Today I found myself at betahaus once again with Kashif Rasul speaking to Maximilian von der Ahe, one of the co-founders of betahaus. And the topic of last year’s RHoK came up. He was pleasantly surprised to hear that the concept we worked on at the Random Hacks of Kindness has gone on to be used by Caritas International in their response to the Japanese Earthquake.
A lot has happened since that weekend: rewriting the codebase, hours of meetings with Caritas, we even had a Christmas in the middle but we persisted. After the RHoK we promptly contacted Caritas seeking feedback. They gave us very useful feedback on our initial attempt, but given the time constraints the initial prototype was still far from complete. After reviewing the existing code we decided to rewrite the application from scratch making use of the real-time location API that we had been developing for our Berlin-based start-up.
Initially we built the application for deployment in the field in Pakistan. You can checkout the video of this initial prototype here and here We then added support for Haiti. Plans were being developed for adding support for a list of countries that are especially vulnerable to disasters. I have to say Japan was not on that list. Then, earlier this month we received a call from Caritas asking if we could create a deployment for Japan. This would be to manage the disaster response in the aftermath of the tragic Earthquake and Tsunami. With our API already in place we quickly imported administrative data for Japan and deployed for the Japanese prefectures that were worst affected by the Earthquake.
Here are few screenshots of the application with the data from Japan:
The application is currently only for internal Caritas use. However we are continuing to work with the admirable team at Caritas to develop another app for public data. However, this coming together of organisational needs and software developers would not have been possible without the amazing ecosystem that places like Betahaus and Berlin generally support. And they continue to support it. Tomorrow betahaus is hosting Seedcamp Berlin. It will be very interesting to see the startups that will be presenting and see how many applications are using location based intelligence in their business and help change the world for the better.
In our previous interview from 2017 Lubomila told us about how a trip to Morocco got her really concerned about the future of our planet and absolutely changed her life path. After this trip, Lubomila became obsessed with learning about climate change. She started reading books, taking online courses and pursued her own research which would later serve as the foundation of their current online platform.
Lubomila: I started creating a massive spreadsheet with indicators about every country on our planet. Then I compared how much money flows into these countries with regards to protecting nature, versus what is actually happening in the country. It turned out that there are a lot of discrepancies. That’s when I decided to quit my job in London, move to Berlin and start my own company. And this is how in April 2017, Plan A was born.
After meeting Christoph (Co-Founder, betahaus | Berlin) at the birthday party of betahaus | Sofia, and talking with him about sustainability in Berlin, Lubomila came to betahaus for a trial month and never left. In the beginning, she worked alone on the project. On her own, Lubomila developed the first version of their website and made a call on social media for people who want to help her with her mission. And this is how Nathan joined PlanA in 2017.
Nathan: I was finishing a project with a former organization that was working in fundraising and communication back then. When I saw the call on social media saying that Lubomila was searching for support to do fundraising for sustainable and climate action, I directly hopped on the call and we have been working together ever since.
With two people on its team, Plan A started taking shape and turned into the first-ever knowledge and donation platform solely for the fight against climate change. Every month they focused on one project, spreading information and raising money.
Lubomila: One of the biggest issues that I faced really early in the process was that the science behind climate change was really complicated and very poorly or not at all communicated. It was hard for stakeholders to understand the problem and get involved. With the initial platform in 2017, I wanted to make it clear to people how they can get involved, explain the different projects we have running around the world and, what kind of problem they’re solving.
Nathan: It’s important to add that Plan A has always been data-driven. The foundation of anything that we do is the data that we’ve been collecting since the beginning.
Lubomila: Exactly! Having this foundation, we now have two sides of Plan A. One is for the individuals - providing informative content in all kinds of forms and building a community - and the other one is focused on helping businesses become more sustainable.
Lubomila: Our team has also grown a lot in the last couple of months. We currently have 9 people on the team and we’ve evolved in something like the United Nations because we have people from South Africa, France, India, UK, Australia, I personally come from Bulgaria …
Nathan: The first step is always to learn more about the problem, understand it in-depth and then find how to make positive changes in your lifestyle, day by day. We as a company try to inform individuals and also empower them to speak up, and use their voice in their surroundings and social circles and so they can start implementing this climate change action on a bigger scale.
Lubomila: That’s why since the beginning, we focus mostly on gathering data on the problem and sharing it in a fun and digestible way. There are a few channels that we focus on when it comes to the connection with individuals. We have The Academy, where we do interviews and expert analysis explaining the problems in a very kind way. We have Mighty Networks, which is a closed platform where individuals and NGOs can talk to each other and exchange knowledge. And of course, we have events, which is a really powerful tool for us to build a community. These events are focused on meeting scientists, on fundraising for environmental organizations or on educating people about issues that they maybe didn't know of.
Nathan: One of the most important parts of your mission against climate change as an individual is making it fun. It’s not about limiting yourself or making huge sacrifices. We rather see it as an opportunity and it can actually be cool.
Lubomila: That’s true! What we have made sure that happens there and Nathan has been amazing with this, is that we consistently speak positively about the issues, not because we’re in a positive situation, but because the only way you can empower people is by giving them a set of tools with which they can act and encouraging them that they have the capacity to be part of the change. If we continue speaking about apocalyptic statistics, that in 12 years, we're going to die or that you have to blame this stakeholder or that stakeholder, we're never going to get anywhere close to solving the issues. Solving the issues is about collaboration.
Nathan: My main challenge as a head of content was how to get a maximum number of people on board and make them as efficient as possible. Since we are a data-driven company, a lot of my time is spent translating this information into something that is understandable and actionable I’m constantly looking at everything that everyone does outside of Plan A and finding a way to represent our content in a positive and engaging way.
Lubomila: The carbon footprint of a company is always involving what's happening in the actual office but it also involves the external partners and choices. We always advise companies to start in-house, looking at what's happening in their office and within their team. As second comes the communication aspect including how you present yourself as a brand and what you communicate to your customers or online followers. Then the final step is actually implementing changes on a product level, looking deep at the supply chain, and checking if all small parts of your product are sustainable - for ex. the packaging, products made with palm oil, etc.
Lubomila: Our focus has been shifted towards actually educating businesses on what is sustainability and helping them connect to actions that can make them immediately more sustainable, and reduce their carbon emission level. This is also where our new tool comes in handy. We have built a platform which calculates, monitors and offsets CO2 emissions, that are created by a certain company and connects them to environments and projects that you can now see on our platform.
If a company wants to get on their sustainability journey, they come to us and the first thing we do is an initial analysis. We ask them around 20 questions, which gives us an overview of how sustainable or unsustainable they are, we understand what's their emission level on a monthly basis and then we propose to them projects that they can use to offset their emissions. The point of this, and why we shifted is because actually, close to 70% of emissions on this planet are created by businesses. And unfortunately, very few businesses actually have any sustainability strategy. They don't know how to become better and they don't know what they need to do. So, this is where we're helping to kind of giving them an action plan as well as a place where they can immediately support a positive impact.
Vihra (betahaus): We as a company have also worked together with Plan A to create an actionable plan for our spaces and make them more sustainable. They also keep us accountable and support us on our journey. So why don’t you?
The way we engage with the music community is something really important for us and honestly, what makes us different than other background music providers. A lot of the background music providers out there have internal teams of maybe five or six DJs that do all of the music for their clients. We aim to connect with the local scene and always work with local DJs. There's some kind of magic in finding the exact right artists for the brand.
And on the flip side of it, when we hire artists, we make sure that the project is also inspiring for them and that they would be interested in participating. We always make sure to pay them well. The whole project creates for them a new income stream that they wouldn't have otherwise.
Yes! This was really fun. The objective with the betahaus "betabeer sounds" playlist was to showcase the community side of betahaus. There are so many cool, interesting people in the betahaus community and we thought a playlist could be a perfect way to not only help bring the community together but also show the diverse funkiness of the communities of Berlin and Neukölln, which is why Hazy Pockets, a longtime local Berlin DJ known for his eclectic mixes, was perfect for this project.
This playlist moves from bluesy 60s rock into surf and tropicalia, picking up momentum into Motown and onwards through some laid back disco tunes. Perfect for the betabeer events betahaus hosts monthly!
Oh, there are just so many! Like the Imren Grill for instance where you can find the best homemade Turkish food or Das Gift and Gordon which are both run by great music people. Kohelenquelle in Prenzleuer Berg is my favorite local bar (or rather kneipe). To satisfy my techno / electronic records needs I always go to Hard Wax and one of my most special places is the Zions Kirche steeple, which has an awesome view of the city and a great Weinerei close by.
Guest blog-post by Shoaib (@sabman) Burq (CEO & Co-founder at SpacialDB)