Del.icio.us Added

Well I’m finding out more and more about this blogging business. I’ve created a del.icio.us account on the advice of Soumitri, and also added a link to it on the side. Seems relatively easy to get your head around.

Pretty much the guist of it is instead of having folders to categorise your links you attach tags to them, and then various piles appear depending what you tags you select. So the same link could appear for a number of categories. Makes sense really…

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Social Innovation Camp

This site I just came across gives a clear outline of what social innovation is and how it can be combined with technologies. They are an English based organisation, trying to ‘bring together talented software developers and designers with social innovators to build effective web-based solutions to real social problems.’

Check it out

Business Proposal

Tomorrow is our first class with RMIT business professor Peter Sheldrake. He is going to help us craft our social innovation concepts, into a real world business proposal. Something we could go to the bank with, literally! We had a brief run through last week, of where everyone’s ideas are at so far, and there’s some interesting ones in there.

My concept for a social innovation has been crafted into the following:

‘Now What?’ will be an internet based portal for recent school leavers. My inspiration comes from the existing Lattitude program (formally GAP) that offers school leavers the opportunity of volunteering overseas in various areas from caring, teaching, and environmental work. I went to Poland with GAP and taught English there in Warsaw. This was an amazing experience, especially being fresh out of school. I think I gained a lot from the experience, and personally was a much better choice then diving straight into uni.

‘Now What?’ will however target school leavers, who are looking to do something within Australia. They’ll probably have aspirations of further education, but have had enough for now, and want a year off to experience something else. ‘Now What?’ will be an agent between interested young people and community groups, NGO’s, conservation groups, who are interested in keen, engaged volunteers. ‘Now What?’ will work to establish a network of organisations that have at their core, an ethos of improving and assisting the community and area around them. This could be organisations such as Meals on Wheels, Green Corps, The Flying Doctors Service to name a few. It could also be roles such as assisting in research trips, conservation efforts and such. Applicants could either try out a field that they are interested in pursuing as an educational direction, or try something completely different to what they think they could end up doing.This opportunity would give them amazing life experience as well as a possibly valuable, relevant experience into their chosen field of further education.

The applicant could elect to either work within their own community, or apply to work somewhere else within Australia. This would be ‘Now What?’s main role, and allow young people the opportunity to travel Australia and gain a better understanding of the different environments that make up this massive country.

The money side of things I still need to develop, I don’t think a membership fee is viable, but possibly an introduction fee of some sort, or sponsorship from groups, schools, government?

Ideas, they’re exciting things!

Alright, what I’m thinking of today, developed from finding out about the government’s Solar Cities project. What I was thinking has branched off into a few directions so stick with it for a bit.

Starting point is a scheme to inform and activate students to make changes within their homes, to make them more energy efficient. If the case would be that they’re in a sharehouse, they could be encouraged/given free energy saver globes, water efficient shower heads, all that guff. Also possibly one of the power companies offering accredited green power, could be gotten on board, to offer this service with a student discount, on top of the health care benefit. If the student was at college, then they could be encouraged to get support to get the college to change its systems gradually to more energy efficient means. A case in point is RMIT Village. It seems crazy but it doesn’t have a recycling system! The amount of glass bottles and cans alone that would go through that place would be enough to make it worth doing. There’s been an effort by students in the past at least once to my knowledge, to get this changed. However management deemed it too expensive.

Another spin off this tangent, came after reading about the pension debate thats going on atm. I was thinking, what we could set up is a service where young people get trained to assess houses to improve their energy efficiencies, and then go out to eldery homes, assess areas for improvement and then help them with the installation of the new improvements. This works with the concept of learning exchanges, and helps bridge inter generational fear and ignorance.

Building on this idea, and after hearing that Mr Rudd thinks we should build up a our military to counter what he sees as an arms race(makes sense….) was that a community gap year could be established. Recently an army gap year has been established, putting school leavers through basic training for a year and giving them a tidy $30,000 odd for their troubles.

I rekon if we can put resources into something like that, we could establish a community gap year, where school leavers work on a number of community based projects through out the year, and then gain some sort of reimbursement at the end. Maybe cash, maybe credit towards education costs, automatic acceptance for youth allowance while studying… The school leavers could elect to apply for projects within different areas within the community, they could also elect to do the work within their own community or apply to go somewhere else, for a different life experience. I see it as similar to the Latitude (formally GAP) Program, but specifically within Australia.

But enough on that, its time for trivia! I’m keen to hear what people think though.

Community Gap year/arm

Social Innovation beginnings

Morning, how’s it? Had a meeting at uni today, and in it we were talking about creating a communal space for ID students. I rekon it’d be a great idea. I remembered a story of a design/art school in Gdansk, Poland, where a good lot of the students live on campus. Apparently what happens was that students would pin up concept pages for projects they’re working on, on their door, and then anyone from within the school can draw and comment on. I suggested setting up something similar at uni, but the point was raised that we don’t have sovereignty over the walls, so there was a good chance it would all be taken down. The alternative of an online wall was put forward and this concept is something that I’m going to have a bit of a think about, and see if I can develop it a bit. Don’t quite see where the business part comes into it, but I’ll just let it stew for a bit…

Reflection on the Whole Deal…

Going through the experience of the 160km diet raised a few things for me. Firstly it has really shown me how little I know about my food origins. It has shown me how our eating habits have become so detached from the actual seasons. I have also discovered though a wealth of food that is grown and produced locally around Melbourne.

Starting out a month ago, I was pessimistic as to what I would actually be able to eat, and found myself falling an almost survival mode in the intial stages. I remember going to the supermarket and scouring the whole place for something, anything I could eat. The only locally edible source I found was yoghurt. I remember having visions of myself withering away. However once I did a bit of research and began asking around, I slowly began to create a web of food sources. What I enjoyed about this experience was finding out the stories behind the food. The market holders at Vic Markets especially I found were really open about where their produce came from, and seemed to enjoy talking about it. By going through this, it brings another social level to the interactions you have around food.

On the social side of food however, I found the diet had an isolating effect as well. Within my sharehouse, we cook together, generally sharing dinner each night. Before this experience I tended to do the majority of the cooking for shared meals. Once I began this month long exercise, I cut my self off from the rest of the household, food wise. This was because of the uncertainty of what I’d actually be able to eat, and prepare as meals. All being on tight budgets, we decided it would be simplier for me to do my own thing food wise for the month. I’d considered trying to rejoin the house’s food web, once I’d established a few local sources, but this never eventuated. So what eventuated was a fracturing of the meals within the house. I would create my own meals, but I noticed for the first couple of weeks that the others didn’t seem to be doing much in the way of communal cooking. I’m not sure if this perception was because I was no longer part of it all. Our house is generally pretty socialble, but it felt a bit more isolated with the lack of common eating. On an interesting aside however, now the house is more cohesive, and the cooking role is being shared around.

Another social element to the whole experience was that most people I mentioned it to were intrigued by it, and that led to many discussions about what the reasoning  was behind it and so on.

The menu for this month ended up being quite familiar, some might say repeatitive. Many of my staple foods were off limits, and even many of the vegetables, that would normally be on the plate, weren’t in season. So it has to be said, a lot of potatoes were sacrificed over the course of the last month. It highlighted though, how we have managed to artificially distort our food systems, so that either a crop lasts a lot longer then it would naturally, or else is shipped in via an intricate transport network that we have built up. It makes issues such as the drought, water management, agricultural practices more real, and highlights the systems that our cities rely on for their survival.

However its not all gloom, within Melbourne there is a quite a variety of locally grown and produced foodstuff. However because of the the marketing of it, it tends to come at a premium. While the food at the markets is cheaper then what you would pay at the supermarket, if you want to have a broad diet, you have to pay for it, if you want it to be local. This creates a perception that this sort of preoccupation with eating locally, is only for inner city yuppy types. Its an interesting how things have shifted so. My parents have told me stories of having the chooks in the backyard, and how they’re dad would kill them for dinner for special occasions. We seem to be a cycle of of old traditions interpreted with a new angle. On the cost of eating locally, this can be overcome, but it comes at the cost of time, and how we wish to use it. I’ve been meaning to start a vegie garden ever since moving in, and this whole experience has spurred me onto actually getting it underway properly. One major aspect of the diet I found trying was having to plan every meal, which took out the spontineaity of cooking a bit. Also the preparation that had to be done to make even a snack (that wasn’t fruit) I found fustrating at times.

Overall however I enjoyed the experience, and gained a lot from it I believe. It is something I wouldn’t want to abide by religiously, but elements of it all will definitely stick with me. The whole blogging experience has been a new thing too, so hopefully a few people have found it, had a read and got something out of it.

Now time to move to the next hurdle, what will be my Social Innovation? Any ideas?

Day 30-The Finale!

24/8, Sunday- Well I’ve made it, 30 days of pretty much living off local food and drink. There’s been a few slips, but it’s to be expected. One slip that completely slipped my mind was ginger. The whole month it has been a regular ingredient in my cooking. I’d sourced it from the grocers on Victoria st, who sourced their vegies from a farm near Geelong. In my mind, ginger got lumped into the vegies category. It wasn’t until Natascha Mirosch replied to my comment on her blog,  asking where I’d managed to get ginger from within the reaches of wintry Melbourne, that I twigged it was most likely not local. For me this highlights how vigilant you need to be to try and stick to local food.

For breakfast this morning I used the ‘foreign’ ginger, along in the breakfast from yesterday, but added eggs into the mix. Still a hit, even better I’d put forward. Today however was about transition. I’d finished my fast of all things foreign, and no longer had to act as though I was a shopkeeper from Royston Vassey. I’ve found over the last few days, I’ve been genuinely excited about finishing this experiment, and being able to eat foods without restriction. I think the whole experience has made me more aware of how much I value food, and more so variety of food. I have to say, while I think the principles of the locavore movement are very worthy, I’d find it hard to commit to it indefinitely. I enjoy food too much for that. However, as we discussed in class, this wasn’t meant to be an excerise in creating hardcore locavores. It was more, that by going through the experience, for what really isn’t a long period in the scheme of things, it makes you, and the people around you more aware of the world of food, and all the baggage that goes along with it. How much of it will stick afterwards depends on the individual. I’m going to post a more indepth reflection on the whole shabang later in the week, so if your interested stay tuned…

But to wrap up the day I thought a little celebration was in order. We’re having a local pot luck meal in class this friday, so instead I decided to a have a celebratory transitional meal. First stop, Victoria Markets. Well with the end of exclusive local eating, meant that I was to re-enter the food matrix of the Glenferrie estate. For the last month, I’ve been something of an outcast, with my ‘local’ meals and quarantined food. My other housemates had their fun offering me forbidden foods, and I responded by segregating my bits and pieces. Now however I’d re-entered the fold, and it was time to restock the larders. The vegetables, were mostly local expect for some oranges. Things such as cheap, quality bread and chocolate, that till now had been strictly off limits, was picked up. My brief foray into the world of organics is over for the foreseeable future. A big slab of beef was purchased, origin unkown, other then Australian, along with a flagon of olive oil, sourced from Italy. Another of the contraband, coffee was bought. This was blended and packed in Preston, here in Melbourne, but your guess is as good as mine to where the actual beans originated from.

So the meal was prepared, and well the table would’ve been set if we had one. A mixture of local and not so, there was roast beef with a range of roast vegies. All the vegies were in season, and mostly locally sourced. The oil however was from Italy. The garlic used to season the vegies and meat, was local. The salt, not so I think. The mixed herbs where from several places unknown. The beer was Australian, though brewed across the southern strait, down in Launceston.

After dinner was where it really strayed from the local. Coffee, and also chocolate (from France), but with a local Baram orange, while not ‘local’ its more local then France. It was a pretty decent meal though, and I’m glad to have gone through the the locavore experience, but to be done with it. I wonder how long it will take me to fully slip back into my old eating habits, pre the local explosion. We shall see…