Archive for February, 2010

xCAMP Countdown

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The concept of an environmental health clinic (xCLINIC) was created and implemented by Natalie Jeremijenko of New York University.

The concept approaches health from an understanding of its dependence on external local environments; rather than on the internal biology and genetic predispositions of an individual. It directs attention to root causes rather than symptoms. The idea is that by building awareness, initiating behavioral change through action, and ameliorating your own local environmental health, you improve the health of humans and improve the local environment around you. The more people who participate, the greater the cascading effects.

xCAMP is a gathering of practitioners across many disciplines to collaboratively evolve the concept and design the xCLINIC project.

The event is SOLD OUT. More details can be found here.

Post-Copenhagen: What Strategies Now?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. She is a recipient of the 2008-2009 Van Alen Institute-New York Prize Fellowship in Sustainable Cities and the Social Sciences, and was recently named one of the 40 most influential designers by I.D. Magazine. She is an artist not-in-residence at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto. Jeremijenko directs the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU, whose concepts are at the roots of our own xCLINIC project.

Her work is described as experimental design, hence xDesign, as it explores opportunities presented by new technologies for non-violent social change. Her research centers on structures of participation in the production of knowledge and information, and the political and social possibilities (and limitations) of information and emerging technologies — mostly through public experiments. In this vein, her work spans a range of media from statistical indices (such as the Despondency Index, which linked the Dow Jones to the suicide rate at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) to biological substrates (such as the installations of cloned trees in pairs in various urban micro-climates) to robotics (such as the development of feral robotic dog packs to investigate environmental hazards). Jeremjenko’s permanent installation on the roof of Postmasters Gallery in Chelsea Model Urban Development (MUD) provides infrastructure and facilities for high-density bird cohabitation in an environmental experiment in interaction with the New York City bird population.

Natalie will be in Toronto to attend our xCAMP, a “camp”-style session to collaboratively evolve and extend the environmental health clinic (xCLINIC) concept in Toronto and design its implementation. She will be presenting as part of sLab’s Explorations Series 1:30 – 3:00 pm on Thursday February 25th at sLab (Suite 600, 100 McCaul St.). Don’t miss this unique opportunity.

Davos 2010 – A quick hello from the mountains of Switzerland

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Hi everyone!

Just a quick update from Davos. It’s been a great annual meeting so far. More details to come after, but I thought I would share this brief cameo I made on a German news program discussing what the Forum’s Global Partnership to Assist Haiti’s Economic Development, a partnership we’ve launched with the Clinton Foundation and the UN.

Haiti: The Role of Social Networks and Open Data in Crisis Response

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Last week, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti ravaging the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. The International Red Cross is estimating that at least three million people were impacted by the quake, with Haitian government officials citing that up to 200,000 people have been killed. Major infrastructure damage was also reported including the destruction of Parliament and the Presidential Palace.

The Internet community quickly rallied around this cause and provided an excellent case study of how social networks and open data can help in crisis response.

1) BREAKING NEWS: Up to the minute information flow



Within hours of the quake, Haiti was a trending word on Twitter and users in Haiti provided live coverage of the earthquake including sending pictures, and information about damaged areas. In addition, some users are using their twitter feed to provide the names and conditions of survivors and coordinating rescue efforts in saving people who were still trapped in the rubble.


On Facebook, over 250,000 people have joined a group called Earthquake Haiti. Members are using the social network to post pictures of missing family members, as well as exchanging information on how to locate survivors, donate money and  offer words of comfort and support.


The Haiti 2010 Wikipedia Page was created within seconds after the quake and according the HuffPost, the page has received over 168,000 pages views and lists over 106 article sources. Smart Phones have also allowed Haitians to upload footage of the wreckage to sites such as Youtube, Vimeo and other video sharing sites. The day after the earthquake, over 4,000 Haiti related videos were uploaded to Youtube.

2) Coordinated Donation Efforts: Viral Advertising + Easy Call to Action

In addition to quickly disseminating information about the unfolding crisis, social media also provided a powerful platform to let people know how they could help. Users quickly shared information about fundraising campaigns and directed people to links where they could easily donate funds.

The American Red Cross launched an SMS  campaign enabling people to donate $10 right from their cell phones. The campaign proved immensely successful and raised a record $7 million within the first 24 hours.   In Canada, the Canadian Red Cross reported over $15.4 million in donations, with 85% of donations coming in online.

I don’t think it was just the increase of information available, but the fact that we were witnessing this disaster unfold through the eyes of those living it that made such an impact. The human element combined with an easy call to action made it simple and intuitive for those who wanted to help.

3) The Tech Community and Global Disaster Relief

Both Google and Facebook launched in Disaster Relief pages.



Facebook recently launched their Disaster Relief Page. According to the official Facebook blog this page is for:

“…the more than 350 million people on Facebook can educate themselves and find out how to help not only in Haiti but wherever disaster and misfortune may strike.

Every minute, people have been posting more than 1,500 status updates on Facebook that contained the word “Haiti.” People have contributed thousands of dollars through the Causes application on Facebook, and groups including the American Red Cross, Oxfam America and Partners in Health have mobilized supporters through their Facebook Pages and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last 24 hours alone.”

Currently, the group has over 100,000 members and the Causes features has raised over $95,000 to date.


The search engine giant has also created a Disaster Relief page that allows people to easily donate and stay up to speed on breaking events as they unfold. In addition to donating one million dollars to the cause they are also offering free phone calls to Haiti via Google Voice.

Most interestingly, they have released a new data layer for Google Earth that allows users to see satellite images of Haiti post-quake. They have made this feature available via plugin, which you can get here. Users are encouraged to upload any information, pictures or footage and tag it through their Google Map Maker feature.

4) The Need for Open Data


Many news organizations have created “Peoplefinder” sites, a way to enable people to find information about missing family members. Boingboing published an open letter from Christopher Csikszentmihalyi, Director of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, on how to make these initiatives more effective by opening their data:

“In the response to the earthquake in Haiti, many organizations worked to create sites where people could find one another, or least information about their loved ones. This excellent idea has been undermined by its success: within 24 hours it became clear that there were too many places where people were putting information, and each site is a silo.

We recognize that many newspapers have put precious resources into developing a people-finder system. We nonetheless urge them to make their data available to the Google project, and standardize on the Google widget. Doing so will greatly increase the number of successful reunions. Data from the google site is currently available as “dumps” in the standard PFIF format (on this page), and an API is being developed, and licensed through Creative Commons. I am not affiliated with Google — indeed, this is a volunteer initiative by some of their engineers — but this is one case where their reach and capacity can help the most people.”

Ultimately, creating data silos will not do anyone any good. We need to have open and transparent data that can be easily accessed and shared by various NGOs, governments and other interested parties who (like Google) can use it to create applications that can help and add value in a time of crisis. The New York Times has already indicated it would make it’s data available to Google and I hope more news organizations will follow suit.

While still in its infancy, I am happy to see that social media is creating opportunities for large groups of people to quickly share information and mobilize in support of those who are in need.

RIP Josephine

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

My cat interrupts my 12 seconds video to say hi. on

Yesterday, our beloved cat Josephine had to be put down after her kidneys failed in a sudden and unexpected attack. Josephine had been my boyfriend’s cat for the last 18 years – he purchased her when he was 10 years old with his paper route money.


I was devastated to come home from a weekend trip and find her in her  little cat bed, too weak to stand up on her own although she did try to get up and greet me. The vet informed me there was nothing they could do, and so we put her to sleep since she was suffering and in pain.

It was one of the saddest experiences of my life. I stroked her head and spoke to her to let her know that I was there. She lifted one of her little paws and laid it on my arm and looked right at me as the vet administered the shot. I am so upset that I wasn’t there for her when it happened. It kills me to think that she was scared and in pain and alone during those last few hours.

The house now seems so empty and much too quiet. Josephine’s favorite place to be was beside us on the couch and she would purr contentedly for hours. She loved lying on anything that belonged to us and I had become accustomed to finding her snoozing on our freshly folded laundry, coats that had been carelessly thrown on the bed and suitcases that were left open. I’m going to miss her crazy yowls and the chatty meows she would often insert into the middle of a conversation we were having. Most of all, I’m going to miss how she always seemed to know when I was sad or upset and would just curl up next to me.

Snoozing in a suitcase I had left open

I’m sad to start 2010 without her.


What Canadian Politicians Can Learn from Barack Obama

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I had the pleasure of speaking at the British Columbia New Democratic Party convention yesterday to share some thoughts about what Canadian politicians can learn from the Obama campaign. For many, Obama has become the new standard for political campaigns, validating the power of these tools when embedded within an overarching communication and branding strategy. While I do agree with using this particular example as a case study to showcase the potential of these tools, I caution organizations from jumping in and blindly imitating the tactics.

Social Media is a reflection of your organizations’ brand and should therefore be custom tailored to communicate to your audience. This means that not all the places that Obama was present online will offer the same value as others. Not everything they did will work for you. Below are some of my thoughts, that I will flesh out in the coming weeks.

Some Lessons Learned:

1) Building a Sleeper Community:

Unlike our American neighbors we don’t always have the luxury of knowing well in advance when a Federal election will take place. Last October’s election left politicians with less than a month to ramp up and get organized. This is not enough time to educate, excite and inspire people to participate in the political process.  For us, the challenge will be establishing sleeper grassroots communities – groups of people who engage in activities during the year and who can be called to action at a moment’s notice.

This means that for politicians who are looking to engage voters, the activities must go beyond election ramp up. If you want people to be involved you need to give them something valuable to be involved in. Parties need to find initiatives that encourage voters to develop the right skill sets (canvassing, phone banking, online organizing etc) that can then be easily transferred to an election setting.

This is far more challenging as it requires constant effort and input on behalf on both voters and politicians.

2) Finding the right Messaging:

During the 2008 US Presidential Elections, the one thing that struck me was the “do-or-die” mentality that was visibly present in so many of our volunteers. Many were feeling the impacts of the economic crisis first hand: reports of foreclosed houses, out of control debts, unemployment, and lack of health insurance were common. People felt threatened. They felt that they had to act – or else the consequences would be dire.

Luckily for us, Canadians have not felt the impacts of this crisis as strongly. Instead, we hover around a sense of national complacency where we are mildly concerned with what is happening, but not motivated enough to act. Politicians will need to find a way to communicate the necessity and urgency of defending some of the very things that make us Canadian: our healthcare and education system, protecting our natural resources, maintaining our reputation abroad as peacemakers.  Personally, I fear that we are losing some of things piece by piece, and that we won’t notice the full impact of this loss until it is already too late.

3) New Types of Engagement:

Finally political parties need to be ready to listen to voters, and recognize that these tools have changed the way we communicate with each other. If voters are more comfortable with using some of these online tools to organize and communicate online, then it is up to the party to figure out the best way to leverage these online behaviours into value adding campaign activities. People want to be involved, they want to be heard, but they want to do it in their own way and using the tools that are comfortable for them.

Final thought:

It seems to be that this shift in social media is indicative of a deeper shift in the way that people want to interact with government in a way that goes far beyond mere communication. Government itself will have to evolve to adjust to these new expectations. The time for change is now, and the Party that recognizes these changing trends and moves to embrace it will reap unprecedented rewards.

ps: Check out this crazy picture of me speaking at the convention, I look SO intense!


Happy November 4th!

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

November 2008

It’s incredible how much can change in one year. At this time last year, I was working as a volunteer on Barack Obama’s New Media Team in Chicago. It was Election day and everyone was wound up tight with anticipation, excitement and fear. I had spent the last few months working with some of the brightest minds in digital media and strategy and it all came down to this day.

In celebration of that historic win, I am sharing some of my personal videos of my time at the campaign.

Sharing Some Down Time:

Everyone on the team worked long hours, 7 days a week. It was nice to find a few minutes to be able to unwind and have a little fun.

We Win Michigan:

We just won Michigan, and the whole office was gathered around the television, cheering and clapping.

Trolley of Change

As soon as we were sure of the results, we hopped on the trolley and headed down to Grant Park.

November 2009
Exactly a year later, I had written a book about my experiences and am now living in Geneva to work on a project for the World Economic Forum.

I still vividly remember the morning of November 5, I felt like the whole world was different, a little brighter. I knew it wouldn’t last forever, so I just savored the day, and the feeling that we could accomplish just about anything we set our mind to.

Happy November 4th!!


Good Reads: Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel (PART 1)

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Since I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time on planes, my Kindle has become my absolute favorite thing. I was quite eager to get my hands on a copy of Mitch Joel’s new book “Six Pixels of Separation.”

I first met Mitch at the SES Toronto 2008 conference where I heard him speak on a panel. He was also the first IDEA NINJA that I profiled! I am happy to announce that I officially consider his book a Foushy Good Read!

The Book:  (Via Amazon)

Is it important to be connected? Well, consider this: If Facebook were a country, it would have the sixth largest population in the world.

The truth is, we no longer live in a world of six degrees of separation. In fact, we’re now down to only six pixels of separation, which changes everything we know about doing business.

This is the first book to integrate digital marketing, social media, personal branding, and entrepreneurship in a clear, entertaining, and instructive manner that everyone can understand and apply.

My Thoughts:

I would consider this book a Social Media 201 course, meaning Mitch pretty much assumes that you have a basic understanding of most social media tools and builds from there.  I really liked all of the practical tips that were included to help readers get started on applying the lessons learned to their own businesses.

Cool Ideas

EMBRACE SLOWNESS: Mitch debunks the myth that social media and digital communications are instant-fixes. Instead he (correctly) argues that building community, integrity and social capital takes time and effort. This is the one message I often emphasize to clients: just because it takes five minutes to create a Facebook profile doesn’t mean you’re going to start seeing the value right away.

BE CONSISTENT: I am so guilty of neglecting my poor blog when other factors get in the way. That’s not an excuse, says Mitch, and I shamefully agree. He urges that providing consistent content is a way of building trust and relationship with readers. They come to depend on your content and won’t appreciate a sporadic post schedule. Since reading this book, I have put a recurring appointment in my calendar to carve out some time each week to blog and update The Foush.

GIVE FREELY: Always think about what value you can provide the community (a handy book review perhaps? lol) Promote great content even if it’s not your own. Comment on other people’s posts and share your thoughts and feedback. Respond to all emails and comments in a timely fashion. Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community! ;)

THE TRUST ECONOMY: When I first interviewed Mitch I had just launched my blog and had often read Six Pixels (the blog) I was so nervous to ask him for an interview and was just blown away by how nice he was and how easily he made time to patiently answer all of my questions. I never forgot that first encounter and you can bet I’ll be supporting him whenever I can because I know he is a genuinely good guy- welcome to the new Trust Economy.


On Friday, October 16th, 2009 Mitch will be speaking in Toronto at an event titled, The Art of Management. This full-day event will also feature best-selling business book author Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence, Re-Imagine!, etc…), Marcus Buckingham and the Getting Things Done guru, David Allen. all live and in-person. There is special pricing for this event if you mention the Six Pixels of Separation Blog or Mitch Joel’s name. You can get more information here: The Art of Management

Stay Tuned…

In Part 2, Mitch answers some of my questions about his book!

Article in the Times&Transcript

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

An article from the Times&Transcript

The laughter and the note taking, the applause for making some of her remarks in beautiful French, and especially the rousing standing ovation at the end of her speech all said Rahaf Harfoush had connected with the more than 250 people who came out to the Delta Beauséjour to hear her yesterday afternoon.

Click to Enlarge
Rahaf Harfoush, new media strategist and former Obama campaign team member, chats with Mayor George LeBlanc yesterday during the Intelligent Communities Summit in Moncton.

But the best praise for her insightful look at how she and the rest of the Barack Obama campaign team used technology and social media to get his message out came after the audience members had returned to their seats.

When the Canadian new media strategist and current associate director of the Geneva-based Global Co-operation Initiative invited questions from the floor, the first to jump to his feet was none other than Premier Shawn Graham.

For the record, the premier asked her opinion on why President Obama’s new team didn’t use the same social media strategies to deliver his message in the polarizing U.S. health care debate. And for the record, Harfoush admitted she was disappointed in how the health care debate was handled, and suggested the difference between candidacy and the White House is how presidents find themselves more boxed in by bureaucracies.

It is disappointing to think the U.S. president’s advisors aren’t paying more attention to what his campaign team did, because Harfoush’s presentation described just how much of a home run the social media aspect of his campaign was.Using things like Twitter, Facebook and iPhones, and detailed metrics, the Obama team raised $750 million for the campaign $5 and $10 at a time, largely through word of Net. It was a figure double that of what rival John McCain could raise, even with wealthy Republicans in his corner.

But more than raising funds, Obama’s social media experts, which included one of the founders of Facebook and a number of former top Google employees, excelled at raising voter engagement through hyper-segmentation of marketing.

The millions of Americans who registered with Obama’s MyBO website created basic profiles and consented to basic data tracking that allowed campaigners to direct specific messages that reflected specific voters’ specific key interests.

If that sounds intrusive, it was actually less so, said Harfoush. “It prevented us from spamming people with every little bit of information.”

Similarly, donations to the campaign were carefully tracked so that those who had just scraped together money they didn’t really have because they thought they could change America didn’t suddenly get offensive form letters asking for more. The numbers are staggering. The Obama team sent one billion messages during the campaign, two million people placed profiles on MyBO, 35,000 volunteer groups were formed, 400,000 blog posts were made and 200,000 off-line events were organized, including a Yes, Wii Can event that saw Wii gamers raise campaign funds.

When John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin belittled Obama’s past job experience as a community organizer as hardly fitting a future president, Obama’s thousands of community organizers were insulted. An e-mail went out from Obama headquarters calling on them to be heard and in just 24 hours, $10 million more was added to the campaign coffers.

That balance between online organizing and real world action was a key point, Harfoush said, noting businesses would do well to always evaluate how much its digital marketing, whatever the buzz it might create, is actually translating to the real world. After all, a web is still made up more of the empty space between threads than the threads themselves. “As exciting as online marketing is, it didn’t get Obama elected,” she said. “This wasn’t a win for technology. The technology was just tactics.”

Annual Meeting of New Champions, Dalian, China

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I’ve just come back from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions (AKA Summer Davos).

Each year, the meeting brings together leaders from global businesses, governments, civil society and technology sectors to discuss the challenges of relaunching growth.

This year, we had over 1,300 leaders from 86 countries focusing on future innovations to stimulate a sustainable recovery.

From the Forum’s Press Release:

The Meeting has brought together different groups that represent the future, including Young Global Leaders, Technology Pioneers, Young Scientists and heads of Global Growth Companies that represent fast-growing firms. They are working with CEOs of established global corporations, some of which are mentors to these emerging leaders.