Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Warming and Palo Alto -> Miradi and the World

One day last month we were shocked to discover all the street trees on our quaint downtown street had been chopped down. Clearcut.

To be honest, most of us probably never took much notice of the 63 mature holly oaks. They were just part of the landscape. Until they were gone. Suddenly the world seemed a little harsher. No more trees. No more shade. No more leafy beauty. Our hot summer (and autumn!) days became a little hotter. Our local version of accelerated climate change.

Now, we’re not expecting the world to cry crocodile tears for us. The city made a mistake. But let’s put it in perspective. We live in one of the most comfortable cities in the country, if not the world. Rather, the incident demonstrated just how affected we are by something as simple as a chopped down tree (some citizens were so angry they threatened city officials). If a few dozen dead trees could cause so much grief, imagine living in a place where whole forests are being clearcut, coral reefs bleached, or entire species threatened.

We here in Palo Alto were able assess the damage (tree stumps), lobby our city officials, and we will know just how effective we are when new trees are planted. And you can bet they will be replanted!

Knowing whether one’s strategies to help the environmental actually work, is rarely so simple. That’s why we, in conjunction with the Conservation Measures Partnership, have developed Miradi, our groundbreaking software application for running biodiversity and conservation projects.

Miradi (Miradi 3.0 is now available for download) allows environmentalists to figure out which environmental strategies actually work. The program allows environmentalists to design conservation plans that bring together best practices in environmental management. And it’s specifically designed to be used by local people who of course, have local knowledge.

Dozens of environmental organizations in 100 countries currently use Miradi. Included in those is Rare, a terrific environmental group, which works with countries around the globe to “conserve imperiled species and ecosystems … by inspiring people to care about and protect nature.” Rare is working in Abaco Island in the Bahamas to protect critically threatened species like the Spiny Lobster, Eastern Steppe Mongolia to help save the Mongolian gazelle among other species; and Uthaithanee, Thailand to save the Indochinese tiger.

Miradi should help them achieve their goals. If only they were as simple as replanting street trees.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Encyclopaedia Britannica Supports Bookshare!

The news is excellent. We just announced: Encyclopaedia Britannica Grants Digital Rights to Bookshare -- Major Reference Collections Now Accessible for Individuals with Print Disabilities Worldwide.

Although it was possible, we never seriously thought about scanning the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Thanks to the support of the EB team, we now have direct access to digital versions of many important reference series, along with the ability to provide these books to people with qualifying print disabilities in Canada, the UK, India and all over the world!
Row of 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica volumesOur dream at Bookshare has been that every student with a print disability has accessible versions of every book that would be available to their peers without disabilities. We have already gotten close on trade books: juvenile and teen literature. We're working very hard on textbooks. This agreement gives us access to the last major frontier of equal access: reference works.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Just had a chance to meet Dale Ferrario, the founder and President of an innovative nonprofit social enterprise called FreshBrain. I'm always excited about finding out about a new idea that's already gaining traction.
  • FreshBrain is focused on an important problem - filling the gap in the education that our teens receive, specifically in the area of 21st Century Skills. Skills around technology, creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Skills that they will needed to be successful in our future workplace and ever evolving global economy.
  • Their website,, provides a social networking based platform where teens can innovate, create and share using a variety of technologies. A project based environment where they can interact with others, pursue their passion, learn, and have fun doing it.
  • FreshBrain is already making great progress. They reached over 270,000 teens last year primarily on the open internet and have the goal to reach 2,000,000 this year. They plan on doing this through continued efforts on the open internet along with an major emphasis on use by schools and after school programs.
  • FreshBrain has fostered some impressive partnerships with companies like Sun Microsystems and T-Mobile, and relationships with groups such as Boys & Girls Club, Governors Office of Economic Development (Utah Schools) and the Girl Scouts.
I'm looking forward to tracking their progress!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Jed Emerson: Steady Returns With Social Impact

Last week I was in New York City and had the opportunity to meet with many interesting people (and got lots of ideas).

One key connection was with Jed Emerson. Ten years ago, Jed was the head of REDF, the famous social enterprise foundation in San Francisco. Jed's just published a new article in entitled Steady Returns With Social Impact. His point is:
The little secret of this past year's capital crisis is that while many mainstream investments incurred significant losses in value, one category remained steady--with some investors significantly outperforming the mainstream market. It's called impact investing.