The Network

These essays correspond to the six chapters of the film. They foreground the key ideas of each chapter and flesh out additional themes.
We offer the essays as commentary on the film, and hope they provide a springboard for further discussion and debate.

The Network

The collaborative network responsible for creating “Coalition of the Willing,” the film and website project, burst into being at the F5 Creativity Festival, in New York, April 2009. Simon and I were invited to present at F5 in late 2008. At this point we had a draft script, some storyboard concepts, and an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm. Simon had managed to infect Justin Cone, the Festival director, with a dose of this enthusiasm. Justin graciously slotted us in to speak between MSNBC star Rachel Maddow and the artist and photographer Charlie White. We were admirers of both these people, so we knew we had our work cut out for us. The fact is we were terrified. It was a perfect chance to disseminate our ideas and start building the coalition. We didn’t want to blow it.

Thankfully, the presentation went off without a hitch. We played it straight and spoke from the heart: two guys with some big ideas and a bus-load of ambition, calling out to people – “C’mon, get on board.” The response from the audience exceeded our expectations. At the end of our talk, Simon made an ad lib overture to anyone in the room who might be interested in helping out on the film. We thought perhaps that one or two people might come forward. But when we got to the Festival bar (the appointed place of congregation), there was a swarm of people waiting for us, buzzing with enthusiasm and purpose.

If you are one of those people who met us that day, and shared, together with your contact details, your passion, ideas, and enthusiasm for collaborative work – thank you! That was a little swarm-event, right there, and you were part of it. It rapidly expanded, sending out shoots and creepers in all directions. From out of the mess sprouted new possibilities that blossomed into unexpected projects and goals. The website that you are exploring is the product of this activity, and a testament to what can be achieved through collaborative action.

But the film and website is only the beginning. The real swarm offensive is yet to come. Whether or not it happens, to an extent, is up to you.

Most of the people we met at F5 were artists keen to help out on animating the film. Some, though, wanted to talk about creating the online network of sites that we’d discussed in the presentation. Simon and I had mixed feelings about this. Naturally, we were keen to promote the kind of creative movement that we describe in the film. But when it came down to it, we had no experience in web design, and little idea how the kind of system we had imagined might be put together. We saw (and still see) our role as being that of articulating a clear and provocative vision of a new internet pathway for the war on global warming. We’ll consider this project a success if it can generate enough interest and debate to consolidate this idea in public consciousness as a genuine possibility for the future.

But we weren’t going to let inexperience slow us down. On the same day as I got back from New York, I ran into a friend, Justin Tauber, a philosopher and experience architect I’ve known since grad school. I told Justin about F5 and the difficulty I was having turning my philosophical ideas into a design manifesto. Really, I can’t imagine a better person to have helped out at this stage. Justin and I had lunch and threw around some ideas, then met again over red wine and pasta to put thoughts on paper. Out of these sessions we produced the following project brief, which provides a good overview of three-site system that is described in the film, with technical suggestions added.

We include this brief not as a plan but as a provocation. Read it, reflect on what it wants to achieve. Build on it. Make it better. Take it to another level. Stay true to the ethos of open collaboration at the heart of the project. Turn this thing into a money-making venture and you’ll destroy what makes it work. Friendship and fulfilment, empowerment and, yes, even love – not money – is the goal. Think of the site-system as a machine that should produce diverse empowering experiences. If we make collaboration an empowering experience, people will flock to the project. When collaboration is empowering, people start to swarm.

Coalition of the Willing: Project overview

This project presents a bold new vision: an online network of three sites, forming a linked system, designed to inspire, enable, and transform the grassroots struggle against global warming. The goal of the three-site system is to promote practical convergence between ordinary citizens, activists, and innovator-experts, and to combine their energies and skills in collaborative projects targeting problems related to global warming.

Project mission

• To create an online hub designed to foster emergent organization and non-hierarchical problem-solving communities targeting problems related to global warming.

• Three sites, each with a different function and target audience: through reciprocal information flow, these sites complement one another, facilitating action and creating the credibility and buzz to draw in high-profile users.

• The aim of the three-site system is [1] to draw in a diverse set of users, and [2] to enable cross-functional teams that open new possibilities for action and experience.

Three-site system

1. Green Knowledge Trust (GKT)

Concept: A place where people share high-quality practical knowledge about low-carbon living. A source of reliable, reusable information that incites and enables action.

- General function: Library

- Target audience: Ordinary people

What users do: Record and refine green know-how.

What users learn: Practical knowledge on sustainable living.

What users remember: “If there is a green approach, this is the place to find it.”



• Wiki
• Not just articles about (know-that) but articles explaining how to (know-how)
• Image and film uploads

2. Open Innovation Centre (OIC)

Concept: A place where people can collaborate to design technologies to combat problems related to global warming. Provides spaces and tools for creative collaboration.

- General function: Creative platform

- Target audience: Experts/Innovators

What users do: Propose projects, form teams, collaborate

What users learn: How to creatively engage in diverse cross-functional teams. The goal is get university researchers working with industry researchers, business entrepreneurs, etc.

What users remember: “This is where the exciting projects are happening!”

Model: Open source development (Linux).


• Project/team management tools, inspired by open source development – e.g., issue/task-tracking and assignment software (JIRA), versioning/merging software (Subversion), goal tracking/road-mapping software

3. Catalyst System (CS)

Concept: A place where people can socialize, share experiences, participate in on-line events, and co-ordinate social actions.

- General function: World

- Target audience: Activists

What users do: Share experiences; organize

What users learn: What is happening; what collaborate could achieve

What users remember: “This is where green activism 2.0 is creating and expressing itself”

Model: Facebook meets Indymedia


• Facebook-style social media with user profiles; status updates; friend feeds; blogging

• Profiles with Karma (or alternative)

• Rich media: “GreenTube” (users upload clips detailing plans and experiences); CS Media: short films and adverts promoting the system and its initiatives

• High-profile video events: from debates and Q&As to lectures and thought seminars

• Green media aggregation (Google reader/Netvibes)

• Channels for OIC teams and links to OIC projects

• Widgets to badge other social networks

Links between sites

• Contributors to GKT and OIC profiled on CS

• Projects on OIC profiled on CS Media

• Green problems in need of solutions identified on GKT, showcased on CS and OIC

• Technologies and ideas developed on OIC added to GKT

User profiles/accountability

• Single sign-on and Karma (or alternative): users achieve status in community through actions.

• User profiles function as resumes for project involvement. For example, a user may want to see or be involved in a project on the OIC. They apply for access, present the team with their profile, and the team decides whether or not to let them in.

Tim Rayner

About the authorTimothy Rayner is a writer and philosopher based in Sydney, Australia. His consultancy, Philosophy for Change, teaches practical philosophical skills for everyday life. Tim has taught philosophy at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, Australia. He recently completed 'Philosophy for Change' the book, and is writing a book on innovation.

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