"We believe that asking questions improves the world." Dropping Knowledge is one of those projects that could be really important. Granted, it's relatively young and not fully developed yet, but its goal is extremely noble and the approach innovative and promising. The scope is impressive and that makes it hard to summarize quickly what it's about, but the best soundbite we've come up with is: "It's is a mix of TED and Wikipedia, but not really." It has also been described as "a platform for social change, open to every citizen of the world". The first phase of Dropping Knowledge is centered around questions. They are currently gathering thousands of questions on all kinds of subjects from people all around the world (we strongly encourage you to "donate" your questions about the environment - or anything - here and to watch the original "question film"), and in Berlin on September 9th, 2006, there will be an event titled The Table of Free Voices. There, 112 "inspiring individuals" (thinkers, artists, writers, scientists, social entrepreneurs, philosophers and humanitarians) will "drop their knowledge" on the 100 highest-rated questions that have been submitted. The answers will be filmed, generating some 600 hours of totally free copyleft footage. This huge amount of information will be the seed from which Dropping Knowledge's Living Library will grow, and more ideas and discussions in the form of film, print, pictures and audio will constantly be added from that point onward.
The dropping knowledge Living Library is an ever-growing, open-source platform for multiple viewpoints [...] The Living Library empowers users to come together and inhabit a conceptual topography of 25,000 interconnected issues, setting up camp around the issues that interest them and creating a new space for ideas, information and people-powered solutions. New global problems require a new global approach. The Living Library not only increases awareness of existing solutions but, through an active dialog among users, generates new answers, new initiatives and new solutions.
We think that it has the potential to be a very useful tool to better the world, including in the environmental field, but not in isolation from the rest. It could lead to an integrated approach and get people to consider environmental problems (and opportunities) side-by-side with humanitarian, cultural, technological, philosophical and economic issues.
But what does the phrase "dropping knowledge" mean, you ask?
dropping knowledge is a way of asking and answering questions that respects other viewpoints and leads to a meaningful exchange. When you ask in order to understand, when you answer in order to share, you are already practicing dropping knowledge.
Here are the Dropping Knowledge Principles. They give an idea of what the whole project is like:
INCLUSIVENESS dropping knowledge is an open public resource that welcomes everyone, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender or class.
SUSTAINABILITY dropping knowledge will expand the reach and access of the Living Library and other activities, and foster solution-driven change by inspiring new initiatives and partnerships among individuals, NGOs and corporations.
COPYLEFT dropping knowledge abides by a CopyLeft principle of distribution. All content donated to or generated by dropping knowledge is freely available to all for all time.
PUBLIC OWNERSHIP dropping knowledge is an open-source platform with 100% stakeholder perspective. It cannot be owned by any organization, corporation or individual. It belongs to the people of the world.
TRANSPARENCY dropping knowledge commits to full transparency and disclosure, informing its community of the way it spends its donated resources.
INDEPENDENCE dropping knowledge neither endorses nor supports commercial, political or ideological interests.
GRASS ROOTS CHANGE A global initiative, dropping knowledge believes in finding and supporting development at the local level that can lead to broad systemic change at the international level.
The next phase of development of Dropping Knowledge is described this way on the site:
Sustainability is a pillar of the dropping knowledge philosophy.
After a broad spectrum of knowledge has been collected and made available to the global public via the archive, Living Library, exhibition, film, photography and print media, dropping knowledge will shift its focus to initiatives and solutions that contribute to positive change. Together with its Founding Partner, Allianz, and other interested individuals, NGOs and corporations around the globe, dropping knowledge will draw attention, resources and support to sustainable solutions and best-practice initiatives emerging from the Living Library.
A transparent global platform, dropping knowledge will enable individuals and organizations to find each other and work together. NGOs, for example, will meet businesses or other NGOs offering know-how or resources on relevant issues. Individuals and socially-minded companies, meanwhile, will discover innovative projects and organizations to support.
It's a perfect example of "think globally, act locally", except that "think" is supplemented with "share", "discuss" and "learn". Like Wikipedia, the value of Dropping Knowledge will increase as more content is added and more people participate, but that value will not increase linearly; it's the connections that will be made between the ideas and people that should make it something great.
We encourage you to explore ::Dropping Knowledge, send your questions (they might be answered by the Table!) and rate the questions that have already been submitted. Hurry up, the clock is ticking: The Table of Free Voices is on September 9th.
U.S. citizens can also submit their questions via 877-DK-ASK-NOW, a toll free number.
You can watch the question of Lester Brown, or Quin Chuan, a Greenpeace campaigner in China, or David Hochschild's, an environmentalist from San Francisco. But there are many more questions, short films and graphic ads on the site.