Reports from the INSS Sustainability Meeting

As readers might know this weekend I attended the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) Meeting in Charlotte North Carolina. It was a great event, and I met a lot of great and interesting people, and over this week I would like to write a bit about them and what I learned.

The first is Adrienne Brown, a second year at Dickinson College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. She is currently participating in an application competition which involves answering a prompt with a two-hundred word essay and a two minute video. The organization orchestrating the web-based contest is the Arctic Climate Change Emerging Leaders Program Fellowship (ACCEL). This year they will be piloting an internship program with two positions, one in Washington DC and the other in Berlin, where the two student finalists will work on developing creative marketing strategies using media technologies.

The Arctic Today

The Arctic Today

Adrienne believes that there is a growing need to use technology to talk about important social issues, and as the popularity of social media platforms increase many social movements have started to use these technologies to market their cause to a particular audience. That audience tends to be young and motivated and therefore are a resource of human capital just waiting to be tapped.

To get the ACCEL internship students must gather public support for their essay and video responses. Essentially to demonstrate their ability to wield the powerful weapon of the internet to gain support and spread a particular message. Those who are stronger at encouraging people to act will theoretically get the most votes and present themselves as a good candidate for the position with the ACCEL. Once the public voting ends on April 13th the students who have collected the top ten amount of votes will move to the final round and submit a resume during an interview.

Adrienne feels strongly that the environmental field has not done enough with web-based marketing and is really excited for the opportunity to work on developing a public relations strategy for Arctic environmental issues. At the INSS conference she presented her video response and asked the network’s members to vote for her. Take a look at her essay and video and if you like the ideas presented follow the links and vote for her, and check out the other participants.

I will tell more stories about the event and people involved as the week goes on.

Integrated Network for Social Sustainability

This weekend I am going to the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability Annual Meeting in Charlotte, USA, where I will present a poster co-produced with anthropologist Cristina Grasseni. The poster title is Food Sovereignty and Social Sustainability Through Solidarity Economy Networks, and it fits into a meeting whose focus is to prioritize challenges for social sustainability.

A possible sustainability diagram?

A possible sustainability diagram?

Our poster presents work-in-progress insights into solidarity economies. We are looking at provisioning activism, or different ways people go about sourcing and buying the products they need in their daily lives. If you read my food series you might have seen references to this work, particularly the review of Cristina’s book about Italian food provisioning networks.

Through the poster I will be talking about groups of people who get together and form collectives or food coops, or run urban community gardens or community-supported agriculture. Other projects also include the development of small workers’ cooperatives with ambitious plans to create “green” jobs for marginalized youth in post-industrial wastelands.

These groups are organizing themselves in an attempt to replace supply chain consumerism in many fields with locally controlled networks. Although it was initially limited to food, “provisioning activism” increasingly focuses on clothing, IT, renewable energy, green construction, recycling, mutual insurance, cooperative credit and local currency exchange.

Here in Massachusetts for example we have the town of Worcester that acts as an informal focus point for groups that produce and distribute food, invest in locally owned and produced solar energy and are constructing a bio-fuel plant where they can produce bio-diesel from used vegetable oil collected from local restaurants.

There are other examples in the energy sector, take a look at this post I wrote years ago about a similar plant that opened in the UK. Sundance Renewables is the name.

And this is not just a fringe market. The main energy coop in Worcester takes $1.3 million a year in income, while in Italy a loose network of solidarity buying groups spends about 80 million Euro per annum, mainly on locally produced food.

The meeting also includes a tour of Charlotte’s renewable energy manufacturing base, so I should discover a lot more about this sector of the economy across the USA. I will report back next week.