Published on July 8, 2014 um 16:52

Summary of your idea

Lensational aims at empowering women through photography. Emotionally, women can express themselves freely despite illiteracy; economically they earn extra income through selling the photographs. As a social enterprise, Lensational first recycles digital cameras in the developed world, then resells them to the urban poor women in developing countries, and equips them with photography training. Lensational also provides the channels for the women to sell the photographs through our online platform and partner agencies. There is an urgent need for social and economic empowerment of women. Women empowerment is critical for achieving other development outcomes, especially health and education. Of the worlds 796 million illiterate adults, 64% are women. Also, women earn only 1/10 of the worlds income. Women are therefore often portrayed as victims, impeding Womens empowerment contributes positively to other development goals, like health. An opportunity to empower women lies in photography. The advent of smartphones and digital SLR cameras has led to the decline of traditional digital cameras, which can be recycled to benefit the developing. There is commercial potential in selling authentic photographs taken by people in the developing world. Lensational aims at building an emotional bridge between the developed and the developing world. Donors in the developed world can track the photographs taken by women buying their cameras on our online platform. In the developing world, once the women buy the cameras, they will also gain access to our computer and network facilities for uploading and printing of photographs, after-sale services, and our photography workshops at the shop we will open. The images will be uploaded to the online platform for sales mainly in the developed world.

Expected impact of your idea on sustainable development

Lensational impacts five core areas on sustainable development: women empowerment, education, youth, cultural diversity and environment. First, photography empowers women on two levels: Emotionally, women can express themselves freely despite illiteracy. Therapeutic photography is also a proven counselling technique to overcome social isolation. Economically, they will receive 30-50% of the revenue if their photographs and related products are purchased. The flexible nature of photography work allows women to work despite their care duties. The social impact can be assessed by the following measures: 1) Emotional Empowerment: Number of photos taken by women; Reach of photos (to the general public) 2) Economic Empowerment: Total revenue paid by Lensational to the women; Increase in the lifetime earnings of the women (e.g. engage in other jobs). Based on our calculations, every dollar of investment will yield a return of 10 dollars for the women joining Lensational. Second, Lensational contributes to the education of both the developing and developed world. Through the photography workshops, we engage with local communities the women and their families in the developing world. The women learn to use new technologies which are critical to overcome the digital divide. As for the developed world, the images will increase public awareness in gender issues. Images that challenge the perception of victimhood of the Third world women especially serve as powerful educational tools. Third, Lensational is a youth-led organization, and we mobilize university students especially from the developing world as volunteers. Fourth, the images we produce celebrate the cultural diversity, and as women are bearers of cultures, they will provide a unique angle of what cultures mean. Fifth, in the environmental terms, recycling cameras that have become obsolete reduce waste and damage to the environment, especially when these cameras and electronics are burnt.

Plans for implementation and sustainability

To achieve the social impact, Lensational has a sustainable, scalable business model. There are three key activities in Lensationals business model: 1. Recycling cameras in the developed world 2. Reselling second-hand cameras and photography training in developing Asia 3. Selling photography merchandise and stock photographs through our local shops, online platform and partner agencies We are seeking for a total seed funding of $14,360, in order to build the business model. The funding allows Lensational to re-sell 500 cameras in 2015, and after the first year of operations, Lensational will be self-sustaining, and can scale up to selling 1,000 cameras in the second year. Lensational has been recognised by several international social venture competitions, including the Social Venture Challenge Asia in South Korea in December 2013 (Third Place Award), and the McKinsey Venture Academy in the UK in May 2014 (Finalist). To test whether our photographs have commercial potentials, we have talked to EyeEm, a stock photography app based in Berlin, and Lauri Lyons, the first female black photographer to be signed with Getty Images. We rely on collaborators in both the developed and developing world. Lensational is endorsed by the London School of Economics, one of the leading universities of the social sciences. Through the school, we can reach out to current students to volunteer with the project, to alumni with relevant experience, and to academics with the focus on social entrepreneurship and gender studies. For example, the Gender Institute at the LSE is the largest in Europe. As for the developing world, Lensational has established a partnership with a national NGO in Pakistan, Citizens Commission for Human Development, several photographers through the National College of Arts in Lahore, and the youth leadership organization AIESEC.

Your profile

I am Bonnie Chiu from Hong Kong, currently a graduate student in International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE). One year ago, when I was 20 years old and in my third year of undergraduate studies, I co-founded a non-profit social venture called Lensational, which marries my two passions in life: women empowerment and social entrepreneurship. Throughout the 12 years of education in an all-girls school, I was never stopped from achieving something just because I am a girl. Yet gender inequality is deeply entrenched in every society. I worked towards this cause through my non-profit and through internships in two international NGOs, Amnesty International in Hong Kong and Equality Now in London. Having studied and worked in 5 different countries, I have opened my eyes to the many possibilities of the world. One of them is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship holds the key to a more inclusive, equitable and progressive society globally, especially for young people. I am fortunate to be selected as one of the Resolution Fellows by the Resolution Project, a US-based non-profit. I am encouraged to be a leader of today, not a leader of tomorrow as young people as always told. I have also benefited greatly from my business education, especially winning many international business case competitions including those sponsored by HSBC, Carlsberg Group and McKinsey. An encounter in Istanbul that made me realise photography has the power to tell stories of the silenced women. From idea to action I have taught 150 women photography in Hong Kong, Pakistan, Myanmar and the UK. For Lensational, I have been interviewed by TV channels in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Pakistan. I learn from our students that leadership is about resilience and inspiring others to dream of the possibilities.

Video (optional)

Stage of Idea

start-up stage

Your idea has a positive impact on

environment, education, cultural diversity , empowerment of women, youth

Taken by a male student during our photography workshop in Pakistan. This confirms the prescribed gender roles as the boy assumed leadership role in the group. This contrasts with the next photo.

Taken in a photography workshop in Pakistan, September 2013. In a country where girls are never seen driving a motorbike Pakistan. The press of shutter has challenged the social definition of women and girls in this society. And we are challenging it for the better. We wish all women and girls can be as brave as this girl, and be free to pursue their dreams.

Me teaching a Pakistan school girl how to use the disposable camera. Curiosity drives learning.

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