Redesigned Concord Academy magazine

You know that proud feeling when something finally comes together? I’m so proud of this new, and newly redesigned issue of the Concord Academy magazine, the first in our partnership with Lilly Pereria of Aldeia Design.

Check out the interactive PDF of the issue here — it’s a beauty!

 


Video Profile: Olympic Hopeful

For this latest issue of the Concord Academy magazine, I did another short student profile — this time of an Olympic hopeful. I used the drone in some new ways, and experimented with some different angles to try to capture the explosive energy of the shot. Check out the video here.

 



New Campaign Gratitude Video

This fall, I worked with our Advancement and Engagement Team at Concord Academy to produce a video about the Centennial Campaign that would both update people on our progress and also share our sincere gratitude. For this video, I shot a bunch of new footage, and repurposed old footage we already had in the can. I’m proud of the result. Check it out below.

 



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Travel Article in Sunday Boston Globe

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To travel, write and photography — it sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to the Boston Globe, I got to do just that.

The story — “Western fly fishing and bird shooting, close to Boston” — appeared this past Sunday in the Travel section. Alongside my story, the piece featured some of my photography as well. It was a real delight to see this in print, and to hear from so many people.


Concord Academy

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I am so pleased to be returning to Concord Academy to serve on their senior administrative team as the Director of Marketing and Communications. Attending CA was a transformational experience for me. It was a truly incredible education — surpassing, at times, both Brown and Oxford in its rigor — and a truly wonderful community. I am truly delighted to be back.

 


New England Rambler

A trail marking on the AT near Flagstaff Lake, Maine, pointing the way home.

I’ve been fortunate, early in life, to have lived in a lot of the world’s great cities: New York, DC, London, and Oxford, England. I have enjoyed all of them, but when asked I’ve always said that I would return to New England to live. And so it has been affirming to find, upon returning here, that that feeling proved true.

That is in part true because Boston is a gateway to the rest of New England. As many of you know, Sarah and I do a lot of traveling around New England: ski trips, beach trips, food trips, beer tours, antique stores, book stores — we try to take it all in, nearly every weekend. We talk about it often. And, we (or, Sarah) often write about it. The result is a blog: “New England Rambler |Day trips, road trips and head trips throughout the northeast.”

Though the project is a joint one, Sarah has been doing most of the writing, while I have helped. My favorite is our recent post on New England’s best road food. We got more comments, and more suggestions, for this post than any other. (Fodder for an app idea I’ve had for a long time. Ask me about it if you’re curious.)

For me, each trip has reminded me of why I’m grateful to be back in New England. And so we’re always looking for more suggestions on where to go, where to eat, where to stay.  Do you have a suggestion? Let us know!

Find the blog here: http://newenglandrambler.wordpress.com/
And our Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/nerambler


Guest post for the Barr Foundation

Note: Stefan Lanfer at The Barr Foundation was kind enough to invite me to contribute to their News & Knowledge blog. Below is a copy of that post. The original lives here.

In the beginning was the word. But now, word and image (if you want to give your words a chance).

A picture is worth a thousand words, sure. But what if those thousand words are shedding light on IMPORTANT issues? And what if they are carefully chosen, masterfully crafted words? Well, yes, even then – at least, that is, if you want to give your words a chance, or to see, as one nonprofit saw, a 7,000% increase in its social media reach.

In July, I participated in a meeting of the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition. The focus was social media and how coalition members might support each other and their collective efforts more effectively. Ben Carmichael, Conservation Law Foundation(CLF)’s new Senior Communications Manager, shared about a recent experience that completely took CLF by surprise. After completing a new report, rather than issue the usual press release, posting it to CLF’s website, and sending a blast email to their distribution list, Ben and his colleagues decided to try something new. They created a simple, elegant infographic that distilled the report’s key findings. And they put that out front of their communications. The results? For one, they saw a 7,000% increase in CLF’s social media reach. I asked Ben to talk more about the experience and what they learned – which he does in this post.

***

Following months of research we at CLF and CLF Ventures were ready to release a report showing the huge potential for sustainable urban agriculture in Boston. The economic and environmental possibilities by converting just 50 acres are significant. And yet, on the eve of the release, we wondered: how best to communicate these findings to the public in a way that would make them not only resonate, but be shared widely – and, dare we dream, maybe even go viral.

CLF, like other nonprofits, has faced this problem before. We work very hard on long-term issues with diffuse risk and reward, and have taken to informing the public of our work primarily through words: we write blogs, press releases, and reports regularly – all the time competing for mindshare in an increasingly competitive, crowded, and noisy online environment.

And so we decided to take a risk and try something we’d never done before: translate our findings into an infographic. Most of my colleagues are lawyers. They have a deep and abiding faith the power of the written word. This was something new for all of us.

Here’s what we came up with:

The results were better than we ever anticipated. Once posted to Facebook, the infographic was shared, liked and commented on so many times it quickly became our most successful post ever – increasing our Facebook reach by more than a 7,000% after a week (and this before Facebook rewrote its definition of reach).

In an effort to translate some of this into relationships, we created a landing page for the report. By requiring people to enter some of their basic information before downloading the report, we were able to track who was downloading the report and why. When combined with a traditional PR push, as well as a blog post and promotion across social media outlets (TwitterFlickr,Pinterest, etc) that landing page has been very popular.

The Growing Green report, and particularly all the traction it got through social media, made for a very successful launch of CLF’s new Farm & Food initiative. As we think about how to translate this experience into future communications campaigns, here are our three key takeaways:

  • Great words deserve great images: In the beginning was the word. But now there is word and image – at least if you want to give words a chance. Social media rewards graphics and imagery that simplify otherwise complex ideas. Words can’t be replaced for nuance and complexity and for those already initiated to a cause or issue. But for those on the peripheries looking in – the potential allies and supporters – imagery can be a far more powerful hook, especially in social media.
  • Keep it simple. Really. When designing infographics, keep them as simple as possible. (Hat-tip to our designer, Kyric Avery, for helping us with that!)
  • Translate interest into relationships. Likes and shares are a nice affirmation – especially to those of us at nonprofit communications desks – but the case for impact is thin unless those likes and shares translate into more meaningful and lasting connections.

Ben Carmichael is Senior Communications Manager at CLF. Follow him on twitter athttps://twitter.com/bhcarmichael

***

– Posted by Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer –

 

 


Bike Commuters: Rolling into Work Often, Earlier

The time is 8:15 am. You have a meeting at 8:45am. This leaves you with 15 minutes to get to work and make sure your hair doesn’t look like a character from Avatar. What do you do?

Two new studies out this month make the case that at rush hour, bikes can leave cars and public transportation in the dust, while other studies show the number of daily bikers is taking off.

First, compare cars to bikes. A recent article in the MIT Technology Reviewdraws on data from 11.6 million bicycle trips in the French city of Lyon between May 2005 and December 2007. The data shows that, on average, bicyclists travel nearly as fast as cars and that, at rush hour, the average speed of cyclists actually outstrips that of the average car — and this doesn’t include time for parking.

Some claim that this data doesn’t apply to American cities, many of which, unlike Lyon, are built on a grid. I’m in the camp that uses this science to make an unscientific claim: bikes can, in the right conditions, travel faster than cars when commuting. For the 9 out of 10 Americans who drive to work in a private car, this may well come as a surprise.

Another tool makes the comparison of public transportation to biking quite vividly. Mapnificient.net will show you how long it will take you to get to any part of a city of your choice at any time of day and within any time limits. It also lets you specify whether you have a bike with you. Say you select New York City, 8 a.m., starting point of the Washington Square area and a travel time of at most 15 minutes. The highlighted area (where you can travel) bubbles out to encompass southern Manhattan. Indicate that you’ll be carrying a bike, however, and your reach extends out impressively. This isn’t specific to New York City, either; I replicated this comparison in cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas, and even London. All returned the same result.

I grant that this model doesn’t work in all locations for all people. Cities like San Francisco, that boast hilly terrain, are likely not suitable for this model. Nor are bikes a suitable replacement for all other forms of transportation; in a modern city, each has its place. However, these studies do suggest a general rule of commuting: bikes are faster than cars, in the right situation. That by itself is significant.

The good news for cycling supporters is that more Americans are realizing this. According to the American Community Survey, in cities like Boston and Washington, D.C., ridership is up 165 percent and 108 percent respectively over 2005 levels. In New York, where Mayor Bloomberg has constructed over 200 miles of new bike lanes in the last four years, ridership has doubled since 2005, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The rest of the country may be less enthusiastic about cycling, but they’re more enthusiastic than they were. According to the American Community Survey, between 2005 and 2009, bike commuting grew by 0.3 percent. Nothing, you say? It’s something, surely.

Source: Originally published in On Earth, December 13, 2008.

(Photo provided courtesy of megawheel360 @ flickr. Used under the Creative Commons license.)


Knowledge Networks: Reducing the Cost of Green Business

The leading question about climate change is a question of costs. No one disputes that climate change will be expensive.

Where advocates argue we need to pay now, climate delayers argue we should wait and pay later. As a consequence, where sides diverge on timing, they share a common concern to bring these costs down to levels that are both manageable and predictable.

Smart grid technology is part of an effort to bring down costs for the consumer. By knowing how much energy the customer is using, the argument goes, the consumer will use less energy. It is about driving change through information.

However, the barriers for smart grid technology remain high. It is entering a crowded, mature market place, and is deeply integrated into a rapidly changing if not uncertain scientific, technical and political landscape. The costs are high and the rewards remain uncertain.

There is one potential method to reducing these costs that is both unconventional and still largely unexplored: tailored knowledge networks. I’m not talking about Tweeting our way out of a climate and energy conundrum. I’m talking about the power of information to enable technical solutions at scale when shared freely — or to impede growth when unduly constrained.

Consider first the process of innovation. It is, by nature, either incremental or radical; either you improve something slightly or invent something entirely new. (Plastics, Benjamin. Plastics.) What an investment will yield — and whether it will yield anything — is always uncertain because failure is always an option. In the absence of a clairvoyant, R&D can be unattractive because it can be nothing but costly and uncertain.

In areas requiring innovation, knowledge is then not academic. As the stabilizing and enabling element, knowledge is both cost and cause. It is the product, and a costly product at that. Thankfully, some businesses are beginning to prove that networks reduce those costs.

Consider the example of 2degrees, an online network based in Oxford, UK, for professionals working in sustainable business. Their mission is to harness the collective knowledge of their network to expedite the process of innovation through webinars, subject-specific working groups and other information sharing services. Membership is free (though a business membership comes at a cost) and the pace of activity is impressive. Their early success, which I have witnessed as a member for two years now, is impressive and founded on well-established principles of business and group behavior.

First, its members. Drawn from business, government and academia, each member shares a common concern: to understand and help resolve the issue of climate change. The price one pays for general content is nothing other than the knowledge one cares to share, while the benefit is collective; no one has to pay anything, and everyone can learn from anyone.

Whereas traditional forms of information sharing, like peer review articles, conferences or think tanks, are of unquestionable value, they are also slow, burdensome, and monologue-driven. Networks can facilitate the kind of knowledge exchange people often seek: those answered by open-ended questions posed to a well-informed community.

There is an additional benefit to businesses. Whereas businesses often think about the marketplace in terms of capturing market share, networks can be an effective way of increasing the size of the original market. There is a growing body of literature, having grown out of the intersection of behavioral economics and energy, that demonstrates that information provision is a driving force in the adoption of new behavior. In other words, the best way to get people to do something is for them to know other people are doing it. Networks like 2 Degrees are, in this sense, reinforcing; they both strengthen commitments and engender new commitments, creating an expanding space of sustaining behavior.

In the age of growing technical and entrepreneurial challenges in confronting environmental challenges, innovation is essential. In the age of austerity, it is essential that the cost of this innovation is kept low. It’s my conviction that knowledge specific networks are can help enable both — innovation at a lower cost. It’s not the answer, but part of the answer.

Source: Originally posted on The Huffington Post, November 8, 2010.

(Photo courtesy of Ian Muttooflickr, via Creative Commons license.)


Congratulations, America. You Passed Wind.

For some, it was with a sense of relief that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar passed Cape Wind, the beleaguered offshore wind project on Cape Cod. For others, it was the latest in a drama that has lasted nearly a decade.

While the environment remains a low priority issue to most American voters, clean energy solutions have proven to be polarizing. Against the backdrop of rising expectations of a climate bill, the debate over Cape Wind is both enduring and exemplary.

With Salazar’s approval today, it was given the green light to become the first offshore wind project in the United States. But for the last nine years, it has been an example of how even clean energy can provoke everyone from environmental nonprofits to conservative business groups to fight dirty, and to fight amongst themselves.

How is it that something so simple and so useful as a windmill make foes of allies, and allies of foes? Once you sort through all the dialogue, the barriers boil down to backyards, money and delays. Let’s take each one in turn.

Backyards

Wind turbines are built where the wind is most consistently strong. All you need to do is glance at a wind map of the US to see that these areas are often either rural — North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Vermont and Maine — or coastal. As an energy resource, this is a good thing: the Great Plains has been called the Saudi Arabi of wind, while coastal wind can provide power to population pockets along the shore.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard oppose the project on the ground that it would interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate tribal burial sites. The late Senator Kennedy also vehemently opposed the Cape Wind project, in part because the Kennedys, known as avid sailors, own a family compound that looks onto the project sight.

There is a very real and unavoidable problem: no matter where you put a windmill, it’s always going to be either in someone’s backyard, off their ocean dock, or along their hiking trail. This argument is not about windmills, but about fear of progress. Just ask the old man in New Mexico with whom a friend of mine recently held a conversation.

He said he remembered how up in arms everyone was when the town wanted to put telephone lines. Everyone, he said, though it was going to ruin the main street. Once they were there, they became commonplace. Now, in most places, you hardly see them. The same, he said, would be true for wind turbines.

There are other examples of this fear of progress. But the simple truth is that our growing demand for energy will demand we build new sources of power. Ask yourself whether the drive up California’s coastal Route 1 would be the icon it is with coal plants clustering the cliffs? And would Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard or Maine’s rocky coast would be the summer tourist destinations they are if they were dotted with nuclear plants, both functioning and decommissioned? Off shore wind famers — barely visible and glimmering in the sun — are hardly disruptive in comparison to conventional sources of power.

Money

Money is another leading concern. The initial investment required for an offshore wind farm is high — nearly double that of onshore wind projects per kilowatt-hour.

This has proven to be a problem for Rhode Island’s proposed off-shore wind farm. The developer, Deepwater, would have charged National Grid 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2013, when the contract was due to begin, with prices increasing in subsequent years. The retail price of electricity for a home in Rhode Island currently is about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. At the time, the governor’s office said the agreement would increase the average residential customer’s annual electric bill by about $16.

Meanwhile, upfront investment costs are significant. The Cape Wind project, for instance, will likely cost more than $1 billion. The Rhode Island project is even larger, and will likely cost $1.5 billion, not including the $8 million already spent on an impact assessment report.

These costs have been made more significant by weak federal subsidies for renewable energy relative to European subsidies, and by the lack of a federal climate policy. The lack of a clear federal policy introduces degrees of uncertainty into US-based investments in offshore wind that inhibit growth, and lead other countries like China, Norway and Denmark to surpass the United States.

Of course, there are paybacks. Both of these — the direct payback to investors and savings to local taxpayers — will come in years to come. A study released earlier this year by a consulting firm hired by Cape Wind’s developers Charles River Associates claimed that the project might save New England ratepayers $4.6 billion in energy costs over 25 years. However, these figures likely have little impact on political support. There is a large body of evidence that shows people account for potential but uncertain future savings poorly.

Delays

Finally, there is the issue of delays. Related to the issue of uncertain future savings is the issue of uncertain future impacts from climate change.

In scientific terms, the fundamental science of climate change is largely settled. But scientific terms don’t always translate into cognitive certainty; where the evidentiary standards of science rightly err on the side of conservatism, our minds demand the bold and the immediate. Scientists cannot tell us more than they know, and climate change will not deliver its full drama in one shot, but unfold slowly over decades.

What does this mean? It means the climate delay exploits a human problem. If we had more immediate evidence of the need for clean energy solutions, we might be more willing to build more wind turbines. But lacking the kind of evidence humans learn most effectively from, we predictably delay and debate.  In a snowy winter, such as the one DC and Europe experienced this year, we even confuse the weather for climate.

Not all is bad

Despite this, there is good news. Offshore wind will likely play a forceful role in clean energy development in the US in years to come.

Six governors of East Coast states — Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island — called on Salazar to approve the project, in hopes that similar projects in their states would benefit. These projects are part of a nascent but adamant wind industry. Twelve offshore wind projects from the Great Lakes area to the East Coast and Texas have been proposed. Cape Wind will no doubt lend certainty to these projects.

In addition to this momentum, it is unlikely that offshore wind would not play an important role in future clean energy development. It is only very conservative assumptions that yield a future in which one technology dominates. Instead, numerous technologies will likely play in a diverse portfolio.

Combine these considerations — state momentum and likely projections — with physical realities and you have a compelling combination. Lake and ocean winds are typically both more reliable and stronger. Offshore wind projects designed to capture such breezes are located close enough to population centers to limit the need for transmission lines while being far enough away to reduce the impact upon ocean views.

The green light Salazar gave to Cape Wind will likely fill the sails of these twelve offshore wind projects. It’s simply a question of which way the winds will blow.

(Photo courtesy of Martin Pettitt @ flickr. Used under the Creative Commons lisence.)

Source: Originally published on The Huffington Post, April 29, 2010.