Abandoned places around the world – a guide

Original article written for momondo, available here.

We speak to Morten Kirckhoff and Jan Elhøj, two explorers with a love for picturesque decay, about their adventures travelling the world in search of abandoned places

Abandoned buildings exist in the grey zone between life and death – dim shadows of their former selves now reduced to dust-strewn relics that echo with a ghostly aura and a bewildering sensibility.

Dig beneath the dereliction, however, and there’s an inextricable beauty that surfaces for the eyes of those who dare to let their curiosity run wild.

We caught up with Jan Elhøj and Morten Kirkhoff, two avid travellers who have made discovering abandoned buildings across the globe their ardent pastime.

Their adventures have been published as a series of three glossy books (with a fourth on the way soon), exhibitions, a TV series as well as countless photos of their exploits. Here is what these two keen explorers had to share about their travels across the globe in the quest for abandoned places.

A former dental clinic in the US

When did you start exploring abandoned places?

We grew up together, as teens. We first ran into each other during the happy 80s. Exploring abandoned places quickly became one of our pastimes and to this day, empty, abandoned places are something that we associate with great childhood memories.

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What goes through your mind when you walk into an abandoned building?

An optician's house, Belgium

There are many layers in this process. For one thing, we are in places where we’re not necessarily supposed to be, so we always think about the dangers. We also think about what sort of history a place has. Who lived or worked here? Decoding this is the most interesting part of it all for us. But there is also another layer – capturing the essence of the place we’re in.

We need to process what sort of lines and forms are present when it comes to taking a good picture. Back in the day, it was all about shooting as many pictures as possible and going home. These days, we put a lot of thought into finding where the story fits. We were once approached by a priest who told us that what we do touches everyone so profoundly because our work explores some of the biggest taboos in the West – loneliness, ageing and, the ultimate taboo of them all, death.

We never saw things this way up until we came across this priest so it was an eye-opener and something that we very much agree with.

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What inspires you when you travel?

A junkyard, Sweden

As with many other forms of travel – the adventure in itself. For some, our exploits may seem a bit extreme, but they are actually a form of modern archaeology in which we find places that are trapped in a time capsule. The thrill of finding extraordinary, untouched places inspires us a great deal. But It’s not just about the thrill of finding abandoned places – it’s the hunt for them and the build up to it, all of which are impossible to plan from home.

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How do you plan your travels?

An abandoned stadium, Mallorca, Spain

In essence, we have a loose overall plan, but when other possibilities arise over the course of our travels, we take them. We seize the opportunities as they come. The experiences from doing so are monumental. We are very mobile when we travel in the sense that we have everything that we need with us – from cooking pots to tents. We set up camp exactly where we want to sleep, and sometimes this leads to some unreal experiences.

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What sorts of challenges arise when you travel in this way?

An aviation graveyard, Arizona

There can be guards hired to watch over some abandoned places and all sorts factors that we can’t predict. We are also confronted with a lot of prejudices about the places we visit. I always think about the many times we tell people that we’ll be visiting a particular area. We are often approached with totally unfounded responses. For me, every place has its everyday life and of course, when there is something out of the ordinary, people read this on the news and it taints their perspective. It is very easy for people to sit at home in their comfort zones, browse the tabloids and believe everything that they read.

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Of the many abandoned places you visit, are there any that stand out more than others?

Dank's house, Denmark

Places with an element of familiarity stand out. Abandoned homes, for example, particularly those that we come across in Denmark contain things we can easily relate to. There are always pieces of furniture or artefacts in them that we can recognise – perhaps because our grandparents also owned something similar once.

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The circular control room in the abandoned power station, Hungary - all the instruments here are analogue

The power station in Hungary is quite an interesting story. We travelled in search of it and set up camp nearby. There was an active power station very close to the disused one, where everything was bolted up. Shortly after setting up base, our cover was blown by a guard who was watching over the premises and we had to run away. A few days later we returned and saw that the guard was in his house but still within eyeshot of the entrance to the abandoned plant. Later that day, he hopped on his bike and disappeared so we took our chances and made our way in. We wandered around for a bit in search of an entry point before eventually crawling in through a window in the roof. Inside, we made our way to the control room, which was styled in a beautiful art deco finish as a tribute to modern technology at the time (1927).

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A disused amusement park, Japan

Another place we recall fondly was an amusement park in Japan. It was spring so everything was in bloom. We were surrounded by small red flowers that shot up through the earth and there were no graffiti tags nor broken windows. We split up because it was so big and bumped into deers and other wildlife. We missed the sound of shouting children and rollercoasters and the scent of popcorn – it felt like we were all alone in the world.

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Do you ever research the stories behind the places that you visit? 

An abandonded hotel, Bosnia

Not as much as we used to. More often than not there is a sad story behind it all, or money issues, if we’re talking about a private home. We think that it’s always an amazing experience when we step inside such places – there are pictures of children and grandchildren hanging on the walls, photo albums and cards with stories in them. We are often left wondering how there can be a whole family who doesn’t care about the place anymore. It’s not something we bother investigating, however, though we do think that there are others who perhaps ought to.

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What advice would you give to anyone interested in exploring abandoned places? 

An abandoned snake lab, Japan

Have a plan but always be prepared to change it. If you travel with an open mind and a mindset in which you don’t constantly have to get something done, there are countless experiences that come your way. One of our own dogmas is that we never give the exact location of an abandoned place away.

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What projects are you currently working on?

We have no idea where we will sleep, what we will eat, who we’ll meet and if what we hope to find even exists

We’ve got trips to Portugal, Russia, Greenland, Greece and Kazakhstan coming up. Greenland will be split into three expeditions starting on the East coast, after which we will travel inwards over the ice.  There are military installations and other hidden places waiting for us in the permafrost. We need to find the money for it first though.

You’re a savvy traveller but please approach abandoned places with caution and respect. Acquaint yourself well with the environment you’ll be exploring and be prepared for anything #staycurious!

For more work from Morten and Jan, check out their trilogy Abandoned -‘Forladte Steder’  (in Danish) and follow their adventures on Facebook.

Everyday Africa – An Interview

Original article written for momondo, available here.

We explore the vast, diverse African continent and its numerous facets through the imagery of the inspiring Instagram photography movement Everyday Africa

The African continent is rich in both tradition as well as diversity. No one is more aware of this than Everyday Africa, the Instagram photography movement transforming the way people view daily life on the continent.

The first of the Everyday photography movements, from which numerous others have since spawned, Everyday Africa showcases imagery by photographers living and working in Africa, all of whom find extremes to be far less dominating a narrative than the familiar.

Since its inception in 2012, Everyday Africa has built up an online following of 366,000 at the time of writing and, as recently as June 2017 produced their first book – Everyday Africa: 30 Photographers Re-Picturing a Continent.

It is little wonder that the work of Everyday Africa resonates with momondo’s vision of a more open world. We caught up with American photojournalist Peter Di Campo, the founder of Everyday Africa, for a chat about dismantling stereotypes and portraying the continent through depictions of everyday life and everyday people.

State of the Province: Beverly Hills, Cape Town
State of the Province: Beverly Hills, Cape Town © zubairsay

How did Everyday Africa come to life?

I first went to sub-Saharan Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, living in Ghana for two years from 2006-2008. I constantly documented the community I lived in, albeit with images I had studied (as a photojournalist) in mind.  These images were generally a negative depiction of the continent.

It was, therefore, difficult to reconcile trying to photograph daily life in Africa while also trying to photograph what was programmed into me as far as how Africa should look in terms of finding poverty, disease and so on.

Buying eggs at the local market - Zanzibar, Tanzania © sam.vox
Buying eggs at the local market – Zanzibar, Tanzania © sam.vox

Fast forward a few years, and I returned to my work as a freelance photojournalist in 2012 with the writer Austin Merrill. We documented the aftermath of the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast – interviewing, and photographing refugees and the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence. We looked for discord on a very specific trajectory. Everyday Africa came about when we pulled out our mobile phones and photographed without any limitations.

We freed ourselves from our narratives and shot pictures of everything around us. About a year later we started to see other Everyday projects popping up around the world.

What image of Africa do you aim to present through your work?

Two women stroll past a motorbike - Inhambane, Mozambique
Two women stroll past a motorbike – Inhambane, Mozambique © thesestreetsza

The keyword that we go back to very often is context. Obviously, a lot of the imagery on Everyday Africa is a lot more positive than we are used to seeing – at least in mainstream media. Instead of war, poverty and famine, a lot of our images are either more basic (people going to work, doing their laundry, cooking, and eating) or more positive (fashion shows, sporting events and so on).

I would like to stress that we don’t see this as a sort of PR project for the continent, in terms of us only presenting the positive. The idea is to experiment with a new idea of reporting in which one’s daily experience of walking down the street captures so many aspects of life mixed together, in a broader, contextualized way, as opposed to a news story.

A shopkeeper reading a newspaper - Mauritania
A shopkeeper reading a newspaper – Mauritania © dcoreraphotography

Are the images displayed by Everyday Africa all taken on mobile phones?

Our imagery extends to other forms of photography. We encourage mobile phone photography but there are certainly a lot of photographers who capture moments that they feel they want to share on other cameras, so we don’t discourage this.

Women riding in a horse carriage - Cairo, Egypt
Women riding in a horse carriage – Cairo, Egypt © laurael_tantawy

What, in your own words, is the impact of mobile phones on the African continent?

We’re seeing a major disruption of traditional media because people anywhere, Africa included, can now share photos and harness an enormous audience. To me, it’s amazing that so many African photographers can essentially become heroes for the continent in the art and photography world because of all the creative things that they are doing.

National Geographic wasn’t going to find these photographers and hire them so in a way it provides a continent-wide sense of people being able to look up to others in artistic practice. Mobile phone photography has done amazing things for the confidence of the African photography world.

Identically dressed women in rural Liberia on their way to their group's weekly meeting
Identically dressed women in rural Liberia on their way to their group’s weekly meeting © ricci_s

Are there any places in Africa from your travels that you can recommend?

Africa is such a diverse continent! There are so many incredibly rich cultures. I loved my time in northern Ghana, where I immersed myself in the cultural traditions of the region – drumming, festivals and so on. I also loved my time in Kenya, waking up to seeing wildlife on our doorstep.

I am a sucker for Zanzibar as well – in some ways it feels like you’ve wandered into another century. You can drive for an hour and find some of the best beaches you’ve ever seen. I love having this sort of varied experience at one’s fingertips. The next place on my list is Dakar – which I’ve heard wonderful things about.

A passenger boat slides across the calm waters of The Nile in the Adjumani district, Uganda
A passenger boat slides across the calm waters of The Nile in the Adjumani district, Uganda © edward_echwalu

What is the story behind the recently published Everyday Africa book?

The book came up as a way of us celebrating how far the project has come. It was made to celebrate and encapsulate the first few years of Everyday Africa’s existence. Everyday Africa may be an Instagram project but I think people are still very excited about physical objects and about holding the book in their hands or pulling it off  their shelves. The book includes a lot of Instagram commentary that is very caustic, uplifting and even paternalistic.

There’s a lot of ‘I want to save Africa’ and other comments of that sort that are contrasted with others saying things like ‘this is my home, so thank you for showing it.’ It’s a push and pull contest of a very outdated opinion of Africa contrasted with a modern and connected view of the continent. The successful Kickstarter campaign (that funded the book’s publication) was a sign of just how dedicated and enthusiastic our audience is.

A boxer from Katanga, Kampala, Uganda
A boxer from Katanga, Kampala, Uganda © edward_echwalu

Where does Everyday Africa go from here?

We are experimenting with what happens when you animate the things that people post online, in the same way that we experimented with how such comments change when you put them in a book. We are now trying to put the comments off feeds and experiment with actors using them in a dialogue. We had a small performance as part of the book launch in Nairobi and we are now in the next steps of figuring out the next steps for a full theatre production.

We also recently became a non-profit – Everyday Africa is now an umbrella organization for some of the other everyday projects. Our mission as far as this goes is twofold – continuing to grow out of Everyday Africa while finding ways to creatively display work from It and lift the profile of African photographers.

The Ken Fac troupe from Kensington, Cape Town, march at a street carnival in South Africa
The Ken Fac troupe from Kensington, Cape Town, march at a street carnival in South Africa @ Charlie Shoemaker

Education is our second focus – we use our work to confront the views of Africa that kids may have, predominantly in the US. We discuss the stereotypes that they may have and the relationship between themselves and the media and then teach practical photography using Everyday Africa photos as examples.

The goal is that by the end of the project, the kids have their own everyday project. We will be expanding on this idea quite a bit but we feel that now is a good time to be doing this sort of thing. There is a need for more empathy in the world, better cross-cultural communication and, as the media landscape continues to fragment, there is also a need for more localized storytelling and self-representation. We are very excited to play a role in these processes.

Looking for more inspiration? See more imagery from Everyday Africa on their Instagram account or check out our interview with the founders of the Everyday Iran Instagram movement

Everyday Brasil: An Interview

Original article written for momondo, available here.

momondo caught up with Everyday Brasil for a chat about the work of the Instagram movement and its efforts in presenting an authentic image of a vast, diverse nation

In a country as vast and as varied as Brazil, depicting a narrative that paints an accurate portrait of everyday life can be a challenging task. Following in the footsteps of other Everyday Projects, the viral Instagram photography movement Everyday Brasil hopes to disseminate knowledge of Brazil and its social realities.

And rather than aiming specifically at a global audience, the imagery of Everyday Brasil is just as much about portraying the country to its own citizens, exemplified amongst other things by their image captions, displayed in both English and Brazilian Portuguese.

momondo interviewed Ivana Debértolis, the founder of Everyday Brasil, to gain a better understanding of the work of the movement. We’ve also made a playlist to help get you into the groove as you scroll through the imagery of Everyday Brasil.

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How did Everyday Brasil come to life?

Everyday Brasil was born in 2015, as word of other Everyday projects such as Everyday Africa and Everyday Iran got out. As a photographer myself, I quickly realised the potential of the Everyday Everywhere projects and reached out to the people behind Everyday Africa. From there, things have grown very quickly.

Read more: 

São Paulo by night is a fiery, colourful affair

What are the main objectives of Everyday Brasil?

As part of the Everyday projects, we aim to enrich others with knowledge of our country in a way that avoids presenting a stereotypical image of Brazil. We want to spread knowledge about the real Brazil and about the reality of life here, abroad but also locally. For instance, even though I was born in Brazil and live here now, there are so many things about my country that I have yet to learn.

We can all learn a lot more about our own country. As such, each photo on our feed brings us closer to the reality of life in different parts of the country.

The area of Marrocos is an illegal occupation in downtown São Paulo

What is your role in Everyday Brasil?

I’m a curator, broadly responsible for managing the Everyday Brasil project. I delegate some of this responsibility as we have almost 50 photographers and fixed collaborators scattered across the country. Our nation is large and very diverse, so even though 50 photographers may seem like a lot, it is a necessary number as we need to document our many regions and places in a natural manner.

For this reason, I often have to do a bit of research to come up with a creative and relevant caption. This is a learning process for me as I have become increasingly acquainted with Brazil. There is still so much to be learned though and more knowledge to be shared.

A fisherman and his net, Ponta do Leal, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina

How is the diversity of Brazil depicted in the image selection process?

We focus on documenting events that are of relevance in the country such as some political demonstrations, national days and so on. All images are taken by our photographers, as this is a photography project that we take seriously.

Seeing how similar events are depicted differently across the country is always interesting. We vary the location of our content – for instance, if we publish a picture from Rio de Janeiro, the next one will be from another city and state.

By the same token, we also try to alternate between photographers as much as possible. If you look at our gallery, the subjects in it are all very different.

A glimpse into the small town of Joanes in the remote northern state of Pará

What is the role of photography in a country as large and diverse as Brazil?

Photography is a way of taking in information quickly. You can look at an image and very quickly decipher the story that it is trying to tell. Photography is accessible and in this case is for everyone. In today’s’ day and age, platforms such as Instagram have made this a reality.

The northeastern state of Bahia takes to the streets to celebrate the region's independence day

We always think carefully about the role that photography can play when it comes to telling a story – the captions explaining the photos are important but we should not force them on our audience too much. In the end, it is all about people drawing their own conclusions about our images and asking themselves critical questions. Our photography is a vehicle for this process.

Revellers making merry during the carnival season, São Paulo

In your opinion, why should people travel to Brazil?

For the same reasons that I myself ought to travel as much as possible in Brazil – this is a rich and diverse country. It sometimes feels like there are several countries in one – everyday life is very different in the south than it is in the northeast for instance. The same is true of the people, our customs, food and so on – everything varies a great deal depending on where in the nation you find yourself. Brazil has problems like any other nation, but we are a proud and resolute people.

Festa Junina (The June Party ) drapes the streets of Recife in swathes of colour for a few days

What impact has Everyday Brasil had and where do you see the project heading over the next few years?

I didn’t know which direction things would go in when we first started Everyday Brasil. Today, it has evolved into a project that is respected across the country – people write to us on a daily basis, keen on participating. At the same time, our aim of depicting an accurate and diverse social reality through photography seems to have been correctly understood, which wasn’t necessarily the case when we first started out.

A farmer in the state of Pernambuco takes delight at her harvest after rainfall put an end to a prolonged drought

We are growing but there is plenty of work to be done yet! We are of course very active on Instagram, but we’d like to have a stronger online presence and across other platforms. For instance, we would like to create an exhibition of some of our pictures later this year starting in São Paulo and spreading across the country as a national project. The eventual idea is for Everyday Brasil to become a reference point for photographs of Brazil. We would like people to think of Everyday Brasil when they think about travelling here. Similarly, we want to replicate Everyday Brasil in the form of a book or a magazine. We’d like to think outside the box, outside of Instagram.

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Christian Stadil, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA

Closed door equals open door

We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected. The manner in which we, as individuals and corporations interact with one another and ultimately with the world around us is such that we are, on the whole, closer and more transparent. Whilst this does increase the volume of information being processed and debated, creating more pressure, friction and ultimately, clashes of interest, there are also numerous positives to behold.

Meet Christian Stadil – one of Denmark’s foremost entrepreneurs that many will recognise from his ownership of sports brand hummel or his appearances on the jury in DR’s “Løvernes Hule” (The Danish version of Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank) – a show that features up and coming entrepreneurs pitching new business ideas, in the hope of captivating the jury and gaining that all important starting capital.

Christian Stadil is the owner and CEO of the Thornico conglomerate, consisting of around 120 operational companies within food, technology, real estate, packaging, financing, sport and fashion, the latter being in the form of hummel. Christian Stadil took over the hummel brand in 1999, which back then was in a poor condition, transforming it into one of the world’s leading fashion and sports brands, finding a unique position in a very competitive market up against giants.

Besides being a business owner, founder and investor (most recently in numerous tech-based upstart companies), he is an author, active lecturer and adjunct professor in creative leadership at the Centre for Business Development and Management at Copenhagen Business School.

Christian’s corporate success is underpinned by a devotion to company karma – “A kind of CSR version 3.0 where we try to, where possible, think more holistically, in a “4x win” where our companies, customers, partners and a cause (in which we believe and find important), all benefit – especially in terms of the climate and the local environment,” he remarks.

And whilst he is not afraid to admit that combining the varied interests of stakeholders is by no means easy, Christian is adamant that one can indeed capitalise on synergies and create win-win situations to everyone’s mutual benefit. Known for doing things differently, Christian Stadil is an impassioned entrepreneur with a particular way of doing things that we all could learn a thing or two from.

Eske Willerslev, TEDxKEA

Original article co-written with Anton Tarabykin for TEDxKEA, available here

Forming the future by studying the past

Constant discoveries that prompt revisions of what we previously knew to be true are at the very core of our evolution. The merits of science in forming the present and ultimately the future cannot be overstated. Just as important, however, is understanding our past. Studying how problems developed, how our ancestors approached them, and ultimately where they have failed or succeeded, is crucial to understanding who we are today, and what we will be in the future. Lessons harnessed from the past can and should influence social, political and environmental decisions that we make today, and help us build a better future.

Speaker_11_Eske_article

Eske Willerslev is an evolutionary biologist known worldwide for his pioneering work with ancient DNA. He is renowned for several groundbreaking expeditions in Siberia along with his twin brother, anthropologist Rane, during which they gathered ethnographic material and Megafauna remains (Megafauna is a zoological term for large animals).

Eske’s discoveries have in fact re-interpreted much of mankind’s history. His studies on Aboriginal migration patterns proved that the indigenous people of Australia migrated to the continent at least 24,000 years earlier than it had previously been argued. Similarly, Eske’s studies have shown human presence in North America more than 14,000 years ago, which is a thousand years earlier than previous assumptions. Based on samples from the arm bone of a 24,000-year-old Siberian boy, Eske’s team discovered a genetic link between Eurasians and Native Americans, which at the time was a major surprise.

Among other Indiana Jones-esque feats, Eske has become an adopted member of the Crow Tribe of Indians in Montana, United States. Of all the lessons learned from such epic voyages, Eske believes that his research on ancient human migration patterns ultimately shows how the spread of people advances innovation and, ultimately, our evolution: “If you look at the past, you will see that the societies that survived were the ones that changed, not the ones that remained conservative and closed in around themselves. The ones that do well are those that constantly learn from others and take in new impressions, while the ones that stay in isolation, like the Paleo-Eskimos, die out in the end”, he points out.

Jan Gehl, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here.

Cities That Move 5 km/h and not 60 km/h

Mankind is evolving and so too is the manner in which we interact with our surroundings. From traditional hunter-gatherer groupings to industrial age production, to modern day office environments, the progress of our civilisation ultimately changes our lifestyles. This progress represents societies that are more efficient, where the obstacles of physical distances are minimised and less and less movement is demanded from the individual. This, however, creates new challenges for mankind. As our need to move diminishes, so does our health, with obesity, diabetes and heart diseases on the rise. So now that fewer jobs are demanding it, how do we get moving again?

Speaker_09_Jan_article

Meet the legendary architect behind Copenhagen’s Strøget – no less than the world’s longest pedestrian street. Jan Gehl’s studies in the early 60’s played a significant role when Strøget was rid of vehicles, in a ground-breaking move that formed the core of many green urban initiatives that have catalysed Copenhagen’s development ever since. Since then, large cities around the world, such as New York, Moscow and Sao Paolo, to name a few, have been inspired by Copenhagen, and have called on Jan Gehl to help them pedestrianise.

Dubbed “the last living worldwide renowned guru in urbanism”, Jan Gehl has raked in innumerable accolades for his approach to urban design, winning everything from The International Union of Architects prize for exemplary contributions to Town Planning and Territorial Development to a Prince Eugen Medal for outstanding artistic achievement in architecture.

An honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and a fellow of the Design Futures Council, Gehl is of the conviction that “we need cities that move at 5 km/h and not at 60 km/h.” His approach to making cities liveable stems from a collaboration with his wife, psychologist Ingrid Mundt, together with whom he began to study how people interact with their environments. Gehl believes that we need to approach architecture in a human manner – it should and always be about people first and foremost. “Studying people rather than bricks” helps us build cities for people, encourage healthier lifestyles and invite people to use the urban space for physical activities.

Simon Prahm, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here

Making a Difference For The Youth

A lack of physical activity is one of the major problems in our society. Recent EU figures indicate that 6 in every 10 people above 15 years of age never or seldom exercise or play a sport, whilst more than half never or seldom engage in other kinds of physical activity. Children in particular are affected by this trait, with many exercising less than the WHO recommendations. Poor health and quality of life are but a few of the implications of these figures. Our societies are burdened by an overall lack of physical activity. There are however, many individuals involved in the bid to ensure that people exercise more. One of them is Simon Prahm.

Speaker_08_Simon_article

Simon is the managing director of GAME Denmark, an NGO that reaches out to underprivileged youth by focusing on creating self-esteem, combatting marginalisation and creating self-empowerment for its members. Run by over 70 coaches and an excess of 100 volunteers, GAME was founded by Simon and two other partners in 2002, and is currently on the Global Top 500 NGOs list. The organisation also operates in Lebanon and is currently in the pipeline phase of expanding its operations to 10 other countries over the next few years.

A Henley Business School MBA holder and a bachelor in sports studies from the University of Copenhagen, Simon is also the chairman of the national platform for street sports, and has held positions as a guest lecturer at The University of Copenhagen as well as board positions on various think tanks, boards and steering groups. Formerly a chairman of The Falcon basketball club, Simon Prahm has spent many years disrupting the traditional association-based approach to sport in Denmark with an aim of getting the youth to be more active. For Simon “the youth are the future of societies and the right to sport is a human right that everybody should have access to.” As it stands, even in Denmark, this is not the case. There is a need for evolution in this aspect as far as Simon is concerned.

Anja Cetti Andersen, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here

The universe and how we got here

Of the many mysteries of life, none can compare to the quintessential question: where do we come from and what are we doing here? For hundreds of years, science, culture and religion have put forth contesting arguments to try to put an end to our existential doubts. Meanwhile, as the list of Kepler planets found in “Habitable Zones” that exist in earth-like conditions grows, questions of whether or not we have the luxury of the universe exclusively for ourselves must arise.

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Anja C. Andersen is as outstanding an astrophysicist as they come. Currently an associate professor at The Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute, her career spans many years of research in the field, for which the list of accolades she has won is almost as endless as the universe itself. Anja’s interest in the mysteries of the stars began as a teenager in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked at the time. “One of the few things that girls could do was to study, so I sat and looked at the stars through a telescope”, Anja remarks.

Whilst Anja doesn’t claim to have all the answers to the tirade of questions that keep many of us up at night, she is of the opinion that an evaluation of the manner in which we approach existentialist mysteries is necessary. “When can one be sure that something exists, even if one cannot see it?” Anja asks. We are certain, for example, that black holes do exist in the universe, but we have yet to see one with our own eyes.

The mysteries of life are endless and the approaches to solving them equally so. “Physics is a dynamic study, and its approaches and premises are changing constantly – they are constantly evolving.” Prepare to be enlightened.

 

Vigga Svensson, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here.

Sustainability 2.0 – sustainable consumption without compromise

A central theme within TEDxKEA Evolve is that of continuous improvement. We live in a dynamic world that is constantly shifting. One of the recent shifts in consumption patterns has been the idea of circular economy – a trend that has been cashed in by both consumers and innovative businesses alike. However, it is one thing to have an intention to be sustainable and another to actually pull it off. We need to re-think what it means to be sustainable and re-think again just in case.

If Vigga Svensson sounds familiar to you, she probably is. Formerly a radio and TV host at P1 and DR2, respectively, Vigga has been the voice of TV2 Zulu since the turn of the century, for which she still finds 15 minutes for in her busy schedule every week. But her real passions are entrepreneurship and sustainable consumption, to which she has dedicated the last 12 years of her life.

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Having previously founded the world famous baby clothing company Katvig, Vigga’s latest venture is Vigga.us – a firm that rents out baby clothes for a small subscription fee, saving parents vast amounts of money whilst providing a sustainable solution in a clothing industry otherwise notorious for its wasteful production practices. The first-ever brand to combine baby fashion with ideals of the circular economy, Vigga.us has been nominated for and awarded a long list of sustainability awards, and currently features in Sustainia’s top 10 sustainability innovations of 2015. Most importantly, it is an idea that makes no compromises, unlike many other sustainable solutions – prices are in fact lower, the quality is good and the product is accessible: “It is sustainability 2.0 – a better, more clever way of thinking sustainability,“ contends Vigga.

But it hasn’t always been this easy. If Vigga’s ideas of combining sustainability and a profitable business model seem well thought through, it is because they have undergone many years of review, refinement and ultimately, evolution. “The way people used our products in the past went against our ideas of sustainability. There was no recycling. We didn’t create a whole new way of thinking,” says Vigga. By comparison, the current business model in practice is one where sustainability is the main driver in the process as opposed to being an annoying add-on. It is time to show consumers that sustainability no longer has to entail compromises, a message that Vigga is eager to spread around the world.

Rob Scotland, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA, available here.

The new wave of entrepreneurial creativity and the growing power of the audience

On all levels, certainly in the portrayal given by much of modern media, the world is a grim and unbecoming place. Seek and you shall find however; there are innumerable positives to behold. Whilst there are many who are plagued by concerns over ISIS or Greek financials and long-winded statements by the media, others, choose to see things in a different light.

Meet Rob Scotland – a man with a sense of humour that extends well beyond his positive mind-set towards the world of today and the society of tomorrow. In the midst of all the crises fed to us on TV, Rob stresses the importance of stopping for a second to appreciate the talent and adaptability of our generation. “Five years ago there was no iPad, 10 years ago there was no iPhone and in the last hundred years we’ve had more innovation than in the last 1000.”  “The next generation is probably going to be the greatest we’ve ever had!”

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Rob has spent the last 10 years working in advertising with a client portfolio that includes the likes of Nike, Carlsberg, Telia and Procter & Gamble, where he has ”argued passionately under the guise of creative strategy to turn anthropological understandings of audiences into commercial returns.” For Rob, radical changes in the manner in which audiences think and feel have brought about a paradigm shift that requires more value-based products, services and ultimately advertising. A graduate of illustration, Rob wanted to be an artist for Marvel comics. However, as is the case “with most of our generation”, necessity shifted him into other fields – namely magazine sales and later advertising. In this capacity, Rob founded the much revered ad agency, Bandit, in Copenhagen 8 years ago and advised big brands on how best to target their audiences.

Dubbed a ‘modern cultural anthropologist’, Rob has been championing the understanding of modern culture in marketing communications over the past ten years. Our generation often gets a bad rap in the media, but from Rob’s perspective “Far from being lazy, Generation Next’s unprecedented surge of entrepreneurial creativity is what will solve many of the challenges facing this world”.