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Interview with Nut & Feder – a social design company

In autumn 2015, a workshop project for refugees from the Verein Ute Bock went online on wemakeit.com called bockwerk. The idea behind it: to create a perspective for refugees through craftsmanship and design. Within a few weeks, more than EUR 30,000.00 were collected for the project via Crowdfunding. In the meantime, a lot has changed and bockwerk is now called Nut & Feder and is relaunching itself as a social business.

I was asked to talk about bockwerk at the workshop “Crowdfunding and Crossborder Fundraising” in Dresden at the beginning of November 2017, because I accompanied the project as a Crowdfunding-consultant. I took this opportunity to meet with bockwerk initiator Christian Penz in Vienna.

In an interview, he explains why the project had to rename itself, what the new company’s orientation is and what has happened since the successful crowdfunding campaign.

Wolfgang: Dear Christian, you are the founder of Nut & Feder. Please tell us, what’s the idea behind it?

Christian: Asylum seekers do not have regular access to the labour market during an open procedure and are confronted with special barriers on the labour market even after a positive asylum decision has been made.

Nut & Feder understands work as a central element of social inclusion. For legal, social and cultural reasons, refugees face particular barriers in the labour market. Our goal is to involve people with a refugee background in a work process from the outset and to offer them long-term training and employment opportunities.

In the 15th district in Vienna, as well as in the “Zwischennutzungsgebiet Creau” in the 2nd district,Nut & Feder operates wood workshops in which people with a refugee background are integrated into a company structure. In collaboration with designers and architects, they produce furniture and market regional products with social added value. People with a fugitive background are integrated into the planning and production process of high-quality products as trainees or employees.

Wolfgang: Originally, you founded Nut & Feder as bockwerk and started a Crowdfunding-campaign under this name. Why did you change the name?

Christian: In order to achieve our goal of a growing workshop that gives more and more people access to meaningful employment, we needed a proper legal basis. We must be able to write invoices, even for larger orders with correspondingly higher sums. Selling products by receiving a donation will not work for us in the long term. In order to accomplish this, we founded a corporate form that fulfills the social mission from a predominant market income.

For tax reasons, such a continuation within the non-profit organisation Verein Ute Bock was not possible. So the bockwerk founding team and decision-makers discussed it and agreed to continue independently under the name of Nut & Feder with the appropriate organisational form.

Wolfgang: So there’s been a lot going on since the Crowdfunding-campaign. What are you currently working on?

Christian: On the one hand, we are currently working closely with the team of mostlikely architecture on the development and marketing of a multifunctional module. This module could be used as a stand-up table, tower, shelf (room divider), longer bench, pedestal or as a simple stackable stool. The module can soon be purchased directly on our website or can be built and taken along as part of a furniture-making workshop.

In addition, we are currently working with the Institute for Participatory Social Research to develop a set of instruments for implementing a social impact reporting in order to be able to make systematic and evidence-based statements on the social and ecological impact of our company.

Wolfgang: Where do you see Nut & Feder in the future?

Christian: We want to continue to grow and help as many people as possible, who are living in forced inactivity and give them access to meaningful employment/education. With the explicit inclusion of asylum seekers (regularly excluded from the labour market) and persons entitled to asylum and entitled to subsidiary protection in the operational structure of Nut & Feder, we want to achieve their institutional exclusion and create a basic prerequisite for social participation.

Last but not least, we are striving to increase market revenues by expanding and tapping additional marketing and sales channels and to achieve the greatest possible independence from funding and donations.

Wolfgang: Would you recommend Crowdfunding? Or can you imagine running a campaign again?

Christian: I can recommend Crowdfunding to others. After we finished our own campaign, we accompanied several campaigns directly or through one of our partners. With a comparatively low input of resources, we were able to reach out to a large number of supporters and transport our mission to a broader audience.

Well, I can totally imagine to raise funding this way again. It is possible that we will initiate another campaign around our new park-module in the spring of 2018. In doing so, we would like to test the marketability of the product, obtain feedback from the Crowd and, last but not least, lay a financial foundation for further development.

Wolfgang: Good luck with that and many thanks for the interview!

***

For further information on the project and its Crowdfunding-campaign, here’s he slides of the workshop: Crowdfunding and Crossborder Fundraising

Advices of crowdfunding for future designers

Who designs the products we use daily? What about those we will use in the next future? Is it possible to produce them by ourselves?

The meaning of being a designer has been slightly changing in the last years and it is consistently evolving towards a more flexible, open, and accessible connotation thanks to crowd funding platforms playing a significant role. The production of design items does not follow a linear path and this is why social media play a crucial role in uniting global communities and in questioning long standing productive and creative systems. According to a recent research by Federlegno, 70% of Italian internal design companies invest at least 2% of their turnover in research and development.

Is this enough? The internet and social media are dramatically changing market balances in the design field. This affects both the production systems and the results of a certain company. Currently there are not huge success stories in this crowdfunding for design products and Italian companies still seem skeptical in this sense.

Nevertheless certain products born on crowd funding platform represent concrete examples of global success. Its the case of “Moon” a lamp funded via Indiegogo platform that reached almost 750% of the original objective in two months. Another example is represented by “The Level” a mobile platform to train in the office that collected 8 times the sum requested to start the production.

Last but not least the “Taga Family Bike” financed via Kick Starter to produce a bike stroller that collected around 100.000 Dollars in few minutes and closed the campaign with a 2 billion and a half dollars.

All these products had some basic steps in common: a story to tell; a strong preparation for the launch of the campaign; a dedicated team and a strong community to rely on.

The Moon: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/luna-bring-the-moon-along-with-you-art#/

The Level: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-level-a-deck-designed-to-set-you-in-motion#/

The Family Bike: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/taga2/taga-20-the-ultimate-most-affordable-family-bike