Muhammed Muheisen AP Photo
entrepreneurship, innovation, projects, start up

orianne ledroit: on improving public service by learning from startups

“people need to understand what is happening within the digital culture and use it as inspiration.”

On my current trip I’m exploring some of the innovation trends in France and Italy. While the European Union is still economically morose, I find that the proximity of so many economic and intellectual hubs combined with the current job scarcity is paving the way for an interesting generation of resilient thinkers and doers. Amongst them, I chose to interview Orianne Ledroit who co-founded Les Voyages Apprenants, an interactive tour / workshop using design thinking and other startup-like innovative methods to inspire communities and decision makers.

(photo credit: Muhammad Muheisen, AP Photo)
1. Your full name, age and occupation

Orianne Ledroit, 30, Civic and digital hacktivist – Co-founder Les Voyages Apprenants

2. What was your dream job as a kid?

I always wanted to be a political leader because I want to promote inclusive projects and collective problem solving. Some people could say I was naive, I’d rather see myself as an open-minded optimist.

3. Where do you get your support or motivation from?

I get support from my family and my friends, and get validation from the success of my past projects. But I’m also inspired by my ideological values: to feel true to myself I need my work to align with my principles.

4. What sparked your motivation or need to start your own thing?

A simple observation : communities and political leaders both need to be introduced to the current innovation practices if we want to offer  better public services. They need to understand what is happening within the digital culture and use it as inspiration to implement a better way to produce and deliver public services. Firms and organizations also need to connect with makers, innovators, startups that are disrupting their activities and seize opportunities to improve what they have to offer. That is what we (me and co-founder Marine Ulrich) aim to do with Les Voyages Apprenants.

“I always wanted to be a political leader because I want to promote inclusive projects and collective problem solving.”

5. What were you the most excited about when you started off?

I was mostly excited about building something from scratch and challenging myself. I needed to do something on my own which would bear my mark.

6. What did you wish you knew before starting all this?

A lot of things, of course, but what comes to mind is how to clearly define the commercial value of our project. That being said, I don’t think somebody else’s advice or take on a similar venture is a valuable as getting your hands dirty and trying it out yourself.

7. Describe a day in your life as you’d like it to be in 3 years.

I would love to teach teenagers and students whatever I’ve been fortunate enough to learn since I’ve started working. I’d love to use my experience to help young people think hard about what they really want to do.

8. What would you like to know about other innovators who answer this survey?

I’d like to know why they engage in such projects and what is the deeper meaning driving their pursuits.

9. What would be the one thing you’d like your eulogy to say?

I am going to invest money in transhumanist research so that I don’t need to think about my eulogy or my own death :-)

On a more serious note, I hope people will remember me as just wanting to be happy and to work towards a society that respects people and enables them to succeed based on merit. Hopefully, by the end of my life, I will have contributed to that.

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fundraising, innovation, projects

saffron cassaday, on cross-generation connections

Last week a friend and I were talking about how technology transformed the way we communicate, we work, we entertain ourselves and how this is affects our social life and relationships. We both belong to the Y Generation, maybe the last one to remember what was life and working without email, or waiting for a letter to arrive or for a film to develop. We’re also the first generation to have shown our parents how to use Skype, and we might have set up their AOL Account. We reflected on the fact that while we’re tech-savvy, we are more aware of the growing disconnect than millennials tend to be. However, we agreed, we too had become more estranged from elder generations than our parents were at our age.

And yet, not long after this conversation, I stumbled upon Saffron Cassaday’s CyberSeniors, a Gen-Y filmmaker who documented her Millennial sisters’ initiative to pair teens with seniors and help them go online. This documentary is a comforting proof that we can still perceive technology as a means and not an end to real life experience. Saffron was nice enough to respond to my questions, so here goes:

1. Age, name & occupation

Saffron Cassaday, 27, Filmmaker

2. What was your dream job as a kid?

A painter, or a singer. I changed my mind a lot, but was always wanted to do something artsy.

3. Where do you get your support or motivation from?

I have an incredibly supportive family. My parents are both entrepreneurs who always went after their dreams and encouraged me to do the same.

 “I started my career as an actor but I hated waiting around for auditions, so I taught myself to edit so I could produce my own video shorts”

4. What sparked your motivation or need to make your own film?

I started my career as an actor but I hated waiting around for auditions, so I taught myself to edit so I could produce my own video shorts. That led to me working as a freelance video editor, which eventually led to me directing and editing a feature length documentary. I’m glad I took charge of my career by trying something new, otherwise I may have never discovered how much more I love filmmaking than I ever liked acting!

5. What were you the most afraid of when you started off?

It was really scary trying something new.  Being my first film, I constantly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  My two younger sisters started the Cyber-Seniors program when they were in high school and I immediately thought this would be such a great topic for a documentary film:  senior citizens who have never used a computer, being taught how to use the Internet by teenaged volunteers.  The comedic and heartwarming moments were there from the get go, and we found really great characters, both young and old.  But my fear was that I wouldn’t be able to turn the footage into a film with a story-arc.  We had over 120 hours of footage by the end and it was all a little overwhelming.  But the fact that I really believed in the subject matter gave me the confidence to keep working at it.

6. What were you the most excited about when you started off?

Getting the seniors online and seeing their eyes light up each time they learned something new.  Like the first time one 93-year-old woman Skyped with her great-granddaughter and tears welled up in her eyes.  You could just see that this was the best part of her day, being able to connect with family meant the world to her.  It was very exciting to know I was part of something that was making a difference.

7. What did you wish you knew before starting all this?

That nothing happens quickly, and there’s no straight path. Even though I knew it was unlikely, part of me truly believed I would land a great acting gig right out of school and become successful overnight! I’m still no where close to reaching my end goal, but now I understand that it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile! I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.

 “I’m still no where close to reaching my end goal, but now I understand that it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile”

8. Tell us what is was like to start from where you did

As for making a film with modest means, in some ways I think it’s more fun! While I was in the middle of the editing process and kind of losing my mind, I had an experienced filmmaker much older than me tell me he was envious of the position I was in.  He was used to working on bigger productions where he had several “higher-ups” breathing down his neck, voicing their opinions.  He said it felt like he was just a cog in a machine, doing a job for hire.  Whereas when you work on a smaller production, you have much more control to make the film you want to make.  There are positives and negatives to both sides, but I took what he said to heart and decided to focus on the positives and have fun with it.

9. What would you like to know about other innovators who answer this survey?

How many hours a day do they dedicate to their work. 

Follow @cyberseniors as it plays across North America

Learn more about the program, and how to get involved

Check out some of the videos made by the Cyber Seniors

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