Thriving in 2020, Post Traumatic Growth For Social Entrepreneurs

Insights from the First Edition of the Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation Program

As Bloom’s program manager during the the Asfari Challenge for Social Innovation (ACSI) program, we faced unprecedented challenges including a global pandemic, economic crisis, political instability, and the devastating Beirut Port explosion. I thought I’d share this report on why we believe the program participants persevered and how it also fostered resilience and post-traumatic growth (PTG). Our findings suggest that structured social support and deliberate reflection can significantly enhance resilience in social entrepreneurs, even amid extreme adversity.


2020 was a year of extraordinary challenges globally, with Lebanon facing particularly severe hardships. As we ran the ACSI program with teams across Lebanon, we encountered a perfect storm of crises:

  • Global COVID-19 pandemic
  • Severe economic downturn
  • Political instability
  • Resource shortages
  • Rising unemployment
  • The catastrophic Beirut Port explosion

These events profoundly impacted our participants, with some team members directly affected by the port explosion. Despite these challenges, the ACSI program continued, adapting to provide crucial support during this tumultuous period.

Social Entrepreneurship support organizations, like Bloom, are working in an environment and an age of seemingly accelerating incidences of social, political, and environmental challenges. Thus, identifying the factors that promote post-traumatic growth (PTG) is critical. 

Program Approach

The ACSI program employed several key strategies:

  1. Principles-based training: We focused on core principles of social innovation rather than rigid methodologies, allowing for flexibility in application.
  2. Quantitative/Qualitative data and reflection: Using the Values In Action Character Profile(VIA) – a psychometrically validated tool – helped us assess and support participants’ character strengths.
  3. Regular convening circles: We maintained consistent check-ins, even in the immediate aftermath of the port explosion, fostering a supportive community.

Research Findings

Our research compared ACSI participants with a control group of individuals who were assessed but unable to participate in the program. Key findings include:

  1. Enhanced resilience: ACSI participants demonstrated greater resilience in the face of acute challenges.
  2. Positive impact of social support: Regular check-ins and a supportive community correlated with improved coping mechanisms.
  3. Importance of deliberate rumination: Structured reflection on experiences contributed to personal growth.
  4. Character strength development: Participants showed increases in traits associated with PTG, such as Hope, Persistence, and Gratitude.

The Values In Action (VIA) assessment offers a unique perspective in psychological measurement. While traditionally Psychological measures measure what goes wrong, the VIA identifies what is working well in a flourishing life. We used this psychometrically validated instrument to assess teams before the ACSI accelerator program and after the program’s completion.

Additionally, we assessed a control group of teams who were unable to participate in the program. Our findings revealed a difference: teams who participated in the ACSI program demonstrated greater resilience when facing acute challenges. This observation led us to a crucial question: What specific aspects of the ACSI program contributed to this enhanced resilience?

Diving into the literature, we found connections between social support, asking meaningful questions, and PTG. 

Implications for Social Entrepreneurship Support

While traumatic events can destabilize the status quo by disrupting our worldview, how we reconstruct those narratives is critically important. The ACSI program’s structure appears to have provided a framework for positive narrative reconstruction, even in the face of severe challenges. 

The originators of the concept of PTG, Tedeschi, and Calhoun, identify Deliberate Rumination and Positive Social Support as important factors in promoting the possibility of growth after a difficulty. We believe one of the reasons teams in the ACSI program fared better is that we developed a “pre-resilience” habit of holding a space where important questions are raised in a socially supportive setting, our check-in circles.

Limitations and Future Research

It’s important to note that while many people experience PTG after difficulty, it’s not universal or expected from everyone. Factors such as prior life experiences, personal schemas, and individual differences play significant roles.

Our study’s limitations include:

  • Small sample size
  • Focus on a specific geographic and cultural context
  • Relatively short timeframe for observing long-term effects

Future research could explore:

  • Larger-scale studies across diverse contexts
  • Longitudinal studies to assess long-term impacts
  • Comparative studies of different support methodologies

We welcome collaboration opportunities with other organizations to expand this research.

Recommendations for Organizations

Based on our findings, we recommend the following actions for social impact accelerators, educational institutions, and businesses:

  1. Implement Regular Check-ins:
    • Establish consistent times for team or community gatherings.
    • Example: Establish regular check-in sessions where participants share challenges and successes.
  2. Foster Deliberate Reflection:
    • Incorporate structured reflection activities into programs.
  3. Develop Personal and Professional Strengths
    • Use assessments and activities to help people identify personal and professional strengths. 
    • Example: Consider using the VIA assessment to identify and nurture key traits and measure flourishing.
  4. Create Supportive Communities:
    • Facilitate peer support networks within and beyond formal program structures.

Conclusion and Call to Action

The ACSI program’s experience during 2020 demonstrates the potential for entrepreneurship training programs to go beyond business skills, fostering resilience and personal growth. By implementing the recommendations outlined in this report, organizations can create more supportive, resilient, and growth-oriented environments for social entrepreneurs.

We invite other organizations to join us in this important work. By fostering resilience and PTG, we can build a community of social entrepreneurs better equipped to drive positive change, taking care of themselves, others, and their mission – even in the face of significant adversity.

For more detailed information and data, please download our full research report: “Character Strengths and Fostering PTG” Character Strengths And Fostering PTG (draft to publish)

To discuss collaboration opportunities or learn more about implementing these recommendations, please contact us at [Insert contact information].

Together, we can unlock human potential for positive change and ensure our teams thrive while creating lasting social impact.

The Real School of Life – How LLMs May Inadvertently Stunt Human Development

In our last post we discussed the idea that LLMs are not entirely black boxes and contain high-level representations of concepts that we can identify. Through these concepts, it’s also possible to steer the conversation. The research around monosemanticity and understanding the patterns of neuronal firings inside LLMs focus on harm reduction, although the approaches the researchers developed open a whole set of other important considerations. For instance, should we guide LLMs to promote certain qualities and demote specific responses? Constitutional AI’s principles focus on what not to do rather than what would be great to do.

My sense is that the idea of LLMs reducing agency and human skill, sort of like cellphones reduced my ability to navigate a city without google maps, is a harm – and potentially a greater harm due to the meta-level it operates at. The approach to training our LLMs have led them to want to help us, and like an overly ambitious helper prevents us from the growth that comes in the process of doing. It’s this element that I’m attempting to identify as a real harm, not an imagined one, or a preference. And I hope this series of posts will help me clarify that for myself, and you, dear reader.

In the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, we find an insight into the importance of education, deep inside Article 26.2, we read:

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Article 26.2

Two goals jump out at me:

  • Promoting and maintaining peace through understanding, tolerance, and friendship.
  • The full development of the human personality.

This demonstrates the relationship between education, international cooperation, and peace. It’s through the developmental approach we go through levels of understanding the self, identifying with greater and more poetic views as experience shapes us. I believe that learning and growth can be seen as an end in itself, and if LLMs stifle human development by automating developmentally important tasks (writing your resignation letter for you), there is an invisible harm that LLMs can inflict that is hard to see.

What do you think?

Looking Inside LLMs – If we can drive now, where should we go?

It’s assumed that artificial intelligence and the magic of LLMs emerge from an impenetrable black box consisting of neural networks many layers deep. Some input comes in and an output comes out, yet we will never know what is happening “in there”. Well! Thanks to research from the team at Antrhopic we can perform an “MRI” on LLMs and peer into the neurons to identify monosemantic concepts.

We fear that which we don’t understand, especially if that which we don’t understand is very powerful. Much of the conversation on AI fears, especially about run-away intelligence, stems from the fact that as of today, most LLMs are black boxes that seem to perform miracles. This video does a great job of explaining why it is important to understand the ideas inside the AI’s head, and how researchers are have tackled the challenge.

Importantly the research from Anthropic demonstrates that not only can we know what neurons in the neural network are doing — we can also variably “clamp” outputs from the LLM to that concept. This means that we can direct how the LLM interacts with people increasing steerability and reducing risks.

How should LLMs respond to minimize potential harm? Anthropic’s list of principles it uses for its “Constitutional AI” is a good start deriving it’s principles from the Charter of Human Rights and a few other sourcs. My question is could “do no harm” be just a starting point?

Could the first tool that can think and decide respond in ways that improve life for individuals and humanity? And should it?

Do we have a Universal Set of Principles for The Good Life that an LLM is also trained on and how do we know what the “respond in ways to …” sentence will end in?


Today I realized that the hadith about beconing God’s beloved. I used to abdicate the idea of choice and want my choice to be God’s choice and to let go. Once I started deciding to make istikhara and choose I found myself moving towards wanting to be in relationship instead. (TBC)

It pours forth

So I’m on day four in Gambia and the inspiration keeps coming. I feel like inspiration is like food. You can’t go too long without having some or you’ll die.

Today I’m reflecting on the idea that God will not test you with burdens you can’t handle. Most people interpret it as in you wont have too big a burden to carry and if God gives you a burden, it’s knowing that you have the capacity to manage it.

Now when we shared this thought in our cirlce yesterday people raised concerns about the fact that some people have burdens and it breaks their backs, or even kills them. The insight I had through someone else here was that another way to look at it is that God wont hold you accountable for when you break under the burden.

A few other things on my mind are about having cautiousness and God conciousness and the results of that in terms of being granted knowledge, openings from un expected places and more. And I must say, I’ve started testing this and it feels true. I realize for me faith feels like a bridge made of glass, you can take small and safe steps and not be too far above the ground yet feel vertigo and terror, you’re floating! Then you realize it’s glass and it’s fine you can walk. Then you get accustomed to the idea of faith because it has build credibility / validity and reliablility. Big words for an exhausted person. I’m going to sleep now ;D

I want to be free

It’s the first day of Ramadan, the third day of being here in Gambia. And every day here I have found a bit of wisdom. I have decided to start sharing what I learn again. Blogging to help with thinking, rather than blogging to be something, to be reognized, or seen in a certain light. I feel repulsed by the idea of using ai to write blogs. I was discussing today with Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah  about the definition of “Kalam” in arabic, the word for to dialog or speak, is that kalam is not kalam unless it is beneficial, and it’s not kalam unless it has intent on behalf of the listener and the speaker. That was one of the treasures from today.

Yesterday’s treasure from Shaikh Ahmed I learned the Khuwaysa concept. that the Prophet (S) mentioned there will ome a time when people will become obsessed with their own thoughts and disprespectful towards knowledge and will also get lost in following their desires and whims. Which sounds pretty much like influencer/thought leadership culture. In those days he says to stay away from the public arenas and focus on the “khuwaysa” the private, few, intimate, close relationships. Which is where my mind has been going for a time, and I uess it’s one way to think of this blog, like honestly I don’t expect anyone to read this, it’s not in the “public arena” the place where people an tag and help share things, yet iI remember 2003 and my favorite days on the internet where I would write and read a few blogs, and I felt the person on the other side. I think thats what is different here. I mean even though with social media you can get full videos and total intimate settings it is minimized. Instead check out this blog from Doug, Open Thinkering. He is clearly a human being, someone out there thinking and sharing and thinking for themselves. 

I feel like the way to follow the prophetic commandment is to go back to open web standards, host your own server, host wordpress, contribute to knowledge in your own way.

The third bit of wisdom I have cleaned has to do with the verses on aggression in the quran, And that one might require more time to describe than I have now. I’m going to launch this no edits just to keep the ball rolling. Many hugs! salam

Truth, Exploration and Open Science

What is Open Science. What is science? How is it related to the truth of what is and ethics? Here’s a little bit of thought for you:

Open Science seems to be a return to fundamental principles of forces and possibility, and in the human domain – ethics. A mote of dust in the breeze knows precisely every force acting on it and thus dances in the light coming from an open window. For humanity, knowledge increases the range of possibilities and leads to new options of action. The truth of reality constrains all possibilities; this is vast, limited access to knowledge of fundamental truths of possibility constrains our available actions. Our ethical systems determine what of these possible actions to take. By expanding options, we can respond with more of our ethics intact – a proxy for a sort of wisdom.
Science creates knowledge of the space of possibility of action. We derive this knowledge by taking an empirical view of the world or an experiment and concluding causation through a series of logical steps. This abbreviated version of the scientific method is cut off from the initiating force, the hypothesis. A hypothesis brings human motive to expand the realm of the true possibilities and may derive from self-satisfaction through closing gaps in knowledge or hypotheses that the hypothesizer believes will be “useful,” sometimes split into fundamental and applied sciences.
Adding to the knowledge space of humanity, we create a more significant number of options for action in our reality bounded universe. Now that we know the relationship between matter and energy, we have the option to build nuclear reactors to solve the energy needs of humanity. Once we observed that putting seeds into the earth and watering them caused them to grow we were enabled the deductive observation of farming.
Open Science is the process where these hypotheses, observations as data, the process to derive them (by code or by convention) is easily accessible to others to replicate, review the methodology and conclusions. Open science brings the ethics of beauty into our world. Like observing the dance of thousands of dust motes in a beam of light, or a balanced ecosystem with all the forces at play bringing about an orchestra of action and reaction. Open Science can bring a faster and more accurate mapping of truth for anyone willing to participate. This expanded realm of possibility means we can act on our ethics with more dimensions of freedom. We may have kept the benefits of increased food production, energy production, highrises, antibiotics for the elite. It seems logical that experiments are being conducted today that only benefit the elite. Closed access / secret science goes against the desire of truth. What does truth desire? If we accept things are, and that truth is, then truth is truth and truth “desires” to be known, to fill its total shape as it does everywhere else. Consciousness (that which conducts science) seems to be a rare force in the universe in its ability to hide and lie. Open Science is not an ethic; it is an enabler of ethical actions through access to knowledge and options for behaviors.
Open Science puts consciousness into the service of beauty by theorizing, exploring, deducing, and sharing – creating space for ethics – creating space to dance.

Global Protest Movements and Gandhi

A few weeks ago, in Paris, I nearly got caught up with The Extinction Rebellion protestors getting teargassed right outside my doorstep. The country my family is from, Iraq, has been having protests have been going for months now with over 500 people killed. Lebanon’s Martyrs square, while full of protesters, has thankfully seen fewer killed. The Extinction Rebellion grows louder. It’s been about 10 years since the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Arab Spring. In 2003, I remember being 18 years old and speaking in front of 3,000 people against the Iraqi invasion. Growing up in a college town, protests and demonstrations were commonplace, yet I’m wary of jumping into the crowd these days, especially when the crowd is angry.

Each of these movements has so much history and potential positive action, yet somehow I find myself unable to understand my responsibility towards them. Make your voice heard is the idea. As Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
— Elie Wiesel

There’s a word I’ve been struggling to identify. It describes a situation where the more effort you put into something, the more tangled up you become in it. That somehow, when you’re caught in barbed wire, it’s best to stop moving, rather than struggle further and deepen the burrs. Perhaps this is the excuse I give myself to not act, not support, not back, not chant, not take to the streets. This fog has only grown thicker as the protests movements have moved closer and closer to home.

In response, I’ve recently become obsessed with learning about Gandhi. I’ve known he was an inspiration to Martin Luther King Junior and Mandela, who both led movements shifted the path of history towards one of greater justice. Yet, I never depend on my relationship with his thinking first hand. It surprised me to see how he was initially so keen on serving the British empire, how duty-bound he felt to support them in their time of need. How strict he was with himself to do what he believed was true.

The movie Gandhi which came out in 1982, paints him in a picture where he seemed to act for goodness or to support India’s liberation movement. What inspires me is that he saw his entire endeavor as seeking the truth. It’s still resolving for me, yet I’m beginning to understand the threads he makes between truth-seeking, seeing the other as the self, and nonviolent noncooperation.

Gandhi’s first experiments in communal living started after reading Unto This Last by Ruskin. which is essentially an economic and political argument the crux of which is equal pay for all work and free schooling for all people. It led him to make some conclusions about self-sufficiency and to start building what later became known as his first ashram in South Africa. I’m finding that proto villages, eco makerspaces, earth ships, hacker farms, rural co-living spaces, spiritual permaculture hubs and other similar type spaces have been inspiring me more in these last years. Although considering them as a social alternative seems to lead to a strange future where educated, upper-middle-class and tech-savvy people flee cities to take the place of the rural people who just left the farms for a better 20th-century life. The continuation of that trend seems to pave the way to a dystopian survivalist version of the future with micro governments (mobs?) rule principalities.

Gandhi was nationalistic, and he believed in an India ruled by its population. The injustice of the British empire was apparent to him. What are the fundamental injustices behind so many of our modern-day protest movements? Growing financial inequality, corruption — which to me can be seen as related to inequality in that it’s a sort of jealousy described as a call towards fairness and potential ecological collapse. To my mind, these are caught in a quagmire. It’s a bit like an escalating feud. Power leads to economic and political gain at the expense of people and environment. Then in the process of removing the offensive force, people desire the same power and economic gains at the expense – yet again – of the natural world and quite possibly abusing another class of people.

Seek not greater wealth, but simpler pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi had an interesting idea about the ethic of non-stealing. His perspective is that if you took any more than you needed for essential survival, you’re taking from someone else’s survival and hence qualified as theft and thus ate and owned very little. This sort of subsistence living may not be aspirational for many, and it may not need to be. There are smart people making arguments of abundance and wealth, for instance:

“Wealth isn’t about taking something from somebody else—it’s about creating abundance for the world.”
-Naval Ravikant

Image result for the world has enough for everyone need but not everyone greed

“The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed,”

Mahatma Gandhi

In different times of my life, I have dreamt of different dreams. One is of exploring the origins of reality and galaxies with a Dyson Sphere powering our class II civilization. The other is one where I realize how little I truly need to be happy, and enjoy life building paper microscopes with my hypothetical children.

I am full of questions and doubts about what a beautiful way to live is, and I am open to living those questions as honestly as I can. What I loved about learning about Gandhi’s life is how commitments he made were like steps on a ladder. That a vow was solemn and that once he made it, you could trust it as much as you could trust a sturdy ladder leaning on a cliff face. That Gandhi’s exploration of metaphysical truth led to an in-world reality that others could rely on him for as much as they could rely on gravity.

Gandhi’s belief in Ahimsa – non-violence to any living thing – led him to a practice of humbling one’s self. It’s in this way he saw himself in all others.
Ahimsa is related to how Gandhi practiced non-violent non-cooperation, otherwise known as Satyagraha which is comprised of these principles:

  • Nonviolence (ahimsa)
  • Truth — this includes honesty, but also means living fully for what is true, and agreeing with it
  • Not stealing
  • Non-possession or nor owning (not the same as being poor)
  • Body-labor or bread-labor
  • Not being afraid
  • Equal respect for all religions
  • Fighting with boycotts (not spending or buying from those who are a problem)
  • Others as well, check the article above

To wrap up. Our systems are broken for the people and the planet. Protests movements are sprouting up requesting change at many levels and in many countries (I include the rise of the right wing and fascist political developments as a form of protest, asking to be heard). Questions about minimalism retreating and/or the possibility of abundance value creation for ever more people pop up. These ideas in turn disturb the desire for abnegation – although there may be a path related to value creation as a humble act of service and not an ego driven vehicle and/or expression of self into world.

Here are some thoughts on protests and the future of some aspects of economics and politics. I would love to hear reflections.

Continuing my hunt for my adventures in truth, I’m staying on the Gandhi reading list, next onto Tolstoy!


Who are you being here?

What do our virtual environments bring out of us?

I had a dream a few nights before 2020. I dreamt about the early web and how inspiring it was. It could have been a fluke that I hit puberty while web was still shiny? Or was there something really different about source code you could read/steal, finding a friend with a static IP address and hosting our own Movable Type instance. I still recall meeting people on IRC and waiting 30 mins to download a .wav file of some poorly played guitar music. The low quality staticy music of Smelly Cat made me feel like a modern day Alexander Bell. It was magical.

I saved those files, I saved our chats. Our connection felt special and meaningful. Connecting from my basement room in Michigan to friends in New Zealand was like opening your eyes for the first time, grainy and low resolution, yet still in a strange way so much more real than what passes for connection on social media today.

What’s changed? Speed, resolution, availability, mobile phones. This article claims that the 2010’s have broken our perception of time, in part due to the non-chronological newsfeed algorithms twitter and facebook rolled out. Perhaps.

In my life, I confess, I was sold on the rise of the self, the idea of the influencer, the personal brand. I was told careers are dead and that to be safe I had to be famous. The more followers you have the more successful. That I had to have my own URL, that I needed to get on each social media platform early and post often to make sure that I got followers. Somehow it fell under “need” rather than “want”. That this is simply how to get projects going, this is how the “work” is these days. I believed it and it helped to dim the magic of the internet for me.

All is not lost though, I get fleeting feelings of connection when I post deeper content or make requests. I recently asked for book recommendations and was surprised to find some people still respond with insight there. Twitter as well. Today I had an incredible video chat with my friend Cesar in Hong Kong over 3G as he biked home, a technology which would have been mind blowing in 2002.

This makes me wonder if there’s a lot of beauty and magic //still// happening online. That perhaps all is not lost, and that there is a greater amount of it on Minecraft, in discord servers, or in decentralized communities. What if my online experience is a mirror of myself and I’m getting out of it what I’m putting in. There is a diversity of people online. If I contain multitudes, what about the multitudes themselves?

My friend Pavel and I had a pokey question about the value of creating content that no one reads, that’s harder to scale with a tweet, that’s more than 140 characters long, that has no picture attached, that doesn’t even have a singing emoji or gif.

Let’s take creation VS consumption. The tendency online for me is to trigger conversation rather than contribute. The tendency for me is to scroll or to go from one wiki link or article to the next, rather than to sit and contemplate or draw and share.

Architecture shapes reality, that’s for sure. Having a blog //is// very different than posting on facebook, that’s for sure. So it seems to me that first I need to determine first is who I want to be online and to find the enabling spaces that support that.

Who would you like to be online?

Here’s my commitment to trying to be who I want to be and sharing as I go.

Two Inspirations At Odds

Seth Godin has been blogging every day for the last who knows how many years.

Derek Sivers has a (new) rule to write daily and to publish only when he believes that what he has written is worth the readers time.

Should I share the process and write daily, get to the point where I’m constantly putting myself out there? Or should I only post when I think what I have to say is worth your attention.

Right now this content is for me, it’s a chronicle, a blog, a log of my thinking (hardly my life). It has projects alongside ramblings like this.

I think that until I figure out what this space will be for, I will post daily. Not as personal as my morning pages, not as refined as an article. I do know I want to write more and to do it publicly.

See you soon.

What if

What if I paid more attention to what I shared online

What if what we shared created knowledge and built connections between people?

What if I could decide if there will be any advertisements?

What if I could make my website look ugly, if I wanted?

What if this content wasn’t for sale?

What if influence was a matter of creating real value?

What if we could curate the weird and the wonderful without a top 10 list of amazing javascript visualizations you don’t want to miss post from fuzzdeed?

What if we hosted out own websites and created webrings?

What’s Tim Burners Lee up to these days anyway?

So that’s about it for today. Day zero. What if?

what if I could blink

Thanks for reading, if you want to comment, I’m sorry you cant. You can email me though by putting my initials before the url here. Hugs!

Wrecklab Makelab

Wrecklab / Makelab is project which is an effort to create more awareness about how the products we use every day work, to inspire creativity, and to have fun taking stuff apart! During Wrecklab we take things apart with any tool available and investigate the core of the gadgets of yesteryear. Makelab is the opposite, during this session participants are encouraged is to put the destroyed objects back together again in a novel way. The idea is to empower people with the knowledge of everyday objects they may mistake for magic. Cell phone: magic. Refrigerators… magic. Printers: sorcery!! Having the knowledge of the inner workings of their thingsgives people more ownership over the stuff they buy. If your watch breaks, you’re not out all the parts, you can use that stuff! Also there’s the potential for fixing it yourself.

I hope that more happens, that through this destructive and constructive play people find themselves inspired to experiment, to realize that science is done by people solving their own problems. That a playful experimenting mind is a fun thing to cultivate, and who knows what fun hacks we’ll develop along the way!

All Hands Active

All Hands Active is the Hackerspace in Ann Arbor MI. AHA started as a series of brainstorming sessions in fall 2009. Initially floating from chocolate house to coffee shop we soon teamed up with DigitalOps and a beautiful flower bloomed. A flower filled with all the stuff you’d find in the corner of your garage. The concept was based on the examples of Hacker Spaces from around the country I found during The Two Hands Project. With membership growing AHA is coming to it’s own as a collaborative community space for tinkerers, makers and beautiful people in Ann Arbor.

MakeZine Visits All Hands Active

Events are hosted by members who are excited about what they know love to share! Here’s a knitting class held by Katie and Alex:

Sexify Your Life I: Yarning from Matt Mayers on Vimeo.

But what is AHA really about? Maybe this stick can help clear things up:


March 2010
Working in conjunction with Right Brain Fabrication we built an animatronic robot face to interact with Kosmo’s customers. Two Peggy‘s act as Kosmobot’s eyes while four servo’s manipulate his aluminum eyebrows. This gives him some serious flexibility and a good range of expressions. We also had a script running so the operator could type in the words Kosmo would say and it would use the TTS from the Mac Kosmo lives in to speak.  Right Brain Fabrication built the mechanics and I did the electronics interfacing and programming.

Kosmo Robot

This video by Bob Stack from Right Brain Fabrication shows some of the available expressions Kosmo has:

If you’re ever in Ann arbor and you want to order food from a robot get yourself to Kosmo and order some Bi Bim Bop!

Colorshifting Biofeedback Glasses – Representing Stress Responses Visually


After hearing about the Iowa Gambling Task experiment in which subjects are given decks of cards and are asked to pick between them. Each choice either wins them money or loses them a certain amount depending on the value of the card. A healthy individual will begin picking the deck that offers him the highest running values after picking approximately 50 choices. But amazingly after 10 choices the individual’s galvanic skin response jumps. Here’s a Google Books link to the paper by Dr. Damásio: Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex.

It seemed likely that by getting closer insight into our emotional states we could make better decisions. So I made these glasses that tinted your peripheral vision depending on your galvanic skin response. Using a simple voltage divider circuit, an arduino, RGB LED’s, safety glasses and diffusers I was able to make glasses that related information from my subconcious and displayed it to a sense that I was very aware of… vision. Here’s a video me and a friend Anand Atreya going through some GSR tests and the goggles in action:

Compass Headband

While working with tactile displays I continued to consider what types of senses I could send to my body. Thinking about birds and my own lack of city sense I picked compass heading. I believe the less processing you need to do to understand consciously the sensations you feel, the more rapidly it will become background knowledge so the most direct analog to compass sense would be to vibrate my head north. Since my head has a full 360 degrees. I used the HMC6343, an arduino, 14 pager motors and a decoder/driver circuit I devised to run it.

Here are some pictures of the construction and the final headband:

Here’s the code used to communicate between the decoder and the compass: compassaccess.pde

With Punch!

With Punch is a festival which focuses on celebrating life in is its wonderful beauty and promoting real, genuine connections between strangers over free pie and punch. We hold With Punch annually for free in public spaces in Ann Arbor. Watching people walk right by each other I thought that if I could find something common between two they may form a connection. So I started out by bringing art supplies, musical instruments, juggling toys, punch, hot chocolate and pie I leave all these out and encourage strangers to interact with each other in anyway they wish. Starting in 2005 with a few supplies and a desire to create an environment I wanted to be a part of, WithPunch has grown into a music festival with cook-offs and crayon art competitions. An article at the Michigan Journal describes it as:

“Improvisation was everywhere throughout the event. However, things fell together one by one as Ghalib achieved his goal for the third time: eclectic entertainment and living life with vigor – sans alcohol or other drugs. … One thing is certain: Variety show was an understatement as a description for With Punch”

We’ve had 7 with punches so far. I can’t wait to hold the 8th. Here are some photographs from previous WithPunch events!

Modati Studios

Modati is a company that started operating early March 2006. The initial spark behind Modati was to take all the skill I knew my friends and I had and turn that into something that we could use to gain new skills, interact with people and make money doing things we cared about. Upset that most of my friends expected to work jobs that didn’t develop them in any way I also wanted an avenue to take the design company (Still Pondering Studios) I started in 12 grade and turn it into a design and print studio.

Starting with that idyllic perspective we grew very rapidly moving from one venue to another 3 times in 3 years. Here’s a short list of things we’ve done:

  1. We created a partnership with 10 bands doing an image trading gig where we’d appear at their shows selling merchandise, while they wore our line on stage.
  2. Working with local artists we put out dozens of designs and attended festivals all over the east coast.
  3. We rented out a storefront on Main St in Ann Arbor with our printing operations in the basement.
  4. Taught summer workshops and classes with the Ann Arbor Art Fair
  5. Through a partnership with the local teen center The Neutral Zone we teach silk screening every Friday during the school year.
  6. We run MATES (Make Awesome Tee Shirts and Enjoy Summer) a summer camp with the Neutral Zone for local kids interested in screen printing.
  7. Ran a Reform an event designed to raise awareness of the possibility of reuse in every day life. First in our studio, and in 2009 in The Gallery Project.

More recently we’ve become interested in developing interactive shirts and objects such as the twittering shirt:

And thermochormatic potholders that tell you when they’re hot:

Modati’s popular live screen printing events are a new means of both revenue and public interaction:

Four years after starting this company it’s still changing and growing. Watching it evolve I realize how important it’s been to my growth and development. Through this company I have been able to affect hundreds of peoples lives. I’ve been able to throw concerts, sponsor events, and be a part of a thriving artistic community. We’re currently directing the company to incorporate more of my sensory and engineering interests and I’m interested to see how far we can push the science of screen printing.

Decoder Business Card

A laser cut version of the decoder business card
A laser cut version of the decoder business card

By using a a QR code as an encoder and decoder we can have a secret message card that can be translated using digital decoders and analog ones as well!

Having a good business card can help you maintain contacts, promote yourself and your business, and make friends. By creating a personal business card that involves the recipient actively folding, manipulating and translating your card will make them more likely to remember you and share your card.

Decoded image

Thinking back to the old school decoder rings and my fascination with secret messages I thought I could make an interesting business card that could not only tell a story, but give useful information on how to contact me. I did this first using just a block out grid stencil, and secondly with a QR code acting as the grid. I posted the project on instructables, you can check it out there, view the embedded version, or download the PDF below.

A decoder business card project I just posted to instructables.

Decoder Buisness Card – QR Coded Secret Message