New Entrepreneurs in the Famagusta Region: Renewal & Mahallae Challenge winners announced!

After a few months of inspirational ideas, hard work, and community engagement, the winners of the Famagusta Region Challenge have been announced! We would like to thank everyone who engaged with us and the teams throughout the process. The concepts gathered a total of 892 endorsements on the Mahallae platform, so we are really impressed!

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Out of 15 ideas submitted to the Famagusta Region Challenge, 4 were selected to move on to the second phase. During the concept design and community engagement phase, all four finalists proved their social value and have therefore been selected to receive funding and support from Renewal and Mahallae! This support is intended to help them develop a working prototype and solid plans for the future of their initiatives.

You might know who they are by now, but here are the teams and their projects once again:

faRmagusta – a digital tool for communities in the Famagusta – Derynia region for ordering weekly fresh, seasonal, cheap, organic produce from local farmers.

Koridoor – a social sharing economy platform that facilitates social accommodation and social eating between locals and visitors in Famagusta.

Hobba – a mobile phone application that helps people coordinate traveling arrangements from Famagusta to other cities in Cyprus.

Pocket Planter – a web application that provides professional agricultural knowledge to hobbyists and professional farmers alike and connects them with the local marketplace.

Congratulations to all our winners, and thanks to those that participated in this process through comments, endorsements and contributions!

Follow Mahallae and Renewal for updates as the teams begin to implement their projects!

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Introducing… Nicosia is Calling

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As many of you know, one of the many exciting interactive tools that will be hosted by Mahallae is “Nicosia is Calling,” a game for students aged 8-14. The game combines history and learning about the city of Nicosia, its rich cultural heritage and its multicultural past, whilst imagining the city in the future as a unified whole. This week, we talk to Daphne and Shirin from the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR)team about developing the game.

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Mahallae Team: How did you come up with the idea to develop Nicosia is Calling?

Daphne and Shirin: Over its 10 year existence, the AHDR has worked hard in producing new approaches to the learning and teaching of history.  One of their major achievements was the production of supplementary educational materials for educators and young people.

“Nicosia is Calling” was the first education material to be produced by the AHDR and includes a series of booklets addressing students aged 11-12 and 14-16. The booklets enable students to explore Walled Nicosia through various activities, and relate to the following areas of the walled city of Nicosia:

  • Arabahmet Neighbourhood
  • Chrysaliniotissa Neighbourhood
  • Kyrenia Gate
  • Paphos Gate

And then one day whilst flicking the pages of the Nicosia is Callingbooklets, we realized more could be done…. something new, something that makes the shift from traditional learning and academia. 

It was then that we thought of turning these booklets into an on-line game.

In this way the work already produced could be expanded and developed in innovative ways in order to engage more people.  Moreover, the game would allow us to extend our work and include all quarters of Nicosia in order to truly explore the fascinating multicultural past of the city, whilst presenting the city as a whole.

Mahallae Team: So what do you aim to achieve with the game?

Daphne and Shirin: Being aware that we live in a society in Cyprus where people are still afraid to cross to the “other” side, where prejudices and hatred prevail and children especially are exposed to biased views of the past, was one of the major incentives to create an interactive educational game on Nicosia.

We thus wanted to develop an educational platform that would provide young people with a fun way and an interactive tool in which they would learn about the past and present of the old city of Nicosia, its geography, its unique cultural heritage… – and then share it with friends, and challenge them to play as well!

What’s more, all this could be done without having to rely on their teachers or schools, or even needing to leave their computer!  And how brilliant to think that a child in Morphou and child in Paphos could simultaneously understand the truly multicultural past of the city and learn about a common history of Cyprus without limitations.

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* The Nicosia is Calling game is composed of five levels. Above screenshots show a few.

Mahallae Team: And do you have any plans for future development?

Daphne and Shirin: We certainly do, this was just the beginning! We want to further develop the Nicosia is calling game, make it richer in information and options, and even more interactive and fun, and probably also create a Facebook app.  And we also plan to produce a more sophisticated game aimed at young people and adults, where players will learn more about the city’s life and the city’s secrets! In generally, we want to keep on passing onto people the message, that Nicosia is a shared, multi-cultural city with an amazing past, present, and hopefully future!

We are also keen to use this incredible experience and explore the possibilities of knowledge sharing in which similar interactive tools could be developed in other cities in the world!

Mahallae Team: Thank you so much for your answers, Daphne and Shirin! Can’t wait for the full launch of the game with Mahallae later this year!

The “About Us” hoax

by Ellada Evangelou

Working in the field of social innovation, when you come from a language background, has a small twist: you ask “what’s in a name” a lot more than the average person. You reflect on words, you want them to do justice to the work, the often amazing work of social innovators. 

As we continue to mentor the winning teams of Mahallae Challenges on innovation, the use of language has kept me thinking about a few things.

There’s a classic line that the Eskimos have sixty, seventy, one hundred and five different words for snow, depending on whose account you read. It’s the kind of claim that tells us the use of language is intrinsically related –defined even- by the world we live in.

The hypothesis, however, is based on a practice that is the death of accuracy: generalizations. For the hypothesis to work, Eskimos are any peoples living in a cold country and wearing fur (who are not rappers), and “word for snow” is defined as any word associated with the qualities of snow, ice and how those substances behave in nature. It’s not surprising, then, that after further research, the hypothesis has been overturned, termed the “Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax”, with the Pullman article coining the term became compulsory reading for my Sociolinguistics 101 class.

This myth-buster moment, beyond the momentary disappointment that every myth busting entails, opened new possibilities. That as humans, we actually observe the world a lot more carefully than the hypothesis assumed. What we see around us is not merely snow (aka white stuff falling from the sky), but we see the color, the texture, the consistency, the rhythm of snow: the language we use is, in fact, custom-tailored for our world.

The new world that is the World Wide Web has its own snow. In the small habitats that are websites, the effort to become descriptive of their functions, and possibilities is constant. Categories and names are created and established, the internet lingua franca (English) is constantly stretched to serve newness.

inuit-village-greenlandBut it seems we are trapped in yet another hoax, which in turn creates a monotone linguistic environment for websites. Take the classic “About Us”. It’s used to signify that if you click here, you will find information “about the people behind the site”. This constitutes a generic message, which prepares the user for specific information, while at the same time trapping the creative team behind the site in the information it’s supposed to be delivering. The descriptive potential of the naming process is numbed, the special features of each creative team underplayed for the benefit of homogeneity that is created by… well… a need to call everything snow.

Embrace sludge, freezing rain, new-fallen snow, yellow snow, glare ice, purple wax snow, snowflakes, blizzards, avalanches, ice crystal, even a type of snow that only you have noticed.

Think beyond snow.

7 Ways Twitter is like a house party (and why it matters)

by Mehmet Erdogan

As part of our efforts to innovate at Mahallae and UNDP-ACT, we are very keen on the Work out Loud approach. This is why we as the Mahallae team provide ongoing support and mentoring to our winning Challenges teams in designing and implementing succesful social media and outreach strategies.

Yet we sometimes notice confusion and even resistance in our innovating teams towards social media, preventing them from being as good at “talking” as they are at “doing.”

I am wondering whether drawing parallels between Twitter and house parties can help demystify social media and even further encourage its use for working out loud.

1.             When you first show up at the party, who you know matters.

As a beginner to Twitter, you may want to reflect on who you know that already has a solid web presence. These people (“influencers”) can support your visibility by retweeting or mentioning you, opening up new pathways for communication.

Don’t be afraid to crowdsource new contacts, simply by tweeting to ask if your followers have any recommendations for you in line with the work you do. This is not very different than asking your friends to introduce you to people with similar interests at a party. The #FF (Follow Friday) hashtag can also be a fun way of suggesting new contacts to your list.

2.             When you start a conversation at a party, you stay around to watch it develop; you don’t merely suggest a topic and leave.

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Yes, apps such as Hootsuite can tremendously support your online outreach by helping you to schedule tweets and track comments in advance, but only if you show up throughout the week to check and respond to feedback.

Chances are you are already using a smart phone; enable notifications so that you can respond to comments in a timely manner. Of all social media channels, Twitter is perhaps the most real time and unforgiving: a comment a day late is a comment too late.

3.             Have something to offer; don’t be a wallflower.

Many of us feel more comfortable doing the work than discussing it, both in real life and online.

Yet if you want to network successfully, the harsh reality is that you have to strike a balance between modesty and transparency. If you spend the whole party listening to others, chances are you will not be remembered by the next day.

4. Talking a lot doesn’t make you popular; you also have to listen.

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If you want to engage your friends in the long term, you strive for the perfect balance between talking about yourself and listening to them.

If you want to generate followers on Twitter, you want to build a web presence that does not center around your stories, your accomplishments, and your needs.

In the context of social media, this may mean checking your feed regularly, favoriting tweets that matter to you, replying to comments in a relevant and timely manner, and retweeting anything you think your followers may find useful.

5.    Don’t be awkward (how and where you talk about yourself matters).

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You can’t show up next to a group of people discussing Justin Bieberand start talking about peacebuilding; they simply won’t listen to you. Instead, you want to make sure you are talking about the subjects that matter to you with people who also care about the same topic.

Give your subject a context. This is easier on Twitter than at a house party: simply use the relevant hashtags. We at Mahallae find #tech4peace,#innovation, #inno4dev, #genderIT and #Cyprus particularly useful to amplify our work and use them often. Don’t simply tack them at the end of your tweet – find creative ways to work them into your sentences. Don’t use too many (best practice says more than 2 hashtags in one tweet is simply too much.)

6.             Move up the social hierarchy: Help make connections.

Being in a position to introduce people at gatherings is a wonderful way to create a presence for yourself. This works exactly in the same way online, too.

Making connections between people, projects and organizations can help you become a more central figure in your small Twitter universe. Use the previously mentioned #FF tag on a Friday to showcase some of your favorites. Amplify other people’s voices: encourage their efforts, congratulate their successes.

7.             Look good. Or at least, presentable.

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You don’t need to look like a model, but you don’t show up to a house party unshowered and badly dressed, do you?

When new followers click on your name and come to your page, their initial impression of your organization is important.

Do your logo, banner, or overall colors reflect the character of your idea, project or organization? What do your aesthetics communicate about you? Are you approachable – if you were a stranger to this organization, would you feel like you could talk to them? Would you feel like following them would make a positive impact on your life? We know from research that people are more frequently inclined to share positive stories than negative ones; it wouldn’t be much of a leap to say that people are more inclined to follow people with a positive feeling around them.

What do you think? Any other tips to add to the mix? Tweet to us at@mahallae or talk to us on Facebook.

The Story of a Logo

This week we have a chance to hear from Socialholic Typewriter team, one of our 5 winning teams of the Mahallae Challenges.

It was last week that the 5 winning teams of Mahallae Challenge got the chance to meet at a workshop for an exchange of best practices, lessons learned and prototype testing. A warm welcome and friendly faces set the ambience of the meeting. Inspiring people who dare to imagine a better future through projects that can bring about substantial change met for a mutual sharing of ideas.

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Each team shared their story and we shared ours or as we like to call it “The story of a Logo”. The Socialholic Typewriter seeks to create an online, social space where boundaries between dichotomized communities and art forms are overcome; within this re-imagined community,  socialholic creators, that is to say each and everyone of us who uses social media as channels through which to stream their creativity, feel at home.

The project grasps this concept and materialises it. We wanted to offer more than just an online platform; we wanted to offer the experience of collective connectedness. That is when it occurred to us that the logo of the project could become the emblem that could bring a community to life. People felt the need to connect and commit to a project and we felt the need to listen.

That is how the idea behind the competition for the logo was born. We asked designers to submit logos which re-imagined the traditional typewriter in a modern social media era. Open to artists from around the globe the competition managed to collect 184 designs from 60 designers, a number that exceeded our expectations! The word was out there, people were gathering up! The recruited ones commented on the designs and then voted the one they preferred amongst the eight most popular. In this way, we made the logo design a collaborative project that invited writers and illustrators to come together and create, connecting with and building our tribe at the same time.

Some of the designs submitted. We were overwhelmed by the imaginative, creative ways designers interpreted The Socialholic Typewriter!

We had excellent contenders, but the one that seemed to gather a lot of attention was the one that used old typewriter buttons and emoticons, taking a vintage element and coupling it with a metacommunicative pictorial representation of facial expression -omnipresent in our social media era. One of our voters said, ‘Number 116 is my favourite. That immediately spoke to chat/social media because it included an emoticon.‘ Our team also felt that this particular design best communicated the concept of The Socialholic Typewriter as it aims to make the traditionally solitary writing journey, social. Therefore, we decided to take this particular design to the final round and after many changes and adjustments, the result can now be seen on our blog.

This is how the project defines being part of a community, to us it means being engaged in every step of the process, having a voice and an opinion. The need for a communal feeling which promotes an interactive flow of ideas is how the story of the logo began. This is the logo that can help build a community; it sparked interest in a playful way and it was able to inspire a movement even before its online debut.

We would like to thank you for embracing the project and helping us push the boundaries of the conventional ways of creative expression. Stay tuned for more.

Follow us on Twitter @soc_typewriter
Facebook The Socialholic Typewriter

Build Peace 2015

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Hi everyone! We have some very exciting news. The Build Peace 2015 will take place on April 25 & 26 in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Build Peace aims to explore how technology can enhance the impact of a broad range of peacebuilding, social cohesion and peace advocacy initiatives. It brings together the expertise of academics and technologists and on the lived experience of practitioners working to transform conflict around the world. The first conference took place in Boston, MA last year, and as Mahallae, we were very proud to participate and present our platform.

Nicosia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It is also the last divided capital city in the world. This is why we look forward to hosting the conference in Nicosia in 2015; Nicosia not only provides rich ground for discussion, but also issues a collective challenge. We can imagine building peace with technology in a plexiglass building at a high-tech university. But do our ideas stand up in a building, a city and a region steeped in decades of complex conflict and with much greater economic challenges?

We’ll be announcing the conference program and opening registration for the conference in October. Join us to chart the future.

The conference will take place with the support of UNDP ACT in Cyprus.

Introducing new opportunities for Think Tanks and organizations

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The Mahallae team is happy to announce new opportunities for organizations and think tanks from Cyprus and abroad, just on the heels of the completion of our first round of Challenges (in fact, we just announced our winners.)

In light of the renewed negotiations process in Cyprus, we believe there is a strong need for the generation of high quality public policy in order to address crucial issues related to prosperity and stability in a post-settlement Cyprus, as well as to continue building a shared vision for the island.

Through Mediterranean Policy Dialogue we are looking to connect Cypriot organizations with experienced non-Cypriot think tanks to enhance public dialogue in the Euro Mediterranean region. We believe that this dialogue process will help Cypriot organizations to establish relationships with non-Cypriot think tanks that can mentor and support their work, enabling them to draw upon their resources, experiences, and connections.

So what does this mean for you?

If you are a Cypriot organization or a non-Cypriot think tank and have expertise in environment and sustainable energy, participatory governance and inclusive economic development you can apply now to be part of the two rosters we are establishing. On July we will publish a call for proposals, where all organizations in the two rosters will be invited to form partnerships and suggest activities addressing the thematic areas they are interested in.  Grants of up to 150,000 USD will be awarded to projects.

Interested in applying? Please check out more information on our website! Do you know any organizations or think tanks that would benefit? Please feel free to forward this blog post, and contribute to this process of dialogue and empowerment!