Collaboration of the Month – EatWith

First Things First

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the subtle change in the title of this post. Collaboration of the Week has miraculously transformed into Collaboration of the Month, what’s up with that?! In all honesty, I was probably a little overambitious when I thought of writing a weekly post about a cool collaborative consumption idea. As it turns out, it didn’t take very long for the weekly schedule to be lost completely and the last Collaboration of the Week was posted months ago! However, collaborative consumption excites me far too much to simply abandon the idea so, with a bit of realistic thinking, it is back as a monthly post. I have already identified a good few months worth of inspiring businesses to highlight so if this is something that interests you keep checking back in. Now, onto this month’s collaboration!

EatWith – You’re Invited

Do you enjoy going out to a restaurant for a meal with friends? How about going over to a friend’s place for dinner and a few drinks? If you’re anything like me (and having an interest in collaborative consumption implies that, in a small way at least, you are) then you are quite fond of both. But, have you ever thought about doing both…at the same time? Combining the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of a dinner party at a mate’s house with the high-quality food and experience of eating out at a restaurant. Well, whether you have thought about it or not, EatWith gives you the chance to do just that.

"Waiter, more wine!"
“Waiter, more wine!”

The premise is really rather simple (as all collaborative consumption ideas seem to be). Aspiring chefs, or hobbyist cooks who simply enjoy having people over for dinner, create a listing for their dinner party on the EatWith website. The listing contains information on the type of food that will be served, how long the event will last for and even the “Host Style”, whether the host sits down to enjoy the meal with guests or simply prepares and serves the food – restaurant style. Of course there is also the usual background info on the host, rough location of the event and the price. Would-be diners simply search through local listings and book a space at a meal that appeals to them or, if the date doesn’t suit them, can suggest a date to the host.

Scanning through the listings for London, the meals available are as varied as the hosts. I was immediately drawn to the Halloween Southern Supper Club, a vegetarian, New Orleans French Quarter inspired, four course meal served in a “subterranean dining room”. The host, Natalie, is a Cordon Vert trained chef who is looking to serve the “most authentic soul food dishes you have ever tried.”. Another interesting listing is the Experience World Fusion meal hosted by Emily Amuke, a quarter-finalist on MasterChef in 2013. Emily sits down to enjoy the meal with her guests, making use of EatWith to combine her love of cooking with that of meeting people.

"A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!"
“A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!”

EatWith has been described as the “AirBnB of dining” and, with a growing number of listings, in 17 cities around the world, its appeal certainly seems to be increasing as people begin to embrace the experiences and opportunities that collaborative consumption are making available. As with almost the entire sharing economy at the moment, there are questions of regulation and safety standards surrounding EatWith. However, I suspect these will resolve themselves, in one way or another, as the sharing economy establishes itself. As long as people enjoy going out for a meal with friends or cooking up a storm for the enjoyment of others, services like EatWith, that make it easy to do so, are going to have a place in the world. So, next time you’re in the mood for an evening out with friends, why not give the restaurant a miss and see what someone in your local area is cooking up for dinner…?

An Announcement!

Oh yes, a real announcement, about something super exciting…! If you follow me on Twitter (which I’m sure you do…) you will have noticed that I have been tweeting a lot lately about something called the Disruptive Innovation Festival. The reason I have been tweeting about it so much is because it is going to be a fantastic event. Taking place over a full four weeks, it is an online festival where you can see content from, and interact with, world leading innovators and thinkers like Janine Benyus, Sir Ken Robinson and collaborative consumption pioneer Rachel Botsman.

Registration is completely free and gives you access to every second of video, webinar, Google Hangout and forum content that will be generated. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, just by signing up you have the chance of winning a pair of hospitality tickets to a Formula E race of your choice, a year’s subscription to Wired Magazine, a copy of Adobe Suite for a year and even more! The Festival starts tomorrow so don’t waste any time! See you there…

Jack of All Trades, Master of…

It has been a year. One full year.

Exactly one year ago I went to bed on the night before starting the first module of my master’s degree at Cranfield University. I shut off the light above the bed in my little campus bedroom and shut my eyes; full of excitement and nervousness for what the next day would bring. Orientation week was over, the team building activities completed. I had met the fellow peers who would be part of my course for the next 12 months. The hard work was about to begin.

And boy was it hard work! I’m not saying that I wasn’t expecting it, but postgraduate study is certainly no walk in the park. From the very first day we were accelerated to full speed and there was never a sign of slowing down. Split over three major phases: modules, a group project and an individual thesis, my taught master’s degree at the Centre for Design at Cranfield was a whirlwind of lectures, assignments, late nights working in the studio, long drives to company headquarters, an exam or two and, in the brief moments of respite, evenings lounging on bean bags watching Game of Thrones on the big screen. Having emerged (not entirely unscathed) on the other side it is great to look back at what a year it was.

The course itself was fantastic. MDes in Innovation and Creativity in Industry is quite a mouthful I must admit, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the modules that make up the course (even though it may not have felt that way at 3am on a Sunday night trying to frantically complete the week’s assignment). A combination of design, engineering and management, the course covers a wide variety of subjects, from new product development and innovation management to smart materials and whole system design. Coming from an engineering background I revelled in every opportunity to get creative, throw together prototypes or develop a project management strategy for a simulated warehouse project.

Just casually testing UAV's in the studio.
Just casually testing UAV’s in the studio.

To call the group project phase of the course intense would be a rather massive understatement. It was all systems go from the minute the group met for the first time in mid-February to the final presentation day in early April. The project I was a part of involved working with industrial partners including Cisco, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems to explore the opportunities for a product information tracking system. Over the course of the project we travelled extensively, including visits to the BAE docks in Portsmouth and Rolls-Royce facility in Derby. We also typed a lot. Like a lot a lot. As exhausting as the project was, however, it was incredibly rewarding to work on a project of such interest to the industrial partners. We felt like the work we were doing was actually going to lead to something, rather than simply end up hidden in the depths of the library.

The final phase of the course is the individual thesis project, the four-month final stretch that leads to the completion of the course (and hopefully the awarding of a degree). As I have mentioned previously, my thesis project involved developing a vision for the future of the fast-moving consumer goods industry in a circular economy. As with the group project I was lucky enough to work closely with a number of the largest consumer goods companies in the world including Coca-Cola and Unilever. It was a little strange transitioning from the frantic, team atmosphere of the group project to the solitary effort of the thesis, but the four months raced by and, on a sunny Thursday afternoon four weeks ago, we stood behind our posters and presented our work for the last time. Master’s over.

The C4D bunch at the conclusion of the poster exhibition - photo courtesy of Mr Waleed Noaman (and his 41 megapixel cameraphone... ;)
The C4D bunch at the conclusion of the poster exhibition – photo courtesy of Mr Waleed Noaman (and his 41 megapixel cameraphone… 😉

The next day it was time to leave. To say goodbye to the friends we had made over the past 12 months. The C4D team of 2013/14 could not have been better. Hailing from all corners of the globe, speaking more languages than I have toes, they are just a great bunch of people and I am happy to have spent the year with them. Now we just need to plan the annual reunion, making sure to visit everybody’s home country…!

Now, as I have moved to the Isle of Wight to continue working on the transition to the circular economy, the words of the well-travelled hobbit, Bilbo Baggins come to mind…

The Economy is Changing

Last week Friday was the final day of the second annual Schmidt-MacArthur Summer School and the occasion was marked with an afternoon exploring Oxford, punting down the river (unbelievably nobody fell in!) and enjoying a sumptuous farewell/awards dinner. After an intensive week of lectures, interactive workshops and heated discussions, all centred around the circular economy, the relaxation was hard-earned by all.

The prestigious "Leeky Flows" award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.
The prestigious “Leeky Flows” award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.

The week-long Summer School, held this year at Cranfield University, is an opportunity for the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellows and Mentors from all over the world to come together to share their thoughts and understanding of the circular economy. Through the intensive programme of lectures, workshops and activities it is also a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the principles and practicalities of transitioning to a circular economy. The week began with a “get to know you” session and escalated rapidly from there with the setting of the Summer School Challenge. Fellows were tasked with applying their learning to the question: “How can a city like Detroit evolve positive or regenerative cycles of development?” and were to present their solutions at the end of the week. A full run down of the week’s activities can be found here.

The Summer School experience was possibly the closest I have (and hopefully will ever) come to being caught in a whirlwind. I was swept up on Sunday evening, when I met some of the other Fellows for the first time, into the world of the circular economy and only came back down to earth on Friday afternoon in Oxford. I’m not even sure I have fully recovered yet! After five days of listening to and interacting with business leaders, thought leaders, designers, academics, subject experts and incredibly bright students I feel overwhelmingly that the momentum of the circular economy is building at a rapid pace. I am very excited to be a part of that momentum.

Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.
Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.

One of the highlights of the week was attending the CE100 Summit held at the Royal Institution in London. The annual gathering of companies that make up the CE100 as well as a selection of academic and business leaders, the summit was nothing short of inspiring. Hearing businesses present their successes in the circular economy, often achieved in the short year since the inaugural summit, demonstrated that the circular economy is not simply a dream, but can be made into reality. If the buzz on Twitter is anything to go by, then simply the engagement and debate provoked by the summit speak to its success.

A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.
A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.

With the presentations of the Fellows’ solutions to the challenge set at the start of the week and the relaxing afternoon spent in Oxford, the second annual Summer School came to a close. Those Fellows who travelled from distant lands have now returned and work will begin in earnest on all of our Circular Economy Innovation Projects. I am well on the way to creating a vision for fast-moving consumer goods in the circular economy, in the hope that sharing provocative, compelling stories about the possibilities of the future can spur the innovation and commitment needed to get us there.

The week may be over, but the Fellowship most certainly is not. As with the Fellowship that set off for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, the road before us is a long one. But it is an incredibly exciting one, supported by people who are committed to turning the idea of a circular economy, an economy that is regenerative by design, into a reality.

PS: If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting space, take a look at the video below!