Skateboarding helps children develop positive behaviour!

Shake is an Indian Skateboarder and one of the founders/owners of The Holy Stoked Skatepark. The park was built within 2 weeks with the help of more than 20 skateboarders from all around the world – sponsored by Levis. Read their story here. The park opened late March this year and it gives pleasure and hope to so many kids in the neighborhood.

I went there to learn more about what you can really achieve when you provide a space for kids where they are free to develop their way. And what I saw made me happy:

  • boys and girls “equally” happy skating together
  • respectful handling
  • great engagement and dedication
  • nice mix of kids with various backgrounds
  • low barriers in approaching “strangers”
  • cool personal hand shaking while saying “hi” and “good-bye” πŸ˜‰

There was one 13 year old guy, who truly impressed me. For him Holy Stoked Collective is life changing. Instead of hanging out with the wrong crowd and being a big troublemaker for his mother – he is now fully engaged in skateboarding … Still he is refusing to go to school, he dropped out 2 years ago – but with a pretty clear statement he said that he decided to work and earn money to pay for his little brother’s education instead. He feels that his chances of returning to school are gone and he doesn’t want to join classes with kids 2 years younger than him.

He is very strong minded kid and I felt he is smart and a good kid. And he finds his confidence in the skate park. I was so amazed how he is dealing with this board after only 5 month of practicing … I am sure with or without school the floor will be his!

During my visit I’ve got the chance to do ths short interview with Shake, on of the two guys who are running the Holy Stoked. He is telling us what they’ve been achieved so far and what they are up to …

And here are a few kids in action;-)

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Creative Financing – Auctioning personalized Skateboards

As many of you know I initiated the we_school project in India. So far Egon Zippel (a friend of mine) and I financed the entire endeavour all by ourselves – expect in two cases we used crowd funding. Now, inspired by Gottfried Kube and his “Boards without Borders” project – he is planning to build a skate park in rural India and cooperate with we_school – we are in the middle of preparing auctions (online/offline) where we auction off “personalized” skate boards. 100% of the auction proceeds will end up in our skateboarding activities for girls in rural India.

What is a “personalized” skate board – you may ask.

We ask artists, photographers, designers and sometimes also children to “design” the deck of a skateboard and sign it. They either paint the decks, spray them or put a photograph on it and laminate it. All the decks become “art pieces” – they will never be used for skateboarding.

Joi Ito, in one of his lives a photographer, has chosen this picture for “his” deck:

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Dagmar Woyde-KΓΆhler, who is running the unusual Mindkiss Art Project, has chosen “POW”:

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Vicky Roy, a young Indian photographer, has already designed his deck – He has chosen one image from his latest art exhibit Home.Street.Home. I haven’t seen it yet …

Other artists and supporters are:

Axel Pfennigschmidt, a photographer based in Berlin. He will use an image of his Marrakeck Edition for the deck. Bea Beste, founder of tollabox.de, is painting a “fun deck tollabox”. Bea Gschwend, our designer for we-magazine and we-school, is working on a we_school board. Raghava KK, a multi-talented Indian artist based in New York, has a board. Youssouf Amine Elalamy, a writer from Rabat, Morocco, will design a deck. Shilo, who did this years INKtalk stage, will do a deck. Bernd Kolb, one of the heroes of the German dotcom era in the 90ies and now working as a photographer all around the world will create another deck. And of course there will be the kids in Jodhpur, MEWAT, painting a deck during our first skateboard workshop.

And they all work for free!!! BIG, BIG thank you!

As you can see there will be a broad variety πŸ˜‰
And there are many more to come … So stay tuned!
We started various activities to reach out to more artists in India, US, Morocco and Brazil.
And we count on you! If you know any one who might be interested in designing a deck – please let us know!
Just drop a line in the comment section or send an email.
Thanks!

The decks they are using are both, new and used. They are sponsored them from skate parks such as freemotionsk8 in New Delhi or Skate-Express in Heidelberg where I come from. Egon got a few boards in New York (I don’t know from where), in Morocco we are supported by Atlas Skateboard.

Our first auction is scheduled for December 13 in Berlin!
It will be a real event but you also have the chance to auction online!
So please join us and empower young girls in rural India!

Skateboarding in Rural India

A few weeks ago I’ve met Steve Weightman who is running Delhi’s first indoor skate park: freemotionsk8. He contributed two skateboard decks for our we-school auction. Gottfried Kube from Boards without Borders connected us. Lucky us;-)

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Inside freemotionsk8

… after our meeting we agreed on a new we_school experiment: skateboarding for girls in rural India! Thank you Steve for your involvement!

This is what we are going to do on November 25-28.

We go back into Akbar Khan’s village in Mewat. We set up mobile skateboarding ramps in the village and train especially the girls in skateboarding. The skateboard lessons are paired with discussions on girls’ issues such as anti-trafficking awareness, gender imbalance, arts and and and … And we let the girls paint skateboards. All this supports the girls to build up self-confidence and lowers the barriers to address “difficult” topics. Our assumption is that the girls first of all will have lots of fun while skateboarding and painting the boards. They most likely will easily engage with each other in a very positive way. Secondly we believe that skateboarding is a valuable platform of expression, creativity and self-development for children of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds – I hope the experiment will proof it!

Maybe all this is the very first step towards Akbar’s girls education center. We’ll see what we learn from this experiment. From there we go …

The “we” in this case is actually a pretty big team: Besides Steves’s skateboarding team including an expert in anti-trafficking awareness, two friends of mine will join. Geeta, a French lady who is running an NGO in Khajuraho working with tribals and most like Durgha who was with us already in Patha when we conducted the workshop with the villagers. Both have experiences in rural areas.

Here are two more picts from freemotionsk8:

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India’s new political party ready to disrupt politics-as-usual

Almost exactly one year ago I’ve had dinner with Mehmood Khan in Delhi. It was November 26. He came from the launch of a new political party: the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Common Man’s Party. He is one of the founding members – mostly engaged “behind the scenes”, a strategist and a person who strongly believes in the power of open networks. November 26 – by the way – is also the anniversary of India’s adoption of its constitution in 1949.

The birth of the AAP was pretty “loud” – media wise. Mainly because of two issues. First the formation of the AAP resulted out of a conflict between their current leader, Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, a veteran Gandhian social worker from Maharashtra, who led the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement in India. Both, Kejriwal and Hazare were leading figures in Team Anna, a non-political Indian group that lobbied against corruption. Hazare wanted to keep this movement non-political, Kejriwal wanted to politicise. On Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, 2012, they decided to split and move on on separate ways. The second issue media jumped on was the tremendous financial support the newly formed party achieved within its first days of existence. They raised millions of USD from a broad range of people.

Then they basically disappeared from the media scene.

Now they are back in media.
And how!
Here are a few statements:

“For the first time, Delhi will see a three-way contest in assembly elections, thanks to a political party that is only 11 months old but is already making waves.” (= AAP), NDTV

“Surveys predict AAP will sweep Delhi elections: Arvind Kejriwal.”, Business Standard

“Aam Aadmi Party: The Incorruptibles?”, Tehelka

“With separate manifestos, AAP focusing on local needs”, Hindustan Times

So it’s all about the upcoming Delhi Assembly election in December.

I only know little about Indian politics; I watched the inner circle from a short distance over a few month as a house guest of a well-known journalist in Delhi, but I never felt attracted to it. It seemed just like back home – only the actors were even older and the system itself in a different way corrupt. I learnt about the two big parties, Indian National Congress Party (a somewhat confusing name, I think) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and that’s basically it. But AAP – not only because of Mehmood – caught somehow my attention. And I followed them over the last few month trying to find out what make them different. And here are a few things I find at least remarkable – and I assume these points would suit any new party in the West as well …

  • The AAP candidates are young people. They are mostly in their 30s. They are also a mixed bag: a former NSG commando, social activists, a business management graduate, an auto-rickshaw driver and an IT professional.
  • They set up an amazing network of Indian students from universities from all over the world including names such as the MIT,Β  Berkeley University and others. These volunteers organize google hang outs, they donate money and promote AAP online very authentically. It is NOT campaigning or promoting, it is much more fighting for their causes; meaning fighting corruption and finally giving the youth a voice!
  • AAP is not directed by a program. They are borrowing from the left, they are borrowing from the right or the middle – what ever helps to define a solution. The party seems to be much more solution driven than focused on a paradigm.
  • This together with the fact finding approach of local manifestos makes them really attractive for the people. Together with the people in each single constituency local manifestos are written which define the people’s needs – and those become the program/agenda for this constituency. It’s binding for the candidates. And it’s binding for the people. So it’s NOT a top down approach; no, it’s truly a grass root act. And each manifesto is different in tone and issues being raised. It’s about taking ownership and responsibility.

All in all very interesting to observe.
Are the winds of change tangible in Delhi? I hope so. Time is ripe.
Let’s see what Dec. 15 will bring.

The Entrepreneurship Cell

Next week, on Nov. 15th, I will join the MACON network and talk during their Entrepreneur Week with the students about social entrepreneurship and new technologies. It will be my first time in Hyderabad.

The MAÇON network at the IBS Business School in Hyderabad was founded in 2008 when Mr. Anup Aggarwal, a student and an aspiring entrepreneur, felt the need for guidance and support in order to achieve his entrepreneurial dreams. Today, MAÇON is an amalgamation of individuals with a vision and a dream which indubitably, can come true. It is a platform for all those who want to create their own paths and leave behind the trails of success. The E-Cell aims at nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit and tremendous energy among individuals to a level where they can bring about a positive change in the society; a change we all aspire for. MAÇON facilitates the students with B-Plan workshops and guidance by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

I will give the students some background information about myself, who am I and why I work the way I do, I’ll take them on a journey why SOCIAL entrepreneurship is relevant and why social does NOT mean “no money”, how new technologies can support the social and entrepreneurial cause and what it takes to move from an idea to set up a company. I will also talk about new technologies will change our ideas of companies … It hopefully will be a fruitful talk and discussion for all of us.

Thanks ti Sumit Wadhwa and the entire MACON team to make this happen.

I will share my presentation here as soon as it is finished;-)

Just do it;-) – Mobile technology and fishermen’s needs

I have been traveling Southern India on my motorbike for more than 3 weeks now (for the 2nd time) and – besides experiencing a completely different India from what I already knew – I came to work with a group of fishermen. By coincidence. And I love it. I love their villages and the colorful boats …

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The picture above is taken a few kilometers north of Varkala (Kerala) where the fishermen and mobile technology endevour started. By coincidence …

I drove down to the sea on my motorbike, I got off the bike to take a little rest and within minutes a few people were there to stare at me: a Western woman on her own riding a motorbike, the usual astonished reaction πŸ˜‰

One of the guys spoke pretty good English. So we came to talk and he told me about an accident that just happened a few days ago when a fishing boat was found empty out in the sea. The village had lost 4 people … A sudden storm came up and hit the fishing boats, 2 making it back to shore, one lost at sea.

They also told me that the market prices for their daily catch are steadily decreasing … This is when I thought, wait a minute! I asked them if they had mobile phones – yes, they answered … So I asked them to meet the next day after coming in from fishing and bringing as many fishermen and as many women who are selling the fish – I promised them to show them some stuff on the mobile which might help …

The next day I went back. 30 (!) men and women were there and my translator Hassan …

And here is what happened there and in 2 other places during my travels around the Indian cap;-)
With a quick and dirty “how to do”-structure

  1. See the need and have ready made solutions in mind.
  2. Identify the people you need.
  3. Get them.
  4. Get started.
  5. Improve process by moving forward.
  6. Implement in the usual daily routine.
  7. Invent and build.
  8. Practice. Practice. Practice.
  9. Demand ownership!
  10. Show quick results.

Translated to my spontaneous workshops in the fishing villages it means:

  1. They have no weather forecast at all. They only “read” nature … They always fish as much as they can, because they have no idea was the market is demanding. Very often they bring in more as they can sell and eat and the fish gets rotten … They only achieve low prices because many inbetween want to make money on their catch until the fish finally reaches the (end) buyer! For all of these 3 problems there are various mobile solutions available and accessible!
  2. The people needed: the fishermen and their women plus a translator and at least one who has access to a mobile phone. If I didn’t find an English speaking person in the village I went to the next English medium school or college and asked the principal for help. This worked surprisingly well in Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram.
  3. The best place to meet is right at the beach where they bring in the catch of the day and repair the nets …

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  4. Start with those who are willing to start. Many others will join! Shortly!
  5. Make your points and show them how it could help them. Show them the tools and what they need to do. Very practical. They have to sit around you when you turn on the mobile! And they have to do it … Adjust by doing or when you realize you lose them …
  6. It is very important that this is NO EXTRA work and that the things they need to do smoothly fits into their daily routine.
  7. We had to find ways to make the mobile phones “water resistant” πŸ˜‰ All in all we ruined 2 cell phones … I replaced them and I also bought for each village 2 additional phones. We found out that 3G access is no problem out in the water … another surprise.
  8. Let them work with the cell phones … Luckily a few programs were available in Tamil language … That’s another thing I learned: the youth in the village takes over when technology is involved. It were the young people who found out about the local programs and opportunities which are available in their localities. They were much better in this than I am … all they need is to understand that this is a solution for their problem …
  9. It is important that the village identifies at least 3 or 4 people who take responsibility and ownership of this daily job: get the weather reports, check the market demand and keep the conversation going with the various buyers!
  10. This way they will have quick results … one fishermen told me that within a week he made 500 INR more and had less fish to throw away.

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Connecting the dots is very often all what is needed …

Finally: The Final Day of our ARDUINO workshop in Ghasera

Saturday, October 19.
The day is dawning … Sohna … early morning on our way to the school. The final day of our ARDUIONO workshop.

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After our arrival at the school we started to get our “exhibition hall” ready. This day we were showing the objects we were working on during the week – the girls really got excited …

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The students were very proud when most of the teachers came to visit our little exhibition – and the teachers were somehow surprised of what we’ve had accomplished. At least some of them really got interested.

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Peter Kabel eplaining the idea of ARDUINO to the teachers

Even guests from Gurgaon and Jodhpur arrived. Mehmood Khan (left), with whom I’ve done quite some work recently, and his friend Akbar Khan – a farmer in a rural area 3 hours away from Ghasera whith plans for a girl education center – are discussing with Sandy the ARDUINO idea.

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At the end every student received a certificate. A proud moment for all of them.

The big question is though: what remains? How to make this experience not a once in a lifetime experience for them but to build something sustainable out of it?

Regarding the students all I can say is that this workshop proofed again if you give kids an environment where they can exchange ideas and practice and create – no matter how “poor” the environment is and no matter what their educational status is – they definitely make something out of it. It’s one thing to get things easy running in a perfect environment (electricity, proper classrooms, clean tables and chairs, functioning computer lab … ), it’s a different story for rural areas. But exactly these kids do take their chance and move forward in their development. They gain confidence in themselves and this is what they need to make their life a better life. And this is why it’s so important to make this workshop not a once in a lifetime experience.
The personal development is not true for each and every child, but if 3-5 out of 30 make this step – what more can you achieve? And among our students there were a few children who made this step! I was very happy to see. They understood the idea of basic coding, how the commands from the computer control the ARDUINO machine and its attached motors, sensors … even though they never used a computer before and weren’t capable of using the trackpads right … but it worked!

So I decided that will be back at the government school on Nov. 18 with a mobile skateboard ramp and we’ll practice skateboarding while we are talking with the girls about “Girl’s Issues”. I’ll do this together with Steve’s team from the freemotion indoor skatepark in Delhi.

What else did I learn ?

Frankly speaking I didn’t realize how important it is to get the team ready for a rural environment where nothing is working and the will to make it functioning hardly exists. Where the culture is completely different and where the kids who are not used to even the lowest standards in schools. As a result of this the students “tick” differently – their understanding of authority, time, interaction, discussion is different and it turned out to be rather challenging for people who never worked with small children before. I simply underestimated this.

I saw once again that it’s not the result (= outcome of objects) that matters but the process achieving them. It’s resilience over strength, learning over education, emergence over authorities, practice over theory and disobedience over compliance that really matter in such a process.

It’s been a great experience – as always – there have been ups and downs – but for me the most important thing is – we’ve got at least a few kids thinking!

I am looking forward what Sandy and Peter will make out of it at their university environment.

——————–
And here are the links to the previous days (including the texts in Hindi):

Reality check – ARDUINO in rural India
Day 1 – The humple start
Day 2 – Create and program
Day 3 – Holiday
Day 4 – Handicraft – machinery

Here you find further informations and blogposts in German.

And here are some great pictures by Peter Kabel.

Arduino Workshop Day 4: Handicraft & Machinery

I took a day off today – so my writings only refer to what I’ve heard from Peter & Yogesh. It was actually the last full working day – the students were split in 2 groups and they worked at the same time, each group 4 hours. This way we had the possibility to gain at least some time back from the unexpected holidays;-)

Handicraft and Machinery

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Arduino-Workshops always seek the balance between creating and programing. Since the kids knew very little about programing we focused more on the creation and handicraft part and tried to let the kids experience what programing means and does. So far they’ve tinkered various objects with cardboards and learnt how to change a few paramenter of code.

Today their job was to build real objects including motors, batteries and other tiny machinery. They started out to collect empty plastic bottles and small stones in the school yard, pasted the objects with the visuals, drilled holes and tried to trigger sound from stones they’ve been putting in the empty bottles.

Unfortunately the sound effect didn’t work. The bottles moved, the motors were running, batteries were functioning, the ARDUINO boards followed the code … but the sound somehow didn’t work;-( We could only listen to the sound of the motors!

Nevertheless the kids had a blast and really enjoyed the day. Boys and girls likewise.
They formed teams to create objects and we’ve got the impression that if we would have more time with them a few kids were ready to build there own stuff …
At the end of the day the created objects were ready to be presented on our exhibition on the last day.

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At the end even one of the teachers started to tinker and program and he seemed very much surprised that his code was functioning;-)

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