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Low Cost Life Hacks Book

Wandering book of simple life hacks to be completed by locals This idea consists of a simple book, which is based on the Brothers Grimm collection of folk tales, and consists of creative solutions to handle life situations. In addition to that, there are lots of blank pages to be filled in by the readers/locals. Life hacks are explained through step-by-step illustrations, visually appropriate for the culture, which makes it authentic and encourages to add own life hacks, to share it with others. People who have lived their whole life there have gained much better insights on how to master life than anyone else outside the country.

Photo of Petrit Kasabaqi
22 14

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Update 01/12/2014:

With the help of the OpenIDEO community we received some insights and help, which could bring the idea further more effectively. 

The content locals fill in to the wandering book could also be used in other media like public art or as inspiration for theatres or similar. The scope of the idea can be expanded to Eastern Congo, where many Community-Based Organizations (CBO) exist. With their help, the wandering book could reach many more people, so the quality of essential life skills could be increased dramatically. This also ensures that the book will be given to other people and not stay at the same house or that other, maybe expensive, mailing services don't have to be involved.

Local printing of the final book (which consists of all the insights gathered in the different wandering books) can also benefit the economy there. Local visual artists, craftsmen, etc. can take care of the visual style of the book, which is then given back to the locals, so every one of them has a book for his/her own.


Original Post

When people grow up, they learn a lot and gain a lot of experience in their local community. Individual citizens of different communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have all come across different situations in life and came up with tricks to handle them more easily. But not everyone has learned the same tricks from their parents across different families, but some insights they gained might be helpful for other people, too. 

If there’s not a lot of money available, human beings come up with simple survival strategies, which make everyday life easier. There’s no need to buy or save money for sophisticated products, because these life hacks can be done with spare parts, waste or other everyday essentials.

Parents in low income communities do not always have the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and create tools out of the resources around them. However, there are many younger and older people who developed methods over time, to make life easier and deal with situations faster and cheaper. They should be given an opportunity to share their insights, but also to learn more from another. The sooner it is passed on to children, the more likely it gets that they incorporate these creative methods of product and material reuse. This gives them the opportunity to develop own methods and adapt more easily to current difficulties in life.

How it works

This idea consists of a simple book, which is based on the Brothers Grimm collection of folk tales, and consists of creative solutions to handle life situations. In addition to that, there are lots of blank pages to be filled in by the readers/locals. Life hacks are explained through step-by-step illustrations, visually appropriate for the culture, which makes it authentic and encourages to add own life hacks, to share it with others. People who have lived their whole life there have gained much better insights on how to master life than anyone else outside the country.

As an example, many of the diseases children and parents come in contact with such as malaria, dengue fever, Chikungunya, yellow fever, etc. are spread by mosquito’s. This increases the infant mortality rate and at times causes parents to become ill which means children have to work and cannot learn. One life hack is the mosquito trap which offers a low cost solution to low income families and helps prevent these diseases from being spread. By reducing the risk of being bitten by mosquitos, families can thrive and children can take advantage of their first five years of life. 

In order to collect as many tricks as possible within the whole country, more than one book could be given to people, who then pass the book on to others after they’ve filled in their own life hacks. Hence, the book passes through many different areas throughout the country and is eventually collected by an organisation to make a more understandable book (organised and graphically well presented) out of it. After some discussion and research we decided that the books pages would be made of Tyvek, a  synthetic woven material that is less expensive than cloth or plastic, but is still incredibly durable, ultra-thin and eco-friendly. Although Tyvek is more expensive than paper or cardboard we thought this would be worth the investment because of the positive externalities it brings, by making the book more durable more people can use it and benefit from it for a longer period of time.

Why do we think it will succeed?

This idea is likely to succeed, because it is very simple to handle, pass on to other people and there’s not much equipment needed, except the book, a local citizen and a pen. Local postal services and a dedicated envelope could be used to send it to other villages. 

Easy-to-understand instructions through illustrations provide an understanding not only for parents who teach it to their children, but also directly for young children. Themes like “create your own toy” make it even better suitable for them. Since the book covers a lot of essential skills in different life situations and for different ages, it could be a life-long companion while growing up.

The materials used in the life hacks are taken from everyday life and can even be found on the streets, by reusing waste like cans, plastic bags, etc.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

The “unfinished, traveling book” and eventually the final version of the book contains many tricks and is created by many people from different communities, which all have developed different ways of handling situations and share them with the whole country. These locals can learn from other experiences and pass it on to their children, which improves the level of life skills for people in the whole country. This gives children a better chance to establish a fruitful, open-minded and creative thinking early on in their lives. An unbiased or one-sided view on the world and the possibilities what they can achieve is also incorporated into their mindset. It benefits parents and their children of low-income cities and villages in DR Congo. The idea is piloted in Buma and Mikondo, which are near the capital but in extreme poverty. Since it’s a book which is passed on from the old to the young, different citizens and communities, it covers a lot of ground. It can then be extended to greater Kinshasa, Kinduti, Kikimi and Kinkaba. These skills will help parents live more productive and healthy lifestyles which would for example help them breastfeed their children and allow children to go to school rather than taking care of their sick parents.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

One prototype could be made adapted to the community locally available and given out to people. After that, using multiple, individually improved prototypes, we could evolve the book and see how it is perceived better and what kind of samples in the book encourage more to participate. One challenge of this is to overcome the fear of drawing or showing your own life hack.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

The most important thing is the support by a well connected organisation like En Avant Les Enfants (EALE), which “caters firstly to children’s most basic needs, supports their education, promotes their family and socio-professional reinsertion with a view to their eventual autonomy.” A reliable postal service, if possible the local Congolese Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, could make it easier and cheap to send the book outside of nearby communities. Support from local artists, for example some teachers at the “Academie de Beaux-Arts de Kinshasa”, could help to adjust the style of the book, and the samples already given, to encourage locals more to add their own experiences. Later on, when the book is filled with new content through the collaboration of locals, this version of the book has to be collected by the responsible organisation and given to local artists/Graphic Designers to organise, visually stylise and finalise the book, which is supposed to be printed cheaply and then given back to the locals as an acknowledgement to their participation. In order to make the first version of the book, it would be helpful if the OpenIDEO community could suggest more useful life hacks suitable for this kind of book. The examples are supposed to inspire locals and communicate clearly how important it is that they add their own experiences to it and share it with one another.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.

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Photo of Naomi Spence
Team

This is a really cool idea Petrit and team. Maybe you could look into developing your own Grimm brothers type story in which the charchters guide them through lifes challenges. This would allow the children to build a relationship with the charchters hopefully increasing the message of each story of life hack tutorial.

Photo of Daniel Brox
Team

Thanks for the great insight, Naomi. An avatar for the books is indeed a great way to build an emotional connection there.

Photo of Petrit Kasabaqi
Team

Thanks for your helpful suggestion Naomi, I'm suprised creating characters did not come across our minds even though our idea is so heavily inspired by the grimm brothers book. This is why collaboration is so important, one person might see things differently to someone else.

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