PopTech Blog

Create a memory book of special places with new app from Ken Banks

This blog post was contributed by PopTech Fellow Ken Banks. It was originally published on kiwanja.net and has been condensed and edited.

It’s no secret to readers that for a while now I’ve been attempting to get back into coding. This, combined with a growing interest in building sustainability into many of my projects, has fueled my interest in the potential of mobile apps to build out some of my ideas.

Today sees the launch of my first experimental app. While I didn’t write the code it’s been a useful exercise in understanding the process of app design, app development, testing and publishing. Hopefully the coding piece will fall into place in the new year.

There’s nothing better than scratching your own itch, so my first app does just that. Say hello to “for my children.”

“for my children” is a simple app I wish my mother had before she died. It would have let her share those places that were special in her life. Her first school. First home. Favorite cafe. First job. The place she met my father. The old playground she played in as a child – which is now a block of flats. Places I would love to visit and stand today if I only knew where they were.

“for my children” effectively lets you create your own memory book of special places so your friends, your family, your children – and their children – can one day walk in your footsteps and revisit them. I know it’s something I want to use, and hope you feel the same.

I can also imagine this being useful for early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s sufferers, helping them capture memories for family while they still can.

It’s only available in the Apple App Store at the moment but we’re planning on building out an Android version soon assuming we generate the income. The online sharing functionality will also come later, budgets permitting. If you like the app and think others might too, please share on your social media and your blog. And if you download it, consider rating it in the App Store. Good ratings will be vital if we’re to develop the idea further. Thank you. 

Can design improve human health? Let's find out

The social design process – human centered design principles, methods and tools – is being used by a rapidly growing number of funders, designers and social organizations as an approach to solving complex social problems. An enormous buzz (and a sizable industry), has emerged around design’s potential for increasing impact, yet no comprehensive effort has been undertaken to document, measure or analyze its benefits, until now.

On January 24, a stellar group of leaders will come together to share best practices and develop a template for measuring the impact of social design at The Measured Summit: Measuring the Impact of Social Design on Human Health. Participants include Maggie Breslin from The Patient Revolution; Rosanne Haggerty from Community Solutions; Tracy Johnson from the Gates Foundation; Kippy Joseph from The Rockefeller Foundation; Anne LaFond from John Snow Inc.; Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group; Doug Powell from IBM; Gustav Praekelt of the Praekelt Foundation; Heather Flemming of Catapult Design; and Jake Porway of DataKind.

If you’re a designer, funder, NGO, non-profit or business, social design is important to your future. Join us and SVA Design for Social Innovation for what will be an insightful gathering. We hope to see you there! 

When: Tuesday, January 24
Where: SVA Beatrice Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
Registration: Seating is limited! Tickets are $385 and can be purchased here

Support PopTech on Giving Tuesday!

The holiday season is almost upon us! As you purchase gifts for loved ones and snag a new device for yourself on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, we hope you’ll take a moment to make a gift to The PopTech Fund for Social Good on Giving Tuesday.

November 29 is Giving Tuesday, an annual global day of giving that inspires people to give back to organizations and causes that help create a better world. Gifts to The PopTech Fund for Social Good enable us to fulfill our mission to accelerate work in the social change sector, a commitment PopTech has been dedicated to for over a decade. In 2017 the Fund will provide support to two flagship activities: the PopTech Fellows programs and Antigone in Ferguson, a collaborative endeavor between PopTech and Outside the Wire.

Since 2008, the PopTech Fellows programs have identified, trained and mentored over 160 innovators and scientists who are changing the game in global health, violence cessation, poverty alleviation, environmental protection and conservation.

Antigone in Ferguson, launched at PopTech 2016, explores the potential of artistic endeavor to heal communities struggling with racial inequity and social injustice. In collaboration with alumni PopTech Fellow Bryan Doerries and his social impact theater company Outside the Wire, we will work with communities across the United States to create constructive dialogue intended to bridge the growing divide between citizens and law enforcement. Our work will include live productions of Antigone in Ferguson, the creation of a documentary short film to expand the reach of live performances and the development of an interactive curriculum for use by schools, civic groups and police academies.

A gift to PopTech is a gift towards shaping our collective future. Please consider supporting our social change work in one of the following ways:

  • Donate to The PopTech Fund for Social Good. Gifts large and small make a tremendous difference. All contributions are fully tax deductible and donations over $3000 will receive a complimentary ticket to PopTech 2017. If your company offers a matching gift program, please help us amplify the value of your donation by submitting your contribution for a match. 
  • Join us for PopTech 2017! Your purchase of a conference ticket makes our annual community gathering possible and fuels our core mission work. Bonus: $500 of your conference ticket purchase is tax deductible.

On behalf of the PopTech team, Fellows, and board members, thank you for your generosity and for being a valuable member of the PopTech community!

PopTech is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

What is the science of adventure?

This post was contributed by Jon Levy, a human behavior scientist who studies influence and adventure. Be sure to watch his talk on the science of adventure from PopTech: Culture Clash.

For over a decade, I have been asking people the same question: What was the most adventurous experience of your life?

Usually, people will respond by describing a perfect night out that they believe was brought together by serendipity or pure chance. But, ask yourself: If it were random, wouldn’t we all lead similarly exciting lives? The reality is that we don’t.

Many people will spend their nights curled up with a great book. Others will stop at nothing to discover every part of the world, no matter what risks are involved. I was curious, what is it that the more adventurous embody that lead them to such exciting lives?

This would mean we could hack adventure the way others hack nutrition, fitness and work. As a human behavior scientist and host of the Influencers Dinner, I have traveled the world trying to figure this out, but to tackle this challenge, we need to begin by understanding: What is an adventure?

Unsatisfied with how broad the dictionary definition was, I developed my own. An adventure is an experience that is:

  1. Exciting and remarkable. We have spent a millennia passing down our knowledge through an oral history. If something is not remarkable, it is not culturally relevant.
  2. Possesses adversity and/or risk, preferably perceived risk. There must be a challenge to overcome and a risk of success or failure. Although the brain processes an imminent danger differently than a perceived one, the physiological response is incredibly similar. It’s like the difference between skydiving, which is statistically safe and climbing Everest, which has a high risk of death. You can still feel the rush of crossing boundaries without putting yourself in actual peril.
  3. Brings about growth. The person you are at the end of the experience is distinct from the person who started.

Contrary to popular belief, great adventures require preparation. Although sometimes they happen unexpectedly, there are certain characteristics that are always present. Every adventure follows a four-stage process and each stage has specific characteristics that when you apply them, life becomes exciting.

1. Establish

The right elements are put in place so that anything can happen. In order of priority:

  • People: The right group can turn a miserable experience into a fun night. The wrong group can make a great event awful. Research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler found that our social networks — friends, family, coworkers — have the ability to influence our behaviors up to 4 degrees away. The takeaway: Choose your friends wisely.
  • Location: Go somewhere new. Research has shown that the brain operates differently in unfamiliar environments, pushing us to explore.
  • Mission: Having a goal will bond the participants and push them forward in the face of difficulty.
  • Constraints: Limiting your options catalyzes creativity in problem solving and approach.

When these elements are established, adventures are more likely to occur.

2. Push Boundaries

Since adventures require growth, you must cross some social, physical or emotional boundary. This may mean climbing a high peak, serenading strangers on the subway, or talking your way into a nightclub. The objective is to push just outside of your comfort zone.

3. Increase

The key is to maximize the emotional value of whatever environment you are in. You leverage surprises, challenges, intrigue and entertainment to engage people.

4. Continue

At the fourth stage, you decide to either continue onto another location or end with style. If you continue on, you loop back through the process by selecting a new location where you cross boundaries, increase and continue once more.

If you don’t continue, you end with style. Research by Daniel Kahneman finds that we disproportionately value peaks and ends of an experience. You may be on the most incredible date of your life. However, if your date says something offensive in the last seconds, you’ll remember the experience negatively. The key is to end on a positive note.

As you adventure through life know The E.P.I.C. Model will be there to guide you, but it is important to note that every person has a different tolerance for novelty and excitement. Never waste time comparing your adventures to others. Instead, focus on experiences that you find exciting and remarkable, that possess risk (preferably perceived), and that take you out of your comfort zone to bring about growth.

To discover the science that the E.P.I.C. Model is based on and to enjoy outrageous stories, from getting crushed by a bull in Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls to battling Kiefer Sutherland in drunken Jenga, pick up a copy now of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure.

Be a vehicle of change: Toyota honors PopTech participants with donation to Haiti relief efforts

In an effort to make a difference to those affected by the devastating destruction of Hurricane Matthew, our longtime strategic partner Toyota will be making a donation to 2014 Toyota Mother of Invention DayOne Response, an organization that distributes water and sanitation products globally for disaster relief. One DayOne Response Waterbag provides a family of four with clean drinking water for up to two months. Toyota will donate one bag on behalf of every participant at PopTech to a family in Haiti.

Toyota has always taken strides to reduce impacts to the planet through alternative fuel vehicles. It started with Prius, and a year ago, Mirai was the next step in affecting climate change for a brighter future with a vehicle that’s only emission is water. In times of disaster, clean drinking water becomes a rarity, but a necessity. Toyota’s donation will provide Waterbags to help thousands of people have 300,000 liters of purified drinking water. Together we can go places and make a difference in the world. To learn more please visit DayOneResponse.com/Haiti

The Culture Clash is here - talks now available

Today we’re excited to release the talks and performances that defined Culture Clash, our 20th anniversary gathering. We hope these talks — even if just one — provide you with a sense of hope for the future and the inspiration to be an active participant in shaping it.

When we selected Culture Clash as our theme, we anticipated it would be an increasingly relevant and provocative lens through which to explore the future. As speaker after musician after PopTech Fellow took the stage, we were blown away by the insights these individuals shared, the big questions they raised, and the heart-wrenching emotions they stirred.

A few of the many highlights include: Rob Capps on the importance of optimism in driving future innovations; Matt Mason on how culture actually happens; Vanessa De Luca and April Reign on what it takes to truly address diversity and inclusion; Platon on the surprising lessons on where power comes from; Nobel Laureate John Mather, NASA scientist Adam Steltzner, and world-class photographer Dan Winters on the wonder and mystery of outer space; Lizz Winstead on calling bullsh*t on unjust reproductive rights legislation; and Nicole Prause on overcoming extreme institutional challenges and threats to pursue scientific research that matters. Be sure not to miss performances by Wayne Kramer, Jill Sobule, Rahzel and Jesse Carmichael that brim with artistry, wisdom, and positive social messages. You can find all of the talks and performances here.

With our 20th year milestone in the rearview, we look forward to more deeply fulfilling our role as an instigator of positive social action. Providing a wonderful example of “inspiration to action,” our longtime partner Toyota, so moved by what they learned at PopTech, just made a substantial donation to 2014 Toyota Mother of Invention DayOne Response, an organization that distributes water and sanitation products globally for disaster relief. Toyota will donate one Waterbag on behalf of every participant at PopTech to a family in Haiti, as part of the ongoing Hurricane Matthew relief effort. We’ll share more details on the blog tomorrow. It’s stories like these that drive our work and make us hopeful for what’s to come. 

See what you missed? Be here in 2017!

We couldn’t have asked for a better 20th year celebration. Culture Clash, hosted by Moran Cerf and Carly Chaikin, will go down in history as one of the most eye-opening, optimism-generating, future- facing gatherings we’ve ever held. In just a few weeks, we’ll share all of the amazing talks that had participants buzzing. Meanwhile, take a gander through #poptech and our Facebook album for highlights, and watch some of our favorite moments below. (Warning: Expect serious regret and delayed FOMO to set in.)

Don't make the same mistake twice. Last week we exclusively opened registration for PopTech 2017 to on-site participants. Today we’re excited to publicly announce PopTech 2017, taking place October 19-21. Through the end of the month, an early bird registration rate of $1600 is available. (Tickets regularly $2000.) Secure your ticket and let the countdown begin!

If you’re looking for a convening that showcases truly breakthrough ideas and projects, brings together an engaged and passionate community, and kicks B.S. to the curb, look no further. Be here next October. 

PopTech and Microsoft Office Envisioning present: Supercreativity - An interactive salon

PopTech and the Microsoft Office Envisioning Team recently convened an interactive Salon – SuperCreativity – at NeueHouse in New York. The Salon was designed to explore pressing questions and gain insights from new constituents – as part of our overall commitment to investigating forces that influence how we work now and into the future. Our decision to focus the Salon on creativity was guided by earlier research and the insights we gained during the first phase of our journey, which produced the eight-part video series, The Changing World of Work.

Digital transformation, automation, evolving work environments and increasing volatility are changing the way we work, think, create and produce. In the midst of these transitions, we are witnessing a shift from economies of scale to economies of innovation. As a result we are forced to ask, "How do we foster a culture of passion, engagement and creativity at work? How do we get away from risk aversion? How do we drive a workplace paradigm shift away from simple efficiency to one of fearless creativity?”

As we curated SuperCreativity we focused on present day reality and future possibility. For much of the last 100 years our workplaces, educational systems and management styles have remained heavily influenced by an industrial age system of management created by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Today we live in an interconnected world, data is coming at us at unparalleled speeds and volumes, networks are allowing information to flow faster than ever before and technological changes are happening at rapid rates. These factors create unpredictable scenarios when it comes to productivity, efficiency, and ultimately, creativity. How do we behave, adapt, and survive when change happens at the speed of light? How do we encourage collaboration when teams are distributed across the globe? How do we work in automated settings while still placing a high value on human agency?

SuperCreativity provided an intimate setting to explore a variety of perspectives on creativity, starting with reflections from iconic thought leaders Scott Barry Kaufman and David DeSteno.

Scott, a cognitive psychologist who researches intelligence, creativity and well being at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about the importance of imagination, daydreaming, and harmonious passion in setting the stage for optimal states of creativity. In fact, when we are given the space to daydream, we are better equipped to create complex cognitive thoughts, resulting in more creativity. If you’ve ever doubted your messy mind or messy creative process, rest assured you may be doing something right.

David, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, studies how emotions shape social and economic decision-making, as well as how moral emotions like gratitude and compassion can be leveraged at the individual and societal levels to enhance human flourishing. He helped us understand the factors that come into play when enhancing creative thinking in collaborative team situations, particularly the roles of empathy and trustworthiness. It ends up, trustworthiness is a critical component to team well being and empowerment during creative processes – trust is imperative if we are to create great things.

Deep dives into key content areas were played out in small workgroups hosted by subject area experts, and included:

  • “How do we promote a culture of fearless creativity and how is it different?” — Aaron Dignan of The Ready
  • “What types of tools can enhance our thinking and creativity?” – Jer Thorp of the Office of Creative Research
  • “How do we design to maximize human agency and creativity when working with AI?” – Kate Crawford of Microsoft Research and Kati London of Microsoft Fuse Labs
  • “How can we promote and augment creativity with new physical and digital environments?” – Chris Congdon of Steelcase and Adam Day of Nike
  • “How can we establish trust and creative openness in teams?” –David DeSteno

Over the course of the coming weeks we will be reviewing and sharing the key questions and insights we gained during this interactive rest stop on our longer journey focused on how we work and create in the 21st century.

We will be launching an online forum that encourages insight sharing, feedback and a platform for collaboration. In addition, we are planning a small series of interactive convenings that build on our work to-date, creating an opportunity for broader partnership, collaborative exchange and co-creation. We hope you will join us for the journey ahead!

Please watch for updates via the PopTech blog and newsletter. For additional information, please be in touch via cwow@poptech.org or haraldb@microsoft.com. Also follow our work and updates on Twitter at @poptech and #supercreativity.

This post was co-authored by Leetha Filderman, President, PopTech and Anton Andrews, Microsoft’s Director of Office Envisioning

Vanessa De Luca on getting out the vote and the importance of humility

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Until then, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Vanessa K. De Luca is Editor-in-Chief of ESSENCE magazine, the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women. As the brand’s editorial leader, she oversees the content and vision of the core magazine as well as ESSENCE.com, the daily online destination for African-American women. Her influence extends across ESSENCE’s various brand extensions—including top-tier events such as the internationally renowned Essence Festival (held annually during Fourth of July weekend), the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon and ESSENCE Black Women in Music.

What has been your proudest moment thus far as Editor-In-Chief of ESSENCE?
I can say there have been two: Our recent October 2016 issue with the President and Mrs. Obama on the cover was a full-circle moment for the brand; we first covered the family when he was still Senator Obama, and to be able to chronicle them both throughout their White House journey has been monumental for both the brand and our audience. I am also proud of our #BlackLivesMatter cover in February of 2015, which was our first-ever cover without a celeb or model. It reinforced our commitment to covering the issues our community cares most about, and using our platform to give voice them.

What are you working on at the moment?
With the countdown to the presidential election in full swing, we are working hard to make sure that the influence of the Black women’s vote is neither undervalued nor underestimated. Our October issue focused on the elections, and we are also partnering with a number of organizations and outlets to amplify the need for the candidates to both address issues of most concern to Black women, which is a powerful voting bloc.

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
The theme basically points to this tipping point we are experiencing right now across all areas of thought leadership. The tension between what we say we value and then what actually captures our attention has never been greater. It’s also exciting, because it means there is room for reinvention and for new ideas and solutions to present themselves.

What books are on your nightstand?
Right now I am reading everything from New York Magazine’s coverage of the Obama years, to critically acclaimed novels like “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue and “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. And I just finished a non-fiction book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which simply blew me away. I finished it in two days.

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
Solange’s new album has been exciting to explore—it took her four years to write it, and I admire the fact that she decided to take her time to let her ideas evolve and blossom. I especially like the song, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” because I can so relate to that! LOL.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Jean Case of the Case Foundation—and not just because I will be interviewing her. :) I am curious to learn more about the foundation’s commitment to women and minorities, and how its leadership envisions this commitment coming to life over the next few years. 

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
MSNBC host and commentator Joy-Ann Reid, because she’s just so smart; Uzo Aduba because I admire the thoughtful, deliberate ways she approaches her art; and, if she were still alive, Maya Angelou, because, well…wisdom.

My personal mantra is:
A winner never quits; a quitter never wins. I got it from an Archie’s comic book when I was a kid—it just stuck with me.

Where do you reach for inspiration?
Lately it’s been business brands like Fast Company—I like to read about how to be more productive, open and innovative, both in my profession and in life. 

My superhero power would be:
Humility. It is so underrated, but has served me well over the years, especially in an industry where you have to deal with a lot of outsized egos.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop worrying so much; everything works out in the end exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Trust the universe to deliver what you need, when you need it.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
Yes, I karaoke, but my song selection is suspect for sure—I always aim higher than I should!

It's time to pay attention! More speakers added

PopTech: Culture Clash is less than one month away! We can’t wait to welcome the PopTech community to kick off our 20th anniversary gathering. If you haven’t already secured your ticket…what’s the hold up? Why you should join us: 

1) The PopTech community is welcoming, passionate and action-oriented. It doesn't tolerate inconsequential B.S., and its commitment to making the world a better place runs deep. You will be in good company.

2) Where else will you find a Nobel Laureate, “Mr. Robot” actress, rocker activists, a NASA scientist, a world renowned photographer, a writer for the New York Times Magazine, the co-founder of The Daily Show, the brains behind Bernie Sanders’ record breaking online fundraising, the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, and the most important game changer on sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth, all together in the same room in a quaint village in Maine? (Nowhere.) We promise you won’t find a program as thoughtfully crafted as Culture Clash anywhere else.

3) Speaking of Maine, there’s nothing quite like the magic of Midcoast Maine in October. The intimate, idyllic setting provides a sanctuary from the chaos – an opportunity to fully plug into the PopTech experience. You’ll leave feeling informed, refreshed, and energized by the immersive nature of your time in Camden.

4) We’re only turning 20 once. Don’t miss it. We’ll see you soon, ok? 

Look who just joined! 
We’re thrilled to reveal a handful of additional speakers joining the line-up including: A certain whistleblower who exposed major accounting and risk violations at Deutsche Bank and turned down an $8.25M award from the SEC for moral reasons; Jean Case, a renowned philanthropist, investor, and technology pioneer who is the CEO of the Case Foundation and the first female Chairman of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees; Creative executive and author Matt Mason, head of the newly launched 1-800-NOTH1NG, a gamification-focused media lab building immersive products and content; Jill Sobule, critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and vocal political force whose latest project “My Song Is My Weapon” provides an online platform for artists and musicians to showcase their socially conscious and political work; and Bonnie Paul, co-founder of the nonprofit The Freedom To Choose Project, which provides imprisoned men and women with the skills to succeed after they are released, including techniques for choosing responsibility, handling anger constructively, and finding forgiveness and inner freedom. We’re also excited to welcome back EepyBird, who will debut a new performance at PopTech.