pseudo-mythologist utilising objects as the physical manifestation of behaviour. Trent sees throwaway society and consumer culture as irksome yet potentially reversible -- the worst thing for us as humans about the quick/cheap/discard culture we live in is that we end up with objects and artefacts that reflect our culture back to us -- and what does all of this say, what legacy are we leaving?
Trent then contextualised his theory of making, saying it must involve poetry, an expression of emotion and desire. Trent uses traditional poetic or literary devices across disciplines (metaphor, narrative, irony etc) to imbue objects with stories. Design Anthropology is the distillation of the use of these devices in object creation. Metaphor is important across all narrative-based design to express the representation of one thing (or idea) with another—all designed outcomes must be decipherable, otherwise they are not fulfilling their purpose. WOW.
After delving into this is in practice with his incredible Briggs Colonial Tea Service project, the fellows dove into an exercise devised around strategies for designing with narrative.
We then moved on to the “Glitch” and glitches in the normal system of things as well as the poetry behind these glitches and how they can exist in two dimensions in objects. If you are aware or look for them, you will notice the glitches all around us, such as diversions from built pathways—user created glitches. Broken or repaired objects and their solutions can often be more interesting than the original object or idea. Countries with a less disposable culture are more open to using less ‘pretty’ solutions to repair and reimagine spaces and objects to suit their lifestyle (and budget) and end up with some beautifully poetic and useable solutions. Fellows were then challenges to go about their next few days collecting glitches.
“Repair is often the catalyst of the greatest glitches" - Trent Jansen
JESS MILLER. YIPPEE!! The room erupts. We are so excited to have managed to get jess down to Melbourne to join us for the day (just quickly, she rocks!).
So much good advice, so many funny anecdotes, and so much applicable theory was imparted throughout this presentation-slash-mentoring-session that we can’t fit it all (or give it away for free) here. You should probably just hire Jess if you ever need anything done, really, anything, she’s your girl. Here is just a fraction of the take-aways from her chat with us today:
Jess started talking about community and engagement and how communities are fluid and therefore can’t be predicted, then segued into the importance of the lesson and knowledge that comes from creating a project that flops... She discussed how the most important thing you can do when planning a communication strategy, event, or project is to remember to to ask why—why would I care (or share) this message and why will others.
Jess waxed lyrical on her agenda to motivate people to talk to each other in an effort to combat loneliness—how she is using the internet to get people off the internet and back into real life human to human contact situations by creating and curating events. She discussed her project ‘Grow it Local’—an aspirational city council (food production) project, and then moved on to her biggest, most magnificent and simultaneously terrifying project—TEDx Sydney Crowd Sourced Food—and her idea to use local Sydney residents and producers as community farmers to crowd-source all the food for the event.
Moving on to slightly more theoretical ideas, Jess unwrapped the age-old dilemma of all communications professionals—reality versus ‘the story’, and how you need to find and keep to your narrative and also (always) stay authentic. Even though sometimes the story and reality might not match up entirely, not everyone needs to know what’s going on behind the scenes—it destroys the mystery AND the story. Your job as a creative producer is to push the boundaries—governments and institutions won’t always see the possibilities in front of them unless someone has the vision and the drive to get it done or show them the way. Think of your project as a gift. Leverage your story/s and push your messages.
“make sure you have a stick in one hand but a much tastier carrot in the other”. (Best quote ever according to Leyla)
That said, we also heard about how and why and when to “go gently” and the importance of building trust and relationships before pushing the envelope. If you push too far you might tip over the edge...
And a few random final Jess-isms to take with you:
· Sometimes a compromise is worth the end result, as long as you retain your integrity.
· Feedback and constructive criticism is always worthwhile.
· Concept without execution is not worth the effort and can in fact be detrimental to the idea.
· You don’t have to make your motivation obvious. If people are authentically engaged—you win either way.
· Make sure to discuss legacy on collaborative projects, especially if you have been a “consultant” for someone else, IP is your livelihood.
· Clarify expectations (both yours and your stakeholders).
· Take risks
· Experience and self-confidence breeds the ability to say no, to pull back
· Value yourself and your time
· Don’t be negative if you feel an idea won’t work, simply give the pros and cons and find a better alternative solution that fulfils the brief and tells the story.
· Jess is one hell of a busy lady, check out a few of her projects here:
After a brief discussion of Jess’s 202020 Vision project and an explanation of collective impact the fellows broke into groups to do a short exercise based around collective impact and were given feedback on framing by Jess. This was followed by a much needed caffeine break. Jess was fondly farewelled by the entire fellowship who could all have happily picked her brain for the rest of the afternoon—but alas, we must move on!
“I’m just a bit of a hustler really, that’s the best way to describe it” (Jess—when asked what her actual job title is).
Following Jess’s departure, Fellows were asked to present their gamefied responses to last night’s peer-to-peer dinner challenge. Each of the groups had been asked to come up with an experiential intervention in response to a series of questions that were provided by the Un-School team to trigger connection and conversation and to challenge the fellows to come up with a response specific to them and their interests/needs.
The four responses were completely different and very personal. The first being a new take on the card game ‘Cards for Humanity’ re-branded as ‘Design for Humanity’ by the group. The second was almost a non-intervention with the group silently offering players no clue as to how the game worked or what the rules were and making the players interact with them and each other in an effort to understand what was happening—resulting in many puzzled looks and some weirdness over 10 minutes as a clock ticked down. The third group conducted a group unburdening of fears mirrored by an accepting of compliments all wrapped up in a string theory, and the final group finished our time at Donkey Wheel House with a laugh circle, guided meditation and group affirmation!
We then took off from our home for the last three days for the final time and headed to our secret dinner party...
Dinner popped up in a converted photographic studio/warehouse (that used to be a kickboxing studio) that our team set up beautifully just for us to enjoy delicious cocktails, mingle, eat some amazing vegetarian delights, and (of course) take part in a few challenges...
Three of our mentors attended (Trent, Jess and Adam) and we set up three tables for the Fellows. Each table had one mentor, and we designed three challenges to go with the three courses of food. Following each challenge, the mentors would rotate to the next table of Fellows so that all the fellows had a different mentor for each challenge. This was designed to get the creative juices flowing!
First up was “how can we make using condoms sexy”. This was won by Team V-Jay with their proposed ‘F**k-Bit’ a new take on the Fit-Bit which brings a level of challenge and pride to sex, with wearers having to wear the device to participate. The second challenge was “how can we make people pick up their dog poo”, which ended in a tie between teams 51 Shades Of Opaque Grey and The Constant Condoms, with two ideas based on reward, one saw councils installing poker machine-like poo bins that doled out random rewards to people depositing poo (such as a song or liver treat for your pooch). The second idea was creating a dog food that contained flower seeds that would encourage people to keep and use the poo. Our final, slightly controversial (and potentially alcohol/tiredness impaired) challenge was “how can we enable people to experience ‘the other’—specifically in a gender/sex sense”. According to judges, only one team successfully followed the brief on this one, so the V-Jays were declared the only possible winners with their reinvention of a tamagotchi-like e-pet device to enable people to experience life from the perspective of someone of a different sex.
This concluded proceeding on a very long day. Goodbyes were said, trains were caught, and heads hit pillows full of excitement for our big outdoor adventure day tomorrow!
Melbourne - Day 4 January 28, 2016
Out And About
This morning we met up at a theatre, perfectly apt for the more outgoing of us to finally have a chance to get up on stage and strut the boards... Although we didn't actually do that, but rather enjoyed a delicious breakfast followed by a talk from Gorkem Acaroglu, Creative Director at Metanoia Theatre in Brunswick. If Gorkem’s surname sounds familiar, it’s because she is in fact Leyla’s older sister. Gorkem is a creative powerhouse in her own right, and talked us through some of her more challenging and fascinating projects—particularly The 24 Hour Experience. The two 24 Hour Project’s took place in Melbourne and Ballarat (a town in regional Victoria). They both involved 24 performances that took place over 24 hours in one city across multiple locations that patrons had to travel between to experience a variety of immersive (sometimes literally) theatrical interventions. Gorkem’s talk focused on the experience of curating art experiences within a collaborative framework and community specific, and how she worked with a wide range of community groups and members to bring this ambitious and fascinating project to life.
We then walked up the famous Sydney Road in Brunswick (that will actually take you all the way to Sydney if you follow it for long enough) to Petrucci Studios where one of our Un-School producers Simone, runs a co-op creative studio space. Petrucci Studios works as a collective design studio incorporating all kinds of designer-creators with a large emphasis on making. We were given the grand tour of the whole operation by Tim Denshire-Key, an Industrial Designer who holds a keen interest in social and sustainable design practices. Tim talked us through his process of using recycled and found materials in his work, and showed us his incredible animal sculptures that are made of found and recycled materials.
As we started our walk towards our next surprise mentor studio visit, we did a quick impromptu detour to The Commons building, located adjacent to the bike path at Anstey Train station in Brunswick. Koel, one of our fellows who works in Urban Planning, gave us a quick run down on the amazing building design, with it's high level of sustainable and community building principles. Just as we were about to depart, one of the residents came out and offered to take us all on a tour of the rooftop gardens and tell us a little more about what it's like to live there (he LOVES it) and all about the ethos of the building. We were all pretty chuffed so we stopped for a quick photo with our new friends (as well as a great view of Melbourne’s skyline).
Leaving sunny Brunswick, we headed (on foot) to even sunnier Coburg, walking in the hot summer Australia Day sun all the way to Monkey Marc's portable solar and wind powered recording studio built in a shipping container that is currently touched down somewhere in the back streets of Coburgistan 😃
Marc regaled us with tales of his most recent and absolutely incredible and inspirational projects working within remote Aboriginal communities to record important cultural narratives through the elders of these communities while at the same time engaging younger generations in the reimagining of the stories using video, music, and hip hop. Marc relocates to these remote aboriginal communities for months at a time and is taken to sacred and important sites by and for these elders so that they can share their stories within their place. The stories are interpreted with music and visuals created by the local youth. Marc facilitates these knowledge transfer workshops through story and music making and works with elders to ensure the integrity of the story is maintained throughout the entire process. By implementing this particular method and process of working, Marc is engaging local youth with exciting new and valuable skills, and often leaves resources behind for them to continue to use and learn.
We listened to two inspiring video/music projects, and checked out all of Marc's great vintage equipment! Then it was time for lunch!
After a delicious picnic lunch from Brunswick institution A1 Bakery, we left the magical Monkey Marc, and meandered our way back downstream via Merri Creek, a tributary of Melbourne’s famously brown Yarra River, checked out a native vegetation garden and continued on to our final destination of the day, the wonderful and world renowned CERES Environment Park.
Our first adventure at CERES was guided by the amazing Stephen Mushin. A magical thinker and fantastical designer, do-er, maker, bio-imagaterian and dreamer. First up he gave us a tour of the park, where he had worked for several years with a team of other engineers and designers to build and test a range of technological interventions for sustainability.
It's very hard to describe exactly just how engaging and creatively stimulating Steve is. He shared a series drawings from the book he is currently working on ‘Now if what when’, a fantasy world where he can do whatever he wants, including creative propositions such as “The ethical polar bear burger and hoodie company inc”. After we had the creative possibility section of our brains activated, we jumped into playing someDesignercise with Leyla where such things as; Rhinos in tutus, People losing arms, Being chased by axe murderers, divergent thinking and storytelling games. Fernando and Juliet was played out during the creative ideation toolkit game.
Our final Mentor of the day was Simon Griffiths, the founder of SheBeen (bar/restaurant/live music venue) and toilet paper subscription company Who Gives a Crap. We had to use all our tech skills to Skype in to CERES from his current location, Nairobi, Kenya. Simon is over there checking out the programs that his social enterprises donate to. Both of Simon’s organisations provide profits back to communities via Water Aid and other small NGO’s around the world.
Having earlier in the week been to Shebeen for dinner (and loving everything about it) we were given a rundown on Who Gives A Crap—from it’s foundations in his mind (and his Dad’s garage/distributions centre) to what it is today, a highly recognisable brand that works with artists and other like-minded souls to promote clean water and hygiene to developing countries.
We also heard about some of the harder times both businesses faced, both in the initial stages and (occasionally) still does. Simon was honest about his struggles with finding the right funding model for the businesses, his backflip into the not for profit sector—which wasn't quite right either. He talked about the impact game—not impacting millions of people, not making enough
impact to satisfy his goals. He discussed how and why Shebeen works—you are not asking people to change their behaviour at all, you are just giving them the option to spend their money on something that does good. This model breeds success—if you can create positive change with minimal change in actual behaviour, but a pay off to the part of people that want to do the best thing for the world, you are already winning. The idea that alcohol can also be used as a tool to do good work appeals to him.
Lastly, Simon talked us through his work on Who Gives A Crap, including the ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign that got it started—the idea of sitting on a toilet until the first 50,000 rolls of toilet paper were sold through crowdfunding (read about how that worked out for him here and here)… He discussed the importance of hiring great people for his team and the way he does that—by giving them a project and asking them to come back with a solution. Through this he has created an exceptional team of people who can all do exceptional things, this is important because if the whole team isn’t on board it can damage the people on the team who are exceptional. Simon explained how his team work completely remotely, how he focuses on customer happiness rather than simply service, that we shouldn’t ever get caught up in corporate structure—rather each business should decide how much you want to donate and just do it.
Following Simon’s talk, our merry little band disbanded for the day and everyone had a free evening to do whatever caught their imagination… Tomorrow will be another big day...
Melbourne - Day 5 January 29, 2016
Practice Makes Perfect
After a long day of walking, talking and brain-filling yesterday, our intrepid disrupters jumped straight back into being inspired on this, the fifth day of our Melbourne fellowship adventure!
Our first stop of the day was the exciting and inspiring Co Design Studios where CEO Jessica Christiansen gave us a talk and tour of their space. Co Design are a not-for-profit creative consultancy and social enterprise that mainly work within the built environment with a focus on urban interventions and transformation of spaces and places.
Co Design have adopted a methodology called ‘Tactical Urbanism’ incorporating a low-cost, high impact agenda to create thriving public (and some private) places. Jess told us about some specific projects Co Design have been working on including one in Brisbane that was all about revitalising laneway spaces based on the ''Melbourne laneway model’. For the project, Co Design were given $20,000 for a 3-week public art fiesta/activation of public space. Jessica was open about the barriers that existed to fulfil this brief due to the difference in economy and population size of Brisbane to that of Melbourne. The three main barriers exposed were liquor licensing, waste management, and exposure of the event through the city council website. The conversation then moved on to working within the context of a city more broadly. Brisbane (and cities generally) are made up of three components—the local authorities, its people, and its place. The Co Design vision is to help create cities that are shaped by their citizens (and the biggest problem to their practice is the apathy of these same citizens…).
Take-aways from our Co-Design Studio Visit:
· Action is everything. There’s no point (or time) for more strategies or 50 year master-plans
· Make sure you incorporate a solid community engagement plan into your project so all affected parties (locals and residents in their case) understand what is happening and feel some sort of ownership over the project.
· Inaction is the biggest problem most innovators face in getting their projects off the ground.
Phew! What a great start to the day!!
Next stop was at Thick Studio. Located in a classic Fitzroy alleyway, Thick have a wonderful warehouse space and great buzzy office vibe. Adam Morris, Thick’s Creative Director, is our final Mentor for the week, and he jumped straight in with the fellows after having already met them at our surprise dinner on Monday evening. He began by talking us through how he he shifted from being an ‘adman’ (a la Mad Men complete with indoor smoking and whisky-fuelled creative sessions), to starting a socially motivated and value-led creative agency.
Adam said a pivotal point that led to his first realisation that advertising could be a vehicle to contribute meaningful impacts to people's lives was his “frozen Pea” moment—when a typical commercial ad agency brainstorm turned into a “this is f**king ridiculous, what am I doing with my life” moment—realising that he was being paid to solve problems that don’t actually exist and deciding he wanted to only work on projects with meaning, and on problems that do exist.
Adam next discussed what he called the "age of transparency”, where brands are now being held to account by their customers and the public due to the internet, vehicles of mass communication, and digital platforms which allow participation, and have really shifted the way that advertising worked from a one way to a two way traffic.
We discussed how “User Experience” or “UX” is currently a buzz term used to explain making/designing of any digital content whereas real UX is designing experiences based on how people interact with a product or service, considering their wants and desires, wrapped in how they use or do it. Service Design as a discipline has emerged from the development of UX (which is basically what we are all about!).
We then veered off slightly into the world of capitalism and learned about one of Adam’s favourite and most life-changing books: The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque. From this, he explained, we can gather that capitalism as a system is fundamentally broken, but it’s the only model we currently have. So we need to work within it and work to change it from within. If brands don’t work to enhance people's lives they won’t survive.
We then moved on to 'Thick Value’—a term appropriated from the book—encompassing genuine meaningful value generated without causing economic harm to people or the planet.
Thick Studio as a business works only with clients who operate within the Health, Environment, Education, and Public Service sectors. Institutions within these categories have the scale to make change and Thick is always looking for win, win, win scenarios and to convince clients that doing good can also be good for their bottom line.
"If shitty companies are looking to genuinely change and do good we will work with them. If the feeling is that the company is just trying to greenwash etc we will say no" -Adam Morris
Thick is also one of the founding "B corporations" in Australia. B or ‘Benefit’ corporation status allows companies to work for the benefit of society and the environment even if the outcome of their choices may affect share prices negatively.
“You are as much defined by what you say no to as what you say yes to" - Adam Morris
We followed up Adam’s talk with an exercise he’d devised based around the United Nation’s Global Development Goals. Two circles were formed in the room and fellows had five minutes to read through their assigned goal and then explain it in 90 seconds to their partner and vice versa. people then swapped goals and the circle moved one person clockwise so fellows could explain their new goal to their new partner and vice versa. This continued until all participants had heard (and read) every goal on the list (there are 17 of them).
Adam left us to go and change all our lives through some more smart service design, and our wonderful Un-School Co-Host, Bec led fellows in a session on creating a pitch—how to distill or set an agenda and narrative for your own unique story and selling point by framing your approach to fill a need.
The exercises was to create a 3 minute ‘elevator pitch’ and then distill it even further to a 1-minute pitch made up of the really most important information you needed to impart.
Finished pitches were presented in two groups, with each group member as well as Leyla having to respond to each pitch with one item of what they liked and what they thought needed improvement. The exercise really brought out another side to each of our fellows, with both the pitching AND the critiquing being equally fundamental to the task.
Following the pitch/critique session, we said farewell to the team at Thick (thanks again Thick!) and headed off down the colourful back alleys of Fitzroy and Collingwood to our evening destination.
The Social Studio and associated restaurant The Cutting Table are both wonderful local social enterprises, operating within a not-for-profit structure that are dedicated to improving the lives of young Australians from migrant or refugee backgrounds. They work through fashion and hospitality industries to create meaningful change by providing TAFE level training, work experience, volunteering opportunities, and employment within the above industries, as well as more broadly across industries as diverse as manufacturing and retail.
We were treated to a tour of the Social Studio by the CEO Susan Yengi. Opened in 2009, The Social Studio provides a safe space, creates awareness and changes public perception through the provision of mechanisms that allow participants to learn, teach and make an income through designing and manufacturing clothing. All income generated through the studio is invested in creating social benefits for students, staff and communities. Benefits are measured via educational and employment outcomes, environmental benefits and social inclusion.
The Cutting Table grew out of The Social Studio (literally—it used to be a single table operation out the back of the actual Social Studio cutting room!). The Social Studio took over the lease of the shop next door and The cutting table opened her doors in 2011 and is now the beating heart of the Social Studio family.
As we sat down to our amazing meal we introduced our very special secret guest to the fellows... Joining us from the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre (ASRC) was the lovely Nicolette Ranieri, who along with Leyla introduced our fellows to their biggest challenge of the week so far—their 24 hour design challenge!
The Cutting Table team served our starving horde with some absolutely stunning East and West African dishes including a Berbere spiced curry served on Ingera—a light and spongy African flatbread, Kedkede Hibiscus and Ginger iced Tea and some mind-blowing Zlabia—bite-sized African doughnuts… Yum
We then got down to discussing the challenge. In a nutshell it involves the following Quest Statement: How to engage the 10,000 Victorian asylum seekers currently not engaged with the ASRC or it's programs to discover and potentially become active members of the ASRC Innovation Hub's Entrepreneurship Program community, and thereby build a thriving eco-system that aligns with the ASRC aspirations. Keeping in mind the following goals:
· To assist people seeking asylum to start successful businesses
· To catalyse a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurship and connection between business communities
· To respect the diversity of needs, experiences and obstacles within the community that ASRC represents
· To connect members to capacity building opportunities
· To create an incubator where members can build, launch and grow their own businesses
Our fellows have from 9am Thursday morning until 9am Friday morning to come up with creative solutions to the challenge and design a 20 minute pitch to stakeholders and invited judges as well as the Un-School team to critique each pitch and decide on a winner.
We all heading off for an early night. We wish them the best of luck and we can’t wait to see (and show you) what they come up with!
Melbourne - Day 6 & 7 February 1, 2016
The Design Challenge
Day Six was a day of mental gymnastics, research, teamwork, collaboration and implementing all the tactics that the fellows have learnt and discussed over the course of the fellowship so far. The challenge—set over 24 hours—is to come up with, agree and build a presentation around a new proposition that offers a solution or idea to improve the current uptake of engagement between Asylum Seekers and the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre’s Entrepreneurs Program.
Three teams were divided up, given a private work space at our fabulous new home for the next two days: The Library at The Dock located in Melbourne’s Docklands. The Un-School team provided sustenance, encouragement, occasional mental health services, Leyla jumped in on occasion to provide mentorship, provocation and a sounding board for the teams who spent the entire day between 9am and 10pm hard at work (with some teams continuing their work well into the night off-site).
We returned bright and early for our final day together—day 7—otherwise known as pitch day! Following practice pitch sessions with Leyla and Bec we were joined for the final pitches by Courtney, the acting Director of the ASRC Innovation Hub, Russel Kerr from the Communication Design faculty at RMIT and Jarrod Briffa co-founder of Melbourne cafe and social enterprise Kinfolk.
Up first was Team 1 made up of Aimee, Bella Craig, Jane & Mim who proposed an intervention based around celebrating community by reimagining the ASRC current Entrepreneur Meet Ups to amplify exposure through a one-plus-one model—encouraging current members to invite one new person along to each event they attend and grow attendance and penetration that way—the Tumbleweed effect.
“simply a model of asking and doing"
Team 2, or ‘Team Hatch’—as they branded themselves—made up of Alexia, Erik, Gretchen, Jay & Jessie was next up to the plate.
“Hatch is not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen"
Hatch started off by sharing their research process of exploring the diversity of the asylum seeker community, and discovered a need for entrepreneurial incubators. Their proposed vision was to enable flexible community led programs using the 'Hatch model’ which works to combat three core problems: Positioning, Accessibility and Visibility, with the most urgent need identified as creating multiple entry points for asylum seekers.
Regarding the issue of scale— Hatch proposed 'going mobile’ and incorporating a mobile innovation hub into the ASRC to provide a flexible environment that is co-designed and community-led. The idea was inspired by case studies of socially engaged art projects (including the Nanny Van example from US) that can physically reach into places where communities are actually congregating. The mobile hub(s) can go in to co-create and co-design programs and events with local asylum seekers.
Our final group to present was Team 3, made up of Charlie, Chris, Fi, Koel & Sara who launched into a fast-paced and impassioned presentation that immediately shook up the initial brief. This proposal revolved around not bringing ‘help’ to asylum seekers, but rather creating a decentralised network, built from the inside out.
The team had spent a long time researching the project and recognised that no one apart from asylum seekers can understand the limitations and requirements of the entrepreneurial program—what asylum seekers are actually seeking from any interventions. They decided to propose a strategy of roadmaps using identified barriers to access to utilise and turn around to encourage community empowerment.
High density regions of asylum seeker communities were mapped. Travel issues between these communities and the ASRC were recognised and being severely limited. It was also shown that most of these zones are located in growth areas meaning that they are newer and generally car-centric with limited public transport and other community building amenities. Using this information on geographic limitations, they looked at the ASRC and their programs and how people find out about them.
The current upside-down funnel model of contact and access to programs was discarded and turned on it’s head by looking more broadly at how to organically shift the model to a more service-based economy centred around skills transfer and a share-based economy with money being obsolete in the scenario and creating a dual operating system alongside current financial models.
"Social connection can translate into skill sharing"
The judges expressed how impressed they were with what the teams had come up with in just 24 hours and provided a wealth of positive and constructive feedback. But a winner was still to be decided...
In the meantime, as has become an Un-School tradition, all groups were asked to vote on their favourite pitch, with the peer reviewed winner being a tie between Team 2 (Hatch) and Team 3.
Then came the panel’s feedback. And the decision was in—3rd place went to Team 1, 2nd place to Team 2 'Hatch', and in first place—Team 3! We thought they were all great, and we're extremely proud of the level of thought and integration of learning each team showed in their propositions so everyone went home with a prize! But the real reward was the celebratory glass of bubbles (at 11.45am!) and delicious treats that the team brought out after we had thanked our judges.
After we polished off a few bottles of bubbly, our assistant producer Simone, conducted a reflection session on each day, guiding the group through a distillation of all the crazy things that happened over the intense 7 day fellowship. Following this, the Fellows received back their own initial notes about their hopes for the week that they had written on the first day of the fellowship and then spent some time in pairs reflecting on what had been achieved and what could be worked on moving forward.
In closing, we shared final statements as a group, to summarise a learning, thought or provocation from the week as well as what each of us might be taking away or putting into practice from the experience in the future.
There were many thanks and a shared gratefulness for the fellowship week and the opportunity to meet and connect with so many great like-minds (in the mentors, team and fellows). Connecting with others. The idea of play and having fun alongside more serious activism and social innovation were all themes of the week and reflection session.
And then it was over—that was our close to the Melbourne Un-School Fellowship! We hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as we have, and don’t forget to keep up to date with future fellowship opportunities coming up all over the place in the very near future.
Our community of past fellows is growing into a formidable and creatively thriving network of inspirational people—don’t miss out on becoming a part of it!
Melbourne UnSchool Fellowship: My Top 5 Concepts & Takeaways April 14, 2016
By Jay Boolkin, Un-School Alumni, Melbourne 2016
In January 2016, I had the pleasure of doing the Un-School Emerging Sustainability Leaders Fellows in Melbourne alongside 15 other charismatic and inspiring individuals. The fellowship program is designed to empower emerging leaders to expand their mental toolsets, develop strong connections with likeminded people from around the globe, and activate their leadership skills. One of the things I enjoyed most about the fellowship was that it revealed how concepts and critical thinking practices, which at first seem singular and disconnected, can in fact be harnessed to effect and enact positive social change. So with this in mind, here are my top 5 favorite concepts and takeaways from the Un-School Melbourne Fellowship in Sustainability and Social Change.
Concept ONE: Systems Thinking
A set of tools, a language, or methods that look at problems as a whole instead of as separate parts.
Takeaway: Using systems thinking has encouraged me to challenge my own conventional, linear style of thinking which tends not to account for the many dynamics that contribute to social problems (and can therefore lead to unintended consequences — see below). Being introduced to systems mapping, which kind of like “visual storytelling”, has helped me identify problems, patterns and key leverage points for change. A good systems map is simple enough to be readily understandable but complex enough to account for the diverse factors that can be employed to create positive, disruptive change.
Concept TWO: Unintended Consequences
The notion that actions create consequences other than those which are explicitly intended.
Takeaway: When it comes to social change, unanticipated consequences are more or less inevitable. The world is simply too complex and unpredictable for us to know all the possible results of our actions. However, this doesn’t mean that we should give up on our attempts to reduce uncertainty. Effectively trying to foresee at least the most probable consequences of our actions, and planning accordingly, will ensure that as change agents we avoid catastrophic failures and the pitfalls that have been inhibiting social progress.
Concept THREE: Sustainability
The quality of a state or process that allows it to be maintained indefinitely.
Takeaway: Prior to the fellowship, I had (naively) thought that sustainability was purely an environmental issue — renewable energy, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions etc. I now realize that the natural environment is only one facet of sustainability, which draws on politics, economics and, philosophy and other social sciences to create better economies, businesses, governments and societies. In broadening my understanding of this powerful and compelling concept, I now realize that The Sustainability Challenge is like a balancing act between people, planet and profit. Being able to carefully weigh up the impact of decisions on sustainability is an integral characteristic of any responsible and forward-thinking changemaker.
Concept FOUR: Confirmation Bias
The tendency to selectively search for and consider information that confirms one’s beliefs.
Takeaway: While cognitive biases influence almost every facet of one’s life, they can have an especially detrimental effect on trying to create positive social change. Operating a social enterprise, for example, can be very complex. You’re trying to combine the innovation acumen of a business with the attitude of social service provider. As a result, any misstep could be disastrous. Cognitive biases are those mental glitches that impair our capacity to gather and access the correct information necessary to make good decisions. To allay the potential negative effects of confirmation bias, and effectively deal with them, it is vital for social changemakers to be acutely aware of that they exist and remain open to being challenged.
Concept FIVE: Tipping Points
The critical threshold at which a minor disruption can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system.
Takeaway: In hindsight, social change looks logical and foreseeable. However, experiencing the process in real-time makes it difficult to distinguish the small changes, or tipping points, that transforms the future state of the system. In attempting to drive and influence positive social change, it is helpful to be able to determine how systems, whether physical or social, demonstrate tipping point behavior. While they are often tough to predict, leveraging social tipping points is an effective way to ignite active engagement and build the critical mass necessary to provoke a significant social change.