Archive for August, 2008

dowconzki § 8

© Jake Goretzki

Jake Goretzki adds:

Reading recently about this ‘Nudge‘ business, I couldn’t but help thinking about how shrewdly it was branded – certainly in the same league as Tipping Point, Make it Stick, or The Wisdom of Crowds. In fact, as they flock together they almost seem to constitute a whole new publishing equation: Punchy Title + Panacea = Bestseller. Where did Charles Tilly go wrong with Why? That said, I’m still scratching around to identify examples of ‘Nudging’ in action, and I seem not to be alone in this. The one mentioned in most of the reviews is the effect of making organ donation ‘opt out’ rather than ‘opt in’ – more a thwack than a nudge, I would have thought.

21 August 2008 at 8:32 am Leave a comment

Learning from your staff

Andrew Curry writes:

Visiting the British Museum’s Hadrian exhibition on a wet Sunday in August isn’t perhaps the most sensible thing to do, although the exhibition is striking even when it’s teeming with visitors. But the trip was at least as educational about the BM’s approach to customer service.

While waiting to buy my timed tickets, the screens behind the ticket desk advertised to me the benefits of membership (‘Join today and see Hadrian free’). I had some time to do the sums, and it seemed like a reasonable offer. So when I reached the desk I asked if I could buy membership instead. Not here, apparently, but over there – at a desk with another long queue at it. Having waited several minutes already, I bought the ordinary one-day exhibition tickets instead. Lost revenue, lost relationship, from the Museum’s point of view. ‘It doesn’t seem sensible to advertise membership here and not to sell it’, I observed, helpfully. ‘I know’ said the woman at the counter. ‘We have mentioned it to the management’.

Being a wet Sunday, I had an umbrella with me. It had been pretty visible when I bought the tickets, since umbrellas aren’t the sort of thing you tend to hide unless you’re a hitman. When we got to the entrance of the Hadrian exhibition for our timed entry, 40 minutes later, the attendant told me that I couldn’t take the umbrella in; it would have to go to the cloakroom. ‘I could have been told that when I bought the tickets’ I pointed out, both to the attendant and later to the man in the Cloakroom. ‘I know’, said the man in the Cloakroom. ‘We’ve been telling the management for the last two exhibitions, but they haven’t done anything about it’.

Of course, the British Museum’s not unique in not listening to its customer-facing staff. Lots of organisations forget that they’re the first to hear (often the only people to hear) when their customer-facing systems aren’t entirely customer friendly. Usually managers are too busy telling their staff about new instructions to find the time to listen to them.

As for the Hadrian exhibition, it’s open until 26th October. But don’t go on a wet Sunday. And if you do, don’t take an umbrella.

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18 August 2008 at 12:09 pm Leave a comment

We are what we do


Anouk Van Den Eijnde writes:

With increased mobility and growth of individualism in British society, the sense of community spirit is in decline. As part of our biennial Planning for Consumer Change survey, we have seen a decrease in community in the UK, with only 41% of Londoners feeling that there is a sense of community where they live1. As Alessandra Buonfino and Paul Hilder have noted,

“The most common walk in British neighbourhoods today may well be the short distance from the front door to the parked car”.

The government is trying to strengthen communities and find local solutions to the rise in social problems. In a recent qualitative study for Communities & Local Government, we spoke to a wide range of citizens across the country and without fail there was nostalgia about the good old days of leaving your doors unlocked and neighbourhood street parties. For most of them, having a sense of community and being friendly with your neighbours was the ideal, but often not the reality.

I recently did some volunteer work for We Are What We Do, best known for the ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ tote bag and Change the world for a fiver. Their aim is to inspire people to use their everyday actions to change the world – we’re talking manageable things like ‘write a letter to someone who inspired you’, ‘recycle your mobile phone’ or even ‘smile, and smile back’. It got me thinking: do we really need a book to tell us to talk to our neighbours or have more meals together? Isn’t that common sense?

What I did with WAWWD was to help train 200 young people across the country to become public speakers , so they can spread the word to their younger peers in schools about the social and environmental actions they can all do. You always get something back when you volunteer, and I was lifted by their immense enthusiasm and their belief that they are capable of making the world a better place. At HCHLV we have done a lot of work around the Millennials generation and one the biggest themes that has emerged is the importance of ‘making a difference’, of ‘actions, not words’. Maybe we do need a book to remind us that we are what we do, that the fading sense of community won’t just come back by magic. Or maybe the Millennials will discover that individualism isn’t the way forward and maybe, just maybe, they will change the world. Which action will you do today?

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12 August 2008 at 9:44 am 1 comment

Recession and sustainability

Courtesy of the Transition Island Blog

Courtesy of the Transition Island Blog

Andrew Curry writes:

We’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about the impact of recession on consumer behaviour, and I was asked by Radio 4’s Beyond Westminster to join a panel discussion about this, which is broadcast tomorrow (Saturday 9th – if you missed it, you can hear it on the website for another week).

The other panellists were Chris Leslie, of the New Local Government Network (and a former Labour MP), and Jeremy Leggett, who runs one of Britain’s largest solar energy companies, solarcentury, and also wrote a fine book, Half Gone, about the end of the oil economy.

It’s difficult to summarise the flavour of a fifteen minute discussion in a few lines, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the programme, but some themes seemed to emerge:

  • The upwards shift in oil and energy prices is a step change not a blip (a Dutch energy consultancy recently estimated that the floor price for oil had reached $110/barrel).
  • In the short term this is reducing car use, but hurting the poorest hardest, mostly through the cost of their domestic energy bills (the poorest tend not to own cars).
  • In the longer term, however, the government has to make a choice between orchestrating a full-scale shift to renewable energy sources, or trying to muddle through with conventional energy (Leggett is a member of the group which wrote the recently published The Green New Deal, which linked energy innovation, climate change response, and financial reform).
  • Shifting to renewables will take investment, which probably isn’t going to come from taxation but could – without going into the economic theory here – come from market incentives and from encouraging people to save more, which would be good for the long-term stability of the economy.

Some of the evidence suggests that people are ahead of the politicians here. But it will still take some political courage to act on this – a quality which seems sadly lacking from British politics at the moment.

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8 August 2008 at 9:04 pm Leave a comment

A sense of place

© Stacey Yates

Stacey Yates writes:

As well as working at HCHLV I’m also trained as a photographer and I was recently invited to create work in response to the space occupied by a farming community located where East London edges into the Essex countryside.

The project was a collaboration merging sound and photography, and all of the artists involved were asked to respond to the space in their own way.

Aldborough Hatch was once next to a forest, but over time, the farm and the surrounding area has become suburban; a semi-rural, residential area on the north side of the A12, just beyond Newbury Park on London’s Central line.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects was the urban /rural boundary that the farm has come to occupy , and the way the space feels as a consequence of that.

As the city merges with the countryside, the sense of place we know as London, as a city, is diluted first by suburban council housing and then as it spreads across open fields. As it spreads it meets and mixes with landscape, history, memory, architecture and community and from this a new sense of place unfolds.

One of the dominant feelings for me of this space was the sense of ambiguity. It is both urban and rural, public and private, transitional and uncertain, yet calm and peaceful. And, at the edge of the city, the sense of freedom is reinforced by a strange lack of ownership.

At Henley Centre HeadlightVision, we talk quite a lot about how technology and changing social relationships make our identities more fluid. Place, in contrast, is usually seen as an anchor for identity. Perhaps we don’t think enough about the nature of the types of spaces which are in flux, and which, in contrast, create the opportunities for blurring of identities and social meaning.

If you’re in the Brick Lane area of east London this weekend, the exhibition is on until Sunday – at Studio 1.1, 57a Redchurch St, London E2.


8 August 2008 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Growing support

Jo Phillips writes:

This weekend I bought 20 lettuce seedlings for a £1 from a country market. Should even a few of these grow into healthy sized lollo rosso, I reckon I will have saved a few pounds on the cost of equivalent produce at the supermarket, even taking into account the cost of compost and water. But perhaps more interesting than the potential to save money on food at a time when food costs are escalating and consumers are feeling the pinch, is the intrinsic value of homegrown produce to the grower. As Monty Don pointed out recently in his session at Hay, a person who grows food from seed wouldn’t even consider wasting it.

In his role as the new President of the Soil Association Don has been smart to encourage all growers, great and small, to consider themselves as part of a sustainable food movement. He clearly appreciates that those who have narrowed the gap between soil to plate to its minimum could, if connected to each other, be a powerful network for change. Linking small steps to big effects and harnessing the power of the collective may be a powerful way to address concerns about food security and food footprints and encourage behaviour change. And with sales of vegetable seeds overtaking those of flowers this year, the movement shows signs of burgeoning.

The greatest challenge perhaps will be in cities –people living within view of farms at least have a regular reminder of the provenance of food, but in urban spaces the mental gap is greater, and the knowledge less intuitive. But with the return of Victory Gardens in London and San Francisco, and vertical farms on the horizon, we are moving closer to the Soil Association’s vision of “a national policy of self-sufficiency in staple foods.”

6 August 2008 at 11:16 pm 1 comment


The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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