Archive for May, 2008

It’s been a while – quick news from betterplace

Lately, we’ve posted more in the German blog. We didn’t mean to neglect our English-speaking readers! Here’s a quick update on the most important news at betterplace:

+++ Over 20.000 Euro within a few days for surviving victims of cyclone Nargis in Burma. German/Swedish energy group Vattenfall will match every Euro donated by an employee. The money is used to buy survival packs, containing a plastic cover, clothes, kitchen and hygiene articles, a blanket and a petrol canister, for 35 Euro each. CARE have been present in Burma for over 20 years with mainly local staff, the packs get distributed directly to the victims of Nargis. +++ Why can’t we do the same to help the victims of the earthquake in China? Big discussions here in the team. We don’t have a partner organisation with that amount of experience on location, and that we know to be trustworthy, like the case with CARE in Burma. That’s the problem. +++ Toilet collabo kick-off: past Tuesday we welcomed Jack Sim, founder of World Toilet Organisation (with the great acronym WTO) from Singapore, German designer Werner Aisslinger, and a group of design students from Berlin’s Universität der Künste (UdK) and Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Karlsruhe. Assisted by their professors Aisslinger and Axel Kufus, the students will design the toilet for “the other 90 %” of humanity – those 2.6 Billion people without access to sanitary facilities at the bottom of the pyramid and mostly neglected as potential customers. +++ It’s everybody’s business – we got covered by Germany’s reputable newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The smart article by Johannes Boie was both published on, and as printed version in the newpaper’s “young” supplement. +++ to be continued…

Boie interviewing Behnke at the toilet workshop


Burma, biofuels and the foodcrisis

Over at Culture Matters, there is a very interesting post about the complex interconnections between the impending foodcrisis in Burma and the new interest in biofuels, in this case the bitter biodiesel plant called jatropha. Apparently the Burmese junta has ordered farmers to replace rice with jatropha, resulting in the plant (which is suitable for very arid, desert climates) being cultivated all over the country, even in the fertile delta region. 

This is what Australian anthropologist Monique Skidmore had to say in an interview at ABC:


“So people have had to rip up paddy in some places to plant hundreds and hundreds of acres of jatropha and this is a plant that doesn’t grow well, and people do not have the production and distribution facilities to do anything with the product once they get it, and they don’t get much. And of course they’re not being able to cultivate rice in the meantime.

“So it’s an incredibly ridiculous path to embark upon.”


Check it out! 

Corporate Volunteering

An increasing number of corporations actively support the social volunteering of their employees – and everybody seems to profit from the arrangement. A new study, Hand in Hand  – Corporate Volunteering asan instrument of organizational development in Germany, conducted by brands & values, looked at the positive influence corporately sponsered volunteering has on employee motivation, loyalty and attractiveness for new recruits.

Two empirical studies form the basis of the report: a questionaire distributed to 685 employees and new job applicants as well as another amongst 68 Human Resource managers. The latter shows that so far only few companies have installed corporate volunteering as a strategic instrument for their recruiting nd employee development processes. On the other hand, those international corporations which have done so, have reaped great benefits, such as Nokia’s – Helping Hands.


Energy supplier RWE connects its socially engaged employees via its intranet. The companies volunteer organisation RWE Companius publicises their activities and in 2008 supports at least 1000 projects with millions of Euros.    


The Henkel Initiative “Miteinander im Team” (“together in a team”) can already look back on a long history. “Social engagement increases a companies attractiveness in the eyes of its employees” says the project leader and is “an essential element of our corporate culture and CSR-policy”.


Everybody benefits

Corporate Volunteering creates multiple win-win situations: social institutions profit from the engagements and expertise of corporate volunteers. They themeselves feel supported in their activities. As employees feature as a kind of ambassadors of their companies, the latter themselves aquire human traits (a fact which is especially important for huge, largely faceless corporations). At the same time an increasing number of consumers and even financial institutions and investors expect corporations to be “good citizens”. Volunteering enlarges the horizon of employees and enriches their competencies. And last, but not least, socially responsible corporations have a competative advantage when it comes to enlisting new recruits. 71% of the questioned job applicants stated that they would like to be involved in corporate volunteering. 

Activism from the cage

Chun with Chinese artist YeFu in the cocoon

Last month, Chinese dancer and therapist Chunhong Wang, who respresents her Beijing center Good Gifted Garden on betterplace (and there only!) joined her friend, the famous Chinese behaviour artist YeFu in the cage/cacoon, hanging out the Huantie Time Art Museum. While Yefu will be living in the cage from February till August of this year, Chun joined him for a week, refusing to eat. This is what she wrote about the event:

For me it was a great chance to arise a lot of public attention to autistic children and to explain: Art and dance therapy is a way to treat autistic children and adults. They have so much talents, in the end we can learn a lot from them! If we accept and treat them, believe in the creativity they develop and can get out of their cocoon like a wonderful butterfly. So you see, the cocoon has a special symbolic for me, autistic people are sometimes like a caterpillar, but can develop to a colourful butterfly.

I did not eat during this time in the cocoon, there are a lot of reasons. But I like to show the world: We have all a lot of power, if we really believe in things we can do it. I believe in the autistic children, in art and dance therapy. I know it’s a long way to go. Here in China its very new, but I still believe in my vision spreading out this message: “Autistic people are not crazy, not dumb, they are very intelligent, very creative, very sensitive. We have to get in relationship with them.

Next generation design prize

Last week, the fifth edition of metropolis’ next generation® design prize was awarded to architect and professor, eric olsen. The 2008 prestigious design prize was based around the theme of water. Olsen’s project, a solar water disinfecting tarpaulin, was awarded 10,000 USD for coming out on top of a very competitive field. Created for transporting and purifying water, his design can be used in a variety of areas were potable water is inaccessible. the design is a lightweight and flexible bag which is created through digital manufacturing and cleans water through passive solar radiation (thanks to Stefan Legner and Werner Aisslinger for pointing me to this) 

Don’t Wait for The Rain

What a cool social marketing tool! This video by Maasai rap artist Mr. Ebbo propagates the KickStart MoneyMaker pump, one of the most successful BoP products (its inventor recently won the Lemelson-MIT Sustainability Award.) I saw the pump advertised in a number of places in Mali earlier this year.