PopTech Blog

Green for All celebrates all moms

In honor of Mother's Day this Sunday, Green for All (GFA), an organization working to promote a clean energy economy, released a video entitled "7 Billion", which honors women's strength and leadership around the world. The video features hip-hop artists (and GFA's Dream Reborn music contest winners) Silent C and Invest, who say the are "inspired by their own mothers to honor the struggle and the courage of women around the world." Learn more about the artists as they talk about what inspired the making of the video.

GFA is also hosting a "Twitter Townhall" today with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins (GFA CEO and expecting mother), Roberta Shields (Rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges' mother and President of The Ludacris Foundation ), and Ashara Ekundayo (Green For All Fellow, social entrepreneur and mother of DJ CAVEM.

Follow @greenforall and #StrongMoms today, May 10th at 11-11:30am PST, 2-2:30pm EST to take part in the conversation about motherhood, leadership and social change.

Erika Block connects the dots with Local Orbit


"Do you know who produces the ingredients in your kid's school lunch? What about the meals at your parent's assisted living community? Or even the milk in that coffee you pick up on the way to work each day?" If PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Erika Block has anything to do with it, we will all know soon enough.

While our food system is efficient, it's also chock full of problems: run-off from pesticides, ever-increasing obesity, salmonella outbreaks, just for starters, which has made that information increasingly important. So what if we could buy from local farmers more easily? What if restaurants could order from farms in their region without having to jump through hoop after hoop just to get the food delivered?

By asking, "What tools will help us cut through the fat in a food system that's clogging our literal and figurative arteries?" Local Orbit is working to address those issues. With its online platform, buyers and sellers can effortlessly connect and transact with each other. Buyers can learn about the farms in their region, load up a single online shopping cart with produce from different local farmers, make one single payment, and presto! The food is theirs!

Only $8 billion is spent on local food sales each year in the U.S. out of $1.25 trillion spent in total food sales, but Local Orbit is working to shift the scales. If 20% of food is purchased locally, which amounts to $250 billion annually, Block explained, we can not only create stronger local economies, but we can also provide better nutrition, safer food, more jobs, and less waste. With Local Orbit at the helm working to make its online marketplace available to communities nationwide, we'll soon have much more information about where our food is coming from. Block concludes, "Simply by knowing who produces what we eat, we'll build healthier communities."

Seeing the Anthropocene

We are altering Earth's natural cycles. We have entered the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch dominated by humanity. This relentless pressure on our planet risks unprecedented destabilization. But our creativity, energy and industry offer hope.

via Fast Company's Co.Exist

This week in PopTech: Body clocks, big data and crowd-sourced diagnostics

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

  • Richard Florida had a conversation on The Atlantic: Cities website with Jonah Lehrer (PopTech 2009) about the cities chapter from his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer says, “Cities force us to interact with strangers and with the strange. They pry the mind open. And that is why they are the idea that has unleashed so many of our new ideas.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: Helga Weber

Meet your makers: Patagonia traces its clothing's origins


Getting some new duds in preparation for spring and summer's upcoming outdoor activities? Socially-conscious and environmentally-aware clothing maker Patagonia has updated its Footprint Chronicles project with an interactive map that allows you to track where and how your new windbreaker was made, and how it made the journey from where it was created to your particular corner of the world.

The Footprint Chronicles is a project the company launched in 2007 to both better inform the public about its supply chain and to help guide Patagonia in making better choices as a company. The newly-updated site now includes an interactive "Suppliers Map", which was inspired by their production team's old-fashioned, pushpin-laden world map. Click on any textile mill pin to read fact sheets about a particular supplier, or click on a factory pin to learn the basics about every place where Patagonia clothes are sewn. You can also view videos and slide shows about their key supply partners.

Patagonia Director of Environmental Strategy Jill Dumain says that when they originally launched the Footprint Chronicles project, the idea of corporate transparency made people nervous (especially the corporation). But now, she says, "Transparency is becoming an expectation." Watch the video as Dumain explains Patagonia's take on the new transparency and how they're empowering their customers to include social and environmental information in making purchasing decisions.   

Wondrous patterns of nature at the newly opened Nature Research Center

The incredible, 80,000 square foot Nature Research Center opened just a couple of weeks ago at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC. While its on our list of places we'd like to visit sometime soon, we got a sneak peak inside the exhibition with this video, Patterned by Nature. The sculpture, which is 10 feet wide, 90 feet long, made from 3,600 tiles of LCD glass and and runs on less power than a laptop, wends its way through the museum's five stories. As Sosolimited, the exhibition designers, explained:

The content cycles through twenty programs, ranging from clouds to rain drops to colonies of bacteria to flocking birds to geese to cuttlefish skin to pulsating black holes. The animations were created through a combination of algorithmic software modeling of natural phenomena and compositing of actual footage.

If you've visited the new Research Center, let us know how it is!

Nothing fishy about this robot fish

Maurizio Porfiri, a mechanical engineer at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has built a robot fish that real fish flock to. It's not about how the mechanical fish looks to the other fish, but how it feels. In a video from this past Friday's Science Friday show on NPR, Porfiri explains:

Typically, when you speak of biomimicry, you tend to give a very human-centered interpretation so you speak of biomimicry if it looks like it. In this case, we try to fake what the fish feels rather than what the fish sees.

By replicating the flapping of a fish's tail, other fish recognize the motion and follow, forming a herd.  And before long, the robot fish is leading the pack. Eventually that could mean using this fake fish to shepherd fish out of harm's way, like an oil spill or some other environmental disaster. Porfiri has a ways to go before that time, but based on the progress he made since the initial discovery a few years ago, it looks like he's on the right track.

This week in PopTech: Designing for health, business and social good

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

  • PopTech 2011 Social Innovation Fellow and MASS Design Group’s Michael Murphy spoke to a group at Van Alen Books for the launch of Empowering Architecture, a publication showcasing the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. Murphy discussed his group’s holistic approach to architecture and the potential for architectural practice to play an integral role in building spaces that heal and strengthen communities.
  • Longtime friend of PopTech, Nancy Duarte, the CEO of Duarte Design, has advanced the art and literature of presentations, emerging with her agency as one of the most sought-after authorities in presentation design. Duarte has just released Resonate for iPad, a cinematic, interactive and media-rich business book.
  • Finally, yesterday, Social Innovation Fellow Jake Porway announced that his organization, Data Without Borders, will now officially be known as DataKind

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: Global Pulse

How do you see time?


The Time Project is a collection of user-generated graphic interpretations of time.The project asks:

What do you see, when you picture time?

Think about the next week, month, or year… the rest of your life, or your life so far. Does a diagram come into your head?

Submit your illustration to their online collection.

Images: The Time Project

David Mikkelsen's reconnecting refugees with their loved ones

In 2005, David Mikkelsen and his brother, Christopher, met a young man, Mansour, who had escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan when he was 12 and fled with his family to Pakistan only to, shortly thereafter, lose all contact with his family and wind up in Copenhagen, Denmark alone. The Mikkelsen brothers were determined to help him find a member of his family, which led them on a journey all over the world that ended in Moscow. Six years later, with the Mikkelsens' help, Mansour was able to locate his brother.

The Mikkelsens knew that this was just one story amidst millions of refugees who have lost contact with their family members and don't know their whereabouts. During his 2011 PopTech talk, David Mikkelsen thoughtfully explains, "The torture of uncertainty is just not okay. It's not okay not being able to find your family. The not knowing is so hard."

With that in mind, in 2008 the brothers established Refugees United, a mobile platform where refugees can reconnect with each other via inexpensive mobile phones. As it's described on the Refugees United site:

This digital infrastructure not only fosters greater collaboration and promotes unhindered sharing of information among Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) agencies, but it also gives refugees the ability to become directly involved in their search for missing family via an anonymous, safe forum; easily accessible tools; and an ever-expanding, user-driven family finding network.

In 2011, Refugees United had 50,000 people looking for family members in its database. By the end of 2012, with outreach and community awareness, the organization predicts about 250,000 individuals looking to connect with loved ones will have found their way to the organization. Spread the word.