Now that’s extreme motivation.







I know I’ll get up at the crack of dawn to go for run before a big meeting or presentation, but taking a hammer to my own foot is pushing it a bit far.

What’s the most extreme thing you’ve ever done to improve performance?

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Keeping on Keeping on

If this isn’t an example of motivation … I’m not sure what is.


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Zebra Crossing


Just one reason to miss Africa


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Street Art: The writing is on the wall

During my last month in Cape Town I was lucky enough to get a commission that involved touring the city taking shots of great artworks. I love it when a plan comes together.

While Cape Town and some of the surrounding areas are known for the iconic artworks that pop up in some of the more run-down areas, artists are finding it harder and harder to paint since the council has passed a by law forcing all street art to be approved before it takes place.

As a taster here are a couple of snaps of works by two of my favourite street artists; Faith47 and her supremely talented husband DALeast.

All Shall Be Equal Before the Law

All Shall Be Equal Before the Law

Stag Do

Stag Do

The street art curator has some info on both Faith and Dal.

Here is also a link to my published photos.


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Moving from ideas to impact is a long journey

For anyone who’s been looking closely (very closely), the backbone theme to this blog is that of motivation;

How we create motivation, how we stay motivated and how we pick it up again when it drops off.

In a previous post I mentioned how often the drive for this is made up of 3 keys principles;

  • practice
  • study
  • and community

underpinned by belief that what you are doing is worthwhile and taps into your values.

AG log

And on Friday 15 June, at Africa Gathering London 2012, I was lucky enough to see all of these principles put into action by a room full of vibrant technologists, creatives, researchers and investors all looking to resolve social issues through technological solutions.

As African music welcomed the delegates to Thomson Reuters offices, a sense of expectation hung in the air. After all, the aims of Africa Gathering include;

helping to make a world better through communication and technology.

No small challenge then, but one for which The Indigo Trust is key. The trust sponsors ‘hubs’ across the continent that help develop social tech ideas into reality in order to address‘information inequalities’. A superb example of this was the project talked through by Director of the Nigerian hub, Tunji Eleso, who was keen to point out that the development of these ideas takes a lot of effort and doesn’t come easy. He talked about his incubation methodology which helped produce such simple and innovative projects as; Your Budgit, a great infographic, simplifying the Nigerian budget to the extent that it ended up being used by many as their wallpaper. (Get that George O!) Their Nigerian constitution app had 85,000 downloads in just 2 months. Surely that sees African technology engagement dwarfing anything in Europe? These socially relevant ideas may take time to incubate and develop but certainly seem to be getting traction when launched.

What stood out from Tunji’s session was how very often the key for getting investment in social tech projects is to be able identify the same problems within the commercial sectors and approach them. Whether banks, businesses or communities very often the issues are the same. Need to simplify complex financial information? Look for an infographic…need to gain take up on policies or guidelines? Editorialise it and get people chatting…

Ihub is cool”

Tosh Juma, from the Kenyan hub took us on a tour of the Nairobi social innovation centre aimed at accelerating social capital and tech for economic prosperity. Or as he put it….a space for technologists and investors to come together, showcase projects and…. have fun…The hub has hosted over 250 events in the last 2 years getting people together to share ideas and develop offers. They are now focussing on master classes in user experience and user testing facilities to help up the game for local designers.

What’s clear from the ihub example is how important good marketing comms are to let people know what you are doing, particular when approaching investors. Tosh showed a video showcasing the hub’s work but pictures, quotes and a simple video interview can all help tell the story of what you are trying to achieve. As one contributor said ‘Ihub is cool’.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

The African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” seemed to be the theme for the Marketing and New Media session, hosted by curator of the event Mariemme Jamme. The room buzzed with questions about communities;

  • How do we tap into new communities to take up our messages?
  • How do we broach the digital divide ensuring that our messages reach those who may not have the generators, the connectivity or the hardware to see them online?
  • What is the best way to tap into the 14 hub communities across Africa?
Mariemme Jamme leads a breakout group

Mariemme Jamme leads a breakout group

Just one answer to much of this was to look to the tech hubs across the continent – all of which can play an important part in helping reach out to new communities, acting like 21st century golf club networks.

A room full of Story Tellers

The afternoon saw a fast fast pace befitting to the cheetahs of the tech industry. Some of the highlights included Edward Anderson from the World Bank. With 7.7 billion dollars of investment for ICT components across the world – The World Bank is no small fry. Tempted to tap into some of that?

As anyone who has spent any time in Africa knows, the spoken word is a tremendously powerful way of spreading knowledge. Mark Rock from Audioboo gave a super speedy demonstration of how the product can distribute voice messages over the web, citing a poignant example of a woman, who recorded a voice message 32 secs long, recording her boyfriend’s death.

Stephane Mayoux from BBC Africa had us all quoting Bertold Brecht, who was probably one of the first to sing the praises of twitter when he suggested that radio should be two-sided. It’s all about the engagement.

Franco Pepeschi from Web Foundation gave some key tips on how to generate a co-creative environment. He focused on a number of practical issues to bear in mind when making the web more collaborative;

  • hubs are not enough – while it is good to have people who meet together, you also need to be able to build things quickly
  • product development practices need to be put in place
  • persistence pays off
  • density – it is vital to get to where the people are directly
  • policies need to be created around how best to share and create content

Other tips for social development came from Michael Jenkins from EveryMobile, who pointed out that by offering up micro tasks that individuals can do for instance when they are on the bus, or when they have a few seconds to spare you will generate more actions and better take up. He also reminded us that while downloads, impressions and uus are important indicators of success, we must never forget the tangible results an application can have, whether the outcome is the number of people who went to have their eyes tested or started reading groups.

Discussion groups at AG

Discussion group at AG

The theme of the day had been very much about building communities and here was a community that had come together from all over Africa and the UK, seated in an international organisation in London focussing on global social issues. The next step is to continue to make the links needed to push through practical results and with some of the examples that were given and just some of the talent that was in the room, those next steps aren’t in doubt.

What I learned from the day;

  • Dry content, whether budgets or constitutions can be made enticing when portrayed in the right (and simplified way). Hurrah for infographics and of course the great David McCandless.
  • If you think you have an idea that only has social relevance, try to see what similar problems it may be able to answer in the commercial sector and then look to industry for sponsorship.
  • Marketing materials may seem to take up precious time and money but they can also help communicate exactly what you are about to potential investors. Invest the time in them and the investors will invest in you.
  • The World Bank is big (ok I knew that but it’s good to be reminded of it’s social outreach work)
  • As Bertold Brecht suggested…it’s all about the engagement. Social media can help spread social ideas. Use it.
  • Development doesn’t just happen. You need to put a framework around it for it to be successful
  • Downloads and uus are important but don’t forget the real world results
  • Build communities. Ask for help. Offer help. You can’t do it alone.

Most of all though it was just a privilege to be in a room full of such dynamic people who are focused on pushing through socially relevant tech projects across a flourishing continent.

And just because I can here’s a tribute to the great Gil Scot-Heron.

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Cheers to the winelands

There is too much and not enough to say about the Cape Winelands.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit just some of the exquisite wine estates and restaurants just a couple of hours drive outside of Cape Town in Franchoek. And I’ve been even luckier to have returned. Sometimes you just can’t get enough of a good thing..

Moody at Klein Waterfall

Sauvignon Blanc

Through the wine glass

One glass too many


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All the sixes

The apartheid regime is difficult to get your head round.

No blacksIts legacies are everywhere, from the statue of Jan Smuts in Company Gardens, to the only second ever performance of Athol Fugard’s blinding ‘Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act’ (which left me open-mouthed), and of course with the highly visible Robben Island. However for me, one of the most sinister places is actually just round the corner from the very middle class neighbourhood of Vredehoek, where I’m staying. And that’s District Six.

At the turn of the century the area was a thriving melting pot of Malay, former slaves, craftsmen and immigrants all rubbing shoulders and making ends meet in whichever way they could.


It was after WWII, when white supremacy stepped up from being dominant behaviour to legislatively endorsed that the population was segregated into four racial groups (“native”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Asian”). The philosophy was that the more races mixed, the more they fought. But it was in the late 60s, just as apartheid really took hold, with non-whites being stripped of political representation and black people being provided with services far inferior to those of the minority whites, that District Six was deemed a vice-filled slum, fit only for clearance. The fact of course that the area was prime real estate close to the city centre and Table Mountain, had of course nothing to do with it… And so the bulldozers moved in.

Over the next 18 years 60,000 people had their homes pulled down, were forcibly removed and banished to the barely equipped Cape Flats outside of Cape Town. But even though were moved out, a swathe of international pressure meant that the government was unable to build on the land they had created and District Six become a wasteland with only places of worship and police stations left standing. Prime real estate that had once housed families and communities was left to rot like some kind of ugly sore on the city.


One of the few remaining buildings in District Six


Since the 1994 election, which saw in Mandela’s premiership, the ANC-led government has been looking to restore land claims to many of the previous citizens. But how do you go about restoring land to 60,000 dispossessed people? Well, apparently you start with the oldest first.

On 11 February 2004, exactly 38 years after the area was forcibly cleared, Nelson Mandela handed the keys to the first returning residents, Ebrahim Murat (87) and Dan Ndzabela (82). Families have been returning steadily to the area ever since.

The museum

Street Tower

Street Tower

The bulldozing of the area and the memories of apartheid are kept alive thanks to the unique District Six Museum. This feels more like an artwork than a museum, with the ground floor covered by a street map of the area, handwritten notes from former residents indicating where their homes had been and favourite family recipes reflecting how much of a community this really was. Other features include street signs from the old district, displays of the histories and lives of District Six families, and historical explanations of area and its destruction.


Map of District Six

The museum keeps the memory of what happened present, not just with its displays and exhibitions, but also with it’s community spirit. And it was thanks to the museum  that I joined a March on February 11 2012 to commemorate 60 years since the clearance first began to reflect on what this means to the community.


We were led into what is left of the area by two bulldozers and a marching band. Sixty years ago the bulldozers went in to clear the land of houses, now the aim is to rebuild them.


Bulldozers lead the procession

The ‘Hands on District Six’ action, run by the museum and volunteers, aims to ‘clear away the rubble of apartheid’. And so it was an emotional start as we headed out of the centre of Cape Town towards Table Mountain and towards what is now largely barren wasteland. The restituents all carried stones from their home town to lay as a memorials in the cairn at one of the street intersections of what was District Six.

The people

Valerie, was nine years old when she and her family were moved out of the area. “Some of us have white fathers, some of us have black fathers,” she said summing up the mix that had made up the area. Being coloured, she was inherently indignant. With ‘beady eyes and high cheekbones and curly hair’, she dismissed the blacks who came from the North. However once she knew I was British, “our living standards improved under the red, white and blue”, she said. When I asked Valerie why she was on the march she said, well, as she was on the list for a house, she had to “show willing”.



Susan Lewis, however was thrilled to be on the march. It was part of her annual ritual. She had been one of the first to be moved out, and each year she returned with her best friend to commemorate how they had both lost their homes,  but had since had them restored. For her it was a joyous and community-filled event. Something that brought her together will people and places that meant so much to her. Her words stuck with me.“We are so blessed.”

‘Robbed for second time?’

Our quiet and emotional procession up towards the mountain soon changed though into a noisy, angry confrontation. About 15 minutes in to this both sombre yet celebratory occasion, our path was blocked by people holding placards. ‘District Six Property Owners robbed for the 2nd time’ they said. It was the District Six Advocacy Committee, led by Tonya who feel that this time it is now their rights which are not being observed. They claim the government is now moving them out of their homes, exploitatively paying them under market value for land that their parents and grand parents bought. “My parents died for this land!” shouted one protestor as a scuffle brokn out, banners were torn down and people were pushed over. A stand off with a bulldozer bought the march to a halt and police were called.

Stopping the bulldozers

Stopping the bulldozers

 ‘In the days of apartheid we had no rights. And now they are doing the same to us’. Gregory Arendze, District Six Advocacy Committe

When I asked Tonya what she wanted she told said to ‘Have our say’.  The committee’s point of view is that the Restitution Act does not protect current landowners, and that the Tripartite Agreement between the City of Cape Town, District Six Redevelopment Committee and the Commission for Restitution has not taken into account the 42 people who currently own 5 hectors of the land that has been identified for rebuilding.

However in the end the police, despite their fierce reputation (or maybe because of it) calmed things down and we went on our way, with some of the elders going on to lay their stones and the rest of us heading back to the museum for some well-earned squash and donuts. The protestors were still there but by then, they too probably needed their own refreshments.


The laying of stones

The District Six Museum is a must see for anyone visiting Cape Town. For any of us who have not lived through it, it can only give a tiny inkling into what apartheid must have been like.

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