Main parts of the Katerva Award nominee form, written by Chriswaterguy with Lonny and Tim Rayner. Contact details & explanations have been removed & questions have been summarized. See also the executive summary.

Date of Submission[edit | edit source]

31 May 2012

Nominee[edit | edit source]

Organization/ project/ initiative


Contact Person[edit | edit source]

Lonny Grafman

(Alternative, if Lonny is unavailable: Chris Watkins)

Website[edit | edit source]

The Solution[edit | edit source]

Short description[edit | edit source]

Knowledge is the fuel that drives change. Passionate individuals can be changemakers when they know what to do, and Appropedia provides a platform for those changemakers to share and evolve the knowledge they need. Through growing that platform, we help to build rich, sustainable lives.

Appropedia is a website and online community for enabling sustainability and human development. The Appropedia contributor community includes practitioners, students, academics, individuals and organizations from around the world.

Core idea behind the initiative[edit | edit source]

Core idea behind the initiative.

To bring about a rich and sustainable world, we share essential knowledge and best practices. Appropedia will be a go-to site for solutions - an open, co-created knowledge base with an emphasis on rigor, on what works and what doesn't work.

Rather than a resource of our team's expertise, Appropedia is a platform for all to share their knowledge. It taps the wisdom of many, and will be carefully curated to bring the most most valuable content to the fore.

Origin of the idea[edit | edit source]

After years of working with Appropriate Technologies and sustainable solutions, both in the field and by sharing knowledge about them, we saw the opportunity to greatly expand the availability of this knowledge.

Lonny Grafman was working with students in Engineering and Appropriate Technology classes, and sharing their lessons learned through static websites, when he saw the potential for a wiki to enable much wider, more participatory sharing.

The idea has evolved, but remains the same at its core - sharing knowledge about practical, sustainable action.

Overall goal[edit | edit source]

We believe in a sustainable world without poverty. We believe in abundance through wisdom and technology, rather than through borrowing from the future, and that this future is possible if humanity collaborates as never before.

Our role in bringing this about is in bringing together the ingredients of this positive future and making them available to all, as freely available solutions and guides.

Choice of Category[edit | edit source]

Which of the above 10 categories best describes your initiative? Behavioral Change, Economy, Ecosystem Conservation, Energy & Power, Food Security, Gender Equality, Human Development, Materials & Resources, Transportation, Urban Design

Behavioral Change

Secondary category[edit | edit source]

Human Development.

(Note that all of the categories apply to Appropedia, especially Energy & Power, Food Security, Materials & Resources, Transportation, Urban Design and Ecosystem Conservation. Within the contexts of sustainability and human development, the remaining categories of Economy and Gender Equality also apply. However, the unifying themes are Behavioral Change and Human Development.)

Approach[edit | edit source]

Beneficiaries[edit | edit source]

The global human community. We have a particular concern for the poor, communities suffering from public health challenges and for those with a lack of sustainable infrastructure, but our vision is ultimately for all of humanity.

Our more direct beneficiaries include:

  • Sustainable development practitioners
  • Academics and students
  • DIY enthusiasts, "makers"
  • Those wishing to make an effort to reduce their environmental impact.
  • NGOs and activists for environment and sustainability, (including climate change, air and water quality, biodiversity and fisheries), and international development (including food security, public health and livelihoods).
  • Governments and policy makers
  • Businesses, as they work to be more sustainable
  • Gardeners and permaculturists
  • Local "Transition Towns" groups

As these groups become informed and armed with solutions, they are better able to serve the global community.

Reaching beneficiaries[edit | edit source]

The initial beneficiaries are those who are literate and interested in creating projects for positive change.

We reach them primarily through the internet and offline reading devices such as the wiki-reader.

We plan to reach non-English speakers through:

  • Human translation. Translations into French, German and Kiswahili have already been undertaken by volunteers and students.
  • Machine translation of any page.

Appropedia content is not restricted to being accessed from the website. It is released under a Creative Commons open license which permits it to be printed, or distributed in any form. Our platform allows e-books to be created from Appropedia content (and printed if desired). Audio books can enable the information to reach a still wider audience.

Geographical target[edit | edit source]

Global, covering both:

  • Those consuming little, who need greater food security, public health measures, tools for living, and education; and a path to security and prosperity that does not follow the example of present developed nations.
  • The wealthy with large ecological footprints, to encourage and enable resource efficiency through design and awareness. A better quality of life is possible with a more sustainable lifestyle, but the detailed "how-to" is not yet being promoted widely.

Google analytics show that Appropedia has visitors from every country except for North Korea.

Key partners that you need[edit | edit source]

Passionate but non-partisan participants in the sustainability and development fields who wish to work on the goal of a sustainable world through sharing best practice, and who share the desire for objective, factual information that is nonetheless inspiring.

The most valuable partnerships for us are usually with academics/students with their partner organizations. Students engage in "Service Learning" - that is while learning through their projects written reports, on Appropedia, they also provide a community service by adding to this global knowledge base. So far we have such partnerships at Cal Poly Humboldt, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Michigan Technological University, Iberoamericana University, University of Michigan and more. Each class creates useful pages of information, and there are often inspiring stories to go with them.

We also have good relationships with many NGOs, such as the Practical Action in the UK (E.F. Schumacher's organization) and Engineers Without Borders in the UK and Australia, as well as grassroots initiatives such as Open Source Permaculture and the Coalition of the Willing (a climate change action group with an award-winning film). These have great potential for providing content to a shared knowledge base, but require human resources to take advantage of them. The same opportunity applies to sustainable businesses.

Being a participatory project, we rely on many individuals who contribute in their areas of knowledge and passion. Collectively this is a very important partnership.

Reaching these partners[edit | edit source]

We have reached these partners through personal connections and networking. We plan to reach many more, as follows:

Academic partners - by improving our teacher guides, creating a brief questionnaire for existing academic partners, and making contact with suitable academics by email. The service learning program will continue to be promoted through social media.

NGOs and sustainable businesses - these generally don't have additional resources to devote to knowledge sharing outside their organization (except in cases such as Practical Action where knowledge sharing is part of their mission). Thus we need to go to them, through Travel Internships and Documentation Internships. We have had two travel internships so far visiting NGOs in Central and South America, with very positive results, and plan to expand this form of engagement. Documentation Internships apply the same principle to local NGOs, where the intern may not need to travel beyond their own city.

We already have excellent contacts among NGOs and sustainable businesses, and we have had indications that such interns would be welcomed.

Basis[edit | edit source]

Basis in specific science, theory or technology?

The concept: The central idea is "Appropriate Technology," interpreted broadly - that is, tools suited to the social, economic and environmental contexts and needs of real communities. This is not to restrict the solutions that can be shared, but it provides a framework through which the tools are understood, categorized and assessed.

{Appropedia reimagines Appropriate Technology - rather than a fringe interest, with often impractical technologies driven by an ideology of hands-on low-tech, the emphasis is on the right tool for the job and for the context, without prejudice for or against manufacturing techniques.}

The platform: Appropedia is built on MediaWiki, the same engine that runs Wikipedia, On top of that we have many settings and extensions provided by the open source wiki community. These serve the particular needs of our community, for example for structured data, form editing and embedding of videos.

State of development[edit | edit source]

Which maturity level...? Ideation, Prototype, Pilot Project, Existing Business Model, Don't Know

Pilot Project

Next Steps[edit | edit source]

Next steps to achieve the next maturity level?

Next steps involve creating a professional and effective team, with a core of paid staff and interns. (We are currently a volunteer effort run by busy but passionate people.)

Each of our work areas need to be active: content development, IT, administration and communications. The key steps to achieving this are fundraising and expanding the Service Learning program.


  • Crowdfunding
  • Larger grants or awards

Expanding Service Learning:

  • Improve the software platform for better ease of use by students and instructors.
  • Provide more active assistance and better guide materials.
  • Forming partnerships with content creators - especiall academic partners and people with expertise in relevant fields. {Reaching out to relevant courses such as sustainable MBA programs, engineering and science courses related to sustainability, and journalism, while publicizing the program and working also with other interested parties.}
  • Developing an effective internship program, including recruitment process and (if possible) stipends.

Resources needed[edit | edit source]

What resources (human, intellectual, and/or financial) do you need to achieve the next level of maturity?

Human resources: This is our main need, together with the finances to fund them.

Estimated requirements are given in FTE (full-time equivalent), including stipends for interns where relevant.

  • Leadership. While we have effective leadership as a pilot project, a greater time commitment would be required to develop the project further. (0.5 FTE)
  • Interns and volunteers working in content creation and improvement. (0.8 FTE. Most content development is unpaid, by students and the community.)
  • Communications - includes finding new partners and maintaining the partnerships. (0.8 FTE)
  • IT - site development and maintenance. (0.8 FTE)
  • Mentors/coordinators to oversee interns and volunteers (0.8 FTE)
  • A board of experts to fact-check pages. This will require some development of the site, and finding experts who are able and willing to make time. (Volunteer or paid status to be determined.)
  • Administration - coordinating the efforts of the Appropedia Foundation and core team. (0.3 FTE)

Finances: As shown above, four full-time equivalent funded positions would enable us to carry out our plans and leverage the energy and passion of our community, partners and wider network.

Intellectual needs: Skill in achieving greater attention in the media and in social media.

Plan to collect resources[edit | edit source]

We have a workflow outlining key subprojects and the order in which they need to be completed. The plan is flexible, and begins as follows.

First stage: Interns, fundraising and preparation for site development.

  1. Create a process for recruiting interns and volunteers
  2. Begin recruiting. (We have had some success with this in the past, but need a clearer process and greater reach.)
  3. Begin fundraising. (We have the outline of a crowdfunding campaign prepared, as part of our strategy.)
  4. Develop a survey for visitors to the site to better understand their needs, for content development and technical development of the platform.

Second stage: After raising funds, begin to address other needs in 3.9.

  1. Focus on Service Learning as our main growth area, to begin with. (We have found that this is where we can obtain quality content, provided there is suitable supervision and a good proportion of senior years and postgraduate students.)
  2. Designate funds for leadership and secretarial roles.
  3. Designate mentors and recruit additional interns.
  4. Assemble a tech development team, including interns and a professional developer.

Current key challenges[edit | edit source]

Lack of human resources, especially for site development and communications.

Final Statement[edit | edit source]

Why is your solution groundbreaking?

Appropedia is much more than a green version of Wikipedia. Its goal is to inspire informed action - it is part of the infrastructure of a sustainable world. There is a need for a comprehensive, informative and engaging site which competes for mindshare with mainstream media sites, providing an alternative, more exhaustive source of information, which gives more weight to effectiveness than the needs of a news organization.

With our small beginning, we are already inspiring students and others across the world, who are taking action for a sustainable planet - but our dream and our intention is to do much more.

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