Friday, October 22, 2010

Bioneers and Beyond

Last weekend was the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, CA. For over 20 years the Bioneers conference has been spearheading the people and organizations leading the charge for environmental, social and economic change worldwide. Profiling the individuals and their work helps to ground these ideas with practical applications.

I participated in a new bioneers program titled, Backstage@Bioneers-- a live webcast interview program with host Terrence McNally. I was on the program with Sherry Boschert, founder of Plug In America which supports the expansion of electric cars. Our topic: climate change. Although neither Sherry and I are climatologists per se, it made it all the more relevant since we each covered how we became interested in sustainability topics and the role of climate change in our work. Since there are very few climate 'experts," we can each do our part to reduce greenhouse gasses by taking steps in our daily lives related to driving cars with cleaner emissions, conserving energy in our homes, supporting our local economy, etc.

I also had an opportunity to host a panel: "Unleashing the Entrepreneurial Spirit in the New Economy." The panelists included Michele McGeoy from Solar Richmond, which trains youth in installing solar panels, Adam Davis from Solano Partners, a conservation finance firm, and Jeff Marcus from Ecospan, a bioplastics company. As with the plenary sessions, getting to hear the stories of how these entrepreneurs launched their firms and handled the challenges in creating a successful organization was remarkable. These are their stories inspire and spark new ideas in our own work. The Q/A segment brought really interesting points and highlighted the tremendous experience of the attendees.

Bioneers is also adapting to the times and is now experimenting with a Bioneers conference in Europe-- the first one was in Holland and apparently went quite well. It is definitely time to scale up and mainstream these ideas. The TED conference began their scaling process a few years ago and appears to be very successful. Last summer on a flight to Boston, I saw videos of speakers from TED who were part of the airplane's media program. By offering its video of presenters for free, TED has shown its commitment to spreading these ideas far and wide-- A winning formula that others will likely follow soon. Bioneers and TED have provided a wonderful template for expanding their reach for the exchange of ideas and practices that are improving the world. Beaming Bioneers, with 20 worldwide sites this year and TED Global are important steps in that direction.