The Collaboration Project

| You don’t have to be in orbit to have an orbital perspective.

This post by Ron Garan and the Collaboration Project team is one amazing way NASA is partnering with innovators and world-changers to take the perspective, insight, and technology we have from space and make the world a better, safer, more beautiful place. 

For thousands of years of human history, the vast majority of people in the world believed that it was impossible to fly to the Moon – simply because it had never been done before. Up until about 50 years ago people would have thought you were crazy to suggest we could go to the Moon, but human ingenuity and the determination of the human spirit proved that it was possible. Today, many people believe that it is impossible to solve the problems of the world. It is widely believed that is impossible to lift the poor out of poverty. ‘There have always been poor in the world and there always will be,’ they say. If we can land on the Moon and return to Earth safely, if nations can join together and build an enormous research facility in orbit, we can, by working together, solve many of the challenges facing our planet including the alleviation of poverty. Nothing is impossible.

When we look at the Earth from space we are faced with a sobering contradiction. On one hand, we can clearly see the indescribable beauty of the planet we have been given; on the other hand, is the unfortunate reality of life for a significant number of our beautiful planet’s inhabitants.

When astronauts reflect on how peaceful, beautiful, and fragile the Earth looks from space, these reflections are not clichés that astronauts say because they feel good. It is truly moving to look at the Earth from space. We can look down at a particular part of the Earth and feel empathy for the struggles that all people face. We can look down with an orbital perspective and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family. This is what we call the “Orbital Perspective.”

It saddens us and compels us to action when we realize that we have the resources and technology to overcome almost all of the challenges facing our planet, yet nearly a billion people do not have access to clean water, countless go to bed hungry every night, and many die from preventable and curable diseases.

We believe that we live in a world where the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our will to act. It is within our power to eliminate the suffering and poverty that exist on our planet.

The answer is quite simple – just do something. The challenges of the world are really about how each of us individually responds to them. In other words, to what extent does humanity, on a person-to-person basis, commit to making a positive difference, no matter how small or how big?

The good news is there are over 20 million organizations around the world working to improve life on our planet where people can lend a hand.

The bad news is, for the most part, these organization are not engaged in a unified coordinated effort. There is a great deal of duplication of effort and loss of efficiency.

So what are we trying to do?

To illustrate the problem, let’s take a look at Felipe. Felipe has a calling to make a difference in the world. Let’s say he wants to help provide clean water to those who need it. Maybe Felipe wants to work with an organization providing clean water or maybe he wants to donate money to one of these many efforts. Felipe will find that there are thousands of organizations dedicated to solving the global water crisis. There is also a myriad of different technologies and different opinions on how to best solve the problem. Felipe will spend countless hours trying to find and sort through all the information on the subject. After all that work he will not find a definitive, impartial, logical, user-friendly listing of all his options.

Now let’s consider Celine. Celine founded an organization dedicated to providing clean water. Celine’s organization is presently working in country X and has run into problem Y. Celine does not realize that another organization has already solved the problem she faces and the current path that her organization is traveling down will lead to a dead end. She doesn’t realize that there are other organizations out there that have the pieces of the puzzle that she needs.

Lastly, let’s see about Maria. Maria lives in a village where people are frequently ill due to the poor quality of the water in her village and many die every year. Maria wants to help her village. Maria doesn’t realize that there is an organization that is presently looking for water projects to accomplish in her area and this organization is presently unaware of the situation in her village.

Although these are hypothetical situations they accurately represent the extremely disorganized state of humanitarian development.

One of Ron’s personal objectives on his recent mission was to use the orbital perspective to inspire people to go out and make a difference to go out and make the world a better place. To that end, we created a project called Fragile Oasis. The vision for Fragile Oasis is to be a vehicle to affect real change. Our idea was to pair systems on a spacecraft designed to support life (provide clean water, air, energy, health, etc.) to systems (or projects) on our spaceship Earth designed to provide the same thing. By providing a means for people and organizations in each of these categories to collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming our planet’s challenges, we help these organizations that are striving to make the world a better place and reach their goals.

Since there are multiple organizations looking for effective ways to collaborate and synergize, it is critical to unify efforts to establish an effective collaboration mechanism for people and organizations to solve the challenges facing our world. By first bringing together those organizations that are striving to pair challenges with solutions we will be bringing together different unique pieces of the puzzle.

The goal of this collaboration is to bring together different perspectives to create one, simple, user-friendly mechanism to communicate and collaborate to tackle the challenges facing our world. By doing that we can all learn from each others’ successes and mistakes.

The Challenge for RHoK:

What better way to hack for humanity than to create an effective collaboration mechanism for people and organizations to solve the challenges facing the world. We need help to launch a collaboration platform, using data visualization and social networking resources to represent challenges facing our planet and progress towards their solutions, including the UN Millennial Development Goals.

The ultimate goal is to reduce that sobering contradiction that we see when we look at the Earth: that it is not only visibly beautiful, but a place where life is beautiful for all.

Specifically, we challenge the RHoK community to:

  • Build a robust, user-friendly database of projects worldwide that is easily accessed with all metadata
  • Add map visualization and organization functionality
  • Add creative communication and chat capabilities that will allow everyone to connect and change the world together.

See our problem statements at http://www.rhok.org/node/18701 and http://www.rhok.org/problems/catalyst-map for more information.

We have a number of partners who have already contributed pieces to the puzzle, including:
Fragile Oasis
Coalition of the Willing
CatalystMAP
Open NASA
One Young World
The Hub
Random Hacks of Kindness
UMovement
USAID

We envision that the overall solution would:

  • Be single source.
  • Not take a “one site to rule them all” paradigm.
  • Not compete with existing collaboration/networking systems. We want to create a system that all humanitarian organizations can use to enhance their matching service on their own sites.
  • Allow people to scan data visualizations of the problems and challenges these different organizations are addressing, and also of the real or potential impact (determined using standardized metrics)
  • Be helpful to people using individual organization’s sites. It wouldn’t replace the individual sites – it would complement them.
  • Offer for people and orgs to install widgets on their sites and access the data through the widget on their own site.
  • Be Open Source.
  • Be user-friendly.
  • Be standardized and universally accepted.
  • Be apolitical.
  • Be accurate.
  • Be able to feed data to any site.
  • The end product should be transparent to end users.
  • Have robust social networking features.
  • Have enhanced search tools.
  • Allow users to participate in Facebook style chat.
  • Be self sufficient and financially sustainable.

What are your ideas about how to make the project effective and sustainable? Want to help with the Collaboration Project? Leave a comment below to share your ideas, or join us at a RHoK location near you this weekend!


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