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11May

Crowdfunding: be the change you want to see in the world

If there is a revolution that marks the beginning of the 21st century, then this must be the connectivity with events, issues and persons all over the world. Connected to this connectivity is “participatory” effect.

After introduction, the notion of participatory democracy, notably thanks to the power of social media and online petitions, a new way of financing has blossomed. Individuals are gradually discovering that they can act by themselves for causes that are dear to them, to bring to the world the change they want to see.

Collaborative economics

Crowdfunding allows, through the financial participation of individuals who recognize themselves in a project or who want to support one, to participate in the development of a project that may not have been able to see by traditional financing. Beyond former borders, innovative projects have been created, that stand for innovation and change. Projects that wouldn’t be supported by the normal financial system, are now nourished. Crowdfunding is therefore part of the collaborative economy, since it relies on trust

The buzz is going around that crowdfunding creates new possibilities. But what is the success rate and what makes people participate? First of all there are a lot of different sorts of crowdfunding.

Crowdlending: an innovative way of financing personal projects

For a long time, banks were the only ones able to present an offer of financing. Now individuals can obtain peer to peer lending, whether for a cash need, a desire to travel, for a renovation of a house or a big operation that you are unable to finance yourself.

Small business and crowdfunding

Crowdfunding makes a real difference for small business. It also allows companies to federate around them a community of customers, collaborators and suppliers. Especially because small business should present their business model, product or service to the crowd of individuals to convince them to finance them, crowdfunding makes it possible to carry out a prototype of a new product.

Investors can either receive product or services from the business or they can invest in the business’ capital and receive interests in return. Unlike classical ways of financing, crowdfunding allows investors to choose themselves where their money goes. There is a direct connection between the investor and the entrepreneur. They share an goal. Success of the company.

Crowdfunding plays here the game of proximity through savings that are not only responsible and solidarity, but also transparent and close to investors.

How NGOs find a new way of fundraising 

It now seems quite inevitable for NGOs to take a closer look at these new fundraising techniques if they want to sustain their budgets. First, because the financing through governments’ helps is less and less substantial. Secondly, because the growth of crowdfunding is increasingly orienting the public towards digital financing of projects, humanitarian or otherwise, which will undoubtedly divert it from the traditional physical collections for which it is solicited by the historical NGOs.

Crowdfunding allows the shortening of the circuit between the financer and the project, which reinforces the feeling of transparency and traceability. Indeed, it responds to the emergence of a concept of proximity in which citizens wish to give more meaning to their financial contributions by following their own sensitivities and limiting intermediaries.

To guarantee its independence, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), launched in November 2016 a crowdfunding platform, with the aim of collecting 1 million euros in 60 days. Intended for the youngest, between 18 and 35 years old, it invited them to pledge on the platform independance.msf.fr and it offered a range of rewards for all amounts, including a guitar signed by the Muse group.

A platform for each project

Thus, the only term of crowdfunding encompasses many realities. Different platforms have different functions, and even different philosophies. While all have in common to create a relationship between a project and investors, some are more focused on NGOs and individuals, while others represent a lever for future business.

I myself pledged Boyan Slat to support him in his vision to clean this world from the plastic waste that we are surrounding us with. Please share your thoughts on crowdfunding so we can learn from it. I didn’t do it for the pledge. It gave me a feeling of participating in a solution of a better future.

As the banks are giving almost no interest on money on the bank it stimulates me to look for alternative forms of investment. From personal to solar and sustainable project. The future will tell, where I will invest my money in.

Now that it is all possible, leaves us with the question does it reach the bigger audiences. My question to you, did you ever pledge a crowdfunding campaign? Why did you? Because of the cause, the product, the pledges or to support a personal goal. Why did you get involved, please share your experiences so we can learn from it.

At DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY, we are aware that if people work together on a common project, they can collectively make things happen and change the world.

24Nov

Triggering Empathy with Virtual Reality Storytelling

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Arousing empathy has almost always been at the core of storytelling. In Virtual Reality (VR), storytellers have found a new tool with which to give viewers an even closer physical sensation of another person’s lived experience. In other words, VR has the possibility of most fully realizing a second person experience of a story: YOU transform into a character in the film, experiencing their visual and auditory sensations in 360 degrees. Director Chris Milk has dubbed virtual reality films “empathy machines” that move and stimulate viewers to social action more than any other media to date. The art world has been exploring this claim in performance pieces and virtual reality films. Meanwhile, scientific researchers are investigating the quantitative and qualitative evidence for and against the empathetic effects of virtual reality. Critics remain skeptical of virtual reality, citing a confusion between immersion and empathy.

Much furor and fuss is being made over virtual reality – but the energy and attitude towards VR is overwhelmingly positive. The most compelling consequence of these studies and experiments is the multi-layered conversation which reveals that VR is no simple subject. Virtual reality is, after all, a part of the complex chain and tradition of storytelling that dates to the beginning of culture and humanity.

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FILM AND PERFORMANCE ART 

Along with director Gabo Arora, Chris Milk and VRSE production company joined the United Nations in making the 2015 VR film Clouds Over Sidra, which tells the story of a young Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan. The film debuted in January 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, making a strong emotional impact upon the audience. Based on the response to the film in Davos and elsewhere (at a fundraiser in Kuwait, the film raised 3.8 billion USD, nearly double the amount anticipated), Milk believes that VR films can change the world, connecting human beings and altering their perceptions of one another. In a March 2015 TED talk, Milk explains, “So, it’s a machine, but through this machine we become more compassionate, become more empathetic, and we become more connected, and ultimately we become more human.”

In The Machine to Be Another, an experiment run by the art collective BeAnotherLab, VR is the foundation of a live performance piece in which participants virtually exchange bodies with the performer, who mimics their movements.  The purpose of the experiment is to better understand the Self by embodying the narrative of the Other. The collective collaborates with neurologists and neuroscientists. They aim to measure empathy in their future projects.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Psychologists are also examining how effective VR is at generating empathy in viewers. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford Lab investigates how test subjects change their behavior after experiencing specific scenarios in virtual reality environments. Lab Manager Shawnee Baughman explains in a February 18, 2016 interview how they have found that virtual reality has the potential to positively influence test subjects’ behavior after experiencing staged scenarios in a VR environment.

In one scenario, participants became Superman and save a child lost in large city. The point of the experiment is not that the participants save the child in the VR scenario, however, but how they were more proactive and helpful to other people in their real lives in the period immediately following the video. The same principle follows with another scenario in which one test group chops down a tree in VR with a haptic device that mimics a saw, and another group chops the tree but without the haptic device. The group that uses the haptic device to “chop” the tree used 20% less paper immediately following the event in a staged, real-life water spill.

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VR is not only positive in the context of its impact on human relations, but also between humanity and the earth. Jeremy Bailensen, Associate Professor of Communication at Stanford University, shares this positive outlook: “With concepts like climate change or deforestation or even pollution, we can use virtual reality to make the relationship between human behavior and the impact on the environment less abstract and more concrete.” By immersing viewers in environments in danger of destruction or industrialization, perhaps the viewer will better appreciate the need to preserve the environment and our resources. Another example we might consider is an audience experiencing the world in VR from the perspective of an animal in the endangered environment – the hope is that by sharing an intimate perspective with the animal in nature, that the viewer will develop a greater capacity to empathize with the natural world.

NUANCED SKEPTICISM

The nuances of virtual reality come to the fore in myriad questions that surround it. In his New York Times article “Want to Know What Virtual Reality Might Become? Look to the Past,” Steven Johnson suggests, rather than Milk’s all-encompassing view of virtual reality films as “empathy machines,” that virtual reality offers the possibility of different kinds of empathy: “perceptual empathy” or “sensory immersion.” It is true that empathy is aroused by our recognition of facial muscle movements, as Johnson points out, so that if we as the viewer cannot see the face of the protagonist whom we are inhabiting, then we lose this traditional key to empathizing with this person’s experience. However, we gain a sensory and immersive experience of the character whose point-of-view we inhabit. Not seeing the person’s face might make a viewer more open as their preconceived notions based on the character’s appearance will not be provoked. Even the omission of the inhabited character’s face can be played with via the use of a mirror that could “reveal” the physical identity of the character after the viewer has been immersed in their story. Additionally, we do not lose the ability to see the faces of the other people featured in the film.

Other critics, such as adjunct professor Sam Gregory of Harvard University, do not believe that virtual reality necessarily equates to empathy. Jennifer Alsever quotes Gregory: “It’s confusing immersion for empathy.” Viewers might become distanced from the subject of the VR film if it’s too violent, and virtual reality’s potential for motivating social action might instead corrode into “poverty tourism.” Meanwhile, Adi Robertson wonders in her article “The UN wants to see how far VR empathy will go” whether VR’s apparently superior effectiveness in motivating social action results not necessarily from VR’s inherent qualities, but its novelty.

Meanwhile, in her article “The Limits of Virtual Reality: Debugging the Empathy Machine,” Ainsley Sutherland points out, “This is the central critique of VR as a successful medium for ‘increasing’ empathy: that it cannot reproduce internal states, only the physical conditions that might influence that.” In response to Sutherland’s criticism, I wonder if she makes an inaccurate division between internal and external states, devaluing the impact of physical conditions on the emotions. If we can experience the physical conditions of living in a refugee camp, would the very conditions not move us, knowing that the young Syrian protagonist is living what is but a simulation for us the viewers? Additionally, the physical conditions elicited by VR can make the story lines and relationships between people within a film more intimate because we physically have the impression of being beside them, and are thus psychologically more able to identify and empathize with them. Physical and emotional conditions are more intimately connected than we might realize.

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COMPLEX POSITIVE POTENTIAL

Despite dimming the potential of virtual reality to increase empathy, such criticisms shed insight on VR’s complexity and further substantiates its potential to effect change. That VR entails a consideration of multi-layered technical, scientific, aesthetic, and theoretical perspectives evidences the vastness of VR filmmaking’s uncharted territory. Can theatre, literature, or cinema more effectively stimulate empathy in an audience for a subject’s internal state than virtual reality? To isolate virtual reality from the tradition of storytelling is simply false. VR is a continuation of the tradition of storytelling, but in a new medium. And as virtual reality filmmakers develop new tools and refine their skills, virtual reality might well evoke the same complexity of inner states as poetry. At DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY and VR EXPLORERS, we embrace the newest innovations and are eager to explore the possibilities of virtual reality and its potential to effect positive change in the world. We look forward to evoking empathy in our viewers for the issues and stories that we tell in our films.

03Nov

Breaking Out of the Comfort Zone

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way… you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”

  Aristotle

People are their actions, and a story is only worth telling if it is about people who act outside of their normal behavior. Entrepreneur and innovator Edwin ter Velde of Zero Waste Center is a person whose story is well worth documenting. His story is an ever-evolving effort to breach the boundary between comfort and discomfort: he is a man of focusededwintervelde action, an innovator who believes that social innovation reigns highest in the hierarchy of innovation.

“I have studied together with my old friend and cofounder of the Zero Waste Center Cees Hebing human behavior (to start with our own behaviour) and the way you can change it, and I understand that your behavior is not how you are, but how you behave. So, why is it that in companies or in people’s everyday social behavior, we are not playing with our behavior? We think that’s how we are. No, it’s an instrument you can use,” believes ter Velde.

As human beings, we can experiment with our actions to change for the better. However, most people would rather not admit that their routine behaviors are just that: routine. The opposite of innovation. Stories that no one wants to read or watch.

Ter Velde wants to rouse people from their stagnancy to experiment with actions that force them outside of their comfort zones and to transform themselves. The problem, of course, is that most people are not as comfortable as ter Velde is with questioning the routines that make up the foundation of their everyday lives.

solar voyager edwin ter velde

We’re sitting in a spacious nook in the Zero Waste Center production facility in Amsterdam-Noord, coffee in hand as 3D printers whir silently along one wall, and we chat facing the several meters high mock-up of the Solar Voyager. Ter Velde has found a way to inspire people to change their behaviors towards plastic waste, but elegantly framed in the concept of Zero Waste and in the story of the Solar Voyager Expedition.

“Talking about behavior is not a nice thing. Because people think, why are you talking about my behavior? It is uncomfortable. And I learned that if you put it in a concept that’s not directly related to yourself, but at the end it is, then it’s more comfortable ultimaker_3dprintersto talk about it and to teach people,” explains ter Velde. “And this is the reason I founded Zero Waste because throwing things away is a behavior, not respecting materials and thinking it doesn’t bother you, is also behavior. If you’re talking about the zero waste concept, then we think it is all related to waste, but after a couple steps you understand that the concept is all related to you as a person.”

EXPERIMENT IN ACTION

The Solar Voyager is a solar powered vehicle partially made of recycled plastic. For one year now, ter Velde has been collaborating with renowned adventurer Wilco van Rooijen on the Solar Voyager Expedition. He is busy all day every day working on the project.

Edwin ter Velde is a sailor, but he is not a professional explorer. Nevertheless, come December 2017 he will embark with van Rooijen on an expedition to the geographical South Pole aboard the Solar Voyager.  Their mission: to show the world that it is possible to journey to the center of Antarctica based on the concept of Zero Emission and Zero Waste.

The construction and expedition of the Solar Voyager is an experiment in behavior. Ter Velde not only wants to challenge himself to go outside his comfort zone, but he also wants to inspire people to change their behavior towards plastic waste. By creating a story and a community around the Solar Voyager Expedition and the zero waste concept, ter Velde hopes to encourage people to change their behavior by taking action to change their daily lives.

“We are showing that it’s all a matter of doing. Just do it! Stop talking about the world and sustainability and things like that. Act. Act. Directly, and that’s it,” emphasizes ter Velde.

The completed Solar Voyager will testify to ter Velde’s message of individual action and social innovation. If the Solar Voyager can make the journey to the South Pole, the most extreme climate on earth, then the expedition will set an example, challenging even the most average person to make radical changes in their daily life – to eschew comfort for the sake of preserving our environment and resources. To act, and by acting, to transform not only the world for the better, but themselves.

NOT WASTE, BUT PRECIOUS MATERIAL

The Solar Voyager will be made partially out of discarded water bottles, leftover packaging, disposable forks and spoons – what many of us regard as plastic waste. But not ter Velde, who doesn’t see plastic as waste, but as precious material that demands our respect and innovation.

“Why is it waste? Has one molecule in the material changed because you call it waste? I don’t believe that. It is still plastic, so it’s still material. In nature, everything is important. So, materials are also important. So, respect it. Take it up from the street, and let’s make the freshest thing you can imagine. Now for instance, the Solar Voyager, there’s a high added value. So, we learn – children, but also organizations, everyone – that it’s all in your mind. It’s all in your mind. We think it is waste, no it isn’t. It is material. And you can do such nice and precious things with those materials.”

At this stage, ter Velde is busy calibrating the 3D printers that will print the plastic material into pieces that will make up the body of the Solar Voyager. He hovers over his laptop, monitoring the printers. It’s easy to be swept away by the project there in front of the Solar Voyager mockup and listening to ter Velde. When he fits several plastic samples together and holds them up against the mock-up, you become infected with his fervor. And then there is still the most important aspect of the expedition to discuss: Antarctica itself.

edwin_with-hexacore

INNOVATION SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE

Journeying through Antarctica will not be luxurious – it is the driest continent on earth, with low temperatures and wind speeds of 350 km/h. But for ter Velde, the physical challenge of the journey is just as important as the technical challenges: if there is no discomfort, there is no change. Living sustainably and without waste will not be comfortable.

“If you want to change, you must change your standard behavior. And that’s a difficult thing for people. We like to have a comfortable situation. But if it is comfortable, you are acting as you always have. So, if it is uncomfortable, you know that things are changing. That you are moving forward, or back. It’s just a matter of testing and seeing what it will bring. It should be uncomfortable to innovate, to make a real innovation,” believes ter Velde.

When asked why Antarctica should be the site of the Solar Voyager’s route, ter Velde replies: “It is the most extreme. It is the most unknown continent.” For if there was a continent that would host a journey meant to assimilate the goals of zero waste and radical behavioral change, it would be Antarctica.

EVERY PIECE HAS A STORY

edwinterveldeTer Velde’s strength is not only in his motivation or his ability to realize ideas, but in his storytelling. When he describes the communities of schoolchildren, or stadsjutters (or urban miners in English), and their efforts to gather discarded plastic material, he lights up. His excitement at having motivated a community of people to act, to effect change is more fervent than any other aspect of the Expedition.

He explains to me how every individual piece of the Solar Voyager will have a numbered certificate that will document the people who helped collect the plastic for that piece. “Every piece has its own story,” says ter Velde. “So, this car is very precious because the energy in all those pieces is being shown to the world.”

The story of the Solar Voyager, he tells me, isn’t about him. “I do not want to have a notation in the Guinness book of records. It’s not about me. It’s about the fact that we can create things, and we should do it all together,” says ter Velde.

Despite what he might say, ter Velde is one of the main actors in this real-life story. His drive and his energy to act drives the story of the Solar Voyager. He inspires each of us to act outside of  our comfort zones– to do. For it is only by doing that the we can transform, innovate, and grow. DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY believes in stories like ter Velde’s, helping him to share his story so we might accomplish our own goal to inspire people to create, to innovate, and to challenge themselves – to cross the boundary between possible and impossible.

 

Have a look yourself and be inspired by the Solar Voyager test drive.

 

 

 

 

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