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Flat Earth Media spring 2015: New websites, a report from China, and a new look at world peace

In this update from Flat Earth Media I catch everyone up on a busy few months since my last post, including an op-ed in the Denver Post, a review of the IOC work in Nanjing, the New Mobility West initiative, and a pair of new websites for some quite talented artists.

Denver Post opinion
Report from Chinese Youth Olympics
New Mobility West
Matt Inden Website
Tyler Sage Website
Progress Colorado
Odds and ends

Is peace on earth possible?

A screenshot of Tom Boyd's column in the Denver Post.

My column in the Denver Post elicited a fair bit of discussion and comments regarding a variation on the old theme of world peace … and yet I shouldn’t be surprised that many people missed the main point of the piece (next time I promise not to bury the lead).

A year ago and I would have said “No,” and then probably added something like, “Peace is a wonderful ideal to strive for, but I’m not delusional. And as much as I love John Lennon’s music, I would say we have a point of disagreement when it comes to the inner workings of human nature.”

I still disagree with John, but I’ve come to take a different approach to the question of peace, which I wrote about in an op-ed published in the Denver Post over the 2014 holidays as well as in my home-town Vail paper. As I write in the column, a year working with the very pragmatic One Earth Future Foundation has given me a different perspective on the issue.

In the past, I’ve dismissed the question of peace entirely because the word “peace” immediately brings visions of everybody joining hands and singing in harmony. This is something we may see in Coke commercials or Christmas movies, but not in real life.

When we dismiss peace as a whole, however, we throw the baby out with the bathwater. The new peace movement, of which OEF is a part, sets a more realistic standard for peace: a world without major wars. From there, the movement shows how conflicts have been avoided in the past, how much progress we’ve made over the centuries, and how we can work, as a species, to minimize, even eliminate, the major death and destruction caused by war.

The project gave me opportunity to work with some of the brightest people in the world: Steven Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, Sanam Anderlini, Swanee Hunt, and Charles Stith, among many others.

There’s a lot more to this issue … so feel free to contact me if you’d like to join the discussion.

I’m happy to say that Flat Earth’s work with OEF has continued into 2015. We recently helped with a bit of work promoting the Somali Investment Forum, a joint event of Shuraako (a project of OEF) and the US Embassy in Nariobi. Evidence suggests that investing in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises offers a promising solution to economic struggles in Somalia, where unemployment rates for men are estimated at 61 percent, women at 74 percent, and youth aged 14-29 at 67 percent. The Forum is exactly the kind of event that makes real progress toward rehabilitating a post-conflict society.
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The Beacon of Nanjing

Nanjing opening ceremonies

The opening ceremonies of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games were quite a show (apologies for potato-quality image … was equipped only with my work phone for the event.)

My work with the International Olympic Committee took me to the old “southern capital” of China, Nanjing, this past August (Nan=South, Jing=Capital). There, I met with a group of veteran journalists to help find, and tell, the stories surrounding the Youth Olympic Games. We worked with media from around the world to make sure they had the help and information they needed to tell their athlete’s stories as well. Although the event isn’t quite a big deal here in the States, it was quite central to the Chinese public narrative in 2014.

More than 4,000 performers flooded the full-sized Olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies in a display to rival the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Games. From the moment I arrived, the people of Nanjing practically tackled me in the streets to inform me of their love for their city and the Games. Banners were everywhere. The city was adorned. It was quite the thing.

My skin, you may have noticed, is quite white, and my head is quite bald. In Nanjing, staring at people seems to be an ok thing to do. Combine that with my train ride each day to the various venues, and we’re talking about a lot of Chinese people staring at my shiny white dome while I pretended to shuffle the music on my phone. My head stuck out like a beacon in the night, thus the nickname “Beacon” stuck with my colleagues, and for 21 glorious days in Asia I tried to be a beacon of good times, lots of laughs, a few songs on the guitar, probably more beers than is really necessary, and of course a lot of hard work and top-shelf sports stories.
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New Mobility West

The town of Anaconda, Montana is one of several that have already benefited from NMW's programs.

The town of Anaconda, Montana is one of several that have already benefited from NMW’s programs.

Even as I burned the candle at both ends in Nanjing, the New Mobility West website was taking shape. Together with my colleagues at Flat Earth Media and the Sonoran Institute, we built a communications plan and a website for an initiative to help communities in the American West improve their economies by improving their transportation and mobility options.

The New Mobility West effort is already having a positive impact in the American West, hosting training and community assistance programs in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It’s amazing how for we’ve come in such a short time. It’s also amazing to see how much interest … even hunger there is among town officials and citizen leaders to hear the kind of insight and analysis NMW brings to the small towns and cities of the Rockies.

Flat Earth has facilitated that process with media and communications strategy consulting. We’ve also created a website that meets the modest needs of the organization, including an easy-to-use application system for parties interested in NMW’s training and community assistance programs.

Flat Earth’s work with New Mobility West picked up in full force once I returned from China, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Like every Sonoran Institute project I’ve worked on to this point, I find the people to be of high quality, and the approach to be measured, diligent, and insightful without exception. My belief in the ’round-table’ approach to community development has once again been affirmed.
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Matt Inden

Matt Inden website screenshot

Matt Inden needed a simple, elegant, and easy-to-use website to showcase his considerable talent.

Another fine achievement for our small firm is the launch of the Matt Inden website. Matt is a pulitzer-prize winning photographer who is one of the very few who can make the transition from breaking news photography to fine art photography without missing a beat, and his business has thrived from his gallery in Vail.

His success needed a new online home. Matt needed a website that he could easily control. He wanted to be able to make updates as needed, easily upload new photos, post announcements, and link to social media. He also wanted a simple, elegant design that would allow his images to take center stage. And, of course, he needed to do it all on a reasonable budget.

We took our time, kept it simple, and launched this spring. It’s a WordPress platform, hosted by partnership of Flat Earth Media and Synergy Technical Systems, which allows Matt the kind of control and WYSIWYG editing capability he desired. There are still many improvements yet to come, in particular with the way the shopping cart functions (right Matt!) but these will all be handled in due time. For now, it’s time to celebrate the new online presence enjoyed by one of my all time favorite photographers.

You can read more about Matt’s work here.
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Tyler Sage screenshot

Author Tyler Sage wanted the absolute minimum on his website. Like many of FE’s clients, he also wanted the ability to easily enter the backend of his site and make modifications without the need for outside support.

It’s also been my pleasure to provide a website for friend and author Tyler Sage. Tyler’s work has been featured in “The Common,” “The LA Review of Books,” “Pank,” “The Bright Lines Film Journal,” and many other publications throughout the country.

We are also quite close to seeing a full-length book of Tyler’s in print (cross your fingers!).

On a personal level, I believe Mr. Sage’s work to be some of the finest literature being written in America today. His insights into the American West, in particular, will be remembered and studied for many years to come, and I happily anticipate his discovery by a larger reading audience.

Like Matt, Tyler wanted a simple (or should we say Spartan? Minimalist?) easy-to-use site that he could manipulate on his own, show his work, and engage in blogging and conversation within his academic, personal, and professional spheres. He didn’t want to get caught up in the monthly fees involved with “build-your-own” website deals, and yet needed the ease-of-use that’s expected of web design today.
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Progress Colorado

It was also my pleasure to help create the Progress Colorado business magazine, a project of the Denver Post. I’ll admit that it was a leap of faith to jump on board the project. It is a new initiative and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Not only am I impressed with the quality of the final product, but I legitimately enjoyed working with the companies, organizations, universities and people that were involved in my portion of the magazine.
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Other odds and ends

There are a couple other items worth noting in this springtime update. I’m happy to say that dad’s book has done well, almost selling out of all 500 copies. We’ll see what happens next with dad’s book, and maybe we’ll put out another edition sometime soon.

The Rocky Mountain Post experiment, unfortunately, hasn’t gone so well. Not every project is destined for success, and yet the RMP idea isn’t completely gone quite yet. We still have some hope that it can be reshaped and re-vitalized in some form or another, and we’ll keep chipping away until we find a way to make it work.

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