Monthly Archives: July 2012

LAUNCH Borg: Collective Genius

“Resistance is futile!” The Borg, Star Trek Next Generation

We are the LAUNCH Borg, the Collective Genius for a Better World. For all you Trekkies out there, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you non-Trekkies, the Borg is a fictional collective of multiple species connected together by a “hive mind.”

Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard as Borg

Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard as Borg

In Star Trek Next Generation, the Borg assimilated populations by force, absorbing their collective intelligence. At LAUNCH, we have no need for force. Folks come to us by choice to participate as innovators, LAUNCH Council, and non-traditional partners. We assimilate ideas and expertise through associations within our extended network — the collective genius (think hive mind) — in order to support transformative innovations and propel them into the world to solve intractable problems.

Astronaut Ron Garan sharing orbital perspective at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

Astronaut Ron Garan sharing orbital perspective at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

We concluded the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum last weekend at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. I’m still processing all the conversations (as well as pictures) from the event. I came away energized and renewed. LAUNCH is a brain feast for me — an opportunity to talk about what if, and why not, and let’s do it. New ideas bubble up and collaborations are born. The atmosphere of generosity by all the participants is, quite frankly, humbling. One of our new LAUNCH team members from NIKE told me LAUNCH filled him with hope for the future. And that’s what it’s all about.

Together, we can make a difference!

Impact rotations at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

Impact rotations at LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum

We asked our LAUNCH Council and Innovators to provide feedback on their experience at the conclusion of  the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum. Here are a few quotes:

  • “LAUNCH plays an important role in society”
  • “best investment of time to connect with future collaborators, best example of true collaboration, inspiring to be a part of selfless, genuine desire to help launch these ideas and change the world”
  • “this is the most work fun I’ve had in YEARS!”
  • “intense and rejuvenating”
  • “inspiring, creative, bold with the potential for real impact”
  • “energizing, optimism, game changing things for the world”
  • “amazing brain food” 
  • “the most transformative and impactful weekend”
  •  “phenomenal, soul food, humbling”
  •  “youthful enthusiasm matched with high intellect and professionalism–usually one gets two out of these three”
  •  “the conference for a new millennium”
  • “one of the highlights of my life and career so far”

I’m so thrilled to be a part of LAUNCH. Not only can we promote innovative solutions for the problems facing humanity, we can offer our NASA problem-solving expertise and potentially pick up unexpected solutions to long-duration human space challenges. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance between the extreme environment of space and constrained resources on Earth, while creating new ways of conducting public-private partnerships that other government agencies can follow.

Cool story: One of our LAUNCH partners told me that when asked by the airport customs official why he was coming to the US from Indonesia, he told him all about LAUNCH and how NASA’s challenges in the extreme environment of space mirror our struggle with extreme resource constraints on Earth. Score! He’s telling our relevance story for us. Such a fab validation for non-traditional outreach approaches, like LAUNCH. His circle of influence is outside any we could touch through our normal space network.

LAUNCH Panorama of Beyond Waste forum

LAUNCH Panorama of Beyond Waste forum

The quote below from Nader Khalili really put LAUNCH in perspective for me.

“My quests became more meaningful when my goals met with others’ needs and goals. And I became more important, in my own heart, only when I reached the others, as a drop of water becomes important only when it reaches the sea.” Nader Khalili, Racing Alone

The nine innovators associated with LAUNCH: Beyond Waste are but a drop of water. But, when connected to the sea of resources through the LAUNCH collective genius, the innovations collectively expand their potential impact toward solving the problems of humans living sustainably within constrained and finite resources available on (and off) this planet.

LAUNCH: Collective Genius for a Better World — or — LAUNCH: Better than Borg! 😉


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LAUNCH: Innovation Super Bowl

“Your heart, not your knowledge or skill, is your qualification for leadership.”

A guest pastor at DC Metro church last weekend made this statement above. As I listen to the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste innovators share their passion for making the world a better place, I keep thinking the heart is what draws us together for the common goal of solving the intransigent problems facing humanity — like water, health, energy, and now waste.

After our first day of prep session with the innovators, I’m renewed with hope for what we can do collectively, if we join together with single purpose. Each of us on the LAUNCH team speaks the same passion language for a sustainable existence (both on and OFF this planet).

The LAUNCH forum is our Innovation Super Bowl.

We work for months to source and gather the right mix of expertise, experience, and influence for the LAUNCH Council and a balanced set of innovations to tackle complex issues. Once we get to this point in the process, we recharge off the collective genius of the minds gathered together for the forum.

Here are a few snapshots from Pasadena so far.

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LAUNCH: Collective Genius for Better World!


Filed under innovation, LAUNCH, social entrepreneurship, space, technology

Stay tuned for LAUNCH: Beyond Waste

It’s finally here — LAUNCH: Beyond Waste! We’ve been working for the last six months to get to this point. We head out to Pasadena, California this week to hear from nine innovators with creative ways to create value from discarded products  — plastic bottles, human and plant waste, unused fabric, and more.

LAUNCH, for those of you who haven’t heard me talk about it before, is a social entrepreneurship enterprise that breaks new ground in public/private partnerships. We created the LAUNCH program three years ago to address large, sustainability-related challenges that no single government or commercial entity can solve alone. Our talented LAUNCH team searches for transformative innovations, which we connect with a collaborative group of thought leaders and experts which we call LAUNCH Council. LAUNCH Innovators are uniquely poised to accelerate their innovations for greater impact and scale by leveraging the advice, networks, and resources of the LAUNCH Council members and the global stage LAUNCH provides.

The ultimate goal of LAUNCH is a sustainable future for planet Earth and her citizens.

The LAUNCH: Beyond Waste forum is the fourth in a series of challenges, following Water, Health, and Energy. The LAUNCH team focused on waste as a challenge topic in order to address increasing strain on the planet’s limited resources. Global citizens, as well as explorers who leave Earth’s protection, share the need for creative solutions to the issue of waste — from designing for zero waste to revaluing existing waste from inefficient production and processes. LAUNCH: Beyond Waste addresses this global challenge.

I love the tagline from Anshu Gupta of Goonj, one of our innovators from India, who wants to transform the cash society into a trash society — meaning trash = revenue stream. Our western version: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Here are the cool movie posters our team (Trish and Lilly) created to represent each innovation we’ll feature at the forum.

Attero: Attero is India’s first low cost, efficient metal extraction technology for e-waste. With an integrated recycling and refurbishing facility and proprietary metallurgical processes (patent pending), Attero is the only end-to-end e-waste recycling company in India.

Goonj: Using urban waste streams as a powerful development resource in rural India, Goonj is dedicated to saving lives, empowering people, and ensuring dignity for the underserved poor in rural India. Through its activities, Goonj helps to create a parallel economy that is not ‘cash based’, but ‘trash based.’

Kiverdi: Kiverdi offers a proprietary bioprocess that recycles waste carbon from a number of waste streams, including syngas (from forestry residue and landfills), stranded natural gas or agricultural residue, to produce drop-in fuels, oils and custom chemicals. Kiverdi’s industrial scale bioreactor allows the company to transform biomass into high value industrial products.

Pylantis: Pylantis is a bioplastics company with a proprietary process that combines organic fillers (waste) with plant plastic resins to create high waste content injection molded products capable of withstanding temperatures up to 140C. Pylantis produces a wide variety of products that provide a commercially viable alternative to environmentally unsustainable traditional petroleum-based plastic products.

re:char: re:char’s technology allows farmers worldwide to convert their waste into biochar, a carbon-negative soil amendment to grow more food and fight climate change.

RecycleMatch: RecycleMatch is the first global on-line marketplace for recycling that connects waste generators, recyclers, and manufacturers. The RecycleMatch platform finds the ‘highest and best use’ for recyclables and ‘waste’ byproducts in the market.

Sanergy: Sanergy provides quality sanitation facilities, efficient and effective waste collection services, and proper waste treatment in the slums of Kenya.

SEaB Energy: SEaB provides companies a turn-key waste to energy product which uses micro anaerobic digestion to convert organic waste into energy on-site at the source of the waste generation where the energy can be utilized continuously.

SIRUM: SIRUM disrupts the pharmaceutical supply chain by redistributing unused, unexpired medicine that would otherwise be destroyed.

You can follow along during the forum at the NASA MindMapr page. Learn more about the forum on the NASA website.

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Filed under innovation, LAUNCH, NASA, social entrepreneurship, technology