PICNIC: The Global Butterfly Effect from Amsterdam, Emer Beamer in interview / Part 1
How Butterfly Works applies the everyday digital gadgets to help developing countries playfully
Butterfly Works is a co-creation studio based in Amsterdam and works in a field of global development with a team of 15 designers and organisers around the world. The studio was founded in 2003 by three women Emer Beamer, Ineke Aquarius and Hester Ezra to contribute the idea of reciprocity, sustainability and creativity in the world through co-creation.
Emer Beamer is Co-Founder and was - until lately - Research and Development Director of Butterfly Works, Amsterdam: "We work directly with local communities in developing countries and have two departments. Our Design & Branding team co-creates inspiring products and concepts and accesses global markets and trade networks to establish successful brands."
Ms. Beamer, you don´t do design, you do co-creation. What´s the difference? What is co-creation?
At Butterfly Works we work in the field of global development while we are coming from backgrounds of design. When working in complex environments with an aim to build sustainable solutions, putting the user and other main stakeholders at the center of the process is key to sucess. Co-creation is all about opening up the design process to multiple authors, authors who most likely don't consider themselves to be designers or creators, but who are in fact the people who will use the solution.
At Butterfly Works we are a global development actor, we design digital, educational services and products in countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh so we use Co-Creation as our methodology. We see the communities we work with not as passive consumers of plans or projects that we conceive but as their co-creators.
We made a short video on Vimeo about why we think Co-Creation is important
Related concepts are collective intelligence, open innovation, collaboration.
The name Butterfly Works is inspired by the Butterfly Effect as formulated by Edward Lorenz in 1967, working in the field of Chaos Theory and mathematics. In the Butterfly effect, small differences in initial conditions yield widely diverging and sometimes huge outcomes.
We combine it with the word “Works", because as everyone knows inspiration is only 1% of the effort the other 99% is hard work.
Could one think about your organization and global work without the means digital revolution brought to life?
In a word: No! The Co-Creation process briefly described above and the way we do most of our work, is a combination of a series of live workshops followed by regular communication via mail and Skype and sharing of digital prototypes. This is done with actors at many different geographical locations. Without the current means of digital production and exchange it would be cost prohibitive to collaborate.
Is Open Data the key for transparency in emerging countries` state and society fighting corruption (like it already works e.g. in Slovakia with Datanest Aliancie Fair-Play)?
Open Data is an exciting field. Many developing countries are plagued by forms of corruption and open data offers a valuable lever to bring change to these systems. Systems of corruption can only thrive with a certain amount of secrecy. Open data on it’s own is nto enough though, it needs visualizers, story tellers and app makers to help people access, understand and interact with relevant data.
It can really be revolutionary when information becomes publicly available
about for example the expenditures of a government or local council in a context where hithertoe the party in power had no onus to disclose their activities or effectiveness. When it becomes clearly seen through open data that money is not reaching it's destination, then the corrupt elite lose their monopoly position of manipulating resources and information.
My favourite example is huduma.info. As a conceptual framework (it is not yet functioning as envisioned) it will open up data and make it known to the local people in Kenya who should be benefitting from government investments in their areas and they will be able to track the developments.
Soon you will find the second part of the interview here.
We met Ms Beamer at the PICNIC Mash Up in May.