2017 Planet Forward Summit

Thank you for joining us at the 2017 Planet Forward Summit!

We will be updating the website soon with summaries from the event and archived videos. Until then, here's the rundown of what was covered and who joined us:

Sustainability and science need storytellers now more than ever.

The 2017 Planet Forward Summit on April 6-7 in Washington, D.C., focused on how we as students, scientists, communicators, innovators, policymakers and citizens of the earth, communicate to inspire action. The summit brought everyone together, all in one room, to share inspiring stories, featuring the best storytellers, collaborating to learn what makes an effective environmental story and to celebrate and reward the best environmental storytelling by college students.

The two-day Planet Forward Summit investigated effective sustainability storytelling through the lens of our Storyfest contest categories: character, creativity, science/data, innovation and big ideas. Major topics covered include: food, water, energy, mobility, built environment, and biodiversity. The grand prize winners of our student storytelling contest, Planet Forward Storyfest 2017, were announced in front of a live audience.

Summit Speakers and Participants included:

  • Olorunfunmi Adebajo, Journalist, Nigeria, Mandela Fellow, Young African Leaders Initiative
  • Tobin Asher, Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University​
  • Erik Assadourian, Senior Fellow, The Worldwatch Institute
  • Rachael Baxter, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Conscious Magazine
  • Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Journalist, Ghana, Mandela Fellow, Young African Leaders Initiative
  • Kate Brandt, Sustainability Lead, Google
  • Holly Butka, Global Consumer Engagement Lead, Monsanto
  • Wilma Clopton, Filmmaker, NMHS Unlimited Film Productions
  • Dr. Imani M. Cheers, Assistant Professor, George Washington University
  • Dennis Dimick, Photographer, National Geographic Editor Emeritus; Eyes on Earth
  • Katie Dotterer-Pyle, Farmer, Cow Comfort Inn, Maryland
  • Jordan Goldstein, Managing Principal, Gensler
  • Sydney Gray, Purdue University, Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge
  • Jamie Hestekin, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas
  • Paul Hirsch, Assistant Professor, SUNY-ESF
  • Olivia Iannone, Student, SUNY-ESF; Planet Forward Corresponent
  • Rachel Kalera-Mhango, Times Television, Malawi, Mandela Fellow, Young African Leaders Initiative
  • Ethan Kearns, Mobile Marketing Manager, The Nature Conservancy
  • Robin Kimmerer, Professor; Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY-ESF
  • Barbara Kline Pope, Executive Director, Communications of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
  • Rick Leach, President, World Food Program USA
  • Jacob Lebel, Umpqua Community College, Planet Forward Correspondent
  • Shawn Lightfoot, Co-Founder, The Fresh Food Factory
  • Charla Lord, Senior Media Communications Manager, Monsanto
  • Tom Lovejoy, "Godfather of Biodiversity"; Professor, George Mason University
  • Elise Michelle Ogle, Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University
  • Barrett Pitner, Journalist, The Daily Beast
  • Chris Policinski, President and CEO, Land O'Lakes, Inc.
  • Andrew Revkin, Senior Reporter, Climate Change, ProPublica
  • Jenny Rogers, Associate Editor, The Nature Conservancy Magazine
  • Frank Sesno, Founder and Host, Planet Forward; Director, GW School of Media and Public Affairs
  • Michael Svoboda, Sustainability Minor Director, George Washington University

AGENDA

Jump to Sched for speaker bios.

Summit Day One: Thursday, April 6, 2017

8:00 AM - NETWORKING BREAKFAST - 2nd floor, GW Media and Public Affairs building (805 21st Street NW)

8:30 AM - WELCOME - Inspiring Stories to Move the Planet Forward - Jack Morton Auditorium (805 21st Street NW)

  • Frank Sesno, founder and host, Planet Forward; Director, GW School of Media and Public Affairs

8:50 AM - PRESENTATION - Character-Driven Stories Can Change The World

  • Discovery Communications
  • Summary: A master storyteller from Discovery shows the best (and worst) of character-driven storytelling, and reveals how effective characters can compel and inspire change.

9:25 AM - STUDENT PRESENTATION

9:30 AM - PRESENTATION - Stories That Last: Native American Traditions of Storytelling

  • Dr. Robin Kimmerer, Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY-ESF, Scientist, Storyteller
  • Summary: The rich tradition of storytelling in Native cultures has resulted in stories that last — stories of culture, nature, and wisdom that are passed down through many generations. In a crowded digital world, these powerful Native oral traditions of storytelling show how can we can capture the heart and soul of story and incorporate this tradition into our storytelling.

10:05 AM - STUDENT PRESENTATION

10:10 AM - INTERACTIVE - The Reality of Virtual Reality

  • Tobin Asher, Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University
  • Elise Ogle, Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University
  • Summary:  Anything is possible with virtual reality. Experts from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab reveal the connection between people and immersive virtual reality simulations, and take us on a groundbreaking virtual “field trip” to a degraded ocean ecosystem, exposing the power of VR.

10:40 AM - NETWORKING BREAK - 2nd Floor, Media and Public Affairs Building

11:10 AM - PANEL - Best Food Innovation Stories

  • Moderator: Frank Sesno, Planet Forward
  • Chris Policinski, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes, Inc.
  • Rick Leach, President, World Food Program USA
  • Shawn Lightfoot, Co-Founder, The Fresh Food Factory
  • Katie Dotterer-Pyle, Farmer, Cow Comfort Inn, Maryland
  • Summary: What are the scalable and inspiring innovations that can change the world within the next five years? Dive into the story of food innovation with world leaders, farmers and entrepreneurs.

11:50 PM - PRESENTATION - Hey, What’s the Big Idea?

  • Olorunfunmi Adebajo, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
  • Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
  • Rachel Kalera-Mhango, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
  • Summary: What are today’s dream teams are working on for the future? How do we tell the story of these ambitious ideas? Frank Sesno will lead a conversation featuring journalists and storytellers from Africa - the world’s fastest changing continent.

12:30 PM - LUNCH & KEYNOTE - GW Marvin Center Ballroom (800 21st St. NW)

  • A conversation with Kate Brandt, Sustainability Lead, Google

2-4:35PM - BREAKOUTS - The District House (2121 H St. NW)

  • 2-3:15
    • Students Moving the Planet Forward - Frank Sesno interviews some exceptional students - and the next generation of leaders - who will share their stories, motivations and insights.
      • Sydney Gray, Purdue University, Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge
      • Jacob Lebel, Planet Forward Correspondent, Umpqua Community College
      • Olivia Iannone, Planet Forward Correspondent, SUNY-ESF
      • Moderator: Frank Sesno
    • 22nd Century Thinking - What are today’s dream teams working on for tomorrow? Step into the future — hear from, engage with, and be inspired by the people and companies bringing next century thinking to our present world.
      • Kate Brandt, Lead for Sustainability, Google
      • Jordan Goldstein, Managing Principal, Gensler
    • Frontiers of Storytelling: Virtual Reality - Experts from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and The Nature Conservancy take a deeper dive into virtual reality as a groundbreaking storytelling device, and discuss how they’ve overcome the barriers to incorporating this technology.
      • Tobin Asher, Stanford University
      • Ethan Kearns, The Nature Conservancy
      • Elise Ogle, Stanford University
    • Data Storytelling 101 - How do you take a piece of data and create a compelling story? Our experts outline some storytelling techniques in this workshop.
      • Holly Butka, Global Consumer Engagement Lead, Monsanto
      • Charla Lord, Senior Media Communications Manager, Monsanto
      • Moderator: Dan Reed, Director, Planet Forward

  • 3:20-4:35 pm
    • Science in the Polarized Era - With science and facts being questioned regularly, how do we, as scientists and storytellers, cut through the noise?
      • Jamie Hestekin, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, University of Arkansas
      • Tom Lovejoy, “Godfather of Biodiversity”; Professor, George Mason University
      • Jim Buizer, Deputy Director for Climate Adaptation and International Development, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona
      • Moderator: Barbara Kline Pope, Executive Director, Communications of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
    • The Power of Narratives to Inspire Social Change - How do you construct a narrative to inspire social change? How does the media format play into your storytelling? Join a panel of experts sharing how they use narrative to encourage action.
      • Erik Assadourian, Senior Fellow, The Worldwatch Institute
      • Rachael Baxter, Co-Founder, Conscious Magazine
      • Wilma Clopton, Filmmaker, NMHS Unlimited Film Productions 
      • Jenny Rogers, Associate Editor, The Nature Conservancy Magazine
      • Moderator: Dr. Imani M. Cheers, Assistant Professor, George Washington University
    • The Art and Impact of Environmental Photography - Dennis Dimick, who served for many years as National Geographic's environment editor, will briefly discuss the value of environmental photography as a tool for visual storytelling and documentation. Come prepared with copies (digital or prints) of your environmental photos and discuss your work with an expert.
      • Dennis Dimick, Photographer, National Geographic Editor Emeritus
    • Meet the Mandela Fellows - How does the story get told on a continent that is facing the fastest growth, but perhaps the most urgent environmental challenges?
      • Olorunfunmi Adebajo, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
      • Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
      • Rachel Kalera-Mhango, Journalist, Mandela Fellow
      • Moderator: Frank Sesno

Summit Day Two: Friday, April 7, 2017

8:30 AM - NETWORKING BREAKFAST - The District House (2121 H St. NW)

9-10:15 AM - BREAKOUTS

  • Escaping Your Bubble - Framing Bridges Across the Political Divide - In response to student feedback received at our Sustaining Sustainability in the Trump Years forum and through two surveys conducted since, we are offering this summit breakout session on how to escape our ideological bubbles and how to bridge the political divides that separate us. After a brief overview of the framework, participants will be sorted into small groups to practice techniques for recognizing one's biases, reconfiguring one's news feeds, detecting fake news, and shifting one's perspective or viewpoint in order to hear and respond to others in less polarizing terms and ways.
    • Michael Svoboda, Sustainability Minor Director, George Washington University
    • Zachary Elder, Incoming Director, Pearl Bailey Public Library, Newport News, Va.

  • Communicating Amid Complexity - From complexity as a 'challenge’ to ‘complexity is an invitation’; opening the space for communicating about difficult issues.
    • Holly Butka, Global Consumer Engagement Lead, Monsanto
    • Charla Lord, Senior Media Communications Manager, Monsanto
    • Barrett Pitner, Journalist, The Daily Beast
    • Moderator: Paul Hirsch, Assistant Professor, SUNY-ESF

    Ask More: The Power of Questions - Questions help us break down barriers, pinpoint solutions, and explore new ways of doing things. Frank Sesno addresses ways to put questions to work in a truly effective way. 

    • Frank Sesno

10:30 AM - CONVERSATION - Telling the Story of Our Planet: A Conversation with Andrew Revkin - Jack Morton Auditorium

  • Andy Revkin, Senior Reporter, Climate Change, ProPublica
  • Frank Sesno, Planet Forward

11:05 AM - STORYFEST GRAND PRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Tom Lovejoy, “Godfather of Biodiversity”; Professor, George Mason University
  • Summary: Storyfest Prize Announcement: Five grand prize winners of a biodiversity storytelling expedition to the Brazilian rainforest are revealed.

12:15 PM - LUNCH & NETWORKING

  • Join us in the 2nd floor art gallery for lunch and networking.

1:30 PM - SITE VISITS - Student Site Visit Opportunities in Washington, D.C.

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Want to be a volunteer? Please send your availability to Jack Quinn: info@planetforward.org

Interested in becoming a sponsor? Please contact Stephanie Aboukasm: saboukasm@email.gwu.edu