British Council Creative Economy

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20 May 2013

Culture Shift: Zimbabwe

The second round of Culture Shift has yielded an eclectic batch of prototype digital solutions, addressing local creative challenges in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe. And we still have one more to go in South Africa!

From an e-commerce portal for visual artists (Farira), to a social networking platform for young filmmakers (Big Eyes), to a music app that lets you collaborate on a film soundtrack (Skiza) - the digital prototypes created so far at Culture Shift address a broad range of implicit, and sometimes niche, concerns faced by budding creative entrepreneurs, cultural practitioners and people in their local communities. Many promising solutions have emerged and those just mentioned are only a sample of the runners-up.

Aside from the end products, the experience spurs relationships between digital innovators and creative/cultural professionals in a localised setting - that otherwise might not happen - in the belief that bringing these groups together achieves unique outcomes and encourages knowledge-sharing that helps inform future practice. Kudzayi Ngwerume, Arts Manager at British Council Zimbabwe -

'Our shift was a change in mindset for the both of them. We wanted the creatives to see what digital innovation could do for them, and for the techies to believe it's worth their time to start collaborating with the creative industry'.

Read Kudzayi's blog on Culture Shift Zimbabwehere.

The Culture Shift method for stimulating these collaborations is deliberately disruptive. Following an initial induction day (or two) where the aims of the whole exercise are discussed, projects are chosen and teams comprising a mixture of digital innovators and creative practitioners are formed, they get to work fast; cramming all their energy and ideas into a 48-hour ‘hack’ (or ‘sprint’), which encourages participants to leave their comfort zones, adapt quickly to new ideas and focus on a solution.

Culture Shift II Nigeria

Culture Shift II kicked off in Nigeria at social tech cluster,ccHub,last November. Harry Robbins of web consultancy Outlandish Ideas, and a veteran of hacks in the UK, helped to facilitate the programme in Lagos, witnessing some impressive digital solutions and a genuine synergy of ideas along the way -

'Although there was an initial perception from the cultural organisations that their role would be essentially passive and informed by the technical teams they were quite happy to push their business cases and take an active role in defining the apps once they’d had some initial encouragement.'

@ British Council Nigeria

Brainstorming at Culture Shift Nigeria

With expert local and UK advise on hand throughout the event, each team competes for a grant award and medium-term business mentoring support to realise their projects.

First prize at CS II Nigeria went to theTrybe Records team, who devised a mobile platform that enables fans to get closer to the label's music, with news streams, samples, retail features and prizes. Aside from winning,Lanre Dabiri (aka elDee) was excited to discover the wealth of potential digital collaborators working in his region -

“What you’re doing here is amazing. Previously we’ve always felt we had to export this kind of work to other countries but to see it happening here is great”.

The outcomes of these intensive collaborations often carry the potential to not only change the lives of the participants but also those around them in their local social and creative ecosystems (and beyond), by opening up new, digital means of distribution, social interaction, networking and innovation.

@ James Anderson

Matatu taxi park in Nairobi

In Kenya first prize went toKijicho, who devised a social platform designed to enhance road safety whereby users share videos, photos, short messages, and audio from their mobile phones whilst riding on matatu (local public minibus taxis).

Tim Kindberg, Founder of Matter 2 Media, oversaw CS II Kenya in February at Pawa254 and felt there was something excellent running throughout all the projects, as each team gave free rein to their creative faculties and learnt how to develop their thinking in a new way -

'We had experienced four days of high-energy creativity. Our teams had worked in a way that wasn’t familiar to many of them: in an open spirit of collaboration, with creatives and techies talking on equal terms about ideas whose meaning they had to discover and negotiate over. It wasn’t always easy. It’s not supposed to be.'

The Openbook team at Culture Shift Zimbabwe

The third instalment of this year's Culture Shift took place inZimbabwe, in March. UK mentors includedJames Rutherford (software developer),Elliott Woods (digital media artist, designer technologist and educator) and Joeli Brearley (Director, Culture Code) who conducted some great AudioBoo interviews with participants here.

First prize went toOpenbook, who devised a web- and mobile-based platform for local writers to get their work directly to the public. Monika was in the winning team and is herself a writer in Zimbabwe. She describes the distribution difficulties which motivated the design of the product -

'The local publishing sector is a bit low, they are complaining of piracy, low consumption of books (because they are expensive), so I have had to publish with a UK-based publisher. The problem with that is the book is not really available for the local market. So it is tricky. I really need a platform where I can go directly to the people.'

CS Zimbabwe winners, Openbook, and their book distribution platform for mobile and web.

You can find out more about Openbookhere and on theirwebsite.

Though Culture Shift II is now over in these countries for this year, it's only just the beginning for a fresh batch of business developments, invigorated by new collaborations and expertise.

Next up is South Africa! We can't wait!

Interview with Big Eyes, runners-up at Culture Shift Zimbabwe

Interview with Monika, from the winning team at Culture Shift Zimbabwe, Openbook

Interview with Farira

More audioboos from Joeli at Culture Shift Zimbabwe can be found here.

The Prize Winners


  • Openbook – A book distribution solution to enable writers in Zimbabwe to make their work accessible to local market via mobile (especially future phones) and web.
  • Big Eyes – An online platform that can also work with mobile phones where young filmmakers can upload their work. It will also work as a social network, where the casual browser can upload home videos for sharing.
  • Farira – An online store for crafters and artists to profile themselves and sell their work.

Joeli Brearley of Culture Code helped to facilitate the hack. Check out her AudioBoo interviews with participants here.

Kudzayi Ngwerume (Arts Manager at British Council Zimbabwe) blogs here.


  • Trybe Records – a mobile app that would allow people to read the latest news about their favourite artist, sample their music, find out more about converts and find retailers near them. To encourage people to engage more – and crucially to spend money – the platform awards users points with each interaction that lead to prizes.
  • Lufodo Academy – a web platform for virtual casting to revolutionise the Nollywood recruitment process. This would help casting agents shortlist people, allow new talent to get exposure, and allow advanced searching to identify the right type of person.
  • L’Espace - a bespoke customer and events management platform that promises their business a great opportunity for growth.

Harry Robbins (Outlandish Ideas) helped facilitate the event.


  • Kijicho – a fun social interactive platform where matatu (public minibus taxis) users share videos, short messages, and audio from their mobile phones. Kijicho enhances road safety while portraying the authentic Kenyan matatu experience. It empowers the public by giving people an accessible tool that impacts on their safety in public transport.

Tim Kindberg (Matter 2 Media) facilitated proceedings.