Social Innovation Camp @ PICNIC
As I walked into the new EYE cinema, on the river bank opposite Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, I was hugged enthusiastically by a woman in a bright red Picnic T-shirt “so glad you’re here!” she enthused, smiling widely at me.
The whole inside of the building was lined with large PICNIC branded cardboard boxes that guests were encouraged to draw and write on, large red helium balloons clustered on the ceiling while offers of steaming coffee and sweet almond cakes cakes abounded. I’d been at PICNIC for all of two minutes and already I was smitten.
Alice Taylor, founder of Makie Lab, presided over the talks and navigated us through the huge amounts of information on offer. On Monday morning I had a whirlwind history of Artificial Intelligence, in Fiction and Life from George Dyson, learnt how to hack my own education and found out there was such a thing as Post-Natural History, all before lunch!
I started the afternoon in a workshop about “Maps, the power of the crowd and Big Data”, where Charlie Beckett from the LSE explained why journalism both was and wasn’t going to change past all recognition.
Then I dashed upstairs to catch Bas Van Abel from our very own BGV team Fairphone explaining why: “If you can’t open it, You don’t own it“
Ownership, he argued, is about engagement not simply possession. If Nintendo refuse to sell you the specially designed screwdriver to fix it, then: “You’re screwed”!
My highlight of Day 1 however was Cesar Harada talking about an open source drone, designed collaboratively by teams all over the world, that could be sent to clean up oil spills in the Ocean. You can see pictures and contribute to this amazing piece of technology on his website, Protei.
Day 2 I learnt about Bio Hacking: I went to see some in progress including remote controlled cockroaches and then heard Cathal Garvey – who explained it with such enthusiasm that I am itching to try it at home. According to him this is a genuine possibility: for $300 a culture of bacteria and some DNA is yours, to do with what you like.
In the afternoon I ran around workshops: built my own venture, played with a 3D printer and learnt about crowdfunding. But I returned to the large lecture theatre to see Tim O’Reilly. The room was packed and buzzing with excitement as he took the stage. His message was to “create more than you capture” because an economy of abundance will always be more successful than one that seeks to profit from shortage.
Picnic was full of theories and ideas that have been mulling around in the air for a while, and to have them crystallised, presented and discussed with such enthusiasm and articulacy was hugely inspiring. But the project that struck me most powerfully over the two days, was not in the least bit theoretical. Moraba is a mobile game from Afroes which seeks to teach young people in Africa about gender based violence. Anne Shongwe, the founder, told us the story of a young man who approached her after having first played the game, “I never realised before, but I am a rapist” he said, “and now I know, I won’t be any longer.”