Archive for November, 2007

Do not immigrate

There are, in fact, good distractions from work. This morning it was a campaign – co-financed by the Swiss Government and the European Union. It is aimed at Africans, and it is supposed to make them think twice about migrating into the “promised land”. Thanks Hannelore and Christian for sharing this with the team! Beyond words: the clip on YouTube. Then again, you can’t really have no opinion on the issue. Let’s discuss.


3 reasons not to give.

When forming the concept for betterplace last year, there was a personal experience driving us, that was shared by the majority of people that we personally asked and those that had taken part in surveys about giving.

Especially the young generation had three reasons not to get involved with giving or hands-on social activities. If we hadn’t been coming across extreme poverty during travel or longer times in less fortunate areas of the world, we would have just left it with the same excuses:

  • I haven’t come across the right project, where I can make a difference with what I have to offer
  • A lot of what I give is eaten up by the overhead of the organisations and does not reach the target
  • There is no direct connection to the ground and I don’t get feedback on what impact my support has

Our goal was from the start to eradicate the basis of those arguments. Now have a look at and tell us if we are on the right way, so that:

  • You can choose the very project that means most to you
  • You know that 100% will be passed on
  • You get direct feedback from the people on the ground

There is so much more to come and we are always open for your feedback and recommendations. I will post some outlook on our feature pipeline during the next days.

betterplace junior sings

 nov07trikoton-betterplace-14.jpgIn In preparation of our x-mas market stall in Berlin Kollwitzplatz, on Dec. 16., betterplace junior has started to work on some wonderful merchandize. While Sibylle and Renée have been organising (in close cooperation with our partners from PULK) T-Shirts, USB-sticks and whatnot – all, of course, with the betterplace logo – the kids met with Hanna-L. Wiesener, a young design student at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, who together with her colleague Magdalena Kohler, has devised a method to convert speech patterns into knitting patterns. For betterplace the designers, calling themselves Trikoton, will produce a scarf and wristbands. In order to make a characteristic pattern, Hanna had the juniors sing a song, recorded it and will now set the knitting machine according to its rhythm and tonality. Philipp was the lead singer, the others joined him in the chorus – and had great fun. If you want to know which song they choose to be woven into wool – visit us on Kollwitzplatz on December 16. 2007.  

Bringing betterplace to life!

Now there is the “betterplace Foundation”. And there is – open for everyone. What a milestone.

During the past 18 months we have learned that to have an idea and to implement it is two different things. And there is still so much of our vision to come.

But it is the right time to open the gates. We hope that you will see the benefit of a platform where needs and support are matched. Where initiative and energy is catalysed.

Personally, I’m grateful for the many friends that have decided that this is more important than their career. And for individuals, corporations and organisations that have decided that betterplace is worth supporting.

Now, there is many options for YOU to contribute:

  • You can find the very project you want to support. And you can give in kind, your time or your money. And let me tell you: 5EUR makes a difference. If you have a paypal account, you can do that right now. We will accept your credit card and Direct Debit for German bank accounts in a few days time.
  • Spread the word and invite your friends. Start a movement. Showing your face for our idea is the greatest support. You can become a “betterplace Ambassador”: Go to “My betterplace” -> “Invite” and copy this link into an email to the people you know. Invite social projects around you and ask the marketing department of your company to create an account and include fundraising in the christmas mailings and events.
  • Use betterplace to blog and draw your picture of a better place. Connect with your friends and build the “Web of Trust”. Travel and publish your reports and do your bit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Hope to see you on betterplace soon.


Web without Websites

A few days ago Samir, our software architect, sent an article around according to which not even 4% of Africans have a broadband Internet access. We ourselves know from the people responsible for projects, for example in East Africa how time-consuming the internet can be, with slow connections and frequent power cuts. But apart from those difficulties people also encounter a number of non-technical barriers to access.

A short while ago I read a study done by a few anthropologists for the british Department of International Development (unfortunatly the document is not available online at the moment), which looked at the use of ICT in resource-poor countries, i.e. Ghana, Jamaica, rural India and South Africa. The results are fascinating, especially as the demonstrate that what „we“ in the West take to be the Internet, is often used and experienced very differently in other parts of the world.

Thus the reserachers of the Ghana-study, who lived for one year in the poor households they were studying, discovered that none of the many young people using the internet cafés in a slum in Accra ever visited any websites. Instead they chatted for hours with complete strangeres all over the world, exchanging the typical lines – Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do? – over and over again. Asma, a 14 year old, bright student moved around a dozen chatwindows at a time and seemed to feel that there was something inherently enriching about being in contact with many different people from around the world. Yet she didn’t even know what a website was.

But as the Ghanaian government is using websites as their main information portal and as millions of Dollars of development aid get pumped into acquisition of computers and hardware, there is a huge gap between state policy and the real behaviour of people, which can only be bridged by much larger investments in „soft“ computer skills, which take actual human behaviour into account.

Studies like these are invaluable for betterplace as they demonstrate that we can’t act on the assumption that there is anything like „a user“, but have to take the culture and context of the very different users, we built the platform for, into account. Thus we need to incorporate qualitative studies such as the above as well as take the feedback we receive from the various people using the platform around the world very seriously. This has been our approach from the start and the resulting exchange is, for me personally, one of the most exciting aspects of working at betterplace.