The last festival resulted in a boat from bottles and palm fronds.
Reflecting on the experiences of co-creating Nubialin, and instigating a second Felucca Festival to further empower the community and deepen connections it’s difficult to know where to start the documentation process. The outputs were numerous as was the learning. I shall attempt to put some structure to the insights and results of the organic processes used in the hope it may inspire others to duplicate and explore further.
This second action, was built upon the actions from the first felucca festival and the relationships formed as a result. So let’s start with the importance of these.
Build deep, meaningful and longstanding relationships based upon mutual interests and co-dependance.
Mutual development is a long game, it is based on trust and aligned goals, all parties have something to learn and something to gain. Everyone must benefit, and there should be a long standing commitment to create something together.
With nubialin, my first personal act of commitment was investing in a houseboat.
The project serves multiple functions: It signals my intention to live on the island for some time each year with my wife, demonstrating that our relationship with the local community is to be a long standing one, and not some temporary engagement
Even though I may be gone for the summer, this financial and labour commitment indicates my return. The project itself helped to build trust, as well as contributing to the local economy.
The Houseboat uses local production techniques to do something new and represents a connection point with the local community (certainly with the felucca captains). Everything subsequently built on the boat (for example – solar water heating), can be copied in context, and also applied to land.
Life as provocation. Culturally, aspiration results from the perceived lifestyles of the affluent (ie. the poor aspire to copy the lives of the rich), such things are normally transmitted by the media to the public. Having someone who is perceived to be from an affluent European culture, living with his Wife (who happens to the the daughter of a famous Egyptian actress) in a comfortable way using resources that cost less than traditional Egyptian apartments makes alternative modes of living intellectually available and can serve as inspiration.
Together we have expanded the concept of living on the Boats to co-create the felucca hostel, which creates temporary accommodation spaces from the motorboats already shared/owned by the island community. I have made a modest investment, which I will derive a return on in future both financially and through use of the space for myself and friends. Because the investments made are personal, one must constantly be aware of the benefits one hopes to gain. This is not a charitable enterprise, this is a mutual life improvement enterprise. The better off the island is, the better our lives on it.
Making it personal for everyone you work with is critical, if they can’t see themselves and their passions in the project then its difficult to maintain energy and commitment. We actually combined our marriage celebration with the second festival, weaving our lives dreams and celebrations with those of our friends on the island and off.
Always be prototyping
Is it possible that Egyptians will pay to come and live and work to prototype a new way to live well for a month at a time? Will foreigners also be interested? Can we do this in less than 3 weeks preparation? Can we build a solar water heater for less than 200 EGP using local materials? Can we set up a shop without a shop keeper? Can we build a wireless network infrastructure? Can we use our wedding celebration as a means for social development?
The answer to all of the above is yes.
But actions are required to challenge assumptions, all of the above could’ve been discussed at length, but it was far easier to explore them through actions. The answers to the above questions, will be discussed in more detail below.
It’s essential to convert thought into action quickly in order that the question can be truly understood. Prototyping helps transcend language and cultural barriers. It helps create a shared social object around which people can discuss what it possible. Actions give you something tangible you can then discuss as you do.
Create the opportunities and inspiration and let go
The festival was not planned or managed, instead we told stories about what we would like to happen, we created space for people to come a do what excited or motivated them.
Not everyone did something, but those who did, did so with incredible commitment to their chosen cause, working long into the night to complete their chosen actions. Such passion cannot be bought, it can only be inspired and nurtured.
We told many stories, some of them came true.
Despite all of the numerous activities that took place at the festival and at nubialin in general, it never felt like work. When the sun was too hot people chilled, or jumped and swam in the Nile. Some days they took time off for tourism and exploration, it’s critical to work when you feel it and enjoy your time.
Traditionally schedules can disrupt this, abandoning a schedule ran a big risk of nothing happening, hopefully the below will demonstrate why you should question everything you think you know about getting things done.
Enough of the theory, as I told you previously it’s the actions that speak loudest. So let’s get down to outputs. What came about from this unmanaged process, what actually happens when you let it flow?
The evening of our celebration we stepped off the boat not knowing what would happen. As the evening progressed food appeared, from different contributors and music filled the air. My mother had composed a song and together with the other musically minded participants sang so beautifully I cried with joy.
Leaving the island we leave a space richer in knowledge, infrastructure and most importantly relationships (friendships and bonds bridging cultures), a space which we will be happy to return to to work further with our new friends to improve each others lives together. We likewise leave richer in our own experiences and learning from the exhange.
Many others wish to return and are seriously considering moving back with us for the winter.
A little slice of paradise awaits our return, a paradise which our neighbours are encouraged to copy, and can do so easily. Amazing what you can do with good people, a good story and a few days 😉
Massive thanks and respect to everyone who was a part of this especially Rasta, Darsh, Tiger and the nubialin team, everyone mentioned above, and most of all of course Zeinab for your continuous support and willingness to live this crazy prototype life with me.
Finally a lifetime of gratitude to Marton Kocsev for giving me the freedom to push the boundaries of Development and experiment with how to spread innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.