Cameron Sinclair Spearheads Japan Disaster Relief From SXSW Via Twitter & iPhone


From our friends at Fast Company, "bridging the fuzzy border between design and business."

This afternoon from the stage at South by Southwest, Architecture for Humanity's Cameron Sinclair will announce a $75,000 commitment from donors to rebuilding from the Japanese earthquake, along with a personal pledge: If the donation link is re-tweeted 100,000 times, he'll donate 10% of his own salary.The rebuilding effort will unfold in stages, depending on how much money is ultimately raised. The initial funds will cover design services. If it raises at least $200,000, Architecture for Humanity will work over several years to design and construct community centers and other public buildings.

When asked why he's made this personal pledge and this all-out effort for Japan, a much richer country than he's used to working in, his answer is immediate. "This is the first time Japan's asked for help. They learned their lessons after the Kobe earthquake, which took them 10 years to rebuild from. Our policy is that we don't go anywhere unless we're asked. An hour and a half later, we were getting calls from our teams in Kyoto and Osaka--we have hundreds of architects on the ground in Japan (as part of a broader, 6,000-strong Architecture for Humanity network)."

There's a personal reason as well. "Every time I've been to a disaster, a Japanese national has been there. Japanese architects are the most trusted people on the ground."

When I catch up with him on the floor of the Austin Convention Center (where Fast Company was the first to learn the amount of the donor commitment), he's working on a few hours of sleep, fielding meetings with members of the State Department and the World Economic Forum, and managing an international disaster response from his iPhone and iPad. Although it's outside their official bailiwick, Architecture for Humanity is also helping spread the #honyaquake hashtag and coordinate volunteer translation efforts for foreign nationals on Twitter who need to get good information on the ground in Japan--of particular importance with the nuclear crisis and subsequent panic.

"There's another donation," he says--PayPal pings him whenever one comes in. "I don't think I'm even going to go to Japan. I'm running it all from my phone."

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