The experience economy, PEER ARMIES and 'parasite' projects: how to create something memorable for a hyper-local community

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In the latest of our Featured Innovators posts, we caught up with Wiezte Gelmers of Dutch agency Golfstromen to discuss his recent work on IJburg Serveert - a collaboration between local home cooks and a P2P delivery service, that featured in our recent Global Trend Briefing, PEER ARMIES.

Wietze Gelmers

What was the inspiration behind the innovation?

The idea behind IJburg Serveert originates from our real fascination with the growing sharing economy. We found out that IJburg, one of Amsterdam’s youngest neighborhoods, is known for its strong and active community of home cooks who frequently use the food-sharing program Thuisafgehaald to share their meals with fellow neighbors.

With IJburg Serveert, we gave this community a larger podium by opening a pop-up beach restaurant. The project lasted for only a single weekend, and relied completely on sharing economy-based services. By having home cooks run the kitchen of IJburg Serveert, they were offered an opportunity to share their family recipes and signature dishes with other residents of IJburg. As often, home cooks have quite a small circle of regular customers - this, in turn, would contribute to expanding their marketplace as well as strengthening IJburg’s local community.

The event took place over three days at Centrumeiland, an as-yet-undeveloped part of IJburg in Amsterdam. Six IJburg-based home cooks were in charge of the restaurant’s kitchen, meaning that their signature dishes formed the menu being served to customers.

Making the most of the sharing economy in a restaurant without a kitchen, dishes were prepared by the cooks in their own home, and needed to be delivered to the restaurant. That is where TringTring came in: a peer-to-peer bicycle delivery service that delivered the dishes directly to the guests’ tables. The result was an exclusive pop-up restaurant that tapped into the sharing economy by combining two peer-to-peer services.

IJburg-1

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced while both developing the idea and establishing yourselves within the market?

Organizing a project like IJburg Serveert was anything but easy.

Many factors made it a complex and difficult operation to execute. To start, setting up an outdoor pop-up restaurant on an undeveloped plot of land is not something that happens overnight. We quickly ran into issues concerning legislation and permits, since we were using government-owned land. Once we got past these obstacles, we were able to create a detailed set-up for our restaurant. It was quite challenging to make sure that the various peer-to-peer services (Thuisafgehaald and TringTring) were connected in such a way that our ‘restaurant’ would act as an ‘oiled machine’.

We wanted to offer our guests a decent level of service - simple as that. It was quite a puzzle to make sure that everything was fine-tuned logistically: the food preparation by the home-cooks, the delivery by TringTring’s bike-deliverers, and serving out hot and steamy dishes by our waiters. ‘Smooth sailing’ is of great importance to such a project!

Although all can be very well-arranged beforehand on paper, you are always dependent on external factors beyond your control when it comes to a project of this manner. One of the most important things for us was needing to create enough buzz and enthusiasm around IJburg Serveert in a relatively short amount of time. We designed a website, got in the local news, and put up promotional material both online and in IJburg’s streetscape, to make sure we generated plenty of visibility among IJburg’s (and Amsterdam’s) residents. And of course, there’s always a risk of the weather in the Netherlands. But, we were lucky with that as well!

IJburg-2

What is your top tip to other professionals who seek to better understand, and stay ahead of, consumers’ changing expectations?

Increasingly, we witness that we’re in the middle of an experience economy.

More and more, it has become a goal to create something memorable; a project that offers an experience that is rare and appeals to people’s genuine interest. At the same time, we see that peer-to-peer networks and services are establishing themselves solidly in (parts) of our societies and daily routines. These are two important trends that, in our eyes, offer lots of opportunities and deserve a closer look.

Taking IJburg Serveert as an example once more, we like to label this as a parasite project.

By this, we mean that we use existing platforms exemplifying a larger trend – which in this case would be Thuisafgehaald and TringTring who both fit the growing peer-to-peer trend. By looking closely at the direction in which society is moving towards, and by building on pre-existing  platforms, you get yourself some fruitful ground for a successful project.

In our eyes it is important to make sure that people know ‘what is happening’ out there. Getting yourself a good understanding of (societal) trends, and being be on top of the latest, can be crucial in designing a successful project. Thanks to our blog Pop-Up City, we are always on top of new trends in urbanism and urban lifestyle. We use those insights in our projects.

Spacious, NY

What was your favorite recent innovation and why?

Something we have been following closely as of late is the ways in which cities, venues and people are dealing with issues of vacancy and temporarily unused spaces. Nowadays, we are living in a society in which temporality seems to have become the standard – also in terms of the ways in which we use various types of urban spaces.

An interesting example of an initiative in line with this trend would be Spacious: a New York-based start-up that aims to maximize a space’s usage by turning restaurants that are empty during the day into co-working offices. This innovation, labeled as a ‘space hack’ or a ‘reprogramming of urban space’, is something we find really interesting. These are the kinds of trends and innovations we like to feature on our blog Pop-Up City.

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