Pitch the Future–Young Social Innovators in Action

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You know what it’s like when inspiration hits … an idea galvanises in your mind like a bolt of electricity, sending your pulse racing. And the more you think on it, the more you feel your nerve fibres tingling.

But what happens when you tell someone about your idea? Your mouth dries. The words tumble out one on top of the other … you get tongue tied, excited and afraid. What happens if someone steals your brilliance? What if your idea is no good?

Now imagine, that you are taking your idea and pitching it to a room of strangers. Imagine that this idea is a deep seated passion and could have a real social impact if successful. And then imagine pitching your idea against four other people just as passionate about their idea as you are about yours.

Pitch the Future event at the Vivid Ideas Festival last night. Check out the story as it unfolded below. And who won? You’ll have to follow along to find out!

World PR Forum – Using the Power of Stories to End Global Poverty

With the World Public Relations Forum arriving in Melbourne 18-20 November 2012, there’s bound to be plenty of on and offline conversations around the changing role of communications. But with a theme of “Communication Without Borders” – it appears the organisers are setting a broad agenda.

One of the more interesting sessions scheduled for the three day event will be hosted by Michael Sheldrick, from the Global Poverty Project (GPP). His view is that the world of PR has plenty to learn from the practices of seasoned social campaign-focused organisations like the Global Poverty Project.

The GPP engages people in a new way that shows progress in the fight against global poverty. Through their work and directly via their communications at all levels, the GPP aims to “show people that movements can still change the world”. The key to this, Michael explains, is to “craft stories that captivate large numbers of people”.

He sees that there are four elements to a successful campaign:

  1. Grassroots advocacy – tapping into the personal power and passions of your grassroots supporters
  2. Media engagement – enlisting celebrities and activists with loyal followings provide a focus for media engagement and storytelling
  3. Public engagement – extending the conversation on and offline (from YouTube and image sharing, petitions through to local activists making phone calls to local MPs)
  4. Government relations – lobbying and working with political advisors, ministers to provide them with the “public ammunition” they can use to effect change

But how does this work in practice? Is there a measurable impact?

The GPP measure by outcomes – not likes, follows, impressions or even reach and frequency. By way of example, Michael shared details of the recent The End of Polio campaign.In Australia, there were two goals – to have Prime Minister, Julia Gillard raise this campaign at a regional summit – and for the Australian Government to contribute $50 million to polio vaccination programs. Both of these goals were achieved – and Prime Minister Gillard went a step further, urging other leaders to contribute – resulting in a total of $118 million being contributed.

But there is also plenty of experimentation in the GPP approach. They are hosting a “free ticketed” music festival in Central Park, NYC, featuring Neil Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys later this month. To attend, you have to download the app and then earn points by learning, sharing and taking action against extreme poverty. Concert goers go into the draw to win two tickets only AFTER earning “three points” on the Global Citizen App.

With over 50,000 downloads, over 30,000 people have already accrued enough points to go into the draw for tickets.

One of the things that I like most about this is the strategy. There is clear alignment between the brand, the vision, the action and the lifestyle of their social consumers. There is an experience on offer but there is also a social compact. This shifts the relationship from merely one of transaction (buying a ticket, watching a show) to engagement (make an impact, join a movement).

Now – if only more of our communications achieved this much – we’d all live in a much better world. Or at least a world without poverty.

Don’t forget you can catch Michael Sheldrick at the World PR Forum in November 2012.

Finding Your Passata

How do you change the world? It’s not about doing things … well not entirely. It’s about metaphors. It’s about storytelling. It’s about changing behaviours one person at a time. Just ask Sally Hill. It’s also about passata.

When 0.5% Is Not a Statistical Glitch

When you are dealing with statistics one expects a margin of error. You could be estimating a project and suggest +/- 10 percent. You could be waving your finger in the air and provide a rough order of magnitude “guesstimate” of +/- 200 percent.

So the thought of taking as little of 0.5% out of an equation should not be a problem, right?

But what happens if that 0.5% happen to control 38.5% of the world’s total wealth?

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The Business Insider shares 13 Staggering Facts About the Global Super Rich – and it leads out with this image of the global wealth pyramid based on data from Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook 2011.

Given these figures, there’s little surprise that civil protests like #OccupyWallStreet in New York are gaining momentum (including the local #occupysydney efforts). It makes for interesting times.

We are the 99% – #occupywallstreet

When protesters across Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets to demand more transparency in government, democracy and equal rights, the West stood and cheered. Dubbed the Arab Spring, these people powered movements saw the disenfranchised 99% of the population rise up and protest the concentration of ownership and privilege controlled by the 1%.

But how do we respond to the same situation in our own backyards? The 400 richest Americans at the top of the economic pyramid have been able to amass more wealth than the 180 million Americans at the bottom – and I’d wager there is a similar disparity in Australia.

In an open letter to Join the Wall Street Occupation – The Revolution Begins at Home, Arun Gupta explains:

Our system is broken at every level. More than 25 million Americans are unemployed. More than 50 million live without health insurance. And perhaps 100 million Americans are mired in poverty, using realistic measures. Yet the fat cats continue to get tax breaks and reap billions while politicians compete to turn the austerity screws on all of us.

At Liberty Park in New York, hundreds if not thousands of people are gathering each day to discuss, debate and protest the state of democracy in the United States. The campaign #occupywallstreet is spreading to other cities and countries – from San Diego and Omaha to Toronto and even Brisbane.

We Are The 99% from socially_awkwrd on Vimeo.

And while there is a lot of conversation on Twitter and on social media, the mainstream media outlets are yet to deeply engage on this subject. And it makes me wonder – where is the tipping point … what level of social movement or activism is required before traditional media can no longer ignore the unfolding situation? And at which point does it become “contagious” – shifting gears from a protest to a movement?

Perhaps financial traders like Alessio Rastani, shown here in interview on the BBC will help galvanise such a movement.

Or maybe not. We may be part of the 99%, but many aspire to the 1% – and while a culture of aspiration (and entitlement) dominates our thinking, non-traditional media will have to work harder to reach that tipping point. If Duncan Watts is right, then we need about 15% of a closely linked social network to act before contagion begins. And that means we have some way to go.

The BP Oil Disaster Mashup

When we hear about the BP Oil Disaster – it is difficult to get a sense of the scale of the impact. But what if we could superimpose the spill dimensions on a map of your local area? What if it was possible to take the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and mash it up with a Google map?

Andy’s website does just that. You can choose your location and show just how far the slick would extend up and down your own coastline.

The BP Oilspill Over Sydney

In this image we can see that the spill would reach from Newcastle in the north to almost Shell Harbour in the south. It would reach as far as Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, extend over the Blue Mountains to Lithgow and reach far out to sea. If you wanted to drive from north to south in a car, it would take you about four hours at highway speeds.

If this happened on your doorstep, do you think you would consider it a spill – or a disaster? Would you take it personally? I would.

Via Kristen Obaid

The Long Scar of Australia’s Shame

I was watching a re-run of the amazing SBS series, The First Australians, over the weekend – and was again struck by the power of the story, the horror of the impact white Australians had on Aboriginal people and the unbearable sadness brought about by government policies and the willing complicity of the Australian public.

But I was also heartened by the remembrance of The Apology to Aboriginal people by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. I remember what it meant to hear and take part in. I thought it was a turning point.

But sadly, it seems that institutionalised racism continues to manifest in the thoughts and deeds of individuals and in the judgements of our courts.

Michael Brull writes of a case in the Northern Territory where “Top Blokes” Beat an Aboriginal Man to Death (via Derek Jenkins). The post details the exploits of five friends who drink, drive and terrorise multiple groups of Aboriginal people sleeping in the river bed of the Todd River. These events ultimately lead to the death of one man and leave yet another lasting scar on the heart of the Australian nation. In the case R v Doody in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, Chief Justice Martin, however, concluded that this “crime is toward the lower end of the scale of seriousness for crimes of manslaughter”.

Take a few minutes to read the details of this case and then consider this:

Justice Martin went out of his way to provide character references for every single defendant. Doody is ‘a person of positive good character’. Hird is a ‘solid, hard-working young man of good character’. Kloeden has an ‘underlying good character’. Spears is a ‘person of very good character’. Swain, like Kloeden, was a ‘person of underlying good character’.

On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to be “justice served”. And a judgement which COULD have been used to launch a scathing attack on the thoughtless culture and uncaring attitudes of “top blokes” everywhere, seems to have turned into little more than a slap on the wrists.

But if silence can be taken as complicity, I for one, say NO. Not good enough. This needs to be looked at again – in the courts, in our schools and in our hearts. Is this an Australia you’re happy to live in?