The Faculty Environmental Network for Sustainability (FENS) at MIT is a group of 100+ faculty and staff from across all schools on the MIT campus who have come together to try to make sustainability a larger part of the MIT course offerings for both undergraduate and graduate students. This requires a significant consensus-building effort within the administration. To help engage with the public and the rest of the MIT campus, Adroit was hired to build them a website. It features:
- a list of all FENS members’ names, titles, and email addresses
- presentations about topics that “every environmentally literate MIT graduate ought to know”
- information about a proposed new undergraduate minor
- information about a proposed new graduate certificate
- a moderated forum
- a contact page
- web traffic analytics
As well as other bells and whistles.
When we were researching this project, Adroit found that most websites about the environment and sustainability followed the same predictable aesthetic:
- a blue/green/brown color palette to match sky/grass/dirt colors,
- idealized and pastoral images of nature (think: small globe/plant/droplet in a child”s cupped hands, etc.), and
- transcendentalist text.
In addition to being predictable, that design aesthetic wouldn’t (in our client’s estimation) have optimum appeal to an empirically-minded MIT audience that, while perhaps animated by some of the same underlying goals and concerns, studies things like designing sustainable cities, engineering greener fuel resources, and tracking global climate change metrics. “It can’t look like something that could be dismissed as tree-hugging hippie stuff,” we were told. “This community prizes hard science.”
So we built FENS a site that would package the information in a style more indigenous to the engineering mindset that dominates the MIT academic community. Thanks in part to the creation of this site, the FENS has already accomplished some of its goals.
The Borderlands Project aims to balance economic development and environmentalism in a sustainable way in rural village centers along the Connecticut–Rhode Island border. Our contribution won us an award from the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
The Consensus Building Institute was asked to facilitate a long-term public planning process as part of this project. Part of it included interviews with stakeholders about what they value about their community. Capturing this input is vital to preserving what it is that residents like about their towns while they also work to change them for the better through sustainable economic development. It also gives participants greater voice, allows representatives to show their constituents that they are faithful to their camp”s interests, and encourages deliberative dialogue in the public sphere.
Adroit interviewed stakeholders at public meetings and edited the digital recordings into narrated Podcasts that were played on local radio stations and made available to stream or download for free online. There is one Podcast for Killingly, Connecticut and another for Exeter, Rhode Island, which can be heard here and here, respectively.
We recorded and edited audio of MIT and Harvard Professor Lawrence Susskind discussing his book Breaking Robert”s Rules. The book offers a deliberative group decision-making alternative to the archaic parliamentary procedure that structures (some would say handcuffs) most public hearings. The recording is available for free here.
Like most podcasts we make, we were able to cut about 90% of the tape because we have the microediting skills to seamlessly re-stitch audio recordings and the macroediting skills to know what”s relevant to the ADR field and what”s not.
Adroit is currently researching designing websites to facilitate and supplement online training, learning, and collaboration. For example, we are exploring how best to adapt both proprietary and free open-source platforms to create LMS (learning management systems) so that training for things like negotiation, mediation, and facilitation can be administered online in addition to or alongside face-to-face or classroom training. We are considering both for-profit e-commerce sites that sell online lessons and also “walled gardens” that are private (only members can enter) but collaborative (members can communicate freely).
For this Podcast, CBI’s Managing Director Patrick Field talked to Adroit CEO Noah G. Susskind about “public apologies”—apologies to the public on behalf of one”s self or organization. He discusses the apologies offered after The Challenger explosion, the Tylenol poisonings, and FEMA’s fake news conference.
This was used to promote Field’s trainings on public apologies for corporate and public clients. The The EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center later hired him to lead their staff through workshops on this issue, and CBI then commissioned a second interview with Field to tease those.
The Organization for the Assabet River (OAR) in Massachusetts asked the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) to facilitate a series of workshops and meetings in local communities to build a shared understanding of the science, planning, and policy issues concerning the river and its future. When it facilitated public stakeholder meetings, CBI invited participants to briefly speak with a CBI staff member about what they valued about the river.
CBI and Adroit led and recorded these informal conversations with just a microphone and a laptop. Adroit edited and distilled over an hour of these audio recordings into a short mp3 file that was posted on the CBI and OAR websites to help inform the public planning discussion about the river”s future—especially in regards to dam construction and pollution—with a sense of what the community values and uses the river for.