Eat & Meet with… Anne Kjær-Richert - KaosPilot, Consultant, Change Maker, Dreamer and Education Activist
How would I describe Anne?
To me it felt like Anne thinks a lot about how the world operates and what our role and social responsibilities are in that. She appears to feel a strong desire and sense of responsibility to improve this world for the better. Her passion and plenty of energy quickly surfaces once she starts to talk about one of her projects, especially when she starts to talk about “Kids have a dream”. I think “Kids have a dream” is a great example of how simple ideas and initiatives can evolve into something very meaningful. They just need to hit the right spot and be driven by somebody who is capable to develop them, like obviously Anne has been for “Kids have a dream”. Anne picked a relatively unique triangle in between peace, innovation and design as focus area for her work. My impression was that these three main pillars of her work are sort of complimentary in the sense that design provides tools and techniques, innovation describes her longing to make a true difference and peace provides her with the strong purpose to keep moving forward. Another thing which I think is remarkable about Anne is her highly integrative approach to problem solving, striving to work with stakeholders and not against them. This approach also goes quite well with her natural talent for building networks.
Place: Mokkabar, Gneisenaustr. Kreuzberg
Food: Soup and Gnocci
What project would Anne push if she would be major of Berlin or could at least ask the mayor for a major favour?
Anne would put a higher emphasis and spend more money on education. Besides educational reform in regards to contents and structure, a major point wold be to provide better payment for teaching, to make it a more attractive job.
The Lunch (all links at the end)
Anne was one of the people I contacted directly for a MittagTreffen (or Eat & Meet), without direct recommendation by someone. Mostly I contacted her because I wanted to learn more about the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab she is coordinating in Berlin. From the people I contacted directly she was by far the fastest to answer with a very clear yes, I think it took her only something like 5 minutes. So after some scheduling and re-scheduling we finally meet on Gneisenaustr. at Mokkabar for lunch.
After some initial talk about her former Uni in Denmark and the program she did there called KAOSPILOT (please check-out the link at the end if you are interested in a hybrid design and business program focusing on leadership and entrepreneurship), our conversation quickly moved to “Kids have a dream”. Anne founded “Kids have a dream” already in 2006, while being in South-Africa. Originally it was aimed to be a fundraising campaign for an organization in South-Africa which helps HIV infected kids to stay with their mothers. The base concept is to conduct workshops with kids aged 10 -15 to help them visualizing their dreams and share them with the world.
From the first workshop in South-Africa the project grew, now featuring a digital toolset, remote coaching for the local facilitators and had more then 4000 kids participating from more then 28 countries as diverse as Japan, Kenya, Iraq, Cuba, Mongolia, India and Palestine. It started already quite well with the organization in South-Africa, which raised some solid funds supported by the paintings from the first workshop in Wesbank/Cape Town and also raised attention by some well known local musicians. In the end the local community with the support of Anne and a Norwegian NGO called ThInk Mental Fashion, managed to fully organize a concert in Wesbank, bringing 2000 people together celebrating peacefully in a place known for regular murders usually. Even though “kids have a dream” evolved from a fundraising campaign to a grown up independent initiative, this first success illustrates Anne’s approach to these kind of projects quite well. She tries to push things forward pragmatically and rides the wave if that is the quickest way to get moving, but she also makes sure to setup things to be independent from her, so that she can step-out once there is enough traction.
It is amazing to see someone like Anne, who seems to be very agile and probably also spontaneous in her way of working and the initiatives she supports, but also is able to stick with a project passionately for a long time. It surely is not an easy balance to strike.
I think one thing which makes it easy for her to stay with “Kids have a dream” is that it produces so many different experiences and insights. If it is a workshop with Inuit kids in a village with remarkably high suicide rates, where all but one drawing are just black and white or kids in a public school or in Turkey which shortly after the Gezi protests are full of references to the political protest. I am sure Anne experienced many more insights and light bulb moments during her journey with “Kids have a dream”.
Of course we also talked about the Peace Innovation Lab Berlin, which actually is not really a lab in the classical sense. It is more a series of moderated meet-ups in which specific topics are explored with the group and a hands-on attitude. The initiative to found it comes from Anne’s time in California where she worked with OpenIDEO and connected with the people of the close by Stanford Peace Innovation Lab. As the chemistry was great and the topics where a clear match, this developed into more and lead to Anne becoming the Berlin Coordinator for the Peace Innovation Lab, founding the Berlin chapter. Up until now this has lead already to 19 meet-ups and a small team organizing the events. But instead of talking a lot about the Lab, I would just recommend that you sign-up for the meet-up and go there to experience what it means yourself. I signed-up and surely will go to one of the next ones.
Note to myself:
“Assuming we as humans are like t-shirts in a washing machine, we really should pick well what other shirts we have with us. Over time the color of the other shirts will surely change our own color little by little, so we better make sure these other shirts have beautiful colors, colors we will be happy to adopt. Somehow I feel the “MittagTreffen” are a great way for me to put more beautifully colored t-shirts into my own personal washing machine”