As the world’s national governments prepare to gather for the first post-Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in Mexico later this month, sub-national and regional governments are moving ahead with low carbon initiatives on their own. One of the most recent examples is the Low Carbon Economic Strategy plan published by the Scottish government last week. It is an attempt to focus the government’s approach in exploiting Scotland’s natural resources and competitive advantages towards the creation of 60,000 new green jobs by 2020 and grow its economy.
Closer to home, the City of Toronto is attempting to leverage the power of social networking to help the city mitigate its impact on climate change. The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (“TAF”) launched its ClimateSpark Challenge on November 3, 2010 in an effort to discover and nurture low carbon solutions.
Innovators are encouraged to submit ideas for a service or product that could reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by, for example, using less energy, reducing waste or generating green power. As these ideas roll in, the ClimateSpark community can comment on them and give thumbs up or down. Each review will earn points based on the quality of the contribution. The ideas garnering the most points will be short-listed, and users earning the most points are eligible for prizes.
After two months, the nine finalists on the short-list will face a panel of experts starting January 3, 2011. The ClimateSpark community will again weigh in as the finalists attempt to meet the challenges presented by the expert panel. As one advisor to the competition has noted, ClimateSpark is “modeled partially on VenCorps, a form of community-powered venture capital that believes the crowd can both filter the global wealth of opportunities and channel more intellectual horsepower into making each investment successful.” The winner of this collaborative assessment process receives $10,000 in cash, the chance to secure additional financing from TAF and a public platform to present their idea in February 2011.
The organizers have no doubt recognized the speed at which business sustainability information is rapidly increasing and global eco-awareness is constantly expanding. Harnessing a global many-to-many communications system should allow ClimateSpark to benefit from the latest developments in both eco-friendly products and services and ensure an evolution of the best ideas for GHG mitigation. This approach is an emerging way of harnessing social networking to engage with stakeholders, in this case the citizenry of Toronto. ClimateSpark will also hopefully benefit from the expertise of people who would like to offer mitigation solutions in their own communities but do not yet have the open channels of communication to do so. Tapping the innovation and expertise of the “crowd” will ensure no knocking opportunity goes unanswered.