Tuesday, Februrary 23rd
Photos from before the deluge
Belgian photographer and Magnum member Carl de Keyzer has a beautiful collection of images on his site, created by Group94, for whom website design for photographers seems to be a speciality. The Flash-driven portfolio contains thousands of photographs and the homepage opens with a short movie that is one of very few intros that you may actually want to see again rather than hitting the skip button.
Much of De Keyzers most impressive work deals with emotionally challenging themes, with many collections based on location work in third world countries. He is currently working on a major new European project however, called Moments Before the Flood. It began in 2008 and will run through to 2012. De Keyzer is spending a few months each year travelling the coasts of Europe, addressing the question of whether Europe is prepared for the possible dramatic rise of the sea level. A key focus is on the latent tension created by our incapacity to define just how real the threat actually is and how efficient our defences are against it.
The project is supported by mobile operator Orange, Magnum Photos, Hogeschool Gent and the Belgian Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Group94 have created a separate site for it, linked from the main site, which contains a very well written project description and a project blog, as well as the photo portfolio as it develops. As I looked through the first of the photos, I was reminded of the prophetic lines from 'Before the Deluge', from Jackson Browne's classic 1974 'Late for the Sky' album:
"Some of them were angry at the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them, only to be confused
By the magnitude of the fury in the final hour"
Having photographed in locations in the Benelux at the start of the project, he spent last year around the coast of Great Britain, and I've included three of the resulting photos here. This year he plans to travel through Ireland, Iceland, France and Iberia. Next year he'll be going to Italy and Scandinavia, and visits to Germany, Poland, the Balkans and Greece will complete the project in 2012. I look forward to revisiting the site over the coming three years, and can thoroughly recommend that you take an opportunity to give it a look.
Sunday, February 14th
Corporate citizenship newsletters
Ive been interested in the topic of how businesses can actively contribute to a wider group of stakeholders than their shareholders, customers, employees and suppliers since I conducted research on the topic at the LSE in the early seventies. Terms like welfare capitalism were still being used in those days, and it was still the preserve of a few, large, exceptional companies and philanthropic entrepreneurs.
Weve come a long way since, as evidenced by the hundreds of Annual CSR and Sustainability Reports that are now being published. Good corporate citizenship has been well and truly in the mainstream for a while now, as is the view that contributing to a better environment and the welfare of society at large does not have to be an altruistic cost for businesses. Nowadays its not even seen as just benefiting reputation, enhancing brand value and employee motivation. It can and perhaps should be seen as a long-term commercial business investment.
Im pleased to say that helping companies to effectively communicate their CSR activities to all their audiences has become a speciality for Oake Communications. As we're now in the middle of the peak season for annual reporting, I'm in the office right now, working on CSR reports for three clients. One of the ways we keep in touch with developments in the corporate citizenship arena is to subscribe to a number of newsletters that Id like to share with you today.
Ethical Corporation is a London-based independent publisher and conference organiser, launched in 2001 to encourage debate and discussion on responsible business. They've published Ethical Corporation magazine for over five years, and we've been receiving a free monthly e-newsletter from them since the beginning of this year.
CSRwire is a leading source of corporate social responsibility and sustainability news, reports and information. Its members are companies and NGOs, agencies and organizations interested in communicating their corporate citizenship, sustainability, and socially responsible initiatives to a global audience through CSRwire's syndication network and weekly News Alerts. Subscribing to their free news alerts provides a useful resource for staying abreast of corporate social responsibility issues. Press releases distributed by companies and non-profit organizations provide insight into emerging business practices. CSRwire is a subsidiary of Meadowbank Lane Capital, which the Wall Street Journal describes as a 'socially responsible investment bank', but theyre sensible not to make their self-promotion too intrusive.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an independent, multi-stakeholder institution that develops and disseminates globally applicable Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The GRI is an official collaborating centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and works in cooperation with the UNs Global Compact. As were frequently called upon to provide CSR communications consultancy and write for clients on the subject, we've been organizational stakeholders of the GRI since 2003. Subscribing to the GRI Monthly News Update is free of charge however.
Another organization that promotes CSR tools and standards is what used to be known as the UKs Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability, now better known simply as AccountAbility. We've been receiving their free monthly newsletter since early in 2002.
'People Planet Profit', or 'P+', is a Dutch organization dedicated to CSR and sustainability. It was launched in 2002, and is published by Atticus BV, run by Bob Wennekendonk, who was earlier the publisher of the Dutch advertising and marketing trade weekly Adformatie. The editor is Jan Bom, who used to be editor of FNV Magazine and Media Manager of the ArenA initiative in Amsterdam-Zuidoost. Their free e-newsletters are interesting and often provide alternative viewpoints to the others, but are nowadays only available in Dutch.
From 2002 through 2006 we used to receive Biz Ethics Buzz, the e-mail newsletter from Business Ethics magazine. In October 2007, Business Ethics was incorporated into 'The CRO', a cross-media package for Corporate Responsibility Officers. In addition to The CRO magazine, website and events, they publish a free bi-monthly e-newsletter every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month. The newsletters include news in review, trends and reports, opinion pieces and an overview of upcoming features in the magazine.
A last recommendation before this post takes up the whole page is the free press release service from the World Economic Forum, the organization most famous for the annual meetings they organize in January in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. What they used to call newsletters when we started subscribing in 2003 were always undisguised WEF press releases, and now they call them just that. Since they very often make the news in areas where globalization meets sustainability and corporate citizenship, however, Ive found them to be a useful resource.
Thursday, February 11th
Streaming idiosyncrasy: Internet radio from the backwoods
I'm recommending two Internet radio stations today that share a number of characteristics, one of which is that they are both labours of love.
Hober is a wonderfully idiosyncratic Internet radio station which broadcasts from a geodesic dome (above) in an oak forest outside Washington DC. Although the last time I checked the dome houses three stories, three T1 lines and 30 computers, the music programming is about as far removed from high tech as could be imagined. As founder Gregor Markowitz explains: Lets face it, there are most likely a lot of artificial creations in the vicinity of your computers right now. The last thing you need is artificial music. Hober brings unvarnished sounds into a glossy space.
You used to need the free RealPlayer to listen to Hober's streams. In this case, the player window displays details of the tracks being played, messages from listeners and recommended website links. A couple of years ago they added an MP3 stream, so since then I've often tuned in using iTunes.
Much of the music youll hear on Hober Thinking Radio is what is often described nowadays as Americana bluegrass, American folk, blues and so on. But the overall effect is more eclectic and multi-dimensional than that implies. The essential theme is that most of the programming is acoustic, and they regularly include seldom-heard World music, jazz, celtic, reggae and pieces from select contemporary artists. Hober Thinking Radio is a breath of fresh air-waves on the Internet. When your ears feel like returning to nature, give them a treat by tuning in to this great station.
My second recommendation is Whole Wheat Radio, broadcasting from a little plywood cabin (above) in Talkeetna, Alaska. Like most webcasting stations, they focus on independent musicians, but their choice of genres includes acoustic, folk, jazz, classical, bluegrass, singer-songwriter, swing, big-band, new age, instrumental, blues, spoken word, and humour.
One of the things thats really special about Whole Wheat Radio is that theyve compensated for the fact that the music is usually programmed in advance so the volunteer DJs are not always live online by allowing the playlist to be over-ridden by listener requests. Their website was converted into a 'wiki' a while back, which is entirely appropriate to their open, cooperative approach. An example of how well the community feel works is that a listener competition produced a number of new logo suggestions, including the fun one above. Listeners can make requests, chat to each other, and even call in to an Alaskan number to leave a message that's broadcasted at the end of the current song. I applaud founder Jim Kloss for his terrific contribution to Internet culture, and thoroughly recommend that you give WWR a listen.