TEDActive Projects Sustainability
The TEDActive Sustainability Project is looking at best practices in community organizing, and exploring radical solutions to push the sustainability movement forward.
Join the conversation »
Sustainability Project news from the TEDActive Blog:
03 March 2011
When I first saw the email about the project teams, I thought it was too big a time commitment (two hours a day!), especially for my first TEDActive conference. I also didn’t want to sign up to “lead” anything, as I thought there were many others more qualified than I. Oh, how things change!
Shortly after receiving the project team invitation from the TED folks, I made the mistake of posting a note on the TEDActive Facebook group asking if there were other sustainability professionals who wanted to connect during the conference. This prompted Sarah to personally invite me to participate in the Sustainability Project Team. When I told her I didn’t want to lead anything, she explained that all team participants are leaders. I just couldn’t turn down this invitation.
During our first meeting on Monday, I thought we spent a lot of time going in circles. At least we did so by writing with dry erase markers on the windows of the Living Center; boy was that fun! Over the course of the next couple days we met frequently during breaks and meals. I continued to feel like our team wasn’t getting very far, and felt frustrated by the brainstorming process.
But last night something magical happened. We all agreed that the TED Talks should include calls to action. We decided that the TEDx Curator platform should be expanded so that TED docents or guides could link TEDTalks to action items and serve as ambassadors to their cause. We also thought that TEDx events should have local calls to action in which their participants can engage.
WOW! Now that’s powerful stuff.
I also learned a lot about myself during this collaborative process. Having run my own business for the past eight years (up until February, 2010), sometimes I forget how to play well with others. Focus and patience are not my strong suits, and my participation in the sustainability project really pushed me to hone both those skills. As my good friend, and our project spokesperson, Ted Ning of LOHAS said, conversations in groups like this often contract and expand numerous times before they get to their end destination. The good news is that I think we’ve finally arrived, a lot more focused and even a bit more patient.
Thank you TED and and my sustainability project cohorts, for this inspirational growth experience!
03 March 2011
What an amazing week we’re having here at TEDActive! The sustainability team grappled with the big question of “How do we grow sustainability?” – and we came up with inspiring ideas to connect people with actions through the TED website. We’re calling it TEDWalks, as in, let’s walk our talk when we think about making our world and thus our lives more sustainable.
When I got back to my hotel room, I was still so energized by our radical collaboration that I wanted to capture our wish in a poem. This immediately led to thoughts of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, and I adapted the opening lines of the poem. Having always loved his poem I take inspiration from the monumental shift of human consciousness it represents and borrow it for our own. Right here. Right now.
“We see the best minds of our generation enlightened, yet still starving for new ideas. Ideas we can share with the knowing and naked. All of us rising out of the dark streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix.
We dream of connecting all the angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection. Like our star of wonder dynamo machinery of night and day. A talky walky machine that sustains what matters and informs our brothers and sisters currently hollow-eyed with the supernatural knowing of a frightening future. We learn language to change and make possible new beauty and find ourselves in radical collaboration floating across the tops of cities - our every utterance data jazz. We call upon all of you who bare your brains in solidarity with the El Mohammedan angels illuminating Africa, now knowing with radiant cool eyes Blake-light tragedy. We make our lives a work of art with an ocean of tears. We reach out to others to help them overcome our fears. We howl to become the change we believe in.”
02 March 2011
TEDActiveSus, the Sustainability group, has a tough challenge. Like a TED speaker pointed out, people get bored of things, even when they are really important, and people are bored of sustainability. Social media, education and mobility are just more, well, sexy, than sustainability. So while our key question is “How to grow sustainability?” we decided to trash the actual word and focus on what makes things fun.
We rephrased the question, to ask what it meant for individuals in the group: How do we do business around common goals? How do we motivate people? How do we make sustainability more visible, tangible, sexy, fun and positive? How do we go to where we should be? How do we simplify and reduce, no, eliminate waste and radicalize efficiency? How do we measure success and How do we establish a reward system for business — how do we incentivize sustainability?
From this quest for reward we asked, what makes us happy? Being appreciated, fulfilling a need, being part of a community, and being part of something larger were central ideas to the discussion. The elusive creative consciousness that we can’t teach, or organize, but that we can spread was identified to start the conversation towards action to grow sustainability. These actions, that make us happy and create something HUGE will be sculpted more tomorrow, with the participants at TEDActive to help us, and the TED talks to inspire us. These actions will involve selfless, elevated moments that will utilize all our emotions, and become infectious.
02 March 2011
Yesterday afternoon project participants convened at the beautiful Living Desert Museum to begin crafting the TEDActive sustainability project action. The group was a good mix of both North and South Americans — but unfortunately, at the moment we have little representation from India, Africa and the Middle East. We’d love to expand our group to incorporate more representation from those regions, and we have a place for you at the firepit tonight if you’re interested in joining!
Our discussion was a microcosm of many current sustainability debates: What is the most impactful place to put our energy? Should traditional environmental organizations work with (or against?) corporate partners? Should we focus on personal or systemic action? How are global financial and investment systems responding to opportunities provided by large-scale shifts in energy production, and the need to scale for development in the global south? Is growth always a good thing?
It was enjoyable to watch the group coalesce and work as a team … our first successful consensus was to agree that our core question was the title of this post — How do we grow sustainability?
We agreed that there were essential components to any successful action: It must be measurable, and data and transparency are necessary to any accountable plan or system. It must motivate people using positive engagement — not fear or shame. It must incorporate the sense of wonder, play and reward that drives us as people — the reasons we’re here at TEDActive.
We’re still in the process of gathering ideas and thoughts on what our core action will be — our team is discussing sustainability with other conference participants, as well as using Twitter (#TEDActiveSus) and other social media to get input beyond the participants here in Palm Springs … please comment on this post or on Twitter and tell us what you’re doing to make your professional life more sustainable and what you’ve been thinking about doing, but haven’t yet implemented.
I thought that Luis Cilimingras’ presentation at TEDYou about Fiat’s creative interventions to change driving behavior was a great model of the type of action we should look to — creating significant impact on carbon emissions with a fun interactive system to change driving behavior using best practices from gaming, incorporating hard metrics and constant data monitoring. Of course, it probably took Fiat several years to create that program — and we only have until Thursday to create our action.
Given the depth of experience on the team, I’m looking forward to the info gathering we will be talking about tonight — we need an action that is significant and appropriate to the level of influence that the TED community wields. I’d argue that we need to challenge TED community members to lead on sustainability in their corporate sectors and investments — and make sure they’re using their lobbying resources to talk about key policy decisions like carbon pricing with their governments. The time for changing lightbulbs is over — we need to spur leadership and get to scale.
See you at the firepit!
16 February 2011
The question we’re posing is: How can we help the sustainability community maintain its own growth? That’s a BIG question. How do we begin? I’d like to collaborate using some of the ideas from the past to create a TEDActive sustainability guide that changes the choices people make.
Any thinking about sustainability is determined by context — where you are gives the concept of sustainability meaning. We could think of TEDActive as a lab where we can develop some themes and ideas that help move sustainability forward and create content that documents TED participant perspectives on this question. I’m confident we can make a difference to the growth of sustainability during our time together in Palm Springs by creating a TEDActive sustainability guide, a compendium of thoughts contributed by TEDActivists. There’s a perfect mix of people.
I’m influenced here by the writing of David Orr, the Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College and a James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont. He has said that three stages or elements must come together in any successful social movement, and each requires leaders and participants with different skills:
- Spirit: The dramatization of the challenges – requires prophets and visionaries, poets and artists
- Science: The creation of more accurate and telling metaphors and theories – requires scientists and researchers, analysts and statisticians
- Society: The engagement in political change – requires leaders and activists, strategists and organizers
Sound familiar? It does to me. It’s what we’re doing and who we are here at TEDActive. So we’re in the right place at the right time with the right people to begin to answer this question, and create something useful. How do we continue along this path leading to sustainable living and sustain the growth of a massive social movement that has no coherent center?
David Orr reminds us that “the problem is not how to produce ecologically benign products for consumer society, but how to make decent communities of people who do not confuse what they have with who they are.” We need to change the way people see themselves and their place in the world, to sustain our progress with sustainability we need to further enlighten our communities with meaningful ideas.
We need a ‘guide for the perplexed’, and fortunately my personal favorite sustainability thinker, E.F. Schumacher, wrote such a guide thirty-five years ago. In it he said that human problems, like those posed by the transition to sustainability, are not solvable by rational means alone. These are what he called, “divergent” problems formed out of the tensions between competing perspectives that cannot be solved, but can be transcended (Guide To The Perplexed, 1977; pp. 120-133). In contrast to, “convergent” problems that can be solved by logic and method, divergent problems can only be resolved by higher forces of wisdom, love, compassion, understanding, and empathy.
Caught between complacency and despair E. F. Schumacher thought it advisable “to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work” (140).
So in beginning to answer this perplexing question, I suggest we get down to work and create some TEDActive messages filled with wisdom, love, compassion, understanding, and empathy. Lets engage with Spirit, Science and Society and offer our own 21st century Guide To The Perplexed. It could be people telling their stories on video, visions and facts, it could be poetry, art and music. It could be inspiring ideas worth sharing.
14 February 2011
TEDActive is so excited to have PSFK on board as a collaborator for the TEDActive Projects! They have invited their friends to explore, collaborate and act on vital issues raised at TED, and is actively engaging their expert network, the PurpleList, to give their valuable input for the different teams involved with the projects.
Their experts have already joined in on the conversation! Check out their feedback for the following projects!
07 February 2011
The pound-for-pound talent tonnage of TEDsters boggles the mind. It is absolutely the thing that makes the TED community so incandescent, as well as so humbling and deeply neat-o to be a part of. So it is no small thing to aim this talent at very real problems with the goal of emerging from the gathering with ideas worth doing, as is happening this year for the first time with TEDActive Projects.
No doubt that some wonderfully innovative approaches will surface. The question that has us nibbling our nails is how they will translate into action.
One way is through the use of a very new, very beta platform called IfWeRanTheWorld, the brain/love child of Cindy Gallop (of MakeLoveNotPorn fame). IfWeRanTheWorld is an online platform that is designed to power real-world action. It makes it very easy for good & talented people to work together to achieve a common goal – be it host a dodgeball tournament or expand an urban community farm program or only eat cupcakes with lots of icing. Microactions are the coin of this realm – they are small, eminently doable tasks that, when added together, make things happen.
On IfWeRanTheWorld, you are what you do – it is where you ‘walk’ your social media ‘talk’. If Facebook is the social graph and Twitter the interest graph, then IfWeRanTheWorld is the action graph.
Here’s how it works:
- Bring your project, talent, inspiration and good intentions to ifwerantheworld.com
- Answer the question, “If I ran the world, I would….”.
- Join forces with other people working on similar things by picking up & doing their microactions.
- Accelerate action by suggesting microactions, and inviting your network to act with you by sharing through Facebook, Twitter, you name it.
- Start an actionplatform (or project) to make something happen on your own.
(if you prefer pictures over words, here is the how-it-works video)
How it might work for TEDActive Projects
The thought for TEDActive Projects is this: Some project teams might publish their solutions as microactions, inviting the wider TED community (and beyond) to do them, report back, & collaborate. Other project teams might use microactions to invite outside insight and expertise on their topic area. Still other project teams might blow our doors off by using microactions in a totally new way.
It feels appropriate to the theme of wonder and the spirit of experimentation that we don’t know exactly how people will make use of IfWeRanTheWorld. For me, though, it just makes it that much more exciting.
That said, I’ll be on hand at TEDActive to help the project teams do their voodoo. If you are interested in IfWeRanTheWorld (or scotch, or experience design as seduction, or comic books), then look for a girl with long blonde & blue hair wearing epic but foolishly high-heels. That’ll be me.
The magnificent shot of Cindy (above) is by Jon Bauer, who says he is ‘mostly doing this stuff for fun’ but who is extraordinary & should be mostly doing this stuff period.
01 February 2011
We invite you to join us in making ideas worth spreading come alive with the TEDActive Projects! We have invited some of the top experts, leaders, and idea amplifiers from each project theme to come to Palm Springs and collaborate with YOU, our project leaders, in creating a call-to-action on vital issues raised at TEDActive.
As a project leader, you and your group will be part of discussions, workshops, and activities during the conference to help you on your path to finding real solutions to big problems. We also hope this experience at TEDActive will help foster meaningful relationships to continue well beyond the conference.
You will also be invited by the TEDActive team to be a contributing writer to our official TEDActive Community Blog and encourage you to start “tweeting” your project experiences before, during, and after the conference for the public to engage in.
While we invite everyone to partake in this new initiative, spaces are limited to join a project team at TEDActive. We encourage all TEDActive attendees to sign up here on our Project Leader Application Form. Once you receive confirmation from our Projects team, you can immediately begin acting by connecting with your team, and documenting your experiences on our blog!
Be the first to participate as leaders in this exciting new initiative. Act now!
18 January 2011
This spring, a unique group of people will convene in Palm Springs, California, to exchange ideas, inspire one another and experience a live simulcast of TED2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. TEDActive brings together global innovators – the doers of the world making a difference in their communities and their professions – to interact and learn from one another while absorbing TED2011…