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Log: Sustainability

Less Shouting and More Talking: 5 Ways to Engage an Online Audience

As some of you may know one of my many day jobs is managing the digital presence of think tank and strategic advisory firm SustainAbility.  Earlier in the year I designed and built the website for their flagship project – The Regeneration Roadmap – the aim of which is to provide a way forward for achieving sustainable development within the next generation, focusing in particular on ways the private sector can improve sustainability strategy, increase credibility and deliver results at greater speed and scale.

It is a huge ambition and engaging the right people in the right way will be key to it’s success. Online platforms can play a significant role here: today there are fewer barriers than ever in mobilising people from all backgrounds and geographies to shape and get behind a campaign. From video blogging and social discussion forums to idea generation and crowd sourcing websites, the options available are seemingly endless. But where do you start?

I reviewed a wide range of recent and ongoing web campaigns, and discovered some great examples of online engagement which others may find useful. I’ve picked five to share with you here: some are from the sustainability field and others are not, but hopefully they will all serve as a source of inspiration for your own sustainability initiatives.

1. CounterSpill

Counterspill was set up to act as a counter balance to what the site’s founders perceived to be one-sided reporting of energy news and disasters – but this goes far beyond a reactionary blog.

The website utilises an intuitive and interactive geographic map and timeline to highlight the location and frequency of energy disasters and events. These visualisations employ mixed media content (video, imagery, text) and beautifully-crafted infographics to really bring the stories to life. Visitors to the site are invited to take action by sharing the resource across their networks, and signing up to be kept abreast of news stories as they break.

The end result is a site that goes a step beyond just reporting an alternative point of view. A simple architecture and clever presentation offer visitors an at-a-glance understanding of the big picture complemented by highly detailed source material.

Engagement Strategies

– Visualisations / infographics
– Blogging
– Video diaries

Visit the CounterSpill website.

2. Connect A Million Minds

Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds is a five-year philanthropic initiative to address America’s declining proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math.

The website blends pledging and proximity networking to engage users effectively. A “fulfilment wall” showcases examples of community projects, and users are invited to post their own experiences. There is a “connectory” which allows users to search for facilities and resources in their local area to help them organise their own projects, and eligible applicants can request support. The campaign is given life through a series of relevant blog articles, and users are invited to pledge their support and involvement in campaigns across their social networks.

By connecting visitors to local resources and information this project succeeds in making its campaign relevant and accessible.

Engagement Strategies

– Offline events supported by online toolkits
– Blogging
– Online pledging

Visit the Connect A Million Minds website.

3. Climate Dots

Climates Dots is an initiative by created to highlight how seemingly-unconnected natural disasters are all linked to climate change, by literally ‘connecting the dots’. The campaign called on communities across the globe to hold rallies on 5th May 2012, with a focus on those areas most affected by climate change. At each rally someone would hold up a large physical dot enabling the campaigners to create a physical map of climate change effects globally.

The website is inviting, intuitive and engaging, offering a host of different ways for people to get involved. Visitors are invited to hold their own “Dot” events, and the website provides an event toolkit and online support resource containing activity ideas, printable materials, media guides, and presentations to get organisers started.

This call to action is supported by visual infographics, video diaries from current organisers, and blogs from past events, which together help build up a compelling picture of the community and the campaign.

Climate Dots is a great example of how the digital sharing of tools, resources and support can be used to mobilise otherwise passive visitors to take action in the ‘real’ world, and to build truly global communities.

Engagement Strategies

– Visualisations / infographics
– Offline events supported by online toolkits
– Blogging
– Video diaries

Visit the Climate Dots website.

4. It Gets Better Project is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. Set up as a response to a number of teens taking their own lives after being bullied at school, it’s a place where people can share their stories and connect with a support network of others facing the same life challenges.

The main aspect of the site is a series of highly personal video diaries of teens sharing their own experiences, and friends and families pledging their support. This video content is user generated, and anyone can upload their own video diary for showcase on the site. Site visitors are also invited to “Take the Pledge” that they will respect others’ individuality and speak out against intolerance where they find it. The site is a model example of successful social media integration with communities active across Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and more.

The It Gets Better project is a best practice example of how video content can be harnessed to provide a deeply online personal experience. Through user generated content and social networking the project has empowered its visitors to connect and get access to valuable support and guidance.

Engagement Strategies

– Video diaries
– Blogging
– Social networking
– Online pledging

Visit the It Gets Better website.

5. New Rainbow Warrior

Greenpeace has launched an innovative crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of its new Rainbow Warrior. The campaign centres around an immersive experiential website which allows users to explore the new ship’s blueprints and gain an understanding of the make-up and functionality of its component parts. This is further brought to life through video diaries of campaigners detailing their experiences on the old Rainbow Warrior, together with a time-lapse film of construction on the new build.

Users are encouraged to contribute by buying a component for the ship through an online shop. Contributors receive a certificate of ownership for the component they purchase, and their name will appear on a dedication wall to be installed on the ship.

Greenpeace have leveraged the concept of crowd sourcing in a pitch-perfect way, giving supporters a sense of involvement and ownership over the input they have in fundraising for the new venture.

Engagement Strategies

– Crowd sourcing
– Immersive online environments
– Video diaries

Visit the New Rainbow Warrior website.

Watch this space…

In October I’ll be writing a follow-up to this post, where I’ll be looking at lessons we can learn about effective online engagement strategy from campaigns like these. In the meantime if you come across any other great examples please leave a comment below.

This post originally appeared (in edited form) on

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Posted by drAnalog,
6 September 2012, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Business, Digital, Innovation, Internet, Sustainability, Viral

A ‘Quiet’ Coincidence

Today has a been a day of strange coincidence.

For one reason or another I spent a large portion of last night discussing the differences between introverts and extraverts (myself being an introvert). I won’t go into huge detail but suffice to say it is a topic that has been on the mind.

So this morning I take my seat at my desk in the usual way and commence my ritual trawl of Twitter and Google Reader looking for interesting twitbits (see what I did there!) to facilitate my procrastination from doing any real work. It is a familiar and regular pattern. One blog I have been finding particular enjoyment from of late is Fast Co.Design, a design and innovation blog that is essentially everything I want this blog to be but a million times better (I guess that’s what you get when you have proper curators of content being generated by invited bloggers who are top names in their field, ahem). I must confess to it being possibly the single biggest generator of tweet content from myself of late.

Anyway, I digress, this morning while mining it for inspiration I found this article from Daniel Sobol about the corporate penchant for generating ideas from brainstorming sessions. The main thrust of the article being that brainstorming might not be the ideal way of going about extracting ideas from a team as there will be introverted members of the team who do not engage well in this process for fear of setting themselves up to social rejection. The article then goes on to put forward an alternative technique known as ‘deliberative discourse’, or argue, discuss, argue, discuss. It is an interesting premise, and an article I recommend giving a read.

However it was not so much Sobol’s suggestions that interested me, more the inspiration for it being the recognition that aspects of modern, especially corporate, life are set up in a way that undervalues introverts.

This notion has come to the fore due to the recent publication of the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain and it is the topic of her book that inspired Mr Sobol’s post and is catalysing a range of thinking around the subject currently. Susan Cain is hot property right now following her highly celebrated talk to promote the book and it’s theory at this month’s Ted Lectures (you can see her talk above).

In short her book deals with how society dramatically undervalues introverts and how it loses out in doing so. It highlights the extravert favouring dominant values of business culture, how forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. All fascinating stuff which I vowed to delve further into.

So as is often the case when I stumble across something I find interesting I decided to share it, both publicly on Twitter and Linked In etc. and also across my company’s internal social network Yammer.

For those who don’t know Yammer is like Facebook for business basically. It’s a closed network, with a user interface so close to that of Facebook it’s lawsuit worthy and at SustainAbility we use it for sharing knowledge, gathering opinion and engaging in general banter. It really is a great idea and I would advise any company that wanted to foster an environment of collaborative thought and information exchange to try it.

But anyway again I’m going off track… The important factor is how this led to the next coincidence… my colleague Heather replied to my post saying that she had tickets to a talk at promoting the launch of Quiet by Susan Cain at the RSA, today and would I like to go! Hell yes!

So there I find myself within 12 hours of my previous nights debate on the nature of extraverts and introverts and their relationships in the modern world, trotting off to watch a talk by the world’s current thought leader on the subject.

Well suffice to say I was captivated. Miss Cain really has hit upon one of those mystical things that once you are alerted too seems so obvious yet were completely oblivious to until this point. I was most impressed by how even handed and well researched her ideas are. Far from being a piece simply bigging up introverts her points are admirably well handled taking into account all angles and the affects the current social settings have on all personality types. The talk and surrounding discussions were both insightful and challenging and I must say I left feeling a renewed sense of energy and optimism with my approach to work and my wider social life.

So there it is, my short little story of the introvert and his coincidence. Sometimes things are meant to be and today it feels like this introvert was meant to be in the right place at the right time.

You can subscribe to Fast Co.Design here.

And buy a copy of Quiet here.

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Posted by drAnalog,
27 March 2012, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Business, Innovation, Random, Sustainability and tagged , , , , , , ,

The Regeneration Project

The Regeneration Project a joint initiative from GlobeScan and SustainAbility, launched yesterday on Guardian Sustainable Business(GSB) with the first of the Ray Anderson Memorial Interviews, a weekly series of videos featuring the most notable sustainable development pioneers from the past few decades. Building on these pioneer insights, the project will assess progress on sustainable development to date and help chart a course to a more sustainable future.

The Regeneration Project, over the course of the year, will bring together a wide range of leaders and influencers to determine how best to bring new energy and focus to the agenda

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit and the 25th anniversary of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, which together elevated the concept of sustainable development on the global policy agenda. The Regeneration Project over the course of the year will bring together a wide range of leaders and influencers to determine how best to bring new energy and focus to the agenda.

This is a project which is particularly close to my heart as I branded and designed the website and have been closely involved with the project right through it’s early development phase. I am hugely looking forward to continuing work on this valuable project that I’m sure will greatly add to the sustainable development debate over the course of the following months.

For further information on how to get involved in the project, please visit or follow @regenproj on Twitter.

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Posted by drAnalog,
2 March 2012, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Digital, Internet, Sustainability and tagged , , , ,