Context[edit | edit source]

This is a conversation referencing the Open Sustainability Network, The Transitions Handbook, and asking how to collaborate; it includes agreement on the need for "ground-up" development of resources that a wiki, and a recommendation from an academic that if looking for a sustainability wiki, collaboration could best take place at Appropedia and Ekopedia.

Conversations[edit | edit source]

I just read the Introduction and the chapter on looking back from 2030 in the Transitions handbook, and I like it very much!

The lookback chapter, with its list of topics and perspectives, can be an effective organizing tool for the handbook. Each of the topics and perspectives would become introductory paragraphs for bodies of information on how to do the things that are mentioned in them. There might even be an index page directly under the introductory page, so you have flexibility in how you find the specific information you are interested in.

This seems to be an effective way to organize information and build acceptance among people.

I came to this site on a recommendation from Joshua M. Pearce, Ph.D., who responded to a post by me and another person on, about how to do information for sustainability. I'll paste what I responded to, my response, and then Joshua's response in turn, as there is a lot of content that could support your design process, and he is recommending I consider working with you, and I am interested. The questions underlying this posting are: 1. whether some of my ideas resonate with you; 2. if you see a way, or would like to explore the possibility of finding a way, for me, and the networks I an involved in, to participate in your endeavor in an organized way that also supports my objectives related to GIS (see below). Sorry if its length bothers anyone.


Mark Roest

[OSN] OSN camp in Ecuador

Kyle Muther Dear All at OSN,

Hello my name is Kyle Muther and I am currently working at a small NGO in Ecuador called the Yanapuma Foundation. You can check out more info on the organization itself at I work here as a coordinator of project development. Traveling around Ecuador and making contact with many other organizations, I have consistently been made aware of the lack of communication and collaboration among non- profit organizations. This same void of communication exists between the non-profit sector, universities, and the government.

To this end my goal is to work towards the creation of an NGO association and forum with the principles of communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing. I would like to open this process up to the organizations themselves, so that they themselves can organically build such an association. My initial ideas were founded upon the development of a social networking portal that would allow for a whole new level of communication. Within this portal, I also envisioned the creation of a Wiki for knowledge management purposes. Elgg's social networking architecture seemed to be well suited for such a project.

For this reason, I am very interested in the resources of the open sustainability network, as it embodies the principles and values of open communication, collaboration and organic organizational development. Obviously, this association and forum needs to offer something to the many non-profit organizations. A top down approach, in my view, will not lead to success. A conference needs to be organized to begin to tease out the parameters of what would be beneficial to the non-profit sector in Ecuador. Through this process I envision that an association can be created that brings a real return to the organizations themselves and not to an outside, external third party.

Presently, I am in the process of having brief meetings with various development organizations, universities and the government here in Ecuador to explain this process and find interested actors who would like to come to the conference. I am very open to suggestions and am totally aware of the fact that for this to be possible, I must find a team of interested people who could spark change and growth of such an entity. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing back on your thoughts, suggestions, criticisms and possibilities for partnership and collaboration on this project. Thanks.

Kyle Muther Coordinator of Project Development Yanapuma Foundation

My response: Hello Kyle and all,

A lot of what you want already exists, and you could make it stronger globally by building it up in Ecuador. I'd start with Wiser Earth (, which Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest, which is about the 1 million or 2 million NGOs around the world working for social justice and the environment, encouraged. It already has more than 100,000 listings, and an active editor group. There is a paper about a course for editors which appears to be in development at

In fact, I believe that they are also working to provide forums for communication and collaboration among the organizations and individuals who are listed.

Even better, you could encourage your contacts in other Latin American countries to get all their networks to sign up. This supports the network effect, when it becomes more useful because more people with more different resources are involved, so more people can find what they are looking for.

I found some extraordinary resources there, especially scrolling down the personal page for Wibowo Sulistio bowo editor,administrator at which is chock full of the most enlightened content collection I have seen.

You might want to participate in the project that Earth Treasury <website under construction> has taken on: organizing a global program to create digital curricula, particularly for the OLPC's XO laptop for children, that are far more empowering than traditional education based on repetition and rote memorization. I am currently trying to identify the best open source content management / content finding software, which I want to get set up so that it works with a Geographic Information System, which will be set up with maps of the eco-regions of the world, so we can channel knowledge of what works, in which environments, to the people who need it.

One of the ideas that goes along with that is getting the communities of science collaborating with the communities 'on the ground'. The people at the grass roots have detailed information and data, or can get it if they have the procedures and tools they need, that scientists need, and the scientists have broad networks and harvest decades or centuries of research on specific topics, so often they can provide insight and / or solutions to vexing problems in a particular ecoregion.

A good part of the knowledge we want to gather and document is intended to be in the form of Open and Distance Learning Modules, which you can learn about in as much depth as you wish be going to -- that is COL, the Commonwealth Of Learning, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They are the official agency for improving education in the British Commonwealth, and while they only actively serve people and fund projects in the Commonwealth, they allow anyone to access their knowledge resources. Their web-based bibliographic library, which has now been indexed by Google, has a million links, most of them focusing on education and sustainable development. They also have an extensive hard-copy library at their HQ.

It will also be necessary to translate both knowledge content and the human-readable parts of educational and GIS software into the local languages. Ed Cherlin, the founder of Earth Treasury, knows how to coordinate that (see the section on translation in the OLPC website -- he created it), and has been active in the network that is translating Linux distributions into local languages globally.

David Alan Foster and I are particularly interested in organizing information and knowledge about sustainability, and in sustainable design. We co-founded Design Earth <> after participating in the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth <>, and we are officers in Earth Treasury. David, an industrial designer and previously publisher and top editor of Invent magazine, had earlier founded Designfluence <>, with a (big, hairy, audacious!) goal of supporting 1 billion people in becoming competent and confident designers. A key project of Designfluence is GiveBank, which exists to match communities and NGOs who need industrial design support, with professional and student industrial designers willing to give pro bono services.

The goal in the general outline above is to create a system that supports people everywhere in creating (or translating and localizing existing) curricula for both formal and informal (open schooling) education that is far more effective than the current system and is also inexpensive enough that all children can participate in it. Within that, we have a goal of empowering children to access and create knowledge that enables them to contribute effectively to the well-being of their communities. We also have been researching other resources that do not come with an XO laptop, but connect it to the outside world, charge its batteries, and whatever else is needed.

Getting down to more specific approaches, the Open Sustainability Network, and others like it, have lifetimes of accumulated knowledge and experience to share. Social forums facilitate one-to-one or one-to-many sharing. Aligning on curricula development in their specialties benefits the planet (back to that network effect).

The people in these networks often study one or more of the complementary disciplines of Permaculture, Bio-Intensive Gardening, and soil micro-organisms are foundations of food (and water) security. They are great foundations for education about how to be the stewards of a given ecoregion, which is the basis of sustainability for humanity.

If you can organize people on a regional, national or international basis, this would be a good beginning. Start with the general education available from the first two, and then overlay that with information from Soil Foodweb <>, including educational tapes by a truly gifted teacher and the head of Soil Foodweb, Dr. Elaine Ingham.

With that general knowledge as a starting point, you can begin to create healthy abundance. If you have a particularly sticky problem and the local people who have learned these disciplines don't know how to help you solve it, you can contact Ben de Vries for consulting services. Since he is headed for a tropical island paradise for the next two years or more, you will have to do the work yourself, with his guidance. We may be able to document his research methodology at some time in the future, and put it into the curricula project.

If you need help in renewable energy harvesting, telecommunications, health information systems, and several other fields, we can point you in a good direction, and sooner or later you will be able to find it in the knowledgebase we want to build, with your collaboration. For example, we have wide-ranging knowledge in renewable energy; I am friends with the inventor of the Captive Column structural system which can be used for wind turbine, anemometer, and communication towers and much more <>; you can learn about organizing communities, and also about the concept of the Open Digital Village, from oneVillage Foundation <>; you can download and learn to use the best health information management system at -- etc., etc., etc.

I hope some people get some value from reading this response. Good luck! Feel free to get in touch with us.

Mark Roest

Joshua's response: Hi Kyle,

This is a great idea and I am sure that the OSN would be happy to support you in any way that we can. Particularly for setting up another conference. The proliferation of NGOs and websites working toward a more or less a common cause is great -- but there is still far too much redundancy and wasted effort re-inventing wheels. I agree with Mark's excellent response that you should try to take advantage of the tools that exist, but I also think that you made an extremely important point that the top down approach will not be as effective as people creating the collaborations themselves.

Wiserearth is a great resource - and I would recommend that you consider it for your social forum -- you can have those dedicated to OSN Ecuador join and then create a group. However, you should be aware that it was created with the top down approach -- interns were paid to input data from NGOs - many of the millions of organizations have no active participation. That said - there are many that do - and there is no reason for your to recreate functionality that has already been put together.

Similarly, I would recommend using the wikis or (they are merging) for all the technical - appropriate technology development and dissemination. The real strength of the wiki is the ability to harness massive peer review - the larger the base the better. I firmly believe we should be encouraging such mergers and sharing to build up the open source content to make the availability of solutions to those on the ground easy to navigate.

Mark -- on a separate note -- I think you have identified the one piece of the puzzle still missing -- to tie all the content to a GIS system that is easy to use for both seekers and providers...and of course open and free. OSN has been experimenting with google maps mashups in the wikis and google earth -- but we are still a long way from the functionality required for the Enabling Innovation concept. If you are not already in contact with them - I strongly recommend getting a hold of Michael Miranda at Catalytic Communities (http:// to discuss their database work on both translation and the potential to linking to a GIS. Please keep me in the loop on your work on this front with the Earth Treasury.

Best regards, Joshua

-- Joshua M. Pearce, Ph.D. snip for privacy for now ...

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