DIY Days

I’ve always been awed by the phenomenon that is the DIY Days. I’ve never attendend myself – one of the drawbacks of living fairly remote – but from what I’ve seen of the action on Twitter, Storify and other social media, and the videos posted from these events, it’s one that is on my bucket list of events to experience.

The next chance for people to immerse themselves in the DIY Days is in Paris in some weeks time. I spoke to the event’s organizers, Alexis Niki and Fabienne Olivier, about what makes the Paris version a special event.

Q: What is DIY Days to you?

What I find exciting about diy days is how open and accessible the event is. diy days is about bringing the creative community together, inviting them into an almost magical space to share experiences, find inspiration, exchange ideas, learn new skills, and meet each other on an even playing field. As Lance puts it, diy days plants a lightning rod in the ground and hopes for lighting to strike. Fabienne and I consider that our job as producers is to build the best lightning rod we can. The energy that creates the lightning, that’s what the participants bring to the party. Another aspect of diy days that I find very exciting is its global growth. Each diy days takes on a local flavor but then also plugs into the larger international community. Quite naturally, then, we see different perspectives emerging, which is wonderful. Finally, diy days is always evolving. No two are exactly the same.

Q: Why do you bring it to Paris?

First and foremost, we’re bringing diy days to Paris because this is where we live and work. There’s a lot of innovation happening in various pockets of France–in transmedia, in technology and startups, in social entrepreneurship, in design and so on, and of course we’d like to bring all these innovators together. But we also hope to spark collaboration between people, to foster cross-pollination, and possibly see some teams form and new ideas emerge. One of the values at the center of diy days is the concept of designing with instead of designing for. It’s great to bring the community together physically, but we’re also hoping to create a dynamic that continues beyond diy days.

Q: Who should attend, and what can they expect there?

Innovators of every stripe are welcome to attend. We’re hoping to unite creatives, entrepreneurs, students, professionals, and researchers from the audiovisual, music, video game, design, and technology sectors for three days of examining and imagining the future of cultural creation and exploring story as a tool for innovation and change. Our key question at this first diy days Paris: How do we design, produce and distribute our work in a sustainable manner in an environment that is in constant disruption?

What can people expect? Three days of exploration, inspiration, action, and networking. The full program is available at but here’s a brief breakdown:

The day of Saturday March 22 unfolds at ESCP Europe and follows a Learn – Do – Share structure designed to take us from inspiration to action. On the schedule are conferences in the morning, hands-on workshops in the afternoon, and a final sharing session at the end of the day to exchange insights. Conferences and workshops will be in a combination of English and French. These are clearly marked on the website.

We have also launched a Creative Sparks Project Showcase. Purposeful storytellers, social entrepreneurs, or collaborative creatives with a start-up, product, game, idea, prototype, business model, documentary, or fiction project that addresses a social or cultural issue or challenge can apply for a chance to pitch to our jury and win prizes. The Creative Sparks Project Showcase and the pitching sessions will be in French.

There will also be an exhibition hall where participants can explore interactive works by students from Gobelins, a leading school of applied arts, print, and digital media, as well as see demos of some of the existing tools they could integrate into their work, and more. The day will close with a social event.

On Sunday March 23, we move to the Gaîte Lyrique, an amazing space for digital culture situated in Central Paris for a screening of THE COSMONAUT. This science fiction film was directed by Spanish filmmaker Nicolás Alcalá of Riot Cinema Collective and is part of a larger transmedia experience. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Nicolas Alcala, Lance Weiler, and Michel Reilhac. The screening will be in English with French subtitles. The talk afterwards will be in English.

Monday March 24 sees us back at ESCP Europe for the Reboot Stories Lab, a mix between a hackathon and a Think & Do Lab. This will be led by Lance Weiler and Jorgen van der Sloot  of Freedomlab. 40 creative thinkers & doers from different disciplines will pool their talents, solve problems, and contribute their know-how to one of the central themes of diy days Paris 2014:  How do we work together across disciplines to fund, create, distribute and sustain new forms of storytelling that result in projects with social impact? The lab will be in English.

One last thing that bears mentioning is that diy days Paris will run some sessions in French and some in English. Our audience is largely local, but we’re also a European event, and our speakers are active internationally. If an English-speaker wants to submit to Creative Sparks but doesn’t feel their French is strong enough, they should apply anyway and make a note in the application or get in touch through our contact form  We’ll do our best to find a solution. And of course if there are any sponsors out there who would like to help us provide professional translation services, we’re all for it!

Q: What do YOU do to be and stay creative?

Alexis: I take on projects that are bigger than me, like producing diy days Paris!

Fabienne: I’m constantly in motion, with one foot in the future. I’m also constantly learning, I push myself beyond my comfort zone, and I let myself be inspired by innovators that I admire.

So, Paris it is, for those lucky enough to attend. To leave you with some more enticing words on why to attend, here’s one of the founders of DIY Days, Lance Weiler, on what the phenomenon is all about:

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