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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Ever Thought About Large Scale Systems Change?

Posted by admin | May 18th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

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Last week when I was visiting my hometown of Toronto I had the opportunity to have lunch with Ron Dembo who is the founder of Zerofootprint. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a stereotypical environmental visionary, but if there is Ron doesn’t fit the bill. Prior to founding Zerofootprint, Ron was the founder, President and CEO of Algorithmics, a risk management software company. Before that he had a distinguished career as a professor at Yale in the Department of Computer Science and the School of Management. I also understand that he’s a bit of a math whiz.

After selling Algorithmics Ron founded Zerofootprint, which is a “not-for-profit that combines the best financial engineering, environmental engineering, social networking tools and business intelligence to create products and services that help large corporations, organizations and individuals significantly reduce their environmental footprint.”

Over lunch we talked about Zerofootprint’s new partnership with Business Objects, whose state of the art business intelligence software will enable them to aggregate a massive database of green initiatives and combine it with the latest in web-based social networking features. To that end, they just announced a pretty remarkable and precedent setting partnership with the City of Toronto aimed at engaging all Torontonians in an effort to positively effect climate change on a massive scale. But it doesn’t stop there. This week David Miller, the mayor of Toronto, will challenge his mayoral counterparts at the Large Cities Climate Initiative (taking place in New York) to do the same thing. Could it be that combining robust software with social networking methodologies could lead to large-scale systems change? Ron, who is pretty persuasive, certainly thinks so.

7 Responses to “Ever Thought About Large Scale Systems Change?”

  • May 21, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Will Ashworth says

    Ian,

    I think what you guys are doing is great. If you ever decide to come to Canada my wife would love to open stores for Nau (she’s a long-time retail veteran with Roots and Lucky Brand Jeans). As a Torontonian, it’s great to see others succeed on the world stage. Congrats. As for David Miller, his talk is more impressive than his walk. He is single handedly spending this city into bankruptcy. That wouldn’t be so bad if he was making Toronto a better place but sadly his four years as Mayor has been incredibly ineffectual. As for Ron Dembo, he seems incredibly bright and committed to a better Toronto. An interesting person in Toronto is Geoff Cape – http://www.evergreen.ca/rethinkspace/ – he founded Evergreen and is most of the way to raising $55 million to rehabilitate the old Don Valley Brickworks quarry, turning it into an family friendly environmental zone. Very Cool. Keep up the good work.

  • May 23, 2007 at 9:52 am | ian says

    Will,

    We’d love to come to Canada, although that will happen a ways down the road.
    As for David Miller, I know there was great promise when he was elected but given I’ve been gone from Toronto I’m not in touch with the current scene. On Ron, Zerofootprint and his new initaitive here’s what the press is saying:

    abc Money: Toronto unveils social site for greens
    http://www.abcmoney.co.uk/news/15200772178.htm

    National Post: Toronto mayor tells UN summit about ‘Zerofootprint’ web
    forum
    http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=5abc1d74-bbf0-47d
    1-8aa5-9ebeda765fd3

    The Star: Miller asks world’s cities to join T.O.’s green scheme
    http://www.thestar.com/News/article/214377

    GigaOm: 5 reasons for the eco-tech boom
    http://gigaom.com/2007/05/16/5-reasons-for-the-eco-tech-boom/

    The Villager: Being more environmentally friendly just a click away
    http://zerofootprint.net/to/http://www.insidetoronto.ca/to/villager/stor
    y/3967536p-4580253c.html?loc=villager

    CBC: New web tool helps Toronto map its eco-footprint
    http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/05/15/tech-zerofootprinttoronto-
    20070515.html

    Forbes: Toronto Unveils Social Site for Greens
    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/05/15/ap3724019.html

    International Herald Tribune: Toronto mayor announces social-networking
    site for green-thinking residents
    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/15/america/NA-GEN-US-Climate-Summ
    it-Toronto.php

    TreeHugger:Toronto Mayor Miller and Zerofootprint Launch New Footprint
    Simulator
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/zerofootprint_l.php

    Computerworld: Online community using ‘collective intelligence’ to solve
    global issues
    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&
    articleId=9019470

    LifeHacker: Calculate and reduce your carbon emissions with
    Zerofootprint
    http://lifehacker.com/software/environment/calculate-and-reduce-your-car
    bon-emissions-with-zerofootprint-and-yahoo-green-260514.php
    The Star: Miller’s green plan ‘cool’

  • June 4, 2007 at 6:47 pm | Deron Triff says

    Ian,

    First, the article about Nau in Fast Company rocks. The path you guys are blazing is inspiring social entrepreneurs like us. Thank you.

    I am a former VP of PBS who left the fortress (and a nice paycheck) to start a social media venture launching in a few short weeks that does exactly what you mention — combines software and social networking to create change at viral speed.

    Changents will be positioned as the online stomping ground for Gen X & Y’ers asking tough questions about society and demanding a platform for action. We’ll provide the tools and then get out of the way for our users to share their stories about cool, out-of-the-box thinking, young people around the world who are tackling social and environmental problems in their own unique ways — change agents. The coolest part though, is our signature feature, the Ripple. It’s essentially an application that dynamically tracks and graphically represents the trail of Internet-based actions taken by Changents members as those actions spread virally from person to person.

    Anyway, I can’t agree more with you. We (Gen X/Y) are a fast-growing, tech savvy culture who want to make a difference on our own terms an in a manner that is fun, flexible and in line with our digitally connected lifestyle. Social networking is perfect platform for change, especially when it is driven with attitude, style and story. If we can leave the kumbaya, mothball, doom-and-gloom old school approach to change behind us (like you guys are doing at Nau), the possibilities are endless.

    Question for you: We checked out your articles of corporation related to corporate social responsibility. Did you have a model to draw from?

    - Deron Triff, Founder, Changents

  • June 5, 2007 at 9:26 pm | Ian says

    Deron,

    Great to hear from you. I’m very curious to learn more about Changents. From the beginning we’ve felt that we’re part of a much larger emerging community of people who are passionate about contributing to positive change, optimistic about the future, unafraid to take risks and creative in their thinking. From your description above it certainly sounds as though what you’re doing is further evidence of this emergent community in action. I’m inspired and look forward to seeing how Changents unfolds.

    On our articles of incorporation, we were inspired by the thinking of Robert Hinkley, a retired corporate attorney who thought about “redesigning” versus “reforming” the corporation. You can Google him and learn more. I’d welcome a more in depth conversation so feel free to give me a call at out office in Portland.

    Ian

  • November 16, 2007 at 12:10 am | I P says

    Hey this is not about this post, but I could not make out how to approach you with a great idea which you might explore. In India Jute is widely used as a fabric for making several traditional attires. The fabric is good for tropical climates and is low on maintenance. Why can’t Nau try out this new fabric? with all the modifications I am sure you will be able to make it more durable and fashionable.

  • November 16, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Jamie says

    IP,

    Thanks for your idea on using jute fabrics in our product line. As the person responsible for leading fabric development for Nau I am always looking for new ideas to explore in the realm of sustainable textiles. Jute is indeed a very renewable fiber that can be made into a textile using fairly clean processes. We would happily consider a beautiful jute fabric, bring it on!

  • November 17, 2007 at 6:12 am | vichitrricol says

    sitchit

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