Random Hacks of Kindness June 1st and 2nd

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Events, News, Technology | 0 comments

Claire and I (Melanie) are excited to host three events for Random Hacks of Kindness Toronto over the next few weeks! Here are some more details on the actual events. If you have any questions please email!

“Hack the Hackathon” Design Jam and Social: June 1st from 10:00 am – 9:00pm

On June 1st, we invite designers, developers, creative technologists, system thinkers, process and service desingers, subject matter experts and anyone who loves a good challenge to participate in the Hack the Hackathon Design Jam facilitated by Commons11. We are charging a small fee for participants to secure their spot, and to ensure that we can accurately plan numbers for food and the social afterwards. The money will go to a RHoK Toronto Seed Fund which is dedicated to providing RHoK-preneurs with resources or tech infrastructure to keep their projects going.

The RHoK Satellite event: June 1st & 2nd at Bento Miso, from 10:00 am.

This will be held at Bento Miso, which will be open from 10am- 9pm on June 1st, and 10am – 5pm on June 2nd for people to participate in the Global Hackathon! We won’t be organizing any pitching or judging, but if you want to hack on projects around the world, we encourage you to join a global team or another city by finding interesting projects on We will connect you to the project of your interest, and we can stream the judging for those who are interested.

The RHoK Feedback Forum: May 25th and June 2nd, 10:00 am- 4:00 pm.

On Saturday May 25th and Sunday June 2nd, we will be inviting previous participants to join us for a series of more intimate conversations where we can find out what resources are needed for RHoK projects, teams and to find out what worked and – more importantly – what didn’t work. This is a chance to tell organizers your ideas for RHoK if you can’t participate in the day long design jam.

We’re excited about seeing where the next phase of RHoK takes us and we hope you will join us to be a part of this process!

To maintain the spirit of inclusivity and openness in the RHoK community, if you aren’t able to pay the price of admission, we have set aside some free tickets, just email us and we’ll set you up. If you want to volunteer, sponsor or write about us, please email

Gearing up for Pivot Nepal in Kathmandu!

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Kathmandu, Nepal is an emerging hub for software development and technology entrepreneurship, and it is well-placed to do so given its strategic location between India and China.

I have had the pleasure of working with Young Innovations, a local Nepalese technology development firm to help launch the Mobile Social Networking Hub. Young Innovations works nationally and internationally to create technology software solutions, with a special focus on open data projects and mobile applications (particularly SMS-based tools), with a process innovation approach woven throughout their work. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with the CEO, Bibhusan Bista, where we talked about the importance of process innovation in creating and delivering technology for development projects, where project creation and implementation requires collaboration between key partners (such as government agencies and private companies) to ensure more effective solutions. Young Innovations is the recipient of an InfoDev grant to create one of six Mobile Social Networking Hubs in Asia, as part of InfoDev’s Creating Sustainable Business in the Knowledge Economy program, created in partnership with the World Bank, Nokia and the Government of Finland.

We are currently in the run-up to Pivot Nepal, a mobile apps pitching event – based on the successful Pivot East event in East Africa which is happening simultaneously in Kampala, Uganda this year. I am now in Kathmandu to help with the overall strategy for judging the finalist pitches, and am one of the judges on the panel for the final competition this Friday, April 26th.  We selected 18 finalists who will be pitching their ideas, out of the 116 ideas that were submitted to create mobile apps for Nepali challenges. The finalists fall evenly into one of three categories, namely: social development, utilities and entertainment and business and financial services. This is one of a number of events in Kathmandu (such the international Space Apps challenge and m2work hackathon) that bring together technology developers and problem challenge experts to co-create solutions for challenges. I’m very excited to be here and to be part of the growing mobile innovation and tech movement!!

Technology in Our Everyday Lives

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Blog, Technology | 0 comments

It’s very fitting for us to be kicking off the Commons11 blog with some thoughts about how technology fits into our lives – when it’s useful, and when it’s not. So this post is about defining ‘appropriate technology’ and what it implies for people.

What is appropriate technology you ask, and why does it matter?

First of all, ‘technology’ refers to the application of knowledge for a practical purpose. Note that it doesn’t strictly refer to machinery or tools, although we tend to associate the word with computers and gadgets of which we don’t often understand the inner workings. And why ‘appropriate’? For me, this is the exciting part. Technologies – everything from a tea bag to a bicycle – is the product of the surrounding social, cultural, economic and political environment (see here for a classic paper about this). For example, the microwave oven was originally designed and manufactured for young bachelors, yet when it entered the domestic sphere, it became a ‘feminine’ technology because of its association with cooking (see this link for more on this story). As we can see, technologies cannot be separated from their contexts. As in the case of the microwave, its design was a gendered one. Technologies are therefore used in ways that fit into our everyday lives, whether this be for better or for worse.

So an appropriate technology is one that fits into our lives rather seamlessly. It’s people-centred in the sense that using it helps us, rather than hinders us. It was actually designed with the surrounding social, environmental and economic context in mind. Like what? Like the soda pop bottle skylights you might have heard about. By sealing soda bottles into the roof like a skylight, light can pass through leading to a very low-cost (and energy-saving) solution to poorly-lit homes.

We often treat technologies like they have a mind of their own, yet we are the ones who have created them – at a certain time in history, with a particular purpose in mind, and making use of  materials and processes that were available at the time that it was created.

So how can we ensure, then, that the technologies we produce are as appropriate and useful as possible? We can do this by building tech that is inclusive, and that fits into the context, rather than forcing people to adapt to the tech. We need to be aware of the surrounding context as much as possible, so that the ‘right’ features can be developed: whether through mobile, a web platform, or something as simple as a plastic bottle.

Headed to the 1Thing App Launch Party

Posted by on Oct 9, 2012 in About Town, Blog, News | 0 comments

We’re helping to celebrate the launch of the 1Thing App (which you can download on iTunes), tomorrow.

1Thing is a social gratitude journal that lets you collect or publish what you are grateful for, 1 thing at a time.

“Appreciate what matters, 1 thing at a time”.

Find us on October 10th, 2012 at the 1Thing App official launch party from 6 to 9pm, at The Burroughes building. The event will also feature projections of art by 1Thing’s artists in residence from the last 9 months. Guests are being asked to bring a non-perishable item for the Daily Bread Food Bank collection in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

If you’re interested in finding out more, listen to Ayla Newhouse’s interview from the Thanksgiving edition of CBC Metro Morning.

Welcome to the Commons11 Blog!

Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Blog, News | 0 comments

Welcome to our blog! We’re excited to use this space as a place to post our ideas, opinions, and general musings related to technology, social change, innovation and everything in between. That includes community development, local and global innovation, policy, design thinking, open innovation, gender, mobile phones, and much more.

You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook. Alternatively, email us at: info [at] commons11 [dot] com!

About Town

Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in About Town, News | 0 comments

Our team is often invited to speak at or attend conferences, talks or symposiums. This series will discuss those events and let you know where you can meet us during our travels! We look forward to connecting soon.