Update #9: Building an impact engine

aurel_blog_rund by Aurel Vogel, July 2022

Building an impact startup like Fairpicture has many similarities with working on an engine. Both are complex systems in which components have to seamlessly work together to generate movement, to create an outcome, and to have an impact. Let’s have a look at the Fairpicture engine and see what has happened since our last update in December 2021.

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July Meza, soprano singer and beneficiary of the Youth Choir "Sinfonia por el Peru",  takes public transportation to go to a rehearsal in Lima, Peru, 2022.

Photo: Angela Ponce / Hilti Foundation / Fairpicture

An engine is “something that provides power [...] for other things”, often with the aim to generate movement or to transform systems (Oxford Dictionary). Steam ships have engines, cars have engines, software works with engines and startups work on their growth engine. 

Efficiency matters. The better the engine, the less input is needed to produce the same output to achieve the desired impact. Efficient design and iterative development is crucial. The most efficient engines are often also the most elegant ones. This is why organisational design is essential to building a transformative business (more about our approach later in this article).

Let’s have a closer look at the Fairpicture engine and see what has happened since Update #8: Connecting the dots

Assignments and consulting

Let’s start with the gear in which the engine is running at the moment, the state of daily business. After a phenomenal second half of 2021, we’ve reached a temporary plateau. The number of projects has swung back to the level of last autumn. The good news: compared to the beginning of last year, we have still been able to double the number of projects and revenue. We also managed to negotiate our first framework contract with a UN agency in Geneva and are about to finish a large consulting project with the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC). 

Our three favourite stories of the past months: “Off on the bike” for Franziskaner Helfen, “On holiday from hell” for Caritas Austria and “The ongoing struggle for recognition” for Connexio develop. Thank you Lara, Anna, Daniela and all of our visual creators for making touching stories such as these possible!

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Moldavia, 2022. Photo: Mikhail Kalarashan / Caritas Austria / Fairpicture

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Development

Since the beginning, we’ve been convinced that a digital platform is the best way for efficient collaboration at eye level between visual creators and clients. At the beginning of February 2022, we finally released the first version of the Fairpicture project platform

The impact has been profound on several levels: 

Improved communication: Visual creators have started to communicate directly with clients on the platform. This direct connection is one of Fairpicture’s core values: communication and collaboration at eye level to produce fair and authentic visual stories. 

Efficiency gains: Even though the system integration is not yet completed, we can already see efficiency gains simply because processes are clearly structured. Important information is visible to everyone on their project page. 

Change in mindset: Most importantly, we start to think as a platform instead of an agency. Why is this important? Platforms can induce collective change by mobilising their communities. The impact we aim for is only possible if creators, clients, investors and employees all see themselves as part of this platform community and collaborate together.

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Screenshot of an example project of the Fairpicture platform Version 1.1.

Besides implementing and advancing the core platform, we’ve relaunched our website and introduced a new CRM (Freshsales) and Helpdesk software (Freshdesk). Together with our accounting software Xero, they will build the backbone of our software architecture. Since April, Amelie has been Fairpicture’s platform wizard. Kudos for what you’ve achieved in such a short time, Amelie!

In our last blog post, I mentioned the first draft of the Fairpictury Theory of Change (ToC). This draft is now finalised and we are very grateful to have a coherent and stringent impact plan as guidance . It has been developed and challenged by human rights experts as well as our community of visual creators. Interested in what it looks like? Stay tuned for the next blog article on this topic. Thank you Jörg, Noah and Miša for your drive in Fairpicture’s impact dimension!

Last year showed us that video is growing in importance even more than expected. Therefore, we decided to set a development focus on this area. Our new video strategy is ready and the first changes have already been implemented. Stay tuned through our newsletter or LinkedIn to get some exclusive news in the next few weeks from Daniel, our brilliant head of video, who joined Fairpicture in April!

Last but not least, we are very close to solving a major pain point many clients and creators face when working on fair photography and video assignments: informed consent

Paper consents are sub-optimal because they are complicated and matching people photographed with their consent forms is difficult. Existing digital apps are not ideal either as they only allow standard consents and do not incorporate principles of fair visual storytelling. Therefore, say hello to the brand new Fairpicture Consent App that will be released very soon, thanks to Jörg from our team and Roger and Sarah from Smartfactory.

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Preview of the Fairpicture Theory of Change (Status: June 2022). 

Community

Every time I write one of those updates, I am amazed at how our network of Fairpicture creators grows in quantity and in quality. One year ago, we worked with 80 visual creators, most of them photographers. Today we count more than 140 visual creators, including many videographers capable of producing impactful video projects. Thank you, Pamela, for making this possible!

However, numbers don’t make a community. Exchange, discourse, learning and collaboration are better attributes. Creating such a community is hard work indeed, but it has the potential for collective action and powerful change. It is therefore amazing to see how these forms of interaction have increased and structured themselves in the past months – with creators, clients and investors alike. Monthly email updates, regular community calls and co-creative projects between members of the community are important steps towards our ultimate goal: to think of Fairpicture as a global community of creators, clients, employees and investors, all committed to the same mission. Thank you, Noah, for staying focused on this important area of development!

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Our ultimate goal: to think of Fairpicture as a global community of creators, clients, employees and investors, all committed to the same mission.

Aurel Vogel, Co-Founder Fairpicture

Organisation

Finally, let’s look at how Fairpicture has developed from an organisational perspective. First things first: Amelie Pehl and Daniel Caspari have joined Fairpicture in April and started off like two 🚀. This makes us a team of eleven people in the Fairpicture headquarter working together on making the vision of Fairpicture a reality.

Organisational culture and design are crucial success factors for a startup and have to be aligned with the mission and products of a company (especially for a Zebra startup).

For this reason, we started working with Melanie and Martin, two organisational developers who support us in structuring Fairpicture towards a lean and decentralised organisation. After three iterations we are very close to defining our first formal organisational structure and the related roles along the lines of the image below.

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Screenshot of the organisational development Miro board from our team retro 9-10 June.

Next steps

Now that you are up to date with the current status of the Fairpicture impact engine, let’s have a look at the next couple of bolts that we plan to insert.

Platform

We are soon releasing two new features that will be visible for everyone: a new portfolio area will finally give our photographers’ and videographers’ portfolios the attention they deserve. A revised offering and invoicing process will make the negotiation and payment process simpler and more transparent for all users. Timeframe: August 2022

FairStock

We’ve started conceptualising FairStock, our solution for purchasing stock photos and videos. We are planning to release the first MVP before the end of the year. Stay tuned (and subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already 😉)!

Growth and marketing engine

After half a year of heavy development it’s now time to carry Fairpicture and our network into the world. Developing and implementing our marketing strategy is our current focus. You will definitely hear more from us over all channels. Timefame, from July 2022 onwards

Finances

All of this requires financial resources. After our seed round in 2021, we are currently in our next financing round to raise the capital needed for our growth plans and next product development. Some investment opportunities are still available, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in being our next investor!

That’s it for today’s tour through our engine workshop. For everyone who made it until here: Thank you for your interest! Knowing you are part of the Fairpicture community keeps us going and makes a venture like Fairpicture possible. Keep challenging us and contact us for questions or more information! Together with you, we will get this engine going!

Selected blog posts

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BLOG

January 2021 - Pia Zanetti

Fairpicture as an interest broker between photographers and clients

Pia Zanetti explains her view on the role and responsibility of Fairpicture as an interest broker between photographers, clients and the public.

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BLOG

October 2021 - Jörg Arnold

Informed consent – The right to one’s own image

Informed Consent is essential to ensure the consent of the person photographed. Jörg Arnold writes on the right to one’s own image.

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BLOG

April 2023 - Jaìr F. Coll

How to talk about consent and Misery Porn?

Misery Porn still persists today in visual storytelling, reducing people to their condition of misery and stripping them of their humanity.

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