Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ocean hope at Mission Blue: A collaboration experiment

Extract from TED Blog - for full story see

How to describe what happened last week? A Galapagos sea-voyage of 100 people (including Sylvia Earle, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Case, Ted Waitt, Bill Joy, Jackson Browne, Damien Rice, Chevy Chase, Jean-Michel Cousteau and 30 of the world's leading marine scientists) turned into an epic event that may have significant impact on global efforts to save our oceans. It happened because the individuals and organizations on board chose to abandon the obstacles that often engulf nonprofit work, and engage in a process of emergent collaboration that I, for one, found truly thrilling.

Eight separate initiatives were kickstarted, aided by $15m in commitments from the individuals on board. These included:
$1m to complete a package to protect the waters around Galapagos themselves
$1.1m to launch a plan to protect the 1m-square-mile Sargasso Sea and commitments to raise a further $2.5m to see the plan through to success
$350k to boost ocean exposure in schools
$3.25m to commence a campaign to end fishing subsidies
$10m to kickstart a new partnership to fund longer-term ocean projects

Not bad for 4 days' work, especially as these commitments were not pre-planned. They emerged organically from the discussions on board in an untried process that worked better than anyone dared hope for.

In addition, we recorded more than 20 fabulous talks on ocean issues that are to be shared with the world on in the coming months, and which will end up being seen by literally millions of people.

So how did this come about? Here's the story:

Sylvia Earle makes her TED Prize wish at TED2009.
It began with "one wish to change the world." That's the gift given to winners of the TED Prize. Last year, the iconic ocean explorer Sylvia Earle was a recipient of the prize and in her blockbuster acceptance speech at TED, she declared her wish "to ignite public support for a global network of Marine Protected Areas, hope spots large enough ... to restore the blue heart of the planet." The speech inspired hundreds of offers of support, including a $1m pledge from investor/philanthropist Addison Fischer.

In the following months, the TED Prize team, headed by Amy Novogratz, worked intensively with the most promising offers, and plans were drawn up to embark on a new global awareness campaign. The agency Razorfish, working for us pro bono, came up with superb branding -- active, exciting and ambitious. Mission Blue was born. But to mark the launch we decided to do something bold to kickstart interest. With Addison's underwriting, and the confirmed availability of a perfect ship operated by Lindblad Expeditions, the Mission Blue Voyage to the Galapagos was born. The vision was referred to internally as "TED-at-sea." By bringing together leading marine scientists with philanthropists and with thoughtful celebrities interested in this issue, we thought we could at a minimum:

record memorable TED talks to boost understanding of -- and passion for -- the oceans
give a transformative experience to people in a position to act raise money by charging passengers $20,000 to come. Three months before the scheduled departure date, things were not looking good. No famous names were signed up, and we had yet to sell our first ticket. In late January, in a conference call of interested parties, we had three options: postpone, cancel, or redouble our efforts. We decided to go for it. By the time TED2010 was held three weeks later, Chevy Chase and Jackson Browne had confirmed their interest, along with a few leading members of the TED community. And the speaker lineup was looking fantastic. We presented the trip as an epic voyage for those willing to engage in one of the biggest challenges to our future. By the end of TED, we knew our boat would be full.

But the question remained whether anything other than awareness-raising could be read more go to: