i-genius interviews Tomas Grizas

i-genius asked top young Lithuanian fashion photographer Tomas Grizas about his recent visit to the Cannes Film Festival and what makes a good photograph? i-genius: what was Cannes like? Tomas: Nice & hot… 🙂 It was also very interesting, glamorous, impressive, enjoyable. I’ve visited southern coast of France for the first time and, to be honest, felt in love from a first moment I’ve felt it… (the atmosphere, the hype, the people) Hope that explains how great is there. i-genius: who did you go with? Tomas: Actually we did the whole journey from London together with a friend of mine Abdul Mannan who is a film director. And instead of travelling by plane we’ve driven all the way there with my lovely camper van. It was a bit of experience! And there, in Cannes, I’ve been together with Vipica productions and their crew of super models, with Fashion TV, friends came for a few days from Valencia, Moscow… i-genius: was it more fun or hard work? Tomas: Everyone there was going ‘business, business’ and I told them – come on, I came here for holiday 🙂 So gladly I had a bit of both – some relaxed time (not forgetting to snap with my camera at the same time – actually one of my planned series, called “Through a naked glass” will be mainly from these pictures), some business. i-genius: you have recently opened a new studio in London. What are your plans for the future? Tomas: To be honest – I don’t really know which ones to mention – so much going on at the moment – in my life and in my head 🙂 Just got to Lithuania, still have loads of impressions from Cannes and around, want to do some photo shoots here… So we’ll see! 🙂 i-genius: so tell us, what makes a good photograph? Tomas: When I saw this question two ideas came into my mind: if it’s a picture of some surroundings – be it a building, nice street or impressive landscape – it’s actually a photographer and his eye. Well, and camera with a lense a little bit 🙂 When we are talking about fashion photo shoots which I do – then it’s about a good, outstanding idea, good art direction, photographer and work of the whole team involved. i-genius: Thank you! Tomas: Thank you! I’m really happy and it’s a big pleasure and honor for me to be interviewed by i-genius – such an amazing place connecting amazing people..
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It could be like this – An Interview with Jonny Weston

  i-genius: What first got you interested in design? Jonny: Two things, really. Firstly, I saw the impact that design as a process of problem-solving could have from working at the World Bank Institute before finishing school, and, second, I like the idea of having a positive influence on how people see the world, and then in turn the choices they make – from the banal to the important. i-genius: Where did the company name come from? Jonny: Starting up a business in the midst of a recession isn’t easy – so I needed to utilise every opportunity to get myself noticed. As a former marketeer, I wanted my company’s name to stick firmly in people’s heads, and to inspire inquisitiveness, that moment of connection when people first take your business card. And whilst it’s crucial for any company to clearly state what it does, a degree of ambiguity in the name can be useful when growing and developing a business and the skills of its employees. i-genius: What makes itcouldbelikethis unique? Jonny: As designers, we’ve worked on both sides of the creative fence: business has been both our employer and our client. For any creative idea to work, it’s vital to faithfully contextualise that in industry, and often that foresight is missing in design. i-genius: What is the future for design? Jonny: I believe design gives people the opportunity to collaborate to make truly great things happen. I’d quote renowned designer Bruce Mau in that “design looks at the world with one eye looking to changing it”. Another leading light, Tim Brown of consultancy IDEO, has spoken often about design being much more important than creating “nifty, fashionable little objects”. Design can be truly democratic, especially important given our need to create global, shared solutions to all kinds of challenges. i-genius: Where will itcouldbelikethis be in 2 years from now? Jonny: We have 3 priorities: helping organisations create an innovate internal culture by employing design processes to get to the right information and help everyone play their part; supporting businesses break new markets by understanding the anthropology of design and creativity; and in supporting the next generation of creative talent by pairing young entrepreneurs with growing SMEs. www.itcouldbelikethis.com
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Ride Earth

Life Cycle Tom Allen talks to i-genius about the ultimate quest – a 3 year journey around the world with nothing more than a bike! Here he explains his inspiration, fears, and how he is uniting his passion for cycling and the environment with his desire to give something back… Editor:What has inspired you to undertake such an ambitious venture? Tom: I think my main inspiration comes from my desire to learn, which has been with me for as long as I can remember. The world today is a complex and gigantic entity, and one of the best ways to learn about it is through one’s own eyes. Cycling will allow me to connect with the landscape, people and cultures that you travel through in a way unlike any other mode of transport – walking offers the same benefits, but the distance you can cover on a bicycle is far greater. It also happens to be an activity that I inherited from my parents and have pursued for many years, both on- and off-road. Myself and Andy Welch are planning to leave at the start of National Bike Week on the 18th of June this year, from our own homes in Northamptonshire. We’ll make tracks towards Harwich, cross to Holland on the ferry, and make our way through Europe and towards the Middle East for winter. After that, we have some options regarding route, but the climate and seasons will dictate our movements to a large extent. Crossing Asia and island-hopping down to Australia will be the main objective, followed by a sea voyage to South America, and then the entire length of the American continents, before returning back to the UK. I expect to be away for at least 3 years, if not for longer. Editor: What has made you passionate about the environment, and about educating others about how to look after the world in which they live? Tom: For me, growing up in the countryside had a huge amount to do with this, but I also believe that humans have a moral obligation as a species to look after the planet they inhabit. We constitute a miniscule blip in the history of Earth and, as with life, if we get it wrong there won’t be a second chance! I believe people need to fully grasp and accept the potential consequences of what we are doing to the planet, rather than take the easy option of ignoring them, and leading by example is, I think, a good way to do this. It’s already beginning to happen. Hopefully the project will add to the growing inertia, and educate and enlighten people in this way – even if it’s only a small handful, it’s still the result I’m looking for. Editor: Have you ever done anything similar to this? Are you nervous? Tom: No, and yes! In a bit more detail – the longest self-sufficient bike trip I’ve ever done was a week’s off-roading through the Scottish Highlands with 2 friends. It inspired me to do what I’m doing now, and taught me a lot about how not to do it! I guess the nerves will kick in when I actually pedal out of the drive and down the road – it’s too big a concept to really grasp at the moment, while my mind is occupied by planning, publicity, sponsorship applications and a million other things! Editor: How much money do you hope to raise? Which charities will the money go to?Tom: We’ve set a target of £10,000 for fund-raising, which will go to The Wilderness Foundation for their ongoing work in the UK and overseas. The other charity that will benefit from the project is Wheels4Life. This was set up by mountain-biking legend and former World Champion Trials rider Hans Rey. We will be acting as ambassadors for the charity, buying bikes locally and donating them to developing communities where there is a real need for a sustainable means of transport. This will an amazing opportunity to watch the benefits of cycling being discovered in front of our own eyes and to see it make a real difference to the lives of the people of those communities. Editor: What does the term ‘social entrepreneur’ mean to you? Tom: I guess it carries a lot of meanings, but those that spring to mind are a certain degree of idealism, and from that the optimism and determination to move things towards those ideals. The success of social entrepreneurism shows that these are still achievable concepts in a money-dominated environment, which is certainly encouraging for people like me!
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Talking Tea with Neeraj

i-genius: Why did you become interested in tea? Neeraj:Being born and bred in Darjeeling, a region known for its finest quality teas, I grew up amidst the aromas and flavours of the finest teas and am a great fan. However, Tea People wasn’t just born out of my co-founders’ and my love for tea. My wife and I have seen poverty and lack of opportunities from very close quarters in these regions despite the area being so well known for its premium product worldwide. We saw the potential of tea to bring about a positive change in lives of people living in the tea growing areas and we were fortunate to meet a friend who was as passionate as us about tea and equal opportunities. We would like to use the profits generated from selling finest single estate teas to help improve educational facilities for communities living in the tea growing regions.i-genius: Does India produce the best tea? Neeraj:While it’s a matter of individual taste and preference, teas produced by India’s three main tea growing regions i.e. Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiri are considered to be world class and appreciated hugely by tea connoisseurs the world over. Infact tea produced by the Darjeeling region is considered to be absolutely unique in taste, flavour and quality owing to the variety of tea plant used along with unique growing and harvesting methods. It is no wonder that Darjeelings are known as the ‘champagne of teas’ and are some of the most expensive teas sold in the international market. i-genius: What do you foresee will be your greatest difficulty in importing tea from India to the UK? Neeraj:The Indian market is quite familiar to us and we have very strong links with the tea planters there, so we don’t really foresee any real difficulties in importing tea from India. However, we don’t want to restrict ourselves to Indian teas alone. Going forward we have plans to get finest single estate teas from other premium tea growing regions of the world too such as China, Japan and Taiwan. These are uncharted territory for us and sourcing teas may prove a bit more challenging there. i-genius: What is your target market? Neeraj:Within the B2C segment, our target market would range from baby boomers and tea connoisseurs to fashion aficionados, trend followers and even students. Within the B2B segment we would be reaching out to the speciality tea houses, cafes and hotels. i-genius: What are your plans in say, 2 years? Neeraj:In two years we would like to have made a measurable social impact within the tea growing communities of the Darjeeling region in the area of educational development by being known as sellers of finest single estate teas from premium tea growing regions of the world. i-genius: Finally, name three reasons why someone should drink more tea? Neeraj:–      First, it rejuvenates, revives and helps you relax, something that everyone needs in today’s fast paced world. –      Second, it is good for health. Tea is packed with antioxidants and so it is considered to not only protect against diseases like cancer and stroke but also aid weight loss. According to experts, you should drink at least 4 cups of tea everyday to maintain good health. –      Finally, it is an awesome beverage that you can have at any time of the day in any season in so many different forms ranging from the traditional hot tea to an iced drink or the more contemporary bubble tea. In fact it can even be added to ice cream, cake and the list goes on.While this is true for most teas, what further sweetens ‘Tea People’ tea is the assurance that with every cup of tea you drink, you are involved in educating and empowering yet another underprivileged child.
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An interview with Carolina Vasquez

i-genius: Why did you create Make More Films? Carolina: Just a few weeks ago at the beginning of 2013, I decided to create docs about social innovators. So, Make More Films is an umbrella for all these new projects that highlight people’s passion for what they do.i-genius: What inspired the name? Carolina: It’s a feeling I have … I want to make more films.i-genius: What is the biggest challenge as a filmmaker? Carolina: Staying true to your idea right to the final edit.i-genius: What is the future vision for filmmaking? Carolina: Mashups and free distribution.i-genius: What’s your favourite documentary? Carolina: Life In A Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaFVr_cJJIY Sit back this is 1 and half hours of bliss!i-genius: Anything else you would like to share? Carolina: Sure, follow our films on www.vimeo.com/makemorefilmsi-genius: Thank you! Carolina: Thank you, I’m glad to be part of this community!
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Changing the World in just your Pyjamas. An interview with Mike Bright

i-genius: What is Help From Home? Mike: Help From Home is a directory of 3rd party run microvolunteering actions. Microvolunteering can be described as easy, low or no commitment online and offline actions that benefit a worthy cause, where the main bulk of the task can be completed on demand in one or more sessions of upto 30 minutes, either from a person’s home, work or on the go, from anywhere in the world, and even in your own pyjamas! We use these 3rd party run micro-actions to increase volunteering participation rates in many different sectors of society, using quite a diversity of methods. So far, we’ve been jointly instrumental in putting the microvolunteering concept onto the US and UK voluntary sector radar. The concept has now started to spread beyond these countries to a more global audience. i-genius: Can you really change the world in just your pjs? Mike: Yes you can. We have over 800 micro-actions featured on our website where you can perform tasks as diverse as transcribing papyri, deciphering whale song or finding Genghis Khan’s tomb – all without taking your pyjamas off. Single handedly, you may not be able to change the whole world, but collectively, if the world’s population of 7 billion all performed a 5 minute microvolunteering action during the TV ads (and yes you really can microvolunteer for 5 minutes), it would equate to 583 million hours of volunteering or 66,590 years – that’s an awful lot of time to spend in your pyjamas…… but worth it!! i-genius: How effective is microvolunteering? Mike: It’s effective at many different levels. 1) For the actual impact that microvolunteering actions collectively have for ‘do good’ causes, refer to this report that we compiled last year It’s quite surprising how an action that can be considered in of itself insignificant, but combined collectively with actions from many thousands of people, can produce quite a profound impact. 2) It enables charitably minded housebound, disabled people to have more choices as to what they can give back to society 3) It empowers people, who otherwise may not be able to attend traditional volunteering events, to squeeze in a bit of volunteering on the go, on demand and on their own terms. It effectively enables people to ‘do good’ for society like never before 4) #PyjamaPower might become the new Twitter trend, effectively enabling people to discuss what they did in their pyjamas, without fear of embarrasment or the odd snigger or two! i-genius: What have been the challenges in setting up Help From Home? Mike: In the early days, there was a lot of resistance to the microvolunteering concept and how it could possibly be policed with all the red tape that comes with volunteer management. Thankfully, that’s been put to one side now, as it’s been realised that microvolunteering can be conducted effectively without the imposing red tape barriers. There is still resistance from charities and nonprofits to use the label of microvolunteering when describing bite sized actions they already have on their ‘books’. Our free Consultancy Service for charities, is slowly making inroads to effect this change in mindset. On a more personal note, funding, finding time and recruiting volunteers to help me have been colossal issues – but there again, what’s new with other grassroot level ‘do good’ initiatives out there. Despite these challenges, HFH very often gets lumped in with the Big Boys of the volunteering world in media articles, whilst HFH’s web stats informs me that I’m up there with the Big Boys again on web traffic. That’s quite an achievement when you consider these Big Boys have many, many full time paid employees, operating on a budget of hundreds of thousands of UK pounds each year. HFH operates on a zero budget, which just goes to show what can be achieved if you creatively use the resources available. On a much more different note, I also had immense difficulty choosing what pair of pyjamas to promote HFH with – one of the reasons why I’ve gone prematurely grey! i-genius: What’s the next step in this initiative? Mike: To find different avenues to promote microvolunteering. An upcoming project of ours, called ‘Skills 4 You’, will empower people to develop work based skills via microvolunteering actions from their own home. We’re also looking to make inroads into employee volunteering schemes, where people can microvolunteer in their lunchbreak, without getting up from their favourite office chair! We’re also trying to set up a Global Microvolunteering Awareness Day – pyjamas being very much on the agenda for this one! i-genius: Anything else you want to share with us? Mike: Microvolunteering has so many possibilities to ‘do good’. We’re open to any initiative that feels they would like to explore this concept to benefit the beneficiaries of their cause. Oh, and if any millionaire wants to buy us out, we’re available 24/7 for your phone call, email, Tweet…… Applicants must be prepared to wear pyjamas! i-genius: Thank you Mike!
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A Better World Powered by Women

i-genius: What makes Ogunte unique? Servane: The blend of women in our network and the social impact they are creating in the world. The power of quality connections associated with bold spirits, stretching challenges, and strong peer support. i-genius: Describe Ogunte in one word. Servane: Waves i-genius: What motivates you? Servane: The change women trigger in our communities, the energy and determination we all show, the results we achieve, the legacy we can leave. i-genius: What is the future of Ogunte? Servane: We are developing a platform for business women and social entrepreneurs to become activist angels themselves, to help balance the impact investment industry. And our latest collaborative “baby” is an advisory group called the Estuarians, made of high impact women social and environmental leaders producing relevant, actionable business intelligence for corporates, sme’s, ngo’s and public sector bodies. Members provide speaking engagements, brainstorming, coaching and facilitation to accelerate sustainable development through a gender lens. i-genius: What is your favourite pass-time? Servane: Capoeira, a 500 year old Brazilian martial-arts. It helps me fall, stand up again, adapt, be conscious of the world around me. I learn to win over myself rather than tilting at windmills.
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Interview with Jane Jones, new Chief Executive of Maytree Sanctuary for the Suicidal

i-genius spoke to Jane Jones prior to World Suicide Prevention Day, 10th September i-genius: How are you settling into your new job? Jane: It’s been a hectic eight months since I joined Maytree, but everyone has been incredibly welcoming and supportive, and I feel lucky to be working for such a brilliant organisation. Joining a charity as the new chief executive is always challenging, so I started the process of getting to know the organisation, its staff, board and volunteers well before I actually came into post – that way settling in is a little easier on everyone! Getting to know the organisation and everyone in it is an exciting process, and I’m really enjoying working with the trustees, staff team and volunteers to make the changes needed to help Maytree become stronger for the future. i-genius: What does Maytree do? Jane: Maytree was set up to meet a need, amongst those at immediate risk of suicide, for sanctuary and an opportunity to be heard with compassion and warmth in a non-clinical environment. The aim is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and enable people who are feeling suicidal to re-engage with life. Maytree is a homely terraced house in north London, where those in crisis can stay, free of charge, for four nights/five days to reflect and be befriended. It fills a gap in services, receiving referrals from the statutory, private and voluntary sectors, as well as self-referrals and those who hear by word of mouth. We also support people in suicidal crisis over the phone, if they feel that’s more help to them than coming for a stay. We are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. i-genius: What kind of people go to Maytree?Jane: Suicidal thoughts and feelings can affect anyone, so we find that our guests come from all walks of life and are all ages, although we can only offer a stay to those over the age of 18. i-genius: How is Maytree funded?Jane: Maytree is funded by donations, trust/grant foundations and fundraising activities by individual supporters. We hope to diversify our funding sources in the future, but for now it is solely our amazing supporters that fund this vital work. i-genius: What advice would you give someone who wanted to do something similar as Maytree in another part of the world? Jane: Volunteers are the heart of Maytree, and work shifts around the clock, so linking with good networks of great people who are willing to commit their time and invest their emotions in befriending is crucial. Befriending suicidal people is very rewarding, but can be difficult and distressing at times, so it’s also important to have good support in place for staff and volunteers, and to develop recruitment processes that ensure you have the right people. Making links with local mental health care bodies and providers, like commissioners and crisis teams, is also vital for getting referrals to your service and developing credibility, and strong business and strategic plans and working out where you will get your funding from are always key to getting started. A really good way to learn is to visit organisations like Maytree, that are experienced in providing this type of service. i-genius: What advice would you give someone who considered killing themselves or who had a friend who was suicidal? Jane: Talk to someone. People who feel suicidal might feel very isolated and alone, and can feel that their options have run out. Just talking to someone can help you to reflect and to see that there are other options. Sometimes, talking to friends and family can be difficult, especially if you don’t want to worry them. If that’s the case, there is lots of help out there – contact your GP, a local crisis team, the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or Maytree on 020 7263 7070 and www.maytree.org.uk. If you’re worried about someone you know who might be feeling suicidal, listen to them if they are willing to talk, and let them know you are there for them. Again, there is help at hand from GPs, local crisis teams and The Samaritans. You can also contact Maytree on their behalf and talk your worries through with us, and pass our details on to them so they can make contact themselves. i-genius: Do you think special days like Suicide Prevention Day are effective?Jane: Special days like World Suicide Prevention Day are excellent for raising awareness of issues that can operate below the radar of general consciousness for those that don’t have personal experience of them. They help us to understand more about issues like suicide, and to know how to respond should it affect us or someone we know. Unfortunately suicide remains a taboo subject, which makes it even more difficult for sufferers to talk about. World Suicide Prevention Day aims to create greater understanding and reduce stigma so that people feel able to seek and give help, and to make sources of help better known. i-genius: Thank you
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Woman’s Social Leadership Award Winner

Jobeda Ali, winner of the Social Business Leader of the Year at the Ogunte Womens Social Leadership Awards talks to i-genius.i-genius: How did you feel when you won the Award? Jobeda: Shocked! I was completely stunned because it’s not the sort of thing I’d ever imagine I was in the running for. People find me quite baffling I think, and even the ethos and ideas of my company, Fair Knowledge, can be a bit difficult for some people. It was very unexpected that someone actually ‘got it’. i-genius: Oh come on, you expected to win, right? Jobeda: For real, no! I know that social impact is a very important measure within the Ogunte Awards criteria, the actual changes you are making society is the most critical factor they assess. I felt that my social impact is difficult to measure and so I’d never pass the Ogunte test. So it’s very gratifying that I’m not as bad as I thought! I think social entrepreneurs can be very hard on themselves. The Ogunte judges are very discerning and they understand the difference between short, medium and long term social impacts. i-genius: Okay, in three sentences max, what does Jobeda Ali do? Jobeda: I show people that having different experiences, perspectives and opinions is a good thing for society and business. I celebrate and promote the more heterodox and maverick voices in our society. I have a lot of fun doing whatever I do; I couldn’t do anything, however worthy, if there wasn’t pleasure and humour in it. i-genius: What is the hardest thing you encounter in your work? Jobeda: For me this will always be a personal interaction issue – I’m turning into a serious businessperson, even if I do say so myself. I do not fit most people’s expectations of what a serious businessperson looks like, mainly that I don’t look like a leader, for that you can read, I don’t look like a man. It’s very hard to convince people that you are worth investing in or championing. This will surprise some people because we think that brown women are more likely to be noticed and celebrated. However, I’m not championing the rights of other brown women, I’m producing innovations in knowledge exchange. That surely is white men’s domain! Think about it, black and Asian women are recognized and rewarded for their leadership in ‘helping their own people’. It’s very hard then to start ‘encroaching’ in the ‘mainstream’ which is not structured to allow women and minorities to flourish. But I don’t mind this being hard, because I’m experiencing the very thing that I’m combating; the obstacles to minority voices in mainstream domains. What doesn’t kill me, makes me cleverer. i-genius: what kind of people do you like and what kind do you dislike? Jobeda: I find it challenging to get on with the ‘cocktail conservationists’. You’ve all come across them, well-meaning professionals who want to do good, but their own behaviours and prejudices give away the fact that they’re not really sincere. Someone told me recently that I had to learn the difference between being judgmental and being discerning. I sometimes find myself writing off people because they are insincere about wanting to change the world, but they may be the people who are the perfect bridge to helping me to do so. I love eccentrics. I lament how eccentricity is being eroded in Britain, it used to be a linchpin of our national identity! I love people with genuine idiosyncracies and odd ideas, so long as they are not contrived. The contrived ones, I might promptly, and perhaps judgmentally, put into the first box. It’s a fine line. I think I need help discerning. i-genius: If you could change one thing in the world today, what would it be? Jobeda: I’d put more diverse people into leadership at the key global institutions like the WTO, the OECD and the United Nations. This is not about the figureheads, but all the senior officials who are making the real decisions. Imagine if they were women who’d experienced climate poverty in Kenya or ran a small business in Vietnam or had lost family through AIDS in India – I think elevating the aspirations, ambitions and influences of real people with real experience of globalised ills, would help to create structures that would bring about more fairness in the world, that would benefit more of humanity, rather than less. i-genius: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being very optimistic), how optimistic are you about achieving your goals during the next 12 months? Jobeda: I’d say I’m at 9 at the moment. I feel that over the last 2.5 years, I’ve done most of the groundwork to acquire the investment and skilled staff I need to achieve both quality and scale. The economic climate is good for small social businesses – it forces me to be creative, to innovate and to be much more pushy than you can be in times of affluence. Because I’ve always recognised social return to be as important as financial return, I’m not having to reduce my offering. Think of it this way if you like, only half my business is effected by the mess in the global financial markets, so I’m inherently better off than traditional businesses. Basically, a recession is good for social business growth. And I won’t even hear you if you try to tell me otherwise. i-genius: Thank you
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Interview with Rachel of Epic Arts

i-genius: What is Epic Arts? Rachel: Epic Arts is a small disability arts charity. We reach out to those with moderate to severe physical and learning disabilities, of all ages and backgrounds, through workshops in visual arts, dance, music and drama. EPiC Arts works with the philosophy that Every Person Counts (EPiC) i-genius: Why is Epic Arts important? Rachel: Our projects celebrate the creative potential of those with whom we work, by offering new skills and giving each participant an outlet for their creative expression. Our motto is: ‘See ability not disability.’ i-genius: What has been your biggest challenge to date? Rachel: Core funding i-genius: What is the future of Epic Arts? Rachel: We are in the process of expanding our work in the UK and next year we are hoping to set up an office in Shanghai, China. i-genius: What book are you reading now? Rachel: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell i-genius: If you could paint the world in three colours, what would they be and why? Rachel: Yellow – the colour of sun and warmth . Green – the colour of growth and life. Purple – the colour of royalty and grandeur.
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