As an entrepreneur, strategic communications professional, and policy wonk, I've worked on social innovations in the for-profit and non-profit world, helping to develop campaigns and solutions to social and natural resource challenges.

I'm constantly tracking and analyzing what make us as humans, inspired to act and respond to new ideas. This is where I share my thoughts and notes. 


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Defining Social Innovation, Simply

Infographics are a great way to communicate ideas and relationships and I regularly feature them here and on Twitter. There has yet to be an effective infographic that explains the concept of social innovation, a term that might be new to some, but has been responsible for driving change globally for years.

That's what makes this video inforgraphic by the Canadian based collaborative partnership Social Innovation Generation (SiG) so great. 

Designed and interactive infographics are powerful in many ways and can be shared easily via social media. Video infographics add an additional dimension to communicating complex ideas with simple visual concepts, adding voice narration and self propelled motion infographics to complement and enhance visual design components. And if narration is used, it is essential that the script of the video infographic be as clear and concise as the graphics it accompanies.

SiG does this effectively and clearly defines social innovation in a context we can all understand; the systems we live in, both natural and made made. And it does so right away. Within the one minute mark, the video tells us the answer to our question, "What is social innovation?":

"Our systems have created complex problems, that require novel system solutions, if we and our planet are to survive and thrive. Social Innovation is the result of the intentional work of people trying to make positive change happen, by addressing these complex problems at the roots.

Social Innovation is a process, product, or program that profoundly changes the way a given system operates. Changing it in such a way that reduces the vulnerability of the people and the environment in that system."

The video is also directly linked to and references the resources found at SiG's Knowledge Hub. From a communciations perspective this is both an introduction to social innovation and a spectacular way to drive people to the Knowledge Hub to learn more. 

As descirbed on the site, SiG's Knowledge Hub is "a website designed to provide learning resources about creating conditions for social innovation and to highlight examples in Canada and around the world."

You'll also find an interesting video series titled, Inspiring Action for Social Impact offering insights from "a national speakers’ series led by the world’s leading social innovation thinkers and practitioners." 


Inspired to Act: For the Oceans, For a Great Friend

Elyssa Rosen always focused on conservation, is pictured here at a Pew Charitable Trust reception at the CCAMLR meeting this past July in Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo Credit: Dave Walsh

On Saturday October 26, 2013 the world lost an extremely influential and life-long conservationist, Elyssa Rosen, at the young age of 48. While not known well in the public eye, she was known in conservation circles and among members of the media as one of the most effective and respected communications professionals in the field. She was a close friend and mentor of mine.

Elyssa died while SCUBA diving off the southern coast of Tasmania, Australia. She was in Tasmania with the Pew Charitable Trust along with a host of other organizations and countries, advocating for the creation of the world's largest marine reserves.

Members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which includes 24 nations and the European Union, are meeting this week in Hobart, Tasmania, to once again consider creating a Ross Sea Marine Reserve and an area to protect waters off the Eastern Antarctic.

The United States and New Zealand have proposed a sanctuary that would extend for 1.32 million square kilometers in the Ross Sea with a 1.25 million square kilometer "no-take" area proposed. This according to Grist is a reduction of 40% from the original proposed area to appease concerns from negotiators such as Russia. A second proposal for a separate area, has been put forward by Australia and the EU, calling for protecting 1.6 million sqkm of waters off the East Antarctic. Both proposals are under consideration at the meetings.

With the United Nations reporting that 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are in decline, these proposed protected areas are a critical addition to the relatively small network of protect areas world wide. While effective, the almost 6,000 Marine Protect Areas create a patchwork that only covers an area under 2% of the world's oceans. The new proposed areas would be the world's largest and pay major dividends in marine conservation for generations to come. 

However, there is concern that extraordinary progress in the past few months of negotiating is being stifled by some. And with decisions set to be issued shortly, it seems as though CCAMLR might put off making these decisions.

That's where Elyssa Rosen, the consumate conservation advocate, still might have the ability to influence the outcome of the meetings.

Andrea Vance of New Zealand's Stuff wrote about call by many in Hobart and around the world to honor Rosen's legacy by voting to created the protected areas - Sea sanctuaries as lasting tribute. What's even more important to consider is that Rosen's last hours were in just one of these protected areas, the Tinderbox Marine Nature Reserve.

On twitter the hashtag #4Elyssa has been appearing as organizations and individuals call for CCAMLR members to act and honor Rosen's legacy: 



No matter what the results are from October's meetings in Tasmania, Rosen's legacy will live on. When the Ross Sea and eastern Antarctica protected areas are enacted, Eylssa Rosen will have played an important part. 

Rosen's family released a statement on Facebook regarding her passing and hoping that "those who have been or are inspired by Elyssa's legacy will commit to advancing the conservation efforts she advocated for. Her life represents a call to action and a light for good, that we will always honor through our own actions and love."

Here's the full statement:


On October 26, 2013 United States citizen Elyssa Rosen, of Reno, Nevada passed away at the age of 48 as the result of a SCUBA diving accident off the coast of Tasmania, Australia. Ms. Rosen was a lifelong and career environmental conservationist, having worked in the field for over twenty years.

Elyssa and her colleagues were diving in the Tinderbox Marine Nature Reserve, near Hobart.  She was attending the conference of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Ccamlr) as an employee of the PEW Charitable Trust.

Elyssa's family has released the following statement:

"Elyssa Rosen was an incredibly loving partner, sister and daughter, and caring aunt - her family, friends, colleagues all continue to mourn her passing. We are very thankful for the prayers we've received during this difficult time.

Elyssa was a committed steward of all things around her - she loved people and the natural world with a great passion and selflessness. We take some comfort knowing her last moments came in a place that reflected her passion and commitment to conservation and protecting natural resources around the world. As we reflect on her life, we are emboldened by her vision and actions to sustain the richness of our world and to celebrate the joy of humanity.

We hope those who have been or are inspired by Elyssa's legacy will commit to advancing the conservation efforts she advocated for. Her life represents a call to action and a light for good, that we will always honor through our own actions and love."


Inspired to Act: Demand a Plan

On an evening when many Americans were following the answers given in the first Presidential debate, a group of 725 Republicans, Democrat and Independent mayors led by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and survivors shooting incidents, were asking both candidates for an answer to a question that wasn't raised; what are the Presidential candidates' respective plans to address guns and gun violence?

During a period of time in the news cycle when many issues are on the table for discussion, a new TV ad/PSA from Mayors Against Illegal Guns was released on the evening of the first Presidential debate as part of Demand a Plan. Demand a Plan is a campaign attempting to gain attention on a question that neither candidate, the mainstream media, or even Wednesday night's debate moderator, has elevated to a top level Presidential campaign issue. Considering the heightened level of awareness from the recent incidents of gun violence, the request for some answers by the mayors and these victims isn't too much to ask. 

A number of important elements are at play in helping this campaign to inspire people to act.

First, a compelling story from a unique voice. Stephen Barton, a survivor of the Aurora shooting is a "recent Syracuse University graduate and Fulbright Scholar who was shot in an Aurora theater as he was biking across the country."

Second, timing. The ad comes just two months after Colorado's Aurora massacre and released during the first Presidential debate, being held just miles from where the shooting took place.

The next important factor of the campaign is that it takes a balanced and reasonable approach to what has traditionally been a difficult issue for politicians and citizens to work through. Ultimately the ask is simple, come up with a plan to address the issue. Not a call to ban all gun ownership, just a plan to address gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Fourth, the campaign has a statistic and message the opens minds and gives people pause; "48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during next President’s term." While some see critics see this as a relatively small number, preventable gun violence has a dramatic impact on civil society, whether it be by taking one police officer's life or of 12 innocent movie-goers.

Lastly, and most importantly the campaign has an immediate way for people to act, to respond to the video - and an online petition. This site also provides the ability to automatically send tweets to each candidate about the issue. In the online world, where immediate critical mass counts, these elements will be the most important to raise awareness at a time when attention is focused on a lot of other issues. 

Sure, every campaign has a website, but this campaign's site does a good job of immediately capturing those interested in getting involved. Already, the effort is starting to stir up commotion across the spectrum. While TV advertising has the potential to make some impact in an issue advertising saturated television market, the online side of this has the greater possible upside for earning supporters. 

Although the mayors' Facebook page has just over 5,000 likes, the organization has a big base of support. They've collected over 250,000 signatures to their petition. In August, Demand a Plan delivered a petition with 150,000 signatures to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder calling on President Obama and Governor Romney to offer a concrete strategy to fight gun crime. That's a jump of 100,000 people in a month, not huge, but it'll be interesting to see what happens after this ad run. 

What the Demand a Plan campaign could potentially do, and is positioned to do now with this well timed and effective PSA, is push a non-partisan issue and question back into the national debate. While the question might not have an easy answer, it's clear a lot of people think it needs to be asked.

Maybe when that happens, then everyone might be inspired to act in someway, offer their own plan, or ask what the best approach is. Including the debate moderators and as a result the presidential candidates.


The Value of Data Visualization

Here's a quick video from the folks at Column Five, who do a great deal of work with GOOD for their section.

See below for one of the more recent infographics from the colaboration between the two groups reviewing the shift in ad revenue, as investigated by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. 

Click to launch the infographic.

One of the more interesting statistics that stands out from the visualization is the very low percentage of market share that video advertising has. While a small percentage of the revenue market share, it would be interesting to see a visualization on the ROI for each advertising mechanism online. 

ROI measurement for online advertising is an emerging space and yet the measurements for length of time a user spends on pages - with a banner ad in front of them, number click throughs, or time spent watching pre-roll ads are easily measureable. These statistics, correlated against the revenue market share numbers might highlight that, while a smaller percentage of the market for ad dollars, the money put into video is money well spent for capturing the attention and the time of the user. 


Farming Infographics in Africa

Figured I'd combine the topics of the last two posts, infographics and Bill Gates.  

Ok, so Bill Gates isn't going to become a small farmer any time soon, but the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sure is working on getting small farmers in Africa up and going with simple innovations. The answer to the world's problems is small farmers, and the infographic explains the vision for how better information, better seeds, better tools, and better storage all lead to an Africa with small farmers at the forefront.  With the famine crisis in Somalia getting worse, we all hope to see an updated infographic one day of how food provided by small farmers led to peace in the conflict torn country. That'll be one big innovation.

The infographic is, "a collaboration between GOOD and Kiss Me I'm Polish, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." Read the original post by Good here