Skilled wwoofing with purpose

Traveling can be very expensive, but not if you start wwoofing. Acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, this letters have become a name, a verb and even an adjective, indicating an active approach to visiting a country. Not only you work for accommodation, but you also learn a language, learn new skills, get to know locals and make some interesting connections. Worth mentioning also the amazing people you get to know. It’s a win-win situation.

Working for free has its own benefits. Similarly to volunteering, removing money from the equation frees your tasks from those big expectations of normal life and creates a relaxed environment. Of course you need to reach a certain standard, but somehow it’s different. You actually enjoy what you are doing.

I heard about wwoofing from various friends and travel mates, but I haven’t tried it until I reached New Zealand. And while in places like Kawai Purapura Yoga Retreat I was asked to work on unqualified duties like gardening or accommodation setting, I also find a way for a skilled and more rewarding job. This happened at Sacred Earth Retreat, a paradisiac environment on Auckland’s West Coast on a protected hill overlooking a gorgeous volcanic beach. Small and family-run but with a high potential and a long-term project to bring a positive change in troubled souls, it was the perfect organization to help. With my partner and favorite team mate, I offered to promote the place with our professional communication activities. While I interviewed people and wrote a feature, a press release and a fact sheet highlighting the best features of the retreat, he prepared three short promotional videos to help the future customers to dive in the magic of the place. Eventually, in just over two weeks we were able to deliver a rich press kit that they can now use to grow their business.

The idea is to find meaningful activities and help them to grow and reach a wider audience. Share what we like. Promote good changes. Of course all this can’t always be made for free, but every big project needs to be tested somehow, isn’t it?

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Better advertisement

Talking about positive persuasive messages, I believe it’s fair to recognize when something good is done on the advertisement scene.

When companies use their creativity to combine their marketing goal with a bigger intention to make a social impact, and take action in spreading positive messages all over. The bigger the company, the stronger the message.

For example, I saw this campaign that Nike lately promoted in Sydney, hanging on a big building on a very busy highway. Playing with their slogan “Just do it”, they highlight our tendency to procrastinate hard things like exercising, and transformed it in an invitation to follow our initial plans. It works in line with the free running groups that most of Nike stores lead, encouraging people to go out together and benefit from training, fun and a lot of motivation.

I’m not saying that Nike is the best company in the world – even if it managed to change its reputation, some independent sources suggest that it’s worth being skeptical – but if you want to change things, you also need to recognize when someone do something good. Well done.

Everyday marketing for self-help

“What you feed your mind, will lead your life.” Demi Sogunle

In a society where we are constantly surrounded by media and advertising, we should choose very carefully what we insert in our daily life. Some research on the matter shows that this is a very urgent topic at the moment, especially for parents. Kids start tapping on a screen before they are even able to speak and they use youtube from breakfast time to bedtime. And even we adults use a buffet of devices as extensions of our bodies. With an incredibly growing average of 9 hours per day in the Usa, digital media is the biggest issue to limit.

However, while it is quite common to speak and read about a more conscious media diet, we don’t pay too much attention to our intake of other purpose-driven messages. What about considering the marketing diet?

As we wait for the bus, we walk to work, we shop at the supermarket, we are unconsciously exposed to a lot of persuasive messages. The latest album of a famous singer, a glamour perfume recently released, the perfect body of a model wearing sexy underwear, a well known comedy at the local theatre, a new exhibition at the museum, the special offer on a new ice-cream, a dream holiday location.

Marketing permeates every facet of our lives. Companies try to convince us to buy their products and services. Nonprofit organizations try to promote their causes and encourage donations. Political organizations try to motivate people to vote for their candidates. They all want us to change our mindset and do something.

This exposure has been going on for so long that we don’t even feel it as a threat. We know from media studies such as the Uses and Gratification Theory that we don’t take everything that we receive, we are active interpreters rather than passive consumers, and most of our decisions are made with low involvement (Krugman). But what is the impact that those persuasive inputs have on our brains? What if we start to selectively compose our daily intake of messages?

Like at a happy hour buffet, it would be nice to be able to choose what we want to eat and what we can leave. There will always be the temptation to fill our plate with much more food than we need, but with time and practice we have the chance to learn how to handle it.

As we know from neurological studies and from centuries of oriental tradition, our mind can shape our thoughts and our actions. Most importantly, it can be shaped by our surroundings. People, ideas, places, messages. By changing the nourishment that we give to our brain, we can change our attitude for the better. Starting with words.

Words can shape our mindset and our life. So why not using marketing tools to target our future selves with empowering messages? It can be a simple wish for a good day, a positive thinking affirmation or something focused on a specific goal. It would be great to see people wearing t-shirts and clothes with happy phrases, advertisement panels in the streets with confidence-boosting words, songs that make everyone feel good, objects speaking about an easy, relaxed and confident life. It’s called Subliminal Self-Help.

How does it work? Keys in the process of persuasion are emotions, repetition and association. For example, let’s say we want to start a running routine. We could start with a few motivational post-it stickers waiting for us in the morning as we wake up, reminding us the happy feeling that we have after a run. We can schedule a reminder on our calendar about our daily run. Listen to the same music that we usually listen while we go for a jog. Speak to our friends and family as if this routine was already established. Act like we are runners. If processed every day, these simple tricks will help us to do what we want. Our mind is surprisingly powerful, let’s start pitching ourselves.

“It’s all about reprogramming our minds to focus more on what brings us joy.” Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace

 

Visuals as Anything

It started for fun in front of a curry plate, a white page, a few creative minds chatting and the ultimate goal to help the community out. A couple of months and some curries later, we can finally see the results hanging on the walls of Lentil as Anything restaurants: 16 colorful posters featuring happy faces and powerful messages that will make you laugh.

Jan H. Stoerkel arrived in Australia nearly a year ago in search of a meaningful change in his life. To his corporate regular job in Berlin he preferred an exciting adventure and decided to leave for the unknown, working as a freelance while exploring this big wild country. He opened a blog named Visual Walkabout where he could keep track of his life journey, packed his equipment and he was ready to travel Down Under.

The idea of Essentials of Lentils was born in Sydney, where he fell in love with Lentil as Anything Newtown. Attracted by the delicious vegan food, the good vibes and the feeling of inclusion that he immediately had as he stepped in, he became an habitual customer. He enjoyed the time there, made good friends and eventually started to participate as waiting staff. And it’s when he met Nicole Khoury, Volunteer & Community Coordinator in Sydney, that the magic happened. Inspired by her words, his creative mind started to think about a different way of helping.

“I noticed that people do not always know everything that goes on in the community space”, says Nicole. “For many months I had this idea floating in my mind to visually communicate the core components of Lentils”. Then she met Jan and they started brainstorming. Why don’t we play with photos and texts to show that every single volunteer is a hero? How can we communicate the complexity of Lentils’ world? How to share our values, be appealing and encourage everyone to join? How can we improve our image?

As we know, keeping alive a sharing community is not easy. Someone may think that not having a price on the menu means you can eat for free. Others might not understand why food is vegetarian, tables are full of smiling strangers with different background and social status. They may underestimate the value of this not-for-profit that proudly stands on a strong network of volunteers and kind donations of time or money. Or, not knowing that for many of our volunteers it also represents a stepping stone into the workforce and a tool for community development, some people could even complain because of the relaxed atmosphere. Talking to customers, friends and other staff members, Jan and Nicole thought that maybe this can be fixed with more – and different – information.

“Even if you know Lentils already, you may miss something”, says Jan with passion, “with these visuals I wanted to show all the facets of this beautiful community: the quality and presentation of the food, the interesting workshops, the effort that every superhero here is giving any single day need a professional look that will meet a higher standard and will give a boost to Lentils’ image”. And he did. Seven days of photo shooting in the workshop space, over 1300 shots, 53 volunteers involved, more than 20 meals involved, countless hours of post production, lots of chai, lots of love.

Not only. As a thank you gift from Jan and special souvenir, all the models and helpers that participated had the opportunity to get some portrait photos. The make up artists were enthusiast students thrilled by the chance to get some experience. Some of the photo equipment was bought from the recycling shop Reverse Garbage and are now part of the tools available in the workshop space in Lentils Newtown. Even part of the clothes used for a shoot were gently offered by the Red Cross shop down the corner. When you put together people with a positive can do attitude, synergies happen. Like with Adam, a talented autistic guy that happened to be around at the right time and unexpectedly got a photoshoot for his t-shirt e-commerce Adam’s Apples. While most of the models were selected to show the diversity of the community, many of them just popped in and joined the shooting for fun.

“I liked that the project was a collective effort”, Nicole comments. “Volunteers were involved in the pre-production planning as well as production itself. All the volunteers were cast over a week each attended a day of shooting without knowing much about the project. This made it a lovely surprise and created a great energy.” And when they saw the finished result, they were elated and grateful, although a bit embarrassed to see their face on such a high-end presentation.

As Ken Baird, Operations and Communications Manager of Lentil as Anything Thornbury says, he and his team were delighted when Jan reached out to show them Essentials of Lentils. “The time, energy, commitment and love put in to the project is commendable and sums up the Lentil experience today. Full of insights into volunteering, food, environment and community, its’ a must see for those wanting to understand more about Lentil as Anything. We are thrilled to showcase it at our Birthday Party on Oct 14th.”

In fact, the posters will be exposed in Melbourne Thornbury during the second birthday party next Saturday Oct 14th and in Sydney Newtown after its renovation this month. Maybe someone will help finance a broader distribution of posters and postcards, maybe we will be able to see the visuals arounds our cities and collect postcards from bars and shops. Everything is possible, stay tuned.

Article published on Lentils as Anything website

Overcoming mess with commuication

messy

Have you ever felt like swimming in a bubble of confusion and soon later felt happily released right after a genuine talk with a friend? In this post I’m going to focus on the reason why this happens.

You may think that it’s a matter of friendship and it is due to the emotional bond that links you to that person. Not every friend is the same and the relief is proportional to the quality of the friendship. Well, not really.

It can happen with a relative, a child, a colleague and even the doomed person sitting next to us. Yes, sometimes we are so concentrated on a problem that we use a stranger to extern our thoughts and feel better. Literature teaches us that also writing a diary or having a pen friend is an extraordinary tool to manage anxiety and make sense of life.

As I wrote in the last article, storytelling is the way human brain gives sense to its inner mess and puts every circumstance in the right shelf. How does it work?

To explain this, it’s helpful recalling once again Professor of Sociology Paolo Jedlowski. In his book, he defines narration as “sharing stories”. Stories are representations of sequences of events or actions and, by definition, they require a conversation. By telling a story, I package my thoughts about a certain situation, I give them a meaning and an interpretation and eventually I share the package to another person through simple communication.

Interestingly, Jedlowski says that sequence of events are normally messy or opaque. You don’t know exactly how to interpretate the reality around you until you go through the process of making a story out of it and tell it.

The next time you feel messy thoughts, try the storytelling approach and see for yourself.