How to contribute to Appropedia

wikis

Our partners, Engineers Without Borders Australia, put us in touch with RDIC, a development organization doing great work with water filters and other development projects in Cambodia. They asked about contributing to Appropedia.

We’ve made some notes for you:

  • Appropedia is solution-oriented, not activist or political. (Discussion of policy is fine, but we seek to be apolitical. The promotion of sustainable and appropriate solutions is fine, but the main focus is on the solutions themselves).
  • Share anything as long as you are willing to let other people use it as they wish. We use an open license, allowing any use, including commercial, without additional approval, as this is the most effective way to ensure the information is used.
  • Share your information, but please share more: consider sharing designs, solutions that have worked for you, checklists that workers use in the field, project write-ups, how-tos, and/or successes as well as failures.  Don’t limit yourself – if it’s useful to you, it’s probably useful to someone in Thailand, Uganda, etc.
  • You don’t have to log in to Appropedia, but it’d be nicer if you do. Also, register your email under preferences; this helps people get in touch with you. Connecting with like-minded people is a great benefit here.
  • There’s a format bar above the edit box – play with it, but don’t worry too much.
  • Errors are easily reverted – so be bold!

For more information on how to start a new page – see Help:Creating a page.

Appropedia, a global community

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Can local groups and communities could use the wiki as their own way of connecting and sharing knowledge? Absolutely!

Appropedia is not only a living library, but:

  • A collaborative workspace, both to grow the library and for plotting real-world action.
  • A networking tool. While our platform (MediaWiki) is not designed as a social networking tool, this is a community full of hardcore sustainability buffs and problem-solvers worldwide and from all walks of life.
  • A “shell” within which communities can operate, serving their members and connecting with partners both local and distant. A community of communities, if you will.
  • A way of increasing profile & findability.
  • A way of increasing synergy. Why work on a greywater treatment page on a locally focused site with a small number of contributors and readers when you can work with a global community on making an awesome page?
  • You can have your own pages on your own projects, too, as part of a collection of designs from around the world. Be like the developer of the Home biogas system (Philippine BioDigesters), who received emails of thanks, along with design improvements, from around the world.

This was prompted by a question from Steven Walling during a presentation on Appropedia. It made us realize how far ahead Appropedia is when we envisage it, compared to what a visitor to the site sees today (e.g., the greywater treatment page is one-twentieth or one-hundredth as good as we’d like to see it). People already say how great the site is, but we foresee something much, much greater.

Open access content on Appropedia

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CD3WD (CD for the 3rd World) and WikiGreen (the first major green wiki) have done enormous work getting permission for books and other great resources in sustainability and development and getting it online. All up, there are thousands of pages on specific agricultural subjects, appropriate technologies for building, and more.

Much of that content has ended up on Appropedia. It’s valuable content, and we are allowed to share it. But we’ve had a dilemma: it’s not under an open license, as far as we know. It’s open access but can’t be reused or modified, and certainly, there hasn’t been permission given to use commercially. That clashes with our default license.

So, do we remove it? That would be a great loss to the internet community when searching for answers on these important subjects. This is something we’ve agonized over. Instead, we are now placing notices on these pages, noting that these are exceptions to Appropedia’s regular license. So far, all the CD3WD pages that we have had the notices placed on them.

If you’re aware of any work which should not be displayed (i.e., the rights-owners do not give permission for it to be made available as open access), please let us know, and we will take action to fix things up (gain permission or remove it).

This is why solar hot water is worth it

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There’s a big need for low cost, effective solar hot water designs. This is not just a matter of saving money (and, of course, all the other benefits of saving energy, like saving the planet). Many people worldwide do not have hot water on tap and would benefit from easier washing clothes and dishes.

We have some work detailed about solar hot water on Appropedia, built-in Parras, Mexico. These are largely sunny places – even a black pipe lying in the sun will create hot water. But what are the hottest water and the most straightforward, reliable product that someone can get for the money they spend?

One challenge that faces such countries is that they often have fossil fuel subsidies, especially those countries that are traditional oil-producers. Solar loses much of its economic advantage when fuel gets a subsidy.

Changing someone’s thinking to save a tiny amount of money is hard. But with other angles to complement the economic incentives, there is hope. Get kids involved, explain why solar hot water is better, get the ideas taught in the schools. Emphasize the green side of things, children’s benefits, and make the designs freely available in people’s own language.

By Solarkent.

Sustainable community action

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Phil Green started the Sustainable Community Action wiki in 2004 – it’s about:

Information and knowledge sharing, but with a focus on what might be useful to community groups and active citizens interested in taking action to make their communities more sustainable and in support of environmental, social and economic wellbeing,

For some time he’s been looking for a new home for the wiki, and he’s decided to work with Appropedia. We’re very glad to have him Phil, and look forward to working with him.

Phil is now adding pages to Appropedia about locations around the world and their community actions – hundreds in total – which he has consolidated from over 2600 pages on the original site. Some of these form new pages (see the Sustainable community action category) and others are being merged with existing pages.

This builds an important area in our sustainability knowledge bank, and I hope we can find a powerful synergy.

How on Earth do we create a better world?

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The Post Growth Institute is raising money to create a book, and (at the time of writing) they’re less than three days away and at 87% of their goal.

Donnie Maclurcan from the Post Growth Institute is a personal friend, and a friend to Appropedia. He’s also an engaging and provocative communicator, and I’m happy to see this book going ahead. He and Jen Hinton write:

Imagine waking up in a world where you feel good about going to work, no matter the nature of your job. You feel positive and motivated, knowing that your work provides you with a livelihood that also contributes to the wellbeing of others in a way that respects the ecological limits of the planet.

Welcome to a not-for-profit world, where businesses can still make profits, but any profits are always reinvested for social or organizational benefit, rather than being accumulated privately by individuals. This world emerged because, around 2013, a large number of people came to the realization that any economic system that centralizes wealth and power is, ultimately, socially and ecologically unsustainable.

People were fed up with excessive executive salaries, a financial sector divorced from the real world, corporations with more say than people, endless spin from politicians and entrepreneurs about the latest technological ‘solution’, and the trappings of mindless consumption.

As the mainstream attention on the Occupy movement faded, protesters even started to question whether being fed up was worthwhile.

Then a real alternative emerged. The people already had a business structure that wasn’t centered on creating private profit and concentrating wealth and power; all they had to do was grow the not-for-profit sector, shifting power away from the for-profits.

A not-for-profit economy changed the game by decentralizing wealth and power, while maintaining incentives for innovation and increasing people’s desire for meaningful work.

Before 2013, when for-profit enterprise was the main business model, it was contributing to financial inequity and vested interests. This had led to an increase of status anxiety due to drastic differences in material wealth. The majority of people often felt that because they didn’t have as many material possessions as the wealthy classes, among whom the money had been concentrated, they couldn’t be as happy.

For some people in the lowest income brackets, this inequality not only meant status anxiety and shame, but even a lack of consumption choices, affecting diet and health. For many, the solution was to consume more of whatever they could afford.

On the global level, this overconsumption went hand-in-hand with production practices that exploited workers in sweatshops to make cheap and plentiful products, while decimating key natural resources. This was clearly unsustainable. As more and more people realized that all forms of capitalism and socialism – grounded in a growth mentality – centralize wealth and power and are therefore unsustainable, they also began to see how a not-for-profit economy offered a way to decentralize power, whilst maintaining innovation.

When a critical mass of people reached this realization and accelerated the shift to the not-for-profit business model, everything started to change for the better.

How on Earth could that be possible?

This scenario of a not-for-profit world is closer to the present reality than you might think. Across numerous countries, the economic contribution of the not-for-profit sector has been on the rise since the late 1990s. In Canada, for example, not-for-profit institutions now contribute 8% of the country’s gross domestic product.

This is possible because not-for-profit does not mean ‘no-profit’ or ‘can’t make a profit’. Not-for-profit actually means not for private profit or not for the primary purpose of making a profit. Across most countries and jurisdictions, not-for-profits can make as much or as little money as they want, they just cannot provide payouts to private individuals from any surplus.

The pioneering work of not-for-profit businesses, from sectors as diverse as construction, manufacturing, banking, hospitality and healthcare, suggest that innovative, sustainable economies, with high levels of employment, can exist without the private profit motive.

Many not-for-profits also understand that generating their own income allows them to fund the good work they do (as opposed to the traditional approach that depends on grants and philanthropy). Take, for example, BRAC, the world’s biggest not-for-profit organization.

Since 1972, BRAC has supported over 100 million people through its social development services, but almost 80% of its revenue comes from its own commercial enterprises, including a large-scale dairy and a retail chain of handicraft stores, all of which are run according to a holistic vision of sustainable business.

More importantly, not-for-profit enterprises could regularly out-compete equivalent ‘for-profit’ businesses in the near future, based on a combination of factors, such as:

• not-for-profit enterprises better utilizing the benefits of the communications revolution on reduced organizational costs;
• an increasing awareness of the tax concessions and free support available solely to not-for-profits;
• the trend in consumer markets toward supporting ethical businesses and products;
• the ability of not-for-profit enterprises to survive and even thrive during years of downturn, given their sustainability does not rely on making profits and that profit margins will continue to get smaller as resource constraints impact business costs.

How on Earth can you help?

Here at the Post Growth Institute, we are writing a book: How on Earth? Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050. This will be the world’s first book to explore the prospect of not-for-profit enterprise becoming the central model of local, national and international business, by 2050. It will also outline practical steps that you, as a member of the public, can take to fast-track this evolution to a sustainable economy.

We have created a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in order to gather the financial support needed to finish researching and writing the book, as well as the funds to publish, print, market and distribute it. You can help by contributing money to the crowdfunding campaign here and spreading the word about this project and crowdfunding campaign as far and wide as possible.

For an outline of the book’s main ideas, see this 2012 talk by the book’s lead author, Dr Donnie Maclurcan, at the Environmental Professionals Forum.

Why “rich” and sustainable?

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One of our readers sent us an email and asked why this is Appropedia’s vision.

Sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.

In developing countries, we’ve sometimes found a perception that sustainability is being foisted upon them to block them from having wealth like that of wealthy nations.

That’s not the sustainability we want. Appropedia stands for fair and just sustainability. Moreover, we know that with the appropriate choices in technology and design, with access to medical care, water, sanitation, and transport, richer lives are possible. A small, well-designed passive solar house is a pleasure to live in – superior to a poorly designed mansion. Healthy soils yield fresh, abundant, delicious food. This is the prosperity we’re talking about.

These are the riches we envision for the world.

What’s your Appropedia story?

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What brought you to Appropedia? What did you find, and what difference did it make for you?

We’d love to hear your stories, short or long, about how you used Appropedia. Please take a moment to add a comment at the end of this post to tell us about your experience. Whether you learned something, or were inspired, or found what you needed for your project, or contribute your knowledge about making the world better in one particular way – let us know what Appropedia means to you. Even a single line is valuable feedback and appreciated.

You can share your story as a comment below or add it to our Appropedia:Stories page on Appropedia itself – and you can read other stories there, as well. You can also share on this Appropedia Facebook post.

We hope to re-share these stories to inspire others, so comments left here are accepted under the same Attribution ShareAlike license used by Appropedia. Many thanks – and we look forward to hearing your story!

Searching the green dev wikisphere

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There is an ecosystem of wiki websites on sustainability, design and development issues.

Appropedia is a large and broad site; others include small but active communities and NGOs doing good, focused work (e.g. Greenlivingpedia and Akvopedia), wikis run by multilateral organizations (e.g. the UNDP’s WaterWiki and the OECD’s Wikiprogress and Wikigender), and (sadly) wikis where nothing has happened for years, and the community appears to have scattered.The ecosystem isn’t exactly thriving – even when we’re friendly (and we usually are) we don’t talk and we don’t share as much as we’d like.

As communities we want to collaborate and encourage each other, but as individuals we’re busy – and I’m as guilty as anyone. What can help is just being aware of what is on other wiki sites – knowing of good wiki pages out there in the green wikisphere, to learn from, borrow from and link from our own pages. That can even lead to the odd bit of drive-by editing on another wiki – all the better.

To that end, here’s a tool I’ve made: a search engine for green and development wikis.

It’s a Google custom search of over 40 wiki sites. Apologies to the good wikis I haven’t named in this blog post, but I hope you’ll check that your site shows up in the search results.

If you want to who’s writing about something on which wiki, this can help. The results are a little quirky, so allow a few seconds to scan the list to find what you want, and maybe try different search terms. Give it a try, and let me know.

May it add a little more unity to our wiki ecosystem.

Communications and social media internship

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Wherever you are in the world: if you’re studying Communications or wanting to break into the field, and you’re passionate about solutions for positive change in the world, then this could be the opportunity for you. Appropedia is always looking for interns to help us communicate and engage with people interested in this project and share with and strengthen our existing community.

The work in this internship will involve a mixture of interviewing, contacting, and/or writing publicity materials. You can work part-time, and you’ll have a lot of flexibility in how you work, but you’ll always have guidance available.

There is a lot to learn and to make a difference. We sometimes say, only half-jokingly, that Appropedia was built by engineers and scientists, so we’re much better at doing stuff than at talking about what we do. But we’ve talked and got better at it and become active in social media, as we’ve taken our message out there. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned with you, but we’re also happy to learn from you and with you.

You’ll need to take the initiative, experiment, and report on what’s working and what isn’t. We have high respect for failure with enthusiasm, which is often the basis for future success and precious learning.

This is a virtual internship – you’ll be working with people who might be on the other side of the world, but with email and chat, that’s not such a challenge these days. You can work from anywhere in the world with internet access. That requires you to manage your time, organize yourself and get things done – an online internship isn’t for everyone.

If you have any questions or want to apply, please get in touch with us.