Community News

2016 Crowds & Climate Conference In-Review



“It’s now possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of
people, all over the world, at a scale, and with a degree of collaboration,
that was never possible before in human history.”
– Professor Thomas Malone
Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence & Climate CoLab Founder
Crowds & Climate Opening Remarks

2016 Climate CoLab Winners Cohort & CoLab team at Crowds & Climate. Photo credit: David Sella
From September 28 – 29, 2016, the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence’s Climate CoLab, in collaboration with four groups working on climate change at MIT, hosted the fourth Crowds & Climate conference on the MIT campus.  The conference brought together over two hundred participants from around the globe for an in-person celebration of the twenty-seven winning teams from seventeen Climate CoLab contests concluded in 2016.

“I’ve seen the Climate CoLab grow from 5,000 members to over the 75,000 members that we have today,” said Climate CoLab Project Manager Laur Hesse Fisher, before calling the winning teams to the stage, “And one of the things that I’ve learned is that the ideas are important, but more important are the people behind the ideas.”  The winners represented entrepreneurs, researchers, non-profit leaders, students, and others from ten countries around the world.

Winners’ interactive breakout sessions.
Photo credit: David Sella 

The day then led into a series of breakout sessions where the winners showcased their work. Each presented a short video, which was followed by moderated Q & A.  Attendees and winners then worked together in sub-breakouts focused on driving the winners’ work forward.  The sessions were webcast live and several winners presented virtually from their home countries. Session topics included:

  • Inspiring the Public
  • Localizing Energy
  • Transforming Transportation
  • MIT Campus & Region
  • Social Enterprises in Developing Countries
  • Apps & Maps
  • Sustainable Supply Chains
That afternoon, Thomas Malone and Jason Pontin, the Editor-in-Chief of MIT Technology Review, discussed the methodology behind Climate CoLab in a fireside chat co-hosted by MIT’s Solve initiative.  They explored the role that crowds can play in large-scale problem-solving, which is the driving focus of Climate CoLab itself: sourcing innovative ideas on combatting climate change through a solutions-driven online platform.

Pictured left: Jason Pontin, MIT Technology Review;  Thomas Malone, Climate CoLab. Photo credit: Dominick Reuter

Janos Pasztor, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, gave the evening’s keynote address. “If we want to keep our very ambitious [Paris Agreement] goals,” he remarked, “we need nothing less than a revolution.”

Janos Pasztor, Keynote Remarks, Crowds & Climate Conference
Photo credit: Dominick Reuter

The evening concluded with Thomas Malone announcing the Climate CoLab 2016 Grand Prize winner and 3 Honorable Mentions to the Grand Prize. Climate Smart, a British Columbian company took home the $10,000 Grand Prize for their Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP) Dashboard, a carbon mapping tool that connects cities and businesses working to cut carbon emissions.

Right: Grand Prize Winner, Climate Smart’s Elizabeth Sheehan, accepting award from Thomas Malone.
Photo credit: David Sella.

 Left: Grand Prize and two of the three Honorable  Mentions teams, with Climate CoLab staff.
 Photo credit: David Sella.

The 3 Honorable Mentions to the Grand Prize included:

  • Benjamin Huber and Juna Shrestha, two researchers from Switzerland and Nepal who developed a project to help rice farmers in Nepal adopt a low-methane growing method.
  • James Gula, a retired Intel engineer who proposed using a franchise
    model to deploy locally-owned and operated microgrids
    developing countries. This model can help the 1.2 billion people who
    live without electricity today more quickly access energy at scale.
  • Nishaant Sangaavi and Alex Corneglio, entrepreneurs who built My Energy Xpert, an online tool that helps home and small-building owners conduct a cheap, 15-minute energy audit. On average, their current users accept 70% of their retrofit recommendations, achieving an average of 25% in energy savings.
Bob Halperin facilitating the UnConference.
Photo credit: David Sella

The following day, September 29, an “UnConference” format allowed participants to co-create the agenda, and dive deeper into topics of personal interest. Facilitated by Bob Halperin, president of Alumni Forum Services & Research Affiliate at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, it offered a forum for deeper exploration of topics like financing climate solutions, local sustainable energy, how online collaborative platforms like Climate CoLab can be improved, how to prepare for the impacts of climate change, and many more.  Notes from the session can be found here.

Climate CoLab wishes to thank all those that joined for Crowds & Climate — both in-person and online — and the many volunteers, co-sponsors and collaborators who helped make it possible.

Congratulations once again to the 2016 Climate CoLab winners!

Learn more about Crowds & Climate:

Crowds & Climate was hosted by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence’s Climate
, and co-sponsored by five groups at MIT working on aspects of climate change:

The conference was aligned with MIT’s Solve, whose mission is to discover, evaluate, and advance solutions to big, global problems; and was a part of HUBweek, a week-long city-wide festival celebrating ideas and innovation in the Boston area hosted by MIT, Harvard University, the Boston Globe, and Mass General Hospital.