SecondMuse’s Year in Review: Green Chemistry, Making, Internet Freedom, Systems Mapping, and Social Change

Stu end of year

2014 was a big year for SecondMuse. We had the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of partners all around the world to create true social impact in a variety of sectors. This retrospective touches upon some projects that were particularly notable for us.

Innovating Canada’s Future with the McConnell Foundation

With its latest initiative, RECODE, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation infusing a culture of social innovation and entrepreneurship in post-secondary education throughout Canada. The Foundation itself awarded more than $5 million in grants to over 18 institutions and they each matched that funding for a total of over $10 million being invested in social innovation and entrepreneurship. SecondMuse was proud to help create the National Network which connects on campus innovation to a larger community of peers, collaborators and stakeholders. We are working with a variety of collaborators such as Intel, Ashoka Canada, and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility to bring the following activities to students across the country: National Challenges, Impact Investing, Peer and Experiential Learning, Pro Bono Services, Curriculum, Research and Tool Development, and National and Regional Gatherings.

Cultivating a Community of Makers in NYC and Beyond

SecondMuse expanded our work with the Maker community by partnering with NYCEDC on the New York’s Next Top Makers program. Together, we are building an ecosystem across New York City to support hardware entrepreneurs not just to survive, but thrive. Over the course of the past year, we built community and broke down existing silos through a series of community events. We hosted a five borough Next Top Maker Pop Up Tour. We showed up at New York Design Week’s Wanted x Design, showcased Next Top Makers at World MakerFaire NYC, and spent an evening at Kickstarter HQ to understand the ins and outs of a successful crowdfunding campaign. We also create the first-ever NYC-based Maker Map. Lastly, we selected six hardware entrepreneurs as fellows for a yearlong community-sourced incubation program. These Next Top Makers Fellows are paving the way to print your own circuits, make gaming accessible to those with limited mobility to innovation in 3D printing. We are looking forward to Next Top Makers in 2015 and 2016!

Internet Freedom in Tibet, Vietnam and Around the World

We spent much of 2014 working on the critical issue of Internet freedom from the perspective of users around the world such as human rights activists, political organizers, marginalized communities, and more. SecondMuse developed a methodology for applying human centered design and Needfinding to user communities and published cutting edge reports on user needs in the Tibetan Exile Community, a Vietnamese activist community, and even shared an open and freely available framework for replicating our process. Our work has discovered important knowledge for developers of these vital technologies, such as the reasoning behind iOS as a platform of choice in Tibet. SecondMuse also became the home for the Open Technology Fund’s Localization Lab, a growing community of thousands of volunteer translators, developers, and intermediary organizations committed to localizing open source Internet freedom technology.

Systems Innovation for Systemic Change

Many development challenges faced today are complex challenges that have multiple causes, involve multiple stakeholders, are embedded in a web of multifaceted cause-and-effect relationships, and contain structural traps in which isolated actions result in bad outcomes for the whole. These challenges cannot be solved using sectoral approaches alone, since such approaches tend to be limited in vision, reducing solutions to policies or actions managed by single institutions or organizations and designed outside the context of the whole. Systems innovation addresses such complexity through a scientific and participatory process which includes systems sensing through the creation of a systems map; systems convening; prototyping; creating collaborative networks; capacity development; scaling; and self-sustaining funding. In 2014 SecondMuse expanded its impact through several systems innovation projects in disaster relief management with Google and the World Bank, developing a cancer-free economy with the Garfield Foundation, co-creating a 2020 strategy with members of Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and supporting foundations to develop collective impact strategies for sustainable fisheries and early childhood development, and more.

Hacking the Future of Media with Al Jazeera

This past fall we had the opportunity to collaborate with Al Jazeera Innovation and Research to work on the Canvas Media in Context Hackathon. The three-day hackathon was the inaugural event and informal launch of Canvas, a new Al Jazeera-powered innovation community that seeks to build the future of media. This was a truly unique hackathon as it brought 86 participants from 37 different countries to Doha. Participants collaborated to produce 19 challenge solutions that managed to exceed already high expectations for the talented group. Solutions ranged from Street Stories, an immersive news experience to understand events in Ferguson, Missouri, to Perspectives, showcasing alternative viewpoints to important news stories. Moving forward, we believe this emerging community has an incredible potential to make an impact in the sphere of media and technology.

A Big Year for Mass Collaboration

We are passionate about connecting communities to meaningful challenges in order to spur collective impact. In 2014 we saw our biggest year yet in mass collaboration initiatives. The National Day of Civic Hacking program, sponsored by our partners at Intel, held 124 events in 13 countries. These were co-creation events connecting entrepreneurs, technologists, government officials and concerned citizens to tackle local challenges through open data and open source technology and were attended by over 10,000 people. Following the event, SecondMuse and Intel ran the Data Services Accelerator, Intel’s first-ever accelerator that moved forward six incredible civic-minded startups. NASA’s mass collaboration program, the International Space Apps Challenge attracted an equally high level of involvement from communities and organizations around the world. There were 95 events in 46 countries, attended by over 8,000 coders, scientists, students and designers who created more than 600 projects in response to NASA challenges in areas from human space flight to asteroids and robotics. We also published a number of papers and a report on the topic of mass collaboration, following its development as a methodology that is becoming mainstream in enabling governments and organizations to tap into the cognitive surplus of interested citizens around the world.

LAUNCH and the Possibilities of Green Chemistry

The Green Chemistry challenge marked the second challenge in the system of materials and manufacturing for LAUNCH. The top ten innovators focus on leveraging or advance ‘green chemistry’ to transform the system of materials and manufacturing to one that advances global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources. To learn more about this challenge as well as our top 10 innovators click here. We also had our first regional expansion of LAUNCH in the Nordics region with LAUNCH Nordics. The core partners are Nordic-based companies IKEA, Novozymes and Kvadrat, as well as the Global Green Growth Forum, The Danish EPA, the Fund for Green Business Development, the city of Copenhagen and Vinnova. Our team worked closely with their implementing partners in executing the program during the course of 2014 starting with the Big Think in February and culminating in the Forum event in September. Not only were we able to help expand the LAUNCH model but also were able to learn from the Nordics team and adapt some of our processes.

And So Much More…

These are just a few of the additional projects we have worked on in 2014:

  • World Bank & Big Data: We scanned the global landscape of big data and developed a framework and report to help the World Bank determine how best to put big data into action for development.  The report was the centerpiece of a World Bank symposium on big data in October.
  • New Orleans Recovery: We worked with the City of New Orleans to run a Big Think for designing a crowdsourced property rating tool to help build a more resilient city.
  • SSRI: The Stanford Social Innovation Review published our paper entitled Lessons in Mass Collaboration where we discussed experience and insights from government-convened hackathons.
  • Early Childhood Development: We worked with the Walton Family Foundation, the Packard Foundation and others on various issues related to early childhood education, including creating a systems map of the ECD ecosystem by collaborating with many different stakeholders with insights into this system.
  • Fisheries: We collaborated with the Walton Family Foundation and others in the gulf of Mexico to design a systems map of the challenge fisheries face, such as overfishing, illegal catch and environmental degradation.
  • Open Data for Resilience: We worked with The World Bank to develop the Open Data for Resilience Initiative, applying the concepts of the global open data movement to the challenge of reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and the impact of climate change.

And all of this occurred in just the last 12 months. What will 2015 bring? We can’t wait to find out.

Michael Brennan

About Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan leads projects focused on technology and social impact such as the National Day of Civic Hacking. He also leads SecondMuse’s Internet Freedom program which focuses on needfinding and localization to enable safe, secure access to the Internet around the world. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Drexel University where he co-founded their Privacy, Security and Automation Lab. Michael is passionate about catalyzing positive social change through open technology communities, socially conscious software development, and free and open access to the Internet.

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