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Do Lectures 2013: Challenge Projects

The Do Lectures 2013 starts on Thursday. Six challengers have set project briefs to catalyse ideas, action and the creation or adaptation of businesses to meet the needs of the future. The projects are:

Dan Burgess, Swarm

Hi-tech Hi-nature: Using technology to help kids reconnect with nature and the outdoors

Time spent outside in nature increases happiness, health and wellbeing. Fact. Yet British (and beyond) kids have never been more disconnected from the natural world than they are today. Time playing outside during the week has halved in one generation. Roaming distances from home have shrunk by 90% in 30 years. Fewer than 1 in 10 kids regularly play in wild spaces. Most kids can identify more brand logos than flora or fauna

The consequences are terrifying. Obesity rates in children are on the up as are mental health issues and depression. And what might happen if a generation becomes completely disconnected from nature? Who will protect the natural world if there is no connection or love for it in the first place?

The barriers are systemic. Society is becoming more risk averse, anti bacterial hand gels and hi visibility jackets rule and unstructured play and opportunities for roaming ever decreasing. Streets full of cars and fear of stranger danger keeps parents freaked out. Commercialisation of play and entertainment and rampant adoption of screen-based technologies is keeping kids inside.

Technology however is here to stay. Always-on web connectivity, access to apps, games, content  and multiple screen ownership in the home means that tech is going nowhere in kids lives. So how might we use technology to encourage kids to reconnect with nature, the outdoors and non-human life?

Our Do Start-up challenge is to prototype new products and services which flourish at the edges of technology and nature. Ideas that need symbiosis, balance and hybrid of the two to develop and grow.

 How could we subvert/hack existing tech behaviours patterns and systems to get kids (and adults too) running for the door? What form of new enterprise could we create? How would it sustain itself?

In about 7 weeks time a feature length documentary called Project Wild Thing will launch at Sheffield Doc fest, in cinemas, community screenings and on TV. The film will fuel the conversation and increase awareness around this systemic issue. 


Tom Farrand, Swarm

Citizen Social Science: Tapping into the power of citizens to solve social problems

The UK has a population of just over 63 million people. Many of our systems are creaking under the weight of increasing demand, economic uncertainty and massive budget cuts. Think about health care, environmental conservation, local community issues, education, road congestion, crime prevention as startpoints. There just isn’t enough human resource or capacity to cope.

We’ve been piloting a citizen-science based approach that gets the public ‘swarming’ around social problems using web and mobile technology. The first pilot -  Cell Slider - has got ordinary folk accurately classifying over 1 million pieces of data on the web with virtually no marketing - saving pathologist time, money and helping people to fight cancer in a new way.

Our Do Start-Up challenge is about tipping mindless consumption into participation where folk become solvers of real-life problems. So, what other systemic social issues could we tackle collaboratively using a citizen-science ‘swarming’ approach?  Where’s the biggest potential? What idea(s) can we rapidly prototype?  How do we make the complex simple? What’s the business model that will encourage sustainable growth and participation?


Andy Middleton, TYF

Slipstream Wales

Wild geese save two thirds of their energy by flying in formation towards the same place. Business and government  could do the same to take innovation for sustainability to the scale that our communities children and nature need.

We're off the ground already, with half a dozen businesses on board. How do we blast through the sound barrier? What's are the patterns and connections we need to build? How do create opportunity for others as things change?

How do we take use Do Lectures talent and magic to pivot at country scale and use Wales as a prototype lab for the world? How do we make sure that whatever happens, we can say we did everything we could?


James Lynch, Fforest

Small town futures. 

There are three Cardigan crops: food, tourists, youth. Local kids grow up with the land, the sea and community. Riches. They love their place, but many leave to find a future, come back when they retire.  energy spent.

How can we combine food production, tourism services and technology to create a year round business that keeps the energy here?  A business that forms a new (and a bit old) template for rural communities in the beautiful places throughout the uk.


Mark Shayler, TicketyBoo

Developing a circular economy: reinventing manufacturing in Britain.

If we don’t have stuff we can’t make things. We have a linear economy. We take, make, use, and dispose. Only 19% of materials used in the UK are circular. Only 1% of materials used are still in use 6 months later. China owns the rights to 97% of the world’s rare earths. Key manufacturing skills are only 5 years from being lost from the UK. There will be 2 billion more middle class in the East by 2030. Why would the East sell the West anything when they have a big enough market at home?

Enough! How do we begin to manufacture in Britain again? What do we make? Who for? How?  What does a circular economy business model look like? How does it make money? How does it make brilliant products that people want?

We are going to start a circular economy business. We will design the product, source the product, pack the product, brand the product, identify the market, develop the brand (one that means something – no brand-bollocks here), and build the business plan. Any sector. Any product. Any place


Carlo Navato, Haxstead Estates

Housing a growing population in a sustainable way

There is a predicted shortfall of up to 1,100,000 homes in England by 2016;

the number of house constructions started in England in the year to March 2012 was 104,970 compared with the projected formation of 223,000 households a year. 7.4 million homes in England fail to meet the Government's Decent Homes Standard. In 2008/09, 654,000 households in England were overcrowded. The average age of a first-time buyer (unaided by money from relatives) has risen to 37. Every £1 invested in infrastructure generates £2.84 in total economic activity.

Given the deepening housing crisis across the UK, how do we transform housing delivery to ensure, in a way that is affordable to both society and to the environment,  that every household has a decent home?

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