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Unconference Notes

The third day featured a facilitated Open Space "unconference" for participants to delve deeper into the themes explored during the previous two days.  Breakout topics were generated by the attendees based on the issues that were of greatest relevance, interest and importance to them, and focused around:



Emergency Crisis & Role of Crowdsourcing


Convener: Michael Houle & Adrian Guzman

Participants: George Mokray - Civil Defense, Dave Kramer - Ecology, Michael Houle - University of Montreal, Ed Pheil - Knolls Atomic Power Lab, Alex Frost - Scholarly Labs, Adrian Guzman - Instituto de Ecologia, A.C

Discussion Summary:

  • Cellphone as an emergency response for Nuclear Disaster
  • Entry level electricity with Solar - Emergency
  • How to engage people to take action - The build environment is therenot Reaction but Prevention
  • Finding large groups Signal Detection and Situation Awareness
  • Public Health CDC and Infectious Diseases
  • NGO for helping local people in Resilience
  • How to crowsource things the right way

Possible next steps:

  • Collect information
  • How to get crowds to get smart
  • How to make things faster
  • How to take people out of the equation? Using their technology
  • A prior right after the crisis to make people aware
  • Emergency "button" embedded by default in Apps (like facebook) wich you can only hit in Real Emergencies (which send info in sms messages not wifi)

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What are the Main Global Problems Related to Climate Change?


Convener: George Mikhailovsky

Participants: Monika dos Santos, Sam Schofield

Discussion Summary:

HIV and other diseases epidemics in Africa those could be facilitated by global warming. Africa is under highest risk relating to epidemics.

Deforestation in Central America countries due to agriculture and raising of sea level. Severe needs of resource management in these countries. The most urgent need is preservation of tropical forest ecosystems.

Possible next steps:

To continue sharing our ideas about global problems using www.globalmindshare.org and other possibilities. 

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Hope -> Motivation -> Action!


Convener: Quinton Zondervan

Participants: Ken Murray, Bob Halperin, Quinton Zondervan, Meltem Barbaros

Discussion Summary:

  • Safe CO2 collection - Ken
  • Peer support - Bob
  • Creating symbols to allow people to signal their action and commitment to each other.
  • Lauren Adrian bundling neighborhood strengths
  • Bob's brother: Zero waste commission in Berkeley; neighborhood home by home initiative
  • MOS Climate Change exhibit: Fall foliage in New England reduction because of maple trees reduction from climate change
  • Ken: Small accomplishments, proven result
  • Bob: Peer pressure, economics
  • Quinton: Highlight opportunities! Renewable energy e.g.
  • Bob: Virtuous circle: hope -> motivation -> action -> hope, etc.
  • John Kotter, Leading Change, 8 step program
  • Atul Gawandi, changing the culture (birth in India): carrot, stick or culture (this is how we do it)
  • Environmental activist peer support groups
  • Meltem: Ride sharing! Creating community around that, reward people for participating!

Possible next steps:

  • Create a peer group for climate activist leaders!
  • Create a symbol for climate action so people can see who in their community is taking action.

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Making Climate Change Party More Fun


Convener: Joylette Portlock, Shawn Hesse, Nina Lytton

Participants Part 1: Joylette Portlock, Shawn Hesse, Nina Lytton, Yiftach Nagar, Dan Saries, James Billman, Paul Anders, Phillip Rutter, Laur Fisher, Eric Fellinger, Hao Chen, Masa Takahishi, Jake Hanson, Dave Kramer

Participants Part 2: Caesar Ogole, Emmanuel Vincent, Meltem Barbaros, Marie Chouhard, Melinda Rooke, Dan Saries, Eric Fellinger, Nina Lytton, Yiftach Nagar, Paul Anders, Phillip Rutter, Joylette Portlock, Adrian Guzman

Discussion Summary:

  • How to make climate party more fun
  • Green Condo Market + Subway
  • Using Sense of Humour as Inner Force for Resilience
  • How do we make a bigger tent? this cannot be a fringe movement
  • trusted messengers (local people, celebrities), talk about property with other target audience, gamification
  • put consciousness of natural world back into US consciousness
  • make sure to not offend people with humor
  • humans are tribal - Tea Party identification works amazingly well
  • people do like to play games
  • this is about reconnecting with people and that's pretty darn fun
  • not sustainable if it's not fun; you just get burnt out activists "Create a new reality that makes the existing one obsolete" -Buckminster Fuller
  • difficult to build new social networks, use existing ones (find small critical mass across existing ones)
  • Tribe (environmental movement) needs to be expanded, needs a better mood and needs to be better connected; need to rebrand the message/create a new identity, climate change is about people
  • Rebranding must include positive vision for what it means to be a 21st Century citizen, be a good mother/father/citizen

Possible next steps:

  • Solve "lost in translation effect"
  • Contest ideas for 2014: high school students music video contest - positive messaging for climate change


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Business and Climate


Convener: Michael Green

Participants: Stephan Link, Michael Green, Sam Schofield, Hao Chen, Mark Hochman, James Billman, Quinton Zondervan, Elizabeth Sheehan, Alex Frost, Jake Henson, Bob Halperin, Dave Kramer

Discussion Summary:

  • Climate Action Liaison Coalition: Helping small business take action on climate change
  • Small business leaders need to have a voice in the policy discussion on climate change
  • Internal sustainability is good for business!
  • Publicize case studies, help the business owner tell their stories
  • Need third party certification of "greenness"
  • Carbon credit markets? British Columbia carbon credit market for local governments and small business. Validation cost and rigorous enough but not overly expensive verification process.
  • Automobile dealers have been very effective policy advocates! They are protected by their state legislation resulting in extra profit for them.
  • Carbon tax policy advocacy
  • Are businesses mostly motivated by branding benefits or other? Cost savings, leadership, future requirements so get a head start
  • Sector diversity can have a bigger political impact, potentially
  • How to grow beyond Massachusetts to get businesses to become more effective climate activists everywhere
  • How to motivate business leaders to take responsibility for the long term future of their business
  • False dichotomy of environment vs economy: how to change that debate
  • Sanford Social Innovation Review: Elusive art of evaluating advocacy
  • Payback period is important to a business

Possible next steps:

  • Publish the stories!
  • Connect the businesses to each other
  • Ask the businesses to reach out to their suppliers

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Getting to Net Zero Emissions


Convener: Quinton Zondervan

Participants: Max Platzer, Julio Warthon, Shawn Hesses, George Mokray, Pia Jensen, Quinton Zndervan, Fiona Smith, Dan Sarles

Discussion Summary:

  • Pia: Zero waste efforts in Canada
  • Pia: Local reuse, recycling for waste reduction
  • Shawn: We need to go carbon negative; infrastructure being built right now. Embedded carbon issue.
  • Dan: Every product should be a green product so you don't have to make that explicit choice anymore!
  • George: Feeding the world without destroying the planet symposium with major corporations. Coca Cola: Consumers are beginning to expect sustainability/naturalness in all products, but they are mostly not willing/able to pay additionally for it. DuPont: zero injuries, zero defects, zero emissions. How many people know about that? How did they get there? Are they leading other companies in that direction? Zero Emmissions as an approachable goal.
  • Shawn: Goal is to go beyond doing no harm.
  • Pia: Nicaraguan farmers could get funding from Israel to grow Kosher food! Huge market for this.
  • Shawn: Technical solutions are available, but sociologically how do we get there? Connecting with people around shared goals. Community building
  • Pia: We have to go door to door to reach people, build grassroots support
  • George: OPEC tax has been about $230/ton of CO2! Price signals are not equalized. Externalities are not priced in. We need a carbon tax. We need to reduce the raw cost of the fuel but keep the retail price up. South Korea Green Growth initiative, now at the UN

Possible next steps:

  • Identify issues that can connect to people: agriculture, insurance, renewable energy
  • Promote a carbon tax; work to change the rules of the marketplace to get to net zero
  • Promote energy efficiency

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How to Evaluate and Select the Best Ideas


Convener: Yiftach Nagar

Participants: Yiftach Nagar, Emanuel Vincent (NOAA), Alex Frost (Scholarly Labs), George Mikhailovsky (Global Mind Share), Ceasar Ogole (Patent Discovery Solutions. and formerly with GE research), Jake Hanson (Transition Lab), Kenneth Murray (Industrial Environmental Carbon)

Discussion Summary:

How do we ensure:

  •  fairness? (how important is it?)
  •  representation

where is the expertise?
To what extent can we rely on the crowd/community in evaluating (level of knowledge, level of commitment)

ideation, synthesis, arbitration
limited time

Alex: we should think of *concurrent* blends of ideation, synthesis, and arbitration
if our goal is to eliminate/minimize bias - randomize the order of how you present things
if you have the end goal in mind, the purity of having something that's completely crowdsourced, may not always be the right thing

one axis: identify the best ideas
2nd axis: identify how closely is the idea aligned with the goals of the solicitor (a fit / not a fit)

Emanuel: consider recognition of reviewers
Alex: we can think of components. for example, the public can do a good job of judging/predicting public uptake of proposals. Experts may need to do specific small parts.
George: we did 3 layered voting: community, crowd, experts
and then some smart way of weighting those ratings.

Alex: there's a question of the balance of the number of submitters

another model: everyone gets 10 votes.

diversity is important. representation is important for diversity
we should consider a dual-council (representative, and representation-blind. like senate and congress). especially when we introduce geography in the next round of contests!

Possible next steps:

  • continue thinking!
  • develop+pilot new comments system, if possible
  • discuss dual council idea

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Integrated Technologies to Build Idea Synergy: Voice, Text, Web


Convener: Caesar Ogole

Participants: Caesar Ogole, Emmanuel Vincent, Julio Waryhin, Max Platzer, Don, Ernst, Fiona Smith

Discussion Summary:

  • Goal is to build integrated system to leverage crowd in building more effective solutions.
  • motivated by availability low cost technological solutions: voice, text, Web
  • solutions can be replicated globally: climate is global but sometimes problems vary from region to region. Some regions are currently under-facilitated technologically, especially the developing countries.
  • participatory approach makes people feel that they belong. promotes self-motivation to take actions on climate issues.
  • allow users to contribute by simple actions (eg vote) that can have big impacts. The "heavy-lifting" of processing user feedback could be provided by automated backend computer intelligent techniques (data mining and knowledge discovery methodologies, etc)
  • sub-component of this idea is a potential candidate for CoLab Contest for 2014.

Possible next steps:

  • Idea building and implementation requires a sizable amount o resources: educational institutions would be a preferred way. Others, for-profit, crowd-funding etc
  • Build team: diverse in backgrounds (software engineers, communicators, climate experts, etc)

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Crowdfunding Fusion


Convener: Dennis Peterson

Participants: Eric Lerner, Matt Moynihan, Dave Douchette, Donna Shaver, Peter Jordan

Discussion Summary:

Initially, we spent our time getting everybody up to speed on our particular situation.

The main new idea was to try to enlist the fusor community as a core group. These are hobbyists who've built small fusion reactors for fun.

Aside from that....this is a difficult problem that we've been trying to figure out for a while, and some of us discussed for a couple hours at dinner the night before. Not much new came out of this session. The earlier crowdfunding discussion was more interesting.

It could be that it's less productive to focus on a particular project like this, since you spend so much time catching everybody up on the details, and since you tend to draw a smaller crowd, mostly of people you've already been talking with.

Possible next steps:

The idea to target the fusor community was interesting. It's a pretty small community, but getting a good core of enthusiasts is an essential first step. Will try this and see how they respond.

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Crowdfunding for Climate Change and to Implement CoLab Ideas


Convener: Konrad Ritter

Participants: Konrad Ritter, Pia Jensen, Michael Green, Dave Cousett, Mark Hochman, Peter Jordaan, Thomas Malone, Eric Learner, Sarah Karaco, Patrick de Boer, Donna Schaeffer, Brandon Rutter-Daywater, Nancy Taubenslide

Discussion Summary:

Convener's suggestions: what could crowdfunding for CoLab winners look like?
What would the actual mechanisms of crowdfunding work
Who has ability to start doing it?


  • Money supply side, how does the money get in; then demand side: how can the supply be used in ways that encourage further supply. Supply side mostly in US and Europe.
  • Crowdfunding types: grants, rewards, debt, and equity/stock. This discussion focuses mostly on rewards, kickstarter-type funding.
  • Rewards can be very resource-intensive. Choose to supply rewards that are an integral part of the project, or expressly resource-light.
  • CoLab could use MIT to help with press contacts & get the word out for crowdfunding initiatives.
  • CoLab could seek a strategic partnership with one of the preexisting crowdfunding platforms. Kickstarter, Sun Funders, theecohub.org
  • Could be per-project or a single CoLab project to fund, with CoLab distributing funds.
  • Could have each CoLab donation go partly for the funder's choice and partly to the crowd's choices (winners' fund)
  • Consider non-monetary crowdfunding; in-kind donations. Add specific features of CoLab to facilitate this? Actions tab?

Quick summary:

  • Clear positive energy here around crowdfunding for getting CoLab projects funded/realized.
  • There is due diligence necessary to make it work well enough the first time around.
  • There is openness for going with existing platforms.
  • Concern: raising expectations that may not be fulfillable. Put boundaries on it, make it part of the proposal but make it explicit that these "needs" may not be provided to winners. Just try to supply those that we can.

More detailed notes:

Crowdfunding for climate change & to implement CoLab ideas - Konrad Ritter

Pia Jensen: in Nicarauga crowdfunding is quite foreign. History of actually following through on funding is bad.
Konrad: supply side, how does the money get in; demand side: how can it be used to encourage supply rather than discourage it.
Supply side mostly in US & Europe

Crowdfunding types
grants (via organization)
rewards (kickstarter-ish)
debt (microfinance, kiva)
equity/stock (micro-venture-capital)

in developing world; usually an intermediary that vets the demand side; people/groups who use the money.

For reward funding: keep in mind the rewards can be very resource-intensive.
it should at least be a part of what you're going to do anyway (or expressly resource-light)

how to get the broad base for small donations: MIT could help with press contacts, (newsletters), still use a preexisting crowdfunding platform

Get the publicity/knowledge going before starting the official kickstarter/indiegogo campaign

specifically for CoLab- seek a strategic partnership with one of the platforms.

rewards-type projects must deliver; need to have product instead of ideas

from MIT "poor economics" class kiva funds entrepreneurs; always very small projects though. Opportunity for larger funding of larger projects in these areas.

What about non-kickstarter type things; limits to Kickstarter; arts and technology projects with specific outcomes.
They exist.
Sun Funders- for-profit working on last-mile power supply
Kiva has evolved- 50-100k loans for some projects

Back to CoLab 2014: do we use a preexisting platform or make one?
Peter J wants to make a broadly scaled
Kickstarter- technology projects work, and can use electronic rewards

Could use preexisting platform but use some MIT "abstraction layer" for how the money flows. Maybe just one crowdfunding "project".
Could have each CoLab donation go partly for the funder's choice and partly to the crowd's choices (winners' fund)

theecohub.org is an example of a crowdfunding platform
does range of proposals mean a range of crowdfunding platforms, or do you go with one which is broad enough to handle all?

For larger projects- bootstrapping of the crowdfunding, do it in stages.

Some things don't need money; they need other things- specific features of CoLab to facilitate this? Actions tab?

Each proposal- list of things that are needed
supply side- list of things that are offered.

Will entail a broadening of how the website is used.

Pete's greens economic model.

Possible next steps:

  • Work to fuse, or at least connect, various fusion communities.
  • This includes becoming active in more than one community first.
  • Work on video, model, etc. to use as the educational-and-shiny thing for fusion community to bring in friends.

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Psychology of Risk and Address Actions That Negate Positive Work


Convener: George Mokray and Pia Jensen

Discussion Summary:

way in which we make decisions is not necessarily how we think about making those decisions - e.g. throwing more data at the non-believers vs changing how the idea/problem is presented - comparing for example neighbor's utility usage to encourage change - feedback

expressing things in terms of gain vs. loss - idea of loss is twice is twice as motivating as idea of gain    

notion of do you believe in god - or in this context climate change - even if you don't believe there is "input" for other reasons - each action has its own benefits vs trying to convincing people to provide "input" based on for example the usual data argument

how we perceive things - current "answer" may be correct now and in ten years it may not

colors vs "shmolors"

cant change their minds but can change actions for things we can agree on 

what is good for the children - does it matter - if CO2 is rising - if we can reduce isnt that good. mental solutions vs. grand solutions

andrew hoffman addressing issue with how we dialog - psychology of emotion

for me (Pia) how do we help people understand that reforestation is just as vital as supporting a climate project that can be turned into a money making business.

China - air quality impacts on daily living - living in Hong Kong and having to make more money to mitigate the pollution risk to health.

bottom line dollar arguments speak loudest ... and the real threat of climate change events such as hurricane sandy... not necessary to speak of that event as climate change related - the damage speaks loudest. 

threat dialog for resilience building  - cities moving forward - Africa does not in most cases

insurance motivates the cities - what are the newest insurance clauses stating - eliminate waste - reduce carbon footprint 

NY is one of the cleanest cities in the world - how to influence others - NY has monetary resources while other cities do not have that "big bank" resource

Re-Insurance industry underwrites for direct insurers - managing risk international market down to local market (but it takes too long for that vital knowledge to reach "end users")

int he case of this conference - focus on profitable ventures vs. on actions that we know we can take that don make money but sequester carbon - tropical forests are the earth's lungs - without them there is no business in the future that will matter. viewing reforestation as a profitable venture. 

rate changes - change of practices required - question of how long it takes to move ideas down to local insurers and cities

not all states are equal - for example California is well practiced in offsetting negative impacts in development - creating marsh areas - replacing lost ecosystems. "eco-banking" 

weather - utilities - talking about emergency response plans, and based on what they have learned over the years - what can be done based on resources 

concept that we have changed our dialog from personal psychology risk to corporate risk - it's all the same - when we need to bring people to the point at which actions are practical and effective. 

"actions" being taken - one event recently - Cargill Coca Cola Mosaic - came to MIT asking - how can we feed the world without destroying the planet? as a side note: USDA asked (for a grant award) how do we resolve the problems inherent in large ag production. I (Pia) called them up and suggested breaking the large ag down to small, diverse plantations. No grant award required - it's a matter of perspective - will the big ag companies keep ruling or will small farmers/organized communities  progress.... (Transition Town)

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