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Elizaveta Bersegova
August 20, 2015

People in Beta: Van Bo Le-Mentzel

Welcome to our PEOPLE in Beta series. We are requesting a little insight from speakers and workshop holders of People in Beta festival about who they really are. Van Bo Le-Mentzel is known by most people for his Hartz IV Möbel project, where he teaches people to tap into their own creativity and resourcefulness to build low-cost yet amazing furniture. Nowadays a world known community catalyst and most progressive university professor, Van Bo introduces you to his latest project - Hartz V.

Can you tell us a bit more about the ideas behind Hartz 5?

Hartz 5 is a socio-economic experiment. The idea is simple: Nominate a person you like. It should be a person who spends too much time on money jobs and pledge one Euro to this person monthly. On a customised website you can explain why this person deserves this extra money. Imagine 100 people pledging you one Euro monthly; this probably wouldn't just change your financial situation, but also your self confidence. Now imagine 1,000 people or more pledging you one Euro. Important detail: There are no conditions. I guarantee you, people who get money unconditionally from a crowd will rethink the way they live and work. Hopefully they will spend more time and creativity on karma work and less on silly works.

What is karma work?

A job which you do not for money but for good karma. It doesn't necessarily mean a social job such as helping the homeless. It can be anything. It's important that you feel it improves the karma not just for you, but also for the people and environment around you.

At last year's festival you introduced the democratic scholarship, a kind of crowdfunded sabbatical. How's your crowdfunded year going so far?

I have been spending a lot of time with my son and experimenting on different spark-ups.

What is a spark-up?

It's like a start-up, the only difference is I am totally fine with creating ideas that I don't have the ambition to realise. The education projects Hartz IV Möbel, www.dclass.de and www.openschoool.org are such spark-ups. I try to inspire people to get into motion.

When designing and producing things with help from others, how do you find your 'Karma Workers'?

Often I post a crazy idea on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/buildmorebuyless and wait for reaction. Recently I have posted a book by Ahmad Milad Karimi and said I would like to make a film about it and then 3 months later we did it. The film is called #3min Of Fame, Love and Peace and will be presented in November at the Reflecta Filmfestival in Frankfurt.

When you were a kid what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?

I always wanted to get suited up in red and blue and hunt super villains like Spiderman does. Today I do not hunt anybody, but I mostly wear red sneakers and blue jeans.

What's your favourite way to blow off steam in your free time?

Running in Gleisdreieck Park.

What quirks or virtues impress you the most in people?

The ability to make others laugh and love.

Who's your nearest and dearest person in the world and why?

My wife. What a stupid question. (My wife IS reading this!)

What makes you feel lucky to live in this time and place?

Free WiFi.

What's the one thing you would change about the world if you could?

As the Master of the Universe I would first of all free the economy from interest.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee with Hafermilk.

Share your favourite piece of wisdom with us, whether it's from a well-known hero, your mom or even yourself!

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