On 16th May, about 60 citizens joined us for a night of connection, knowledge sharing & learning more how entrepreneurship, music & design can impact liveability & the future of a city like Amsterdam.
Welcoming the guests of the night, was MC Helene, part of A City Made By People Crew. Talk about an inspiring line-up of speakers! We heard the stories behind & the future of: Refugees Forward by Co-Founder & Managing Director, Diederick van der Wijk, The Smartphone Orchestra by Software Developer/Engineer, Hidde de Jong, and What Design Can Do by Creative Director & Co-Founder, Richard van der Laken. Let’s get into what they shared with us.
Diederick van der Wijk of Refugees Forward
Refugees Forward provides entrepreneurship programs to people with a refugee background and help them get their business up and running. Refugees Forward empowers them to launch, fund and grow their businesses.
How did the idea for this amazing initiative come about? Diederick was living in St. Petersburg for his Exchange program. While there he met a lecturer of Social Entrepreneurship who not only taught about it, but lived it as well. Having a lot of conversations with this lecturer about his mission of helping orphans with internships & employment at large companies, led him down the path of Social Entrepreneurship.
"A lot of newcomers, struggle to maintain the belief that they can succeed."
One of the pressing issues in the Netherlands is the integration of newcomers & newcomers with a refugee background. Refugees Forward’s goal was to use the profits obtained from commercial activities, that we would allocate them to projects that were initiated by newcomers to the Netherlands. It was not very easy to identify projects so that they would be able to support themselves.
Refugees Forward has 15 experiences business coaches and a support network of 25 students that work together with the newcomers to get their business off the ground.
“The receptiveness of European people is strongly fading. At the same time we see the people that want to integrate in our society are held back by a real suffocating bureaucracy, that leads them to not being able to grasp the opportunities that they would actually be able to pursue.”
Hidde de Jong of Smartphone Orchestra
Connect to ten of thousands of phones with The Smartphone Orchestra. With a musical background, Software Developer/Engineer Hidde, found a way to combine music & programming.
What is it? The Smartphone Orchestra all started from Steye Hallema, Creative Director/Initator, having to create a musical piece for 40 speakers hanging from Helium balloons. He really liked the idea of composing for multiple speakers instead of trying to fit the sound into two speakers. While sitting in the train he noticed how everyone was staring at their phones & suddenly he realized that by using the phone speakers, they can synchronize all the phones of the audience & create the 40 speakers.
In 2015, The Smartphone Orchestra started off with a prototype at a musical festival, the director of Lowlands was there & stated that he would like it at Lowlands. There’s thousands of people attending, so how can we make more than 1000 phones play one musical piece at the same time? This was the first time they heard the system this way, because they can’t sound check or really compose for it & know exactly how it will be.
“That feeling was really strange because you just press play & its hands off. Normally, I’m used to, as a drummer, if you notice that people are getting a bit bored, you might play a bit louder, you have some control over the excitement of the crowd.”
There’s a lot of dynamic range in an orchestra & The Smartphone Orchestra had to find ways to combine that with phones.
Aside from events and festivals, The Smartphone Orchestra also works on commercial and art projects. In May, The Smartphone Orchestra was commissioned by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra to create three pieces for symphonic orchestra & smartphones.
Richard van der Laken of What Design Can Do
As the Creative Director & Co-Founder, Richard offered a lot of insights of what design can actually do and its the social impact in a city. Richard is an acclaimed graphic designer, initiator, and entrepreneur.
What Design Can Do believes that design has the power to transform society. To use design and creativity to come up with alternative strategies. What Design Can Do organizes annual conferences in Amsterdam, São Paulo & Mexico City, where speakers from all over the world share their vision. What Design Can Do platforms are engaging, for discussions on design & issues such as: climate change, social justice, health & well-being.
To actively search for fresh ideas & insights, What Design Can Do organizes ‘Global Design challenges’ (about big issues today) and asks the design community to come up with new answers and upload them to the website. The best ideas are selected to enter an acceleration program to develop them into usable products. For its ‘Refugee Challenge”, it received 631 entries from 70 different countries, in the end there were 5 winners.
Design can be perceived in many ways, but very often it is seen as luxury, or as something exclusive, or even stronger as something trivial. Look out for the local challenges of 2018 about energy and safety.
Richard’s opinion? Never underestimate the role of design & of designers!
“As a designer, I think that design is a super important part of society. When you look at society, when you look at all the things, whether its software, a chair, clothes that we wear, the buildings we are in – everything is designed!”
Once the event came to a close, everyone stuck around – the weather was great and so was the vibe. The attendees were all smiles, beer and wine in hand and some even playing games! It was an amazing way to celebrate our last event at Zoku.
Zoku has been & will continue to be a great friend! Thank you for everything for the past 18 editions, the wonderful memories, captivating rooftop view and a damn good time! This may be our last event edition at Zoku, but you definitely haven’t seen the last of us!
Next up, edition #29 takes place at MidWest Amsterdam on 20th June – Are we going to see you there? Stay tuned for announcements!
You can enjoy more images of the edition #28 on our Facebook page.
Words by Crystal
Photography by Hamzah Kashash