A rough compilation of notes about the big picture for Appropedia. See User:Chriswaterguy/AF/Katerva nomination executive summary for a shorter and more polished summary.

To do

Add screenshots, incl new skin and mobile skin.

Notes on structure:

  • lead with the "why." Why we care, what inspires us.
  • first or second para is a summary of the summary
  • first 1-2 paras to contain all key points - problem, solution, outcomes.
  • highlight the ROI, outcomes, impact.

Appropedia: Knowledge Sharing for Rich, Sustainable Lives

Appropedia enables a sustainable and prosperous world by sharing essential knowledge. Farming, food security, water and public health technologies all address poverty. Sustainable energy, the built environment and transportation are key to the transition to a low carbon economy. Existing solutions and best practices help to make these challenges surmountable.

By making such information accessible and clear, we illuminate the path to a sustainable world without poverty.

The required choices can be overwhelming, leading to paralysis and delay. Having a comprehensive database of technologies and solutions, with reliable and relevant data, would greatly assist decision-making for individuals, businesses, communities, and governments at all levels.

Our Vision for the World[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.


Our world is at a critical point - never before have we had the capacity to make such a fundamental change to our climate.

We envision a prosperous world - where good health care, clean water, sanitation, clean energy, transport, food security, comfortable shelter and education are not luxuries, but are available to and attainable by everyone.

We envision a sustainable future, with a secure climate - where the needs above are met not through the consumptive model that brought the developed world to prosperity, but with shared wisdom, appropriate technologies and best practices. Where the wealthy, too, adopt these best practices to sharply reduce their environmental impact.

We see a world where parents feel no pressure to choose between educating their sons or their daughters, or to keep children away from school due to financial pressure. A world where a health condition need not mean a family ratcheting {or spiraling} down the economic scale due to lack of money for medicine, losing work, leading to still poorer health care and nutrition. Rather, that through access to affordable and appropriate medical care locally, and through affordable food and good nutrition, such a family will be able to take opportunities in education and business {livelihood}, and improve their wellbeing {.

We know that this world is possible, and we will play a role in enabling this prosperity, through accessible education and pedagogical methodologies {much too wordy}, and through food security and appropriate technologies

We see a world of makers and creators, developing solutions to global and local challenges. We know that affordable technology and scientific literacy will help to bring this world about.

We hope for a global community that faces the challenge of climate change, and finds and creates solutions, prioritizes resources, and with wisdom and knowledge takes action to prevent the worst and to return to a safe equilibrium as soon as possible.

The problem[edit | edit source]

Efforts in sustainability and development technology, like many other technical fields, are often developed in relatively closed environments. Historically, documenting and sharing solutions involved costly and time-consuming publication with little benefit to the author. Difficulties in tracking down existing solutions to appropriate technology problems has led to engineers and fieldworkers wasting time, energy, and resources solving the same problems over and over again.

...service learning wisdom and related valuable content is rarely published in an accessible form, and is created and lost every academic year. A mechanism is needed to capture the knowledge developed in service learning programs.

appropriate technologists should be able to collaborate with others they may already know, who can extend a solution’s reach to meet different conditions such as climate, culture, materials, weather, geology, crops and animal species. We envision a world where people around the world work together to solve problems and share solutions, internationally and multilingually. The complexity of sharing has been a barrier; an established infrastructure will enable a cultural shift toward more sharing and collaboration, leading to widespread adoption of the most successful sustainable behaviors, lifestyles and tools.

Our Method: Free Essential Knowledge[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.

--- One essential part of taking action is knowing what action to take. Putting energy into the most effective course of action, and doing it efficiently, making an efficient design, choosing an effective technology, teaching and promoting sustainability, all depend on knowing what technologies are effective, which actions make a difference. Distinguishing between greenwash and real change requires knowing what to look for - knowing what is best practice, what works and what doesn't.

We are convinced that effective knowledge sharing requires:

  • An independent foundation.
  • Free access - essential knowledge for humanity and our home must be accessible to all people of the world
  • Sourced widely. An effective, reliable, affordable solution to the crisis of arsenic contamination of groundwater didn't come from Western consultants flown into Bangladesh, but from Pakistan (the Sono water filter)
  • Collaboration, between academia, students, civil society (individuals and organizations), governments and business.
  • Licensing that supports collaboration and innovation - that is, an open license that allows for modification and for use in any context.[1]
  • A platform serving all of these requirements


A shared infrastructure is needed so that the existing disjoint community of appropriate technologists can more easily and openly collaborate on their projects.

...Whereas existing wikis (Wikipedia is the most widely known) have focused on the power of collaborative web-based information centralization and developing collaboration policies to make that information solid, referenced and reliable for capturing what is well-established, Appropedia is expanding this concept to include collaborative research, development and problem-solving by incorporating real-world experiences of both amateurs and experts backed by policies that enable critiques, commentary and scoring of solutions.

The "trimtab" concept is engendered in Appropedia by the leverage that can be achieved by sharing of information at zero cost to the authors or readers, and by enabling the spontaneous development of problem solving teams of willing collaborators. This is key! The Wikipedias of the world, which focus more on well established facts, will tend to encourage a culture of “let’s just ask the Internet.” By contrast, Appropedia will have a counter tendency of encouraging “I wonder if I can improve on this solution.” This is the state that Appropedia seeks to achieve.

Our Vision for Appropedia[edit | edit source]

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 valuable content to the fore.


Our scope is broad, but mainly focused on Behavioral Change and 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.} ---

We envision hundreds of thousands of pages on specific topics in sustainability and development, and many more on how-tos and projects documentation.

Appropedia is currently around 5000 pages.

Mechanisms for Knowledge Sharing[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[2] are exploring technologies for sharing information through SMS in developing regions.

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.

These pages will be curated by the community and teams of advisors

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.

Background of Appropedia[edit | edit source]

{reduce this to a sentence or two?} 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.


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.

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.

Our vision is for the world, including the poorest - the "bottom billion". As these people gain access to the internet, directly or indirectly, they can find solutions themselves. , and who are looking for a better life for themselves, their children and their communities.


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.

Our Plan: Collaboration and Curation[edit | edit source]

Appropedia works with academics at universities including Cal Poly Humboldt, Michigan Technological University and the University of Michigan, and we plans for a major expansion.

We also work with community projects, providing a platform to share their strategy and lessons, enabling them to be visible and to extend their impact, even globally.

As an open platform we also serve government programs {potentially - not actually official yet - is this overstating?} in areas such as sustainable communities and development programs.

Next steps[edit | edit source]

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 - esp 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.

Required Resources[edit | edit source]

Our key challenge is a lack of human resources, especially for site development and communications. While our team is committed and has performed enormous amounts of work on a volunteer basis, we will need paid staff to be able to follow through better on plans, and carry out bigger plans {probably scrap: ...in a timely way}.

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.


The ability of the effort to deliver over 32 million pages of content and facilitate more than 200,000 edits during this pilot phase, for a net cost of under $20,000, is evidence of the tremendous leverage power of the project.

Additional funding will enable us to expand our work in several important areas. Even as new gains are met by new funds, sustaining operation requires minimal funding.

While it would be possible to incorporate a fee structure into Appropedia, this would effectively discourage either the contributors or the consumers of the solutions, directly counter to our goals. We prefer to sustain our low-cost operation through donations and grants. We will consider some forms of advertising and corporate sponsorships but will need to avoid conflicts of interest. We note that Wikipedia, a much larger site, has sustained itself through support without advertising.

Plan to Collect Resources[edit | edit source]

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.

Status[edit | edit source]

STATUS/STAGE: Pilot Project

Appropedia's achievements[edit | edit source]

AppropediaFox Compendium Partnerships Growing content BFI Prize semifinalist.

Milestones/timeline[edit | edit source]

The implementation of Appropedia is already underway, thanks to the efforts of a large team of dedicated volunteers working on an ad-hoc, part-time basis. Appropedia is an online, wiki-based clearinghouse for ideas, projects, questions, and designs in the domain of sustainability and development work. All content on Appropedia is released under an open license, enabling people to extend, share, translate, and use it freely and at no charge. Independent experts like George Dappilly in India are able use Appropedia as a homepage for their projects at no charge.. George has transferred his documentation on mosquito abatement methods to Appropedia and he expands and updates that information regularly. Users post questions and are able to reach George through his user pages and contact info.

Appropedia benefits service learning by acting as a repository for appropriate technologies, systems, and policies, and as a clearing house for collaborations. Appropedia is already helping to preserve this knowledge; old projects and research are being leveraged for more ambitious projects and research each year. Educators such as Joshua Pearce (see below) and Lonny Grafman (see below) are able to use Appropedia as the platform on which students construct assignments, and in the process create valuable resources on sustainability. Appropedia is also used for project development and write-up, allowing students to learn from and build upon previous work.

A brief project timeline:

  • April 2006: Site created
  • October 2006: 82 (registered) users and 128 article pages. 74,000 pages delivered to site viewers.
  • March 2007: 186 users, 3,356 article pages, 439,000 pages delivered. Several active partnerships.
  • April 2007: The Appropedia Foundation filed Articles of Incorporation.
  • July 2007: 418 users, 3400 articles, 1.1 million pages delivered.
  • October 2007: 518 users, 3581 articles, 1.75 million pages delivered. Multiple active partnerships. Federal tax exempt status granted.

The momentum is growing, increasing the impact of Appropedia and requiring more active coordination and management. We seek to accelerate and expand our work by providing fellowships to enable two volunteers from the existing community to work on Appropedia full-time to develop, and share free of charge, the following partial list of open-source solutions.

  • Provide mechanisms for ranking of projects, concepts, and best practices to promote the most rigorous and effective solutions.
  • Promote a variety of open licenses for technologies, tools, media and other content that can protect key shared publications from alteration, while also encouraging open publication using "copyleft" and public domain content.
  • Establish structured information about existing projects to improve searchability.
  • Develop tools for automated maintenance of content to reduce tedious manual work.

Additionally, the two full-time Appropedians will work with end-users to:

  • Improve the site's usability and utility.
  • Enhance Appropedia's community tools.
  • Partner with key individuals and organizations to create or bring their content to Appropedia, while simplifying their ability to share information as already demonstrated with groups such as Village Earth, and in process with another partner – Architecture for Humanity.
  • Recruit new users from existing appropriate technology groups.
  • Translate and internationalize the site, which is currently primarily in English.

We will be largely accelerating the existing ad hoc, part-time work by focusing full-time talent. This focus will establish a critical mass of awareness and support in the community by highlighting the viability, validity and credibility of the effort.

Our Challenges[edit | edit source]

Appropedia is an entirely volunteer-run organization. Apart from small sums spent on developers for specialist technical jobs, no one has been paid for their work. Much of the funding for Appropedia has come from the directors of the Appropedia Foundation.

We are passionate and will continue to work, and to push Appropedia forward even if we have to work for free and develop the site at our own expense. However, to fulfil our vision, to have a major impact, we require funding.

Funding will enable us to

  • Develop the Appropedia platform, to extend the use of structured data, and develop quality control mechanisms
  • Manage volunteers and interns
  • Develop a quality control process, working with area experts to identify issues as they arise and to improve critical areas.
  • Identify our best quality content
  • Maintain the knowledge base. {While this can be managed by the community, our higher expectations in quality control, relative to Wikipedia, mean that extra resources are needed at this stage.}
  • Develop and support the Appropedia community, with an in-wiki forum, newsletters and activities {such as content sprints at universities and online, hack-a-thons}
  • Improve the usability and appearance of the site, so that users enjoy participating.

One challenge which is decreasing is that of (being taken seriously, convincing people of the importance of a wiki when there's already information out there on the web). This has decreased greatly as the collaborative web has become better understood, and has Appropedia has grown and become

Delineating project content, guides and topical pages

Our Team, Community and Partners[edit | edit source]

Board of Directors



  • Eleanor
  • Kili


In a very real sense, the above team members are “project coordinators”. The real value and expertise that provide solutions is the growing community of individuals and organizations. The next stage of development is occurring as they join in, include their projects and share their knowledge, fulfilling and developing the vision.

Some additional active community members that are not site administrators:

  • Joshua Pearce, Assistant Professor of Physics, Coordinator of Sustainability: Science and Policy Program and Coordinator of Nanotechnology at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and the manuscript editor for the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering (IJSLE).
  • Mel Chua, BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering, education researcher, intern with One Laptop Per Child. Technical advisor on the running and development of Appropedia.
  • George Dappilly of India, GEM mosquito control (a low-cost, non-commercial, chemical free method).
  • Gerardo Baron (Home Biogas), Philippines.

Current partner organizations:

Contributors of content include Practical Action (UK, founded by E.F. Schumacher), Demotech (Netherlands), Village Earth (Colorado, USA), International Rivers, American Rivers.

We also collaborate with Engineers Without Borders (Australia).

We collaborate with CD3WD to distribute Appropedia content, through distribution by CD and DVD and by making it accessible on their site.

Expanding Partnerships[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 Univeristy, 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.


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.

Final Statement[edit | edit source]

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.

End of submission.

Plans & challenges for private discussion[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The major options for such licensing are public domain (rather than a license, this is the giving up of all rights, which can be conveniently declared through CC0), Creative Commons Attribution, or Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike. The GFDL (GNU Free Document License) meets these criteria, but can be less practical for physical reproduction due to the requirement for inclusion of the full license text.
  2. ...have a mobile skin in beta and...
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