The world grows Wiser

A new global databank aims to connect good work everywhere.

Marco Visscher| May 2007 issue
Imagine you’re on holiday in a city in Thailand and you discover the area’s natural environment is suffering from the effects of tourism. Back home, you decide to support that local Thai environmental movement. But how do you tap into it?
Or imagine you found that Thai organization and are volunteering for it. You’d like to learn from the experiences of a city in Mexico that is also experiencing pollution due to tourism and has created successful ecotourism programs. How do you get in contact with the programs’ founders?
The answer is you do it through WiserEarth, an online data base of organizations active on the issues of environmental protection and social justice. For two years, scores of volunteers in 15 countries have worked on the data bank, together inputting information on some 125,000 organizations spread across the world. Visitors to the site will not only find well-known groups such as Amnesty International and the World Wildlife Fund, but also a Russian microfinance institution, a Canadian lobbying group aiming to make the fishing industry more sustainable, a Turkish agency that offers help to street kids and an Islamic organization in Iran that teaches women skills so they can work in the electronics field. They’re all there, from small to big, with their goals and contact details.
WiserEarth – “Wiser” is an acronym for World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility – is an ambitious project of the Natural Capital Institute, a team of researchers, business people, activists and writers focused on protecting the environment. Because team members realize they cannot possibly locate every organization on its own, the website can be supplemented and improved by its users, much like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Anyone, anywhere in the world can add his organization. Users can search by theme, location and name of the organization as well as names of individuals involved. Moreover, they can donate money via the website, search for job vacancies and view a list of relevant books, magazines and public events.
The idea for this impressive data bank comes from entrepreneur Paul Hawken, who launched the website together with his latest book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (see page XX for an excerpt of the book). He believes the website shows an unimaginable number of idealistic organizations worldwide – perhaps as many as a million.
Hawken underlines that his brainchild is more than an online data bank. “WiserEarth is the first open-source network for community change in the world, the first and only that can be created, modified and amended by the community it serves,” he explains. “Most importantly, it contains the first detailed taxonomy of social justice and environmental organizations, a curriculum of the 21st century. It allows this vast unnamed movement to see itself for the first time.”
There is also WiserBusiness – an online data bank of responsible companies. The website includes an area where business people can learn about corporate social responsibility and share experiences and sources with one another. It is also aimed at helping people find responsible companies, and even allows them to leave comments about products and businesses. Finally, Wiser Business provides government officials with accurate information so they can create policy for the business sector that serves society and the environment.
Paul Hawken is the founder of various environmentally friendly companies and author of The Ecology of Commerce, among other books. Wouldn’t it have been a more obvious step to create a website joining the non-profit and commercial sectors? “Civil society is distinct and different from enterprise,” Hawken explains. “Social-benefit organizations have completely different roots, values and history than commerce. We are creating WiserGovernment for the same reason, as the challenges of running a city or being on a school board are different than running a business or NGO.”
Hawken recognizes that they learn from each other, adding: “All the Wiser sites will have regional and personal hubs in which the three Wisers converge as they do in real society.”
The influence of WiserEarth and its sister sites will depend on the degree to which they can integrate into society as a whole. But the care with which the sites have been created, the depth of their content and the numerous options they proved for putting like-minded people in touch offer remarkable promise.
More information: http://www.wiserearth.org, http://www.wiserbusiness.org/
 

Solution News Source

The world grows Wiser

A new global databank aims to connect good work everywhere.

Marco Visscher| May 2007 issue
Imagine you’re on holiday in a city in Thailand and you discover the area’s natural environment is suffering from the effects of tourism. Back home, you decide to support that local Thai environmental movement. But how do you tap into it?
Or imagine you found that Thai organization and are volunteering for it. You’d like to learn from the experiences of a city in Mexico that is also experiencing pollution due to tourism and has created successful ecotourism programs. How do you get in contact with the programs’ founders?
The answer is you do it through WiserEarth, an online data base of organizations active on the issues of environmental protection and social justice. For two years, scores of volunteers in 15 countries have worked on the data bank, together inputting information on some 125,000 organizations spread across the world. Visitors to the site will not only find well-known groups such as Amnesty International and the World Wildlife Fund, but also a Russian microfinance institution, a Canadian lobbying group aiming to make the fishing industry more sustainable, a Turkish agency that offers help to street kids and an Islamic organization in Iran that teaches women skills so they can work in the electronics field. They’re all there, from small to big, with their goals and contact details.
WiserEarth – “Wiser” is an acronym for World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility – is an ambitious project of the Natural Capital Institute, a team of researchers, business people, activists and writers focused on protecting the environment. Because team members realize they cannot possibly locate every organization on its own, the website can be supplemented and improved by its users, much like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Anyone, anywhere in the world can add his organization. Users can search by theme, location and name of the organization as well as names of individuals involved. Moreover, they can donate money via the website, search for job vacancies and view a list of relevant books, magazines and public events.
The idea for this impressive data bank comes from entrepreneur Paul Hawken, who launched the website together with his latest book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (see page XX for an excerpt of the book). He believes the website shows an unimaginable number of idealistic organizations worldwide – perhaps as many as a million.
Hawken underlines that his brainchild is more than an online data bank. “WiserEarth is the first open-source network for community change in the world, the first and only that can be created, modified and amended by the community it serves,” he explains. “Most importantly, it contains the first detailed taxonomy of social justice and environmental organizations, a curriculum of the 21st century. It allows this vast unnamed movement to see itself for the first time.”
There is also WiserBusiness – an online data bank of responsible companies. The website includes an area where business people can learn about corporate social responsibility and share experiences and sources with one another. It is also aimed at helping people find responsible companies, and even allows them to leave comments about products and businesses. Finally, Wiser Business provides government officials with accurate information so they can create policy for the business sector that serves society and the environment.
Paul Hawken is the founder of various environmentally friendly companies and author of The Ecology of Commerce, among other books. Wouldn’t it have been a more obvious step to create a website joining the non-profit and commercial sectors? “Civil society is distinct and different from enterprise,” Hawken explains. “Social-benefit organizations have completely different roots, values and history than commerce. We are creating WiserGovernment for the same reason, as the challenges of running a city or being on a school board are different than running a business or NGO.”
Hawken recognizes that they learn from each other, adding: “All the Wiser sites will have regional and personal hubs in which the three Wisers converge as they do in real society.”
The influence of WiserEarth and its sister sites will depend on the degree to which they can integrate into society as a whole. But the care with which the sites have been created, the depth of their content and the numerous options they proved for putting like-minded people in touch offer remarkable promise.
More information: http://www.wiserearth.org, http://www.wiserbusiness.org/
 

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