It’s 4am in the morning and the Arctic Sunrise lies at anchor just off Den Helder, the last Dutch port before you enter the North Sea. I’m in the campaign office, a cabin close by the bridge that reeks of human beings spending too many days in too close proximity under too much stress. Here the action team has just learned that their last 24 hours of planning and training to stop an oil rig from moving into place in the Arctic have been for nought. The rig has got wind of Greenpeace’s presence in the region, doubling its speed. We can’t catch them in time to provide the planned dramatic backdrop to the speech of Kumi Naidoo, our Executive Director, before the United Nations to call for an end to oil drilling in the Arctic.
What the team doesn’t know is that this is a false alarm. It’s designed to test their sleep-deprived decision making, strain the team and its leader, demonstrate the importance of backup contingency plans at sea, and stress their overall performance in tomorrow’s action. If they analyse the data closely, they’ll figure out it makes no sense and start to question it. If they don’t, they’ll spend the next hour being observed to see how resiliently they react, what they prioritise, and how well they lay out contingency alternatives. Then they’ll learn that the information of the rig’s acceleration resulted from a computer glitch, and they can return to the plan they’ve cooked up with the crew and spent most of the night preparing, but an hour the poorer in preparation time and sleep.
A while back, a few of us were lucky enough to have a storytelling workshop with Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars and the creative force behind “The Meatrix,” “Store Wars,” and “Story of Stuff.” Our subject was what the story of Greenpeace might be in the coming year; what new roles we might play in the age old story of the hero, in which a broken world is mended. In the narrative we want to tell, however, Greenpeace plays the role of mentor, not hero: the Obi-Wan who sets someone on a journey or the Lady of the Lake who gives them a magic sword. Much of our thinking about Greenpeace’s value circled around the idea of awakening people’s inner rebel, and the idea that the hero is the one who hears the story, not the one who tells it. We played with audience profiles, with archetypes, with narrative arcs, and were set a number of challenges to tell stories featuring some of our fictional creations. Here’s the product of one of my exercises — it was written pretty close to what you see here in about twenty minutes, but I keep coming back to it as something I may want to develop further. Encouraging noises, constructive criticism, and howls of disapproval all welcome. Continue reading “Storytelling for activists”
You’ve got witty, interesting people with passion, expertise, and the ability to talk the bark off a tree. You wouldn’t expect it to be hard to get EVERYONE in your organisation using Social Media, right? Except sometimes it is.
It’s so hard, in fact, that several dozen Social Media Managers turned up to a workshop at SXSW to discuss nothing but.
Panel organiser Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Non-Profit, makes a compelling case that the most effective non-profits are those in which EVERYBODY in the organisation does social media promotion of the cause, from the Executive Director all the way up to the receptionist.
My Storified curation of a panel on musicians and activism, With Karen Scott of FitzGibbon Media, Mike Mills of R.E.M. Hillary Zuckerberg of Why Hunger, Mikel Jollet of Airborne Toxic Event and Brandon Deroche of Urgency Network. Continue reading “Raise your Fist: Music and Activism”
The Curmudgeonly Keynote which Bruce Sterling delivers every year at tech conference SXSW riffed heavily this year on the ancient past: the lost desert people of Walnut Canyon, Arizona, who, like the flannel hipsters in the audience surrounding me, were once the greatest innovators of their day. As their climate changed, they created adaptive technologies: they learned to carve into the cliff faces, to harvest condensation, to build clay pots to catch and channel snow and rain. They became “the Stanford of desert survival techniques, the MIT of clay pottery.” But they passed. The cold wind blows through empty stone rooms. Their civilisation burned.
For Sterling, there’s a parable here about technological advance. He had predicted a few years back that the blog would be dead by 2017. Four years early, he asked with some smugness, “where at this SXSW were the keynote panels featuring rockstar bloggers? What startups or rollouts for blogging software were buzzing at SXSW? Did any panel even mention a PC?” His point: you live by disruption, you die by disruption. And when you invent the future, you consume the past. So lets leave the shards of RocketBoom and LonelyGirl15 and the latest Dell Laptop on the floor of that adobe cliff home, and consider what was roasting and eating the past with a side of Nokia this year, and picking its teeth with Blackberry bones.
This was the year of the Wearables and the Printables. Tim Jordan demonstrated Google Glass. He talked commands to it and Siri-like, it took his dictation and acted on it. He tapped through email messages on his earpiece and sent images of the audience to Facebook. He looked up a word. He gave the salivating coders in the Audience tips on how to write a “Hello World” app and four principles for designing for Google Glass. There was a super cool video showing Pepsi-generation kids promising our eyeware will make roller coasters more fun. Continue reading “Broken Clay Pottery and Shards of Google Glass: SXSW 2013”
It truly is the place where the future gets marketed to death before it’s invented. Midpoint mini-take-aways: wearable devices WAY beyond google glass are coming soon and present a huge and exciting user interface design challenge: and a social integration challenge. I love BUMP’s new ability to bump a photo or video to your Mac by tapping the spacebar with your cell phone. Grumpy Cat rules. And I’ve learned tons about African mobile devices, Digifrenia and Present shock, tips and tricks for hacking internal non-profit culture to create a more social-media friendly ecosystem, Trigger-ties as a viral engineering principle, and stuff in the Shuttle busses, lunch tables, and coffee breaks about UFO& conspiracy theory, Wal-Mart’s social media strategy, NASA’s space camp, how to build a Lego Tardis, the history of Wired’s internal split over blind optimism and “The Long Boom,” how Sierra Club is structured, the art of making a smokey martini, and a Texas tradition called “Chicken Shit Bingo.” Who knew?
This is a storified curation of most of the panels I saw at SXSW 2013, in reverse chronological order. Next time, I’m going to break these up into individual panels, and hang those on a master file of linked storified stories. It’s difficult to navigate a long piece like this by paging through until you get back to the panel you wanted. These served as notes for my wrap-up blog, Clay pots and shards of Google Glass. Continue reading “SXSW 2013 Storified”
I’m flying from Amsterdam today to SXSW in Austin in one of your spankin’ new 777s, and just want to say THANKYOU for the wifi over the Atlantic, and for the promotional price of… FREE. You should keep it that way! Any marginal income you might get from a $19 pass would be peanuts compared to the goodwill and preference you’d get from people like me who live online. I’m plugged into a 220v socket so my MacBook’s battery isn’t racing the clock. I’m tweeting from 30000 feet about what a great experience this is. Please, please, keep it that way!
I can’t remember the last time I was seriously excited about an airplane. OK, the Wifi was slow of course, and cut out over the Arctic Circle, and the promise of iPod recognition and USB thumb drive media access on the USB didn’t work. The airport maps are unreadably detailed with no zoom function. The Stewardess told me there’s a system for seat to seat SMS-like communication that’s not implemented yet. And among the bugs yet to be worked out in the plane itself, seat 33C sticks out into the aisle as part of a 3 seat row behind a two seat row, making for tricky meal cart navigation. Ow. OW. Ow.
But the moment when I really felt like I was in the Matrix was on exiting the plane. You look out on a sea of seat-back screens and realise that every one is displaying a different steward or stewardess. Nice touch.
They’re known as the Mob Squad: digital activists, fundraisers, face to face recruiters, direct dialoguers, volunteer and action coordinators — Greenpeace staff, volunteers, and fellow travellers from other groups whose job it is to rouse rabbles, to people power campaigns for the planet, to take issue and create movement(s).
Don’t bother reading this blog. Just watch this video. Share it. Send it. Like it. Comment on it. Get it on as many screens as possible.
And now that you’ve done that:
Back in the 70s and 80s, Greenpeace ran campaigns to drive toxic production out of Europe and North America. In those days, we pushed for government legislation and intra-governmental agreements to stop things like the dumping of titanium dioxide in the North Sea, factories that turned rivers red or blue depending on what dye process was running, and pipes that simply ran wastewater into whatever waterway was handy, contents often unknown and unmonitored by any government agency.
Thing was, while we succeeded in clearing up rivers across our homelands, we drove an awful lot of those processes and factories to China, India, and Mexico. Unfinished business! Team #Detox at Greenpeace have picked up the job, however, but with a #PeoplePower twist that illustrates a pretty big shift in Greenpeace strategy and the battlefield on which we engage across the last 30 years. Continue reading “#DeTox: Unfinished business”
Terrorists have attacked the US in New Orleans and New York. They sent thugs named Katrina and Sandy who destroyed millions of homes and businesses, took prisoners, took lives. In between, they set fire to much of the midwest and scorched the land causing major crop failures and billions in economic loss.
And what’s America doing to hunt down these terrorists and make them pay for the mess they’ve caused?
It’s pushing for more oil exploration, exporting record amounts of coal, building pipelines to the Tar Sands and fracking for gas. That’s like sending charitable donations and willing recruits to the Taliban post-9/11 and calling it retribution. Continue reading “Make Big Oil pay for cleanup of Sandy”