It’s a wrap! May 2019
swing kitchen
future_for_fridays
swinging_einhorn
eLab_by_CIEE

When I first discussed how we could grow Swing Kitchen’s community during our kick off meeting with the team, I made a remark that “our people” come together every Friday to demonstrate for climate justice.

At first, the idea for #friesforfuture was a joke.

Yet a joke everyone on the team loved.

We decided to give free fries to everyone who comes to the Swing Kitchen with a protest sign and do so until the school year ends.

However, it’s one thing to have an idea what you’d like to do (and even if it means you’re giving your products away for free).

It’s a whole different story to do so in a way that’s authentic.

I knew that if this idea was to materialize, someone would have to introduce me to the organizers of Fridays for Future.

I knew that if we wanted for this to succeed, the information about our offer had to come from within, so as it usually goes, I started talking to everyone about what we’d like to do until I met the right person who introduced me to the FfF team.

For the past couple of weeks and every Friday, I’ve started going to the demos.

And every week I was able to make an announcement on stage, welcome pupils and students at the Swing Kitchen, and give them free fries.

Having Swing Kitchen as a client is amazing for several reasons. The company is 100% vegan and sustainable. It was founded by an animal activist with the motivation to end animal suffering. It’s also a company from Vienna and I get to work on this project with old friends.

So many wins.

In the upcoming months, we’re planning a number of great events and also a special collaboration with Einhorn Berlin, which should be a lot of fun.

Yet, the month wasn’t just fun; the most challenging part of May was when I decided to discontinue a project I was incredibly excited about at first. I wrote a much more detailed article explaining the circumstances of what happened.

This past month, I’ve also worked on the messaging for eLab, which is a 6-week course for people who’d like to become entrepreneurs.

First, I’ve worked on their digital marketing strategy. I’ve refined their target group, which led to us deciding to change the messaging on the website.

eLab’s courses are ideal for several target groups, however, and given eLab mostly relies on paid ads, we’ll be targeting people who wish to make a career change and recent graduates seeking international experience.

The website with the new messaging should go live within the next couple of weeks.

I’m currently taking on remote work for the upcoming weeks, as I’ll be traveling around Europe in July. If you or someone you know needs help with online positioning or copywriting, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Not every (freelance) project goes right. And one should own even the bad experiences.

When I first received a call whether I could help launch a Startnext campaign that was nominated for the German Integration Prize, I was really excited about the opportunity. I’d get to work with a publishing house I admire deeply. I really liked the team and the project.

When we ended the collaboration a whole month before originally planned, and also just a few days after the public launch of the project, I was straight-down relieved.

This isn’t the usual success story, yet one that I believe deserves some thoughts, so here is my personal narrative of a project that didn’t go as expected.

With a four-week runway and the internally set goal, the task was challenging. Yet, knowing the background of the project, it was also doable.

They often say if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

There’s something very true about that sentiment, as it’s got to do with how tasks are being executed. If you want to go fast, then have someone set the direction, trust them, and execute on those tasks immediately and without questioning. If you want to go far, as a leader, your job is to include the team in the ideation of solutions to create shared ownership. With a team of intelligent people, those results are mostly better. They also require time for ideas to properly flourish.

This wasn’t a project to “go far.” This was a project that needed quick execution and for everyone to move fast.

Given the short preparation period, I understood the team that usually works together brings in an external lead to go fast instead.

However, going fast requires trust. We didn’t know each other. And I failed to build the trust necessary to work fast.

When taking on the role, and knowing we only had four weeks, I wasn’t prepared to have my plans up for negotiations. I assumed (one should never assume) we all had a shared understanding of our goal and would do anything to just push through until we succeeded with what we set out to do. I never thought that once I became part of the team, I’d have to negotiate my suggestions and things would only become considered relevant once someone from outside the team gave the same advice.

Even before I got on board, the team already started planning things; they had already booked a film team to shoot their video. There was no time left to discuss the big vision of the project, why it was important for this project to happen, and how - with their plan to crowdsource the contents of the book – they were planning to involve their community.

Time for a short discourse into the theory of community strategy...

In an advertising campaign, you generally talk about yourself.

If you want to create a movement, you talk about your advocates.

A movement starts with a small group of passionate people. Your challenge is to build a framework that allows people to participate and come up with their own ideas.

To create a movement, you should focus all your comms around two ingredients: change and participation.

Change = how will your vision change the status quo?

Participation = how will your community shine when getting involved? How does your project add to their social status?

Having a big vision – especially when crowdfunding – is crucial.

Essentially, you’re asking people to monetarily contribute to an idea.

When asking people for money, they must immediately understand the benefit, mostly their own benefit.

The question is: why should people want to be part of whatever you’re planning to do, when it means they also need to pay a fee to become a part of your “community”?

And so, we shot the video. With a script that mostly focused on the past. Not the future.

In a community, you want people to know your plans before you ask them for money. With a four-week runway, that means you’ll most likely have to start communicating to your community immediately. However, we weren’t communicating with the community. We were discussing the mechanics of the campaign and millions of other logistical questions. We were running a grassroots democratic movement within our team. Everyone had a say. Everyone was involved in everything.

Already after one week, I started growing impatient.

I felt the ticking clock.

The team didn’t.

The team wasn’t used to working with such a high time pressure. They were used to working together. And the discrepancies in our work styles, as you can imagine, led to several discussions with the founder of the publishing house.

“I want you to see the two authors as queens and serve them the options on a silver tableau for them to choose what they think is right,” was most likely the one sentence I’ll never forget about this project. With a four-week runway, I didn’t look for options to present to anyone. We had no time to look around and consider all the possibilities we could have if there was enough time. My plan was to assign responsibilities and have everyone get to work fast. I’m used to working with people who speak up whenever they hit a wall – mental or logistical – to speed up even more. My plan was simply to execute on proven strategies.

With this project, I didn’t see my role as a servant; I saw the urgency to become a captain.

However (and as people who’ve worked with me know) while I might have strong opinions, I don’t push them onto people. I say my opinion and what I consider to be a good strategy. If someone pushes back or in another direction, I’ll let them have their way.

By the end of the second week, I felt rising frustration.

We were nowhere close to where we should have been. Every small step was being extensively discussed and questioned. And the founder of the company decided to step up and take over the lead and thus, my role.

Meanwhile I retreated to working on support tasks. Given no one asked for what I believed we should focus on (it wasn’t considered important even when I was leading the project), I kept my thoughts to myself and instead focused on checking off the list of tasks for the launch event. Those things just had to get done. It was easy and at least no one had to deal with me not being at ease about the whole project, which was even complimented at some point.

When running a crowdfunding campaign, it’s about standing at the forefront of a movement.

It’s about explaining why and how you’re the right person to lead such a movement. Crowdfunding is about storytelling. It’s about knowing the first follower theory. Crowdfunding is also about showing who else believes and stands behind your movement.

The (surprising) thing about press coverage when crowdfunding

The one thing that’s been exceptional about this project was the press coverage. I spent the first couple of days pulling together resources for a solid press kit and wrote a press release. The founder of the publishing house hired an exceptional PR manager, who after a short briefing session, immediately got to work and managed to secure coverage in various major German news outlets and blogs.

The difficult thing with crowdfunding is that while press is important to boost one’s credibility, it hardly ever attracts backers. The reason is something that I picked up on many years ago; it takes at least seven touch points for people to convert. Given a crowdfunding campaign usually runs for only 30 days, one must generate several touch points within that period of time. While press might be the first touch point for a potential customer and might put a project on people’s radar, it will take a few other touch points to spark people’s interest. They might need to also see it mentioned on Instagram or hear about it from a friend.

The secret to attracting backers when crowdfunding

I remember one time when I was sitting on the tram listening to a guy telling his girlfriend about a Kickstarter project he supported. He was so excited to be a backer and the whole team could hear that. When talking about storytelling, having people tell others about your crowdfunding project over dinner, coffee, or when sitting on public transport is what you eventually want. The question is, what stories are you going to tell that will make people want to engage with your project?

Usually, it’s backstage stories. It’s the stories that inspire others. It’s stories that expose people to new ideas and experiences. When running a crowdfunding campaign, one needs to turn into a storytelling machine for 30 days.

One of the main mistakes during crowdfunding is to boil down the messaging to how much money one needs. While it’s natural for people to talk about what THEY want and need, the most successful campaigners manage to look outside their own bubble. They make people click through catchy headlines and engaging storytelling. It’s implied that a project already has a community and isn’t starting from scratch when the project goes live.

The other strategy is to create shared experiences; attend and speak at meetups where one’s target group gathers, and if there aren’t any or enough of them, one can create their own event series and invite people to come together.

At that point, and instead of trying to get things my way, I focused on pulling everything together to make sure the launch event was a success.

A launch event is important for several reasons. The positive energy boosts the spirit of the team and also has the potential to engage a large number of ambassadors who will back simultaneously.

If done right, people are going to tell others about their experiences and every attendee might make a few other people more aware of the project.

In this specific case, we had raised €3,500 within the first 24 hours from the people we gathered at our event. While this was a great success, it wasn’t quite where we needed to be in order to stick to our timeline.

If you’re a freelancer, you might be curious about the financial side of things.

As an independent worker, I’m dependent on projects working out. Each and every project is a potential reference for the future and thus it’s important to know what projects to take on or not.

Before we started our collaboration, we set up a contract and included a payment plan. In this specific case, I agreed to a success-based fee applicable if we reached or exceeded our internal goal. Obviously, seeing what we were at a few days after the launch, I knew it was unlikely for the bonus to materialize. Given how things were going within the team, I faced many internal battles.

Am I really getting things that wrong?

Is my approach really the wrong approach or the right approach?

Why am I having such a hard time with this project?

And why are the others having such a hard time working with me?

Much of our struggles within the team were due to interpersonal communication.

What I said and apparently how I said things didn’t make the specific tasks feel urgent.

I failed at explaining why I believed certain measures mattered to the level of detail people might have needed to follow through.

Maybe I never introduced my background extensively enough for people to understand the level of my experience.

Maybe it would have helped.

Maybe it’s too late to think about maybes.

Right after the launch day, I had scheduled four days off. When I came back, the founder and I needed to catch up and discuss where we were and where we were heading. On this call, we mutually agreed for me to leave the team and make the mid-project payment the last.

With the bonus on the horizon, I agreed to a reduced fee, which, given the extensive number of hours I worked on the day we launched the project publicly (which was also the first day of the new payment period according to our contract), my project fee turned into my regular fee.

Obviously, based on my experience, I could already predict the project wouldn’t meet its internal goal, which was also the goal used to calculate expenses.

My dilemma was whether I should just keep my fee at the reduced fee, or cash up the fee by the hours I worked post launch as stated in our contract.

I decided on the latter. I figured it was the more professional thing to do. It was also the more feminist thing to do.

The client paid the bill without any pushbacks.

Financially, it was just another project and having gotten my regular fee makes it easier to just close the chapter and move on.

On a personal level and having hoped we’d get to work together more often, it’s a bad reference in my portfolio that if someone asks them how it is to work with me, it won’t lead to additional projects. More likely, it will lead to a damaged reputation.

And that’s a shame. Yet, I must move on.

I guess not every project goes right. And one should own even the bad experiences.

Architecture in Berlin, now on Etsy!
guide to Berlin

If you happen to travel to Berlin, I might have something for you. During the winter, I watched a ridiculous number of architecture and history documentaries about the city and given I really like to create things, I’ve turned my obsession into a pocket-sized guide to Berlin’s architecture. It might be a handy gift or something you might give to yourself for your next trip. The print run was limited, so please get it before it’s all gone.

It’s a wrap! April 2019

Right at the start of the month, Moriz Piffl, Sebastian Rahs, and I kicked off our collaboration to introduce The Swing Kitchen, a vegan burger fast food restaurant to Berlin. We’re currently planning a series of events, partnerships, and other fun initiatives to put the restaurant on the map for all the cool kids out there. This will be a lot of fun!

I was also lucky to be introduced to the team at CIEE’s eLab, which is a 6-week course to help people learn business skills and validate their ideas to also help them scale from the start. The course launched early this year and after the initial beta-phase, eLab is now looking to attract more participants who’d like to become entrepreneurs. They’ve commissioned me to help them translate the high-level strategy they’ve worked on with another agency, and help them develop an actionable marketing plan by defining their messaging, the timing of their communication, and the most suitable platforms.

The most challenging project I got involved with is the crowdfunding campaign for the community edition of the Mama Superstar book, which recently got nominated for the German Integration Prize. While I’ve said just a couple of weeks ago I’d not get involved with crowdfunding, I felt like I should make one more exception and help turn this book into a movement. In the first book, Melisa Manrique and Manik Chander portrayed 11 migrant women and their daughters. For this second book, we plan to crowdsource the content and also the funding to realize it. I’m half panicking, half excited about it because it’s such an incredible vision that I really wanted to be a part of this project’s realization.

Also my TEDx talk was finally published, which also fits the fact that I’ve concluded my lectures at the New Design University for this semester. And given it’s all about side projects, I’m happy to announce you can now by #kathmoscards themed Architecture in Berlin on Etsy.

I still have capacities to take on exciting projects if you happen to need help with some community building initiative. For the summer, I’m mostly looking for copy writing/strategy work I can do remotely. Hit me up if there is something we could work on together. I’d love that!

How to use social media in a non-toxic way

Recently I’ve moved the Instagram app to a folder on the second screen of my iPhone. Just like many of you, I feel growing social media fatigue. Then again, I’ve never felt envious, sad or any of the other emotions so many news sites report to be the everyday reality for many. Personally, I do believe social media has been a great enabler for all of us creatives. My TEDx talk on how to use social media in a non-toxic way is finally live. If you have 15 minutes to spare, I’d love to invite you to listen to my thoughts.

It’s a wrap! March 2019
tedxlend
travel story guides
#oriontheofficemanager
SarahReindl
guide to Berlin

March was my third month in a row of having almost no paid projects. The beginning of the year is usually quiet. Yet, I wasn’t expecting things to be quiet for that long.

For the sake of transparency, I should probably explain what’s been going on in that time.

On one hand, and right at the beginning of the year, I started talking to a Berlin-based startup about taking on a full-time job. After seven weeks, four rounds of interviews, and me handing over a strategy deck I’d usually charge almost €3,000 for, they declined and decided to look for someone who fits the profile of a social media manager. It was disappointing because I said in our first conversation (and after I was recommended to them) that I don’t believe social media is how one should attempt to build a business-related community anymore. In my opinion, social has turned into a one-way street and people are getting tired of it.

The second reason why I didn’t have much paid work was my TEDx talk at the end of February. I know that on the video, it always looks so easy. However, the reality is that it takes a lot of practice to get to that point. One (me) completely freaks out about the importance of TEDx, as it’s probably going to remain on the first page of Google forever and ever. I was stressing out about my talk for half of January and most of February with no mental space to try to do anything else but talk to that one company.

At this point, I’d really like to share something about practicing for speaking at TEDx.

A couple of weeks before the talk, I stumbled upon the famous TED talk by Amy Cuddy who explains the importance of body language. It does come with logistical challenges because how is someone supposed to go about trying to do the power pose while sitting in the audience and doing literally what they’re not supposed to be doing - reading the speaker notes.

As I was sitting there, I realized a musician was on stage and he started performing. I immediately got up and went to the back to join the team. Everyone was slowly moving to the melody of the songs, so I joined in.

The music got wilder. We started dancing faster.

We danced.

And danced.

The music stopped and it was my big moment to go on stage.

At that time, there was no more fear. Just joy. And relief. That soon this will be over.

Wow.

But back to what was happening in March.

People always ask me, what one does as a freelancer when there are no paid projects.

In the past whenever I didn’t have any paid projects, I used the time to write the books that I published.

Now I know it was the right thing to focus on projects that filled my soul more than my pocket, as it’s thanks to these three books that I got a number of my clients, press coverage, and the reason why I was asked to speak at TEDx in the first place.

For years, I’ve mostly been following my curiosity and trying to make sense of things I wanted to know more about. Since last year, I’ve been working on a book about social food gatherings, which seems to be much more challenging for me than the three books I’ve published so far. It seems like the more experience one has, the more effort it takes to work on projects without having a preoccupied mind. It’s still in progress and I’m still not sure where this journey will lead me and who’ll help me collaborate on this, but I know writing these stories is filling my soul and helping me practice a different style of writing.

Not having much paid work also gives me the necessary mental space to re-think my habits, analyze what I consume, and implement changes.

Last year I decided to go vegan, which is easy to live by at home, but not so easy once you leave your door. If you’re wondering how someone goes from meat eater to vegan, it was mostly thanks to Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals that made me decide to quit animal products. But of course, implementing changes isn’t easy, so it took until the end of the year for me to buy a container to make my own lunches in the morning. I got one from Berlin Eco Brotbox and I’m so in love with this decision. It’s really been life changing and money saving at the same time.

I’ve also finally bought a can for organic trash and have been feeling incredibly happy every time I’d go downstairs to empty it. I realized most of what I consume can be recycled and I don’t actually make that much trash, given I buy most of my groceries at the farmer’s market (a change I implemented in 2016) and try to avoid regular supermarkets as much as I can.

I’ve also experimented with solid bar shampoos and found the most amazing one from Rosenrot Manufaktur, which was first gifted to me by Sarah Reindl from Das Gramm in Graz, who I met during the TEDx event. I also no longer use shower gel. Instead I’ve bought a soap bag made out of sisal, which helps soaps foam.

I’m sharing this here because reducing one’s trash and opting in for the more sustainable options is hard, takes effort, and often needs role models to even understand what’s possible. And of course, because it’s not that one doesn’t do anything when there are no paid projects. One can take the time to pursue personal passions and try to work out how one can live up to one’s values.

It’s been good.

But it’s not like I had nothing to do in March. It was the month I started teaching social media again at the New Design University. I’ve recently published a case study on how I’ve designed the curricula, so before going into much detail, I’d love to invite you to read it if you’d like to learn more about my approach.

Additionally, I’ve also helped the team at Vollpension submit a funding proposal for an exciting project they’re currently working on.

And of course, I was looking for projects, which is why I’m currently fully booked for April, but happy to take on new clients from May and June on. Last but not least, I’m currently looking for remote projects for the summer as I’m planning a bigger trip around Europe. But on that another time! Thank you for reading to this bittersweet end.

Case Study: Social Media for Designers and how I’ve designed the curricula of my lectures

In a recent conversation, I was accused of being very critical for saying social media’s broken. While I might have never phrased it so bluntly, it would be a lie if I denied my somewhat differentiated view on the possibilities of social media.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a TEDx talk in which I publicly said I love social media. I love social media because it allows everyone to be and become the person they want to be. If someone wants to be a photographer, they don’t need a magazine to share their photographs with the world. If someone wants to be a TV moderator, they don’t necessarily need a TV channel to declare them good enough to be one. And if someone wants to be a writer, they don’t need a publishing house to select them as one of a few and proclaim them good enough to be writers. It’s, of course, nice to collaborate with such organizations and professionalize one’s efforts, yet one is free to start off with zero followers and often only need limited funds to get a venture off the ground. As someone who’s published three books that still sell via Amazon and also created several travel guides one can buy on Etsy, I’d say I have a general understanding of what’s possible when you use the internet as a tool. For my projects, I acquired the needed seed funding via Kickstarter and never needed to convince a professional gatekeeper before I began working on any of these projects.

Since last year, I’ve been teaching social media for designers at the New Design University in St. Pölten. In 2016, the university where I studied approached me about teaching one of their elective courses. There was no specific curricula, so I was free to decide what I thought was essential to convey within the 22.5 hours I have with the students.

In my lectures, I don’t talk much about the algorithms of the different platforms. I know these will be changing in a way I myself can’t comprehend and certainly not predict. I want the students to understand the bigger picture. I don’t really talk about Instagram and Facebook all that much. Just like MySpace, StudiVZ, uboot, MSN, ICQ, and who knows what other platforms, also the ones that have been around for a while, they will all eventually be replaced or how we use them will change.

My approach to social media might be different. Often, I find myself explaining the difference between community management and social media management, and thus I’d like to explain what I do with my students in my lectures on social media.

Class Project

I’ll either I ask my students to come up with a project proposal and either share their progress for 100 consecutive days (which is an exercise based on my observations of the Great Discontent’s collaboration with Elle Luna). Or, I ask them to create a collection of creative products and sell those through one of the platforms available (my approach to how I use social), which is an exercise that invites students to think about marketing and sales. I don’t judge the quality of my students’ output, and they’re also free to start a new account or even use a fake name if they don’t feel comfortable attaching their name to the quality of what they create when they first start. With my lectures and how the assignment is designed, I encourage creativity, curiosity, and the willingness to practice.

1st lecture

We live in times where people strive for perfection. We only show perfect work. We only show our perfect vacations. We only show the best sides. Such one-sided perspective has effects on how we feel about ourselves after using social media, which is what’s often discussed in the news.

Anyone who’s worked with teens and students, or even has honest conversations with adults, will realize what affect such an approach to social media has on the mental health of people. Thus, in the first lecture, I talk about how social media has changed what’s possible to achieve for creatives and how everyone can use it as a tool to find and be found by their community online. I talk about gatekeepers. I explain my journey and how I got to be where I am today, and most importantly, I talk about the creative process. I show this video:

A question I get asked a lot is: “How do I gain followers and likes?” My answer to that is: “Come up with something that’s close to your heart that you already do or would like to learn more about and improve.” I ask my students to make, and I ask my students to create. I believe that the people who connected with you because of something you’re passionate about will be the most valuable people for your projects and your passion. I don’t care if that’s five people or 50,000 – that’s why I teach how to frame creative projects and genuinely talk about them.

There’s no cheap and easy way to build up a reputation overnight. Success on social media is a multiplication of courage (to share what you’re curious about), creativity (the willingness to improve your skills), and continuity (it takes a while for people to recognize the value in your work).

If someone opts in to create a collection and sell it, the real ask is for them to think hard about how they create value and communicate it to their potential customers. The task is to adopt a service and human-centered mindset instead of just following their personal curiosity and practicing dedication to personal development.

To my surprise – and with much acknowledgment for their dedication – most of my students opt in for the #100day challenge.

2nd lecture

Do you remember Nir Eyal’s book Hooked? When I first read it in 2014, I was trying to figure out how we needed to adapt various product features of Somewhere.com to make people come back. To me, social media had a huge potential to revolutionize the way we converse. I saw it as a tool to encourage bottom-up movements. I believed the internet would be a place to find “the others,” which was also the guiding sentence of what we were doing at Somewhere. We wanted people to find their like-minds to collaborate.

To me, social media was social, and it’s also how I’ve used it since my early teens.

When I first moved to Austria in 2000, I used to go on ICQ and find people in the area. I chatted to them for some time and eventually met for a coffee. Social Media was an incredible way to find mentors and learn from inspiring people. Instagram, for example, has made it easy to create meaningful connections and I met many people on these platforms.

However, and due to the continuous professionalization of different platforms, social media has become less about connecting people. In my personal view, it’s become less “social.” Instead, brands now use social media to advertise their products. I’d even say, social has become much more about e-commerce.

Research indicates using social media has increased – not decreased – loneliness and depression. Facebook’s own former president, Sean Parker, said their platform was “exploiting the vulnerability in human psychology.” To me, and as a lecturer, I feel I’m responsible for helping my students understand how to use social in ways that won’t cause any of that, while also teaching them how to not have such an effect on others.

In a way, social media has always been about e-commerce. Thanks to social, creators can find customers. Once brands have become aware of the potential of these alternative platforms to their somewhat traditional sales channels, they too began using social to help boost their revenue. What happened is that the big fish started fishing in the ponds of the small fish, and while it’s still possible to generate revenue as a small fish, it must be acknowledged it’s become harder.

That’s why I use this lecture to raise awareness of how different social platforms generate revenue and help them understand how they can utilize these platforms to make a living. In this second lecture, we discuss the different business model of different platforms. We discuss what their role is on the different platforms; we talk about them as consumers and as creators, and we also talk about how to use the different platforms to build their own livelihood by becoming creators.

I believe that if someone understands the business model of a platform and a company, that they can also understand what role such company wants for them to play. I believe that gaining awareness of a company’s motivation enables everyone to make conscious decisions and choices, and to think about what role they want to play in the bigger construct of social channels.

In this lecture, I also show the first part of Adam Curtis’ Century of the Self to teach my students more about propaganda. I also discuss with them the main concepts described in Martin Lindstrom’s book Brandwashed.

3rd lecture

It’s hard for me to even imagine how it was when access to knowledge was limited to what someone pre-selected to make available at “my” local library. We have a vast amount of information, inspiration, and the possibility to get direct advice at our fingertips at any moment. Most of us carry the necessary devices in our pockets. When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing what’s possible.

In the third lecture, my students and I talk about collaboration and networking. In a way, it’s something I focus on in all of my lectures, given I ask my students to only give feedback using “yes, and..” instead of using “but.” I want for my students to proactively think about how they could contribute to someone else’s success, and help others get ahead with their projects. I don’t tolerate negativity. I want for my students to listen to others and build on top of one another’s ideas.

In each and every lesson, we discuss what’s happened since we last saw each other and what reactions everyone’s been getting about their projects. I team up my students in small groups and have them give feedback for each other’s projects and genuinely offer support.

In this third lecture, we also talk about how they can turn their projects into products and make those available for sale. We talk about how to present oneself online to potential employers or how to build up ground to generate a portfolio of possible income streams.

At this point, I’d like to highlight that I don’t think students should go freelance or become entrepreneurs straight out of uni. I think it’s essential to join companies and learn from more senior people. However, I want for my students to gain a general understanding of what it means to generate revenue with their creativity and how they could do that.

4rd lecture

In the final lecture, everyone gets to present and reflect on their creative project, share their learnings, insights, and also talk about their future plans. Again, everyone is encouraged to become more aware of how they communicate with one another and give supportive feedback. I don’t want my students to become self-proclaimed experts and entrepreneurs. I want them to become more self-aware creatives who understand their roles and their potential within the creative community.

Often, one question might be how do I reach my followers if a platform becomes less interesting to the people who follow me there? I’d say the question is only partly relevant, given that if people find value in what you create, they’ll also find a way to continue following you. If there’s value in what you share and you’ve created a sustainable platform for yourself, it’s likely that following will transfer. You might find this article Status as Service by Eugene Wei interesting.

Communication exercises

One of the most significant things I do in all my classes is I make my students talk to one another a lot. With around 36 students, it’s not an easy task to plan enough time for everyone to be heard, so I experiment with how I structure my classes. For example, at the start of each session, I ask my students to get up and sit next to someone they’ve never talked to in the past. It’s pretty awkward during the first session because it tempts to alienate everyone. My aim, however, is to break apart existing social circles and equalize everyone. I randomly team up people for feedback sessions and teach them how to give such. I generally make them more aware of how they communicate with one another. And I also work with conversation menus to inspire them to have a different kind of conversations. The way I approach teaching has been greatly influenced by what I’ve learned from following Sherry Turkle’s research on how technology has impacted how we communicate with one another as a society.

In the ideal case, my students become more aware of the opportunities the social web is providing them with. I want them to understand how to use social media as a tool.

If they’ve managed to follow through with their project, they’ve also gained a reference for their portfolio or even have worked on something they can monetize in the future.

Most of all, I hope my classes inspire my students to understand how to use social without it overtaking their lives.

I hope my classes help them become better communicators, and ask better questions. I hope they understand how to use social media to learn from self-chosen mentors while also understanding how to make others aware of what they are really passionate about.

What I teach is probably not what anyone who’s signed up for my classes expected them to be, yet I find these insights and gaining such understanding to be much more powerful than understanding how Instagram is changing their algorithm to manipulate us into doing something that helps Instagram generate profit from our data.

It’s a wrap! February 2019
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First and foremost, I’m still looking for projects. In the past, I’ve worked with online services, financial services, agencies, hospitality-focused businesses, design studios, and social businesses, and I’d love to find projects in those fields to help build their communities. If you know of someone who wants to create interesting formats to engage their customers and community members, please get in touch.

I’ve mostly spent February hiding in my home office. Given I’m teaching at the New Design University again in March, I’ve launched another small Kickstarter project to get an idea of how easy (or hard) it is to have people click on links shared on social media channels. I want to set up my students for success, so I like to test what’s realistic to ask them to accomplish within the short period of time I spend with them in the classroom. While last year I still thought having them launch a project on Kickstarter was a realistic option, I’ve decided not to do so this year. There were only about 240 views on my latest Kickstarter campaign within the two weeks it was live, which, compared to my first campaign that had over 4K views and was live for three weeks, is really close to nothing. The campaign was successful nevertheless, but it’s no longer something I’d say is as easy as I thought it once was.

However, I do need to recognize that it’s my continuous effort of creating and making that eventually got me on the TEDx stage this past month. Giving a TEDx talk was a great honor and gave me the opportunity to share my story and encourage others to create, regardless of whether one produces a best-seller, but just to give someone the necessary motivation to learn something new. With this latest side project of mine, I can at least say I know a lot about Berlin’s architecture having watched countless documentaries and written 50 short summaries to pass on some of the knowledge to my Kickstarter backers. Writing those descriptions was most certainly a really good exercise, making me think really hard how to tell a story with just a few sentences.

I’d also like to mention at this point that giving a TEDx talk is an incredible team effort; I got help editing my speech from the wonderful Rebecca Burton. As the TEDx organization provides everyone with a speaker trainer, I was fortunate to have worked with Tim Cox who trained me on intonation and the delivery of the speech. Most of all, I was very grateful for the teleprompter the team at TEDxLend provided me with, given there were some brief moments when I stood on stage and my mind felt quite blank. Luckily, my best friend said it was really good and no one noticed. We’ll see that in three months when the talk will be live on the TED website.

One of the highlights of the month was my trip to Helsinki. I went there to see where Restaurant Day started. I’ve been obsessing about community building and what role food plays in that, and have also slowly edited five stories for the book I’m currently working on. I should have them ready soon to publish on this blog too. All I can say is that there is a lot one can do to program interesting gatherings at about any sort of space or even within a company. Maybe also something that we could do together. What do you think?