Where in the World is Weezie?

19 Sep

Amsterdam: City of bikers and cute houses.

My mind has been so full recently from all of my experiences and activities, so I need to begin posting more often! One of the many differences I have noted in myself is that I have become a lot more confident with the various directions I would like to take in my life, in terms of my future career and life-long learning journeys. And I think that this is something that is a whole lot easier and practical to realize when you are traveling, and engaging with “real world” organizations, initiatives, and issues. I am able to put my learning into context, and when I do return to more traditional schooling within a classroom setting, I am going to be able to more deeply grasp and understand what I will be studying, since I have seen more of the world and the way people work, interact, and live their lives.

Meeting at Leaps Innovation

So, where have I been? Well, starting September 2nd, I left Greece for the Netherlands, a country I had never visited but had heard about from many people as a place of innovation, tolerance, and sustainable living. Yes, bikes seem to be more popular than cars which is AWESOME, and the International Criminal Court is located in the Hague, where I have been staying for half the time. But even beyond that, the Netherlands and the Dutch people have inspired me in many ways, particularly by the creative initiatives taking place. I am volunteering for the Amsterdam Sustainability Jam, which is a part of a series of “Jams” taking place worldwide (find one near you!), in which design thinking is used for coming up with solutions for certain problems in the world. People of all backgrounds will be coming together to participate in this three day collaborative event, and our hope is that the projects will continue even after the jam has taken place. I attended an initial meeting at a design firm helping to organize the event, Leaps Innovation, and aside from the excitement of discussing the event, I was able to learn more about how good meetings are facilitated, and how concepts are developed into a reality through observing the meeting as whole. 

Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, speaks at Picnic!

I was also connected to the 2011 Picnic Festival by my new friend Franziska, a woman who is also the organizer for the SusJam (I was introduced to her by previous profilee Brock!). I was even able to couchsurf with her in Amsterdam (another example of how important networks are during Eduventures).The Picnic Festival is an annual event and can be described as, “three full days of information, inspiration, collaboration, co-creation and entertainment. A chance for prolonged conversations and development of relationships.” Every year a different interdisciplinary theme is chosen that “reflects changes in our personal lives, our society, economy and environment.” This year the theme was “Urban Futures,” and people ranging from digital theorists, designers, professors, NGO leaders, authors, students, environmentalists and other thought leaders attended, presented, and led workshops at the festival. The design of the conference was exciting, with an artistic and playful atmosphere, unlike most conferences out there. As a volunteer, I was able to attend one day for free while I worked for two of the days. Meeting and working with the other volunteers was one of the best parts of my experience, as I was able to learn about other people’s lives, careers, and passions. Below is a little glimpse into the explosion of creativity and energy that took place:

Some of the highlights of my time at Picnic include:

  • Meeting a dutch man during a creativity workshop who was working in a government initiative for using “gamification” to fix societal problems. For example, he explained to me how his current project was working to install garbage cans around Amsterdam that were designed to be like basketball hoops, encouraging people to throw away trash by adding an element of fun
  • Hearing author Mark Woerde talk about “How Advertising Will Heal the World and Your Business.” He brought up interesting statistics such as how 85% of 24,000 people he polled said that “it’s important to live a meaningful life,” and 74% of people say their main purpose in life is that “they are here to help others.” Woerde connected these and other findings to how brands can and should become more socially and environmentally conscious, as consumers are looking for deeper meaning. 
  • Learning about Butterfly Works, an organization and design studio based in the Netherlands that works on solutions for emerging economies. One of their many creative projects co-created with Kenyan designers is GetH2O, a mobile game about conflict prevention and community building used in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Vietnam. 
  • Meeting several students ranging from 20-30 years of age from the social innovation educational programs in the Netherlands, called Knowmads and ImagineHeroes. These fellow Picnic volunteers were learning critical skills such as concept development, presentation design, facilitation, and others in order to become social entrepreneurs and changemakers. Talking with these awesome people (as we worked in coat-check and checked peoples’ badges whilst listening in on presentations) made me further realize my passion for the development and spread of educational programs that promote and equip students with skills that allow them to work in our future world. 
  • Listening to Jorge Camil Starr talk about his brilliant organization Enova (based in Mexico) in his talk titled “Bridging the Digital and Educational Divide in Developing Economies.” Enova has established cost-effective learning centers in over 70 low-income areas of Mexico, and emphasizes digital literacy and computer skills. 

At 3 AM the day after Picnic ended, I left Amsterdam for London to attend the TEDxLondon conference. But that will be for my next post!

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