TOPIC STREAM 13: Open Knowledge and Sustainability

Sustainability is the main challenge of our time. Society needs to adapt and change to avoid environmental collapse and to guarantee the well-being of the current and future generations. We believe that open knowledge can be key in helping this transformation. Therefore openness and building up our knowledge commons should be an integral part of sustainability thinking. In this stream we want to explore current contributions of open knowledge with sustainability purpose and to discuss and build innovative ideas to showcase this potential.

Featured Speaker and Speech Summary


James Cameron is a founder and the non-executive Chairman of Climate Change Capital, representing the firm at the highest levels of business and government. In addition to his role at CCC, James serves as a member of GE’s ecomagination board, Pepsico UK’s advisory board, is Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability and is a trustee member of the UK Green Building Council and of the Carbon Disclosure Project. James is also a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group, an advisor to the Climate Bonds Initiative and was a member of the Green Investment Bank Commission. More info about James can be found here.

Open data systems: a collective response to a collective problem

Open data systems can enhance our capacity to measure true sustainability and make a positive contribution to the global effort to address climate change, habitat and species loss, fresh water availability, fish stock collapse and the like. Better information and superior knowledge – shared – can provide reliable performance indicators for corporate responsibility. It will increase the odds that society will find attractive outcomes to systemic risk posed by environmental harms and it could provide credible and reliable data upon which to base campaigns, validate claims, settle disputes, market products, channel investment and test theories in both the social and physical sciences.

>> VIDEO DOCUMENTATION (start time 24:40)

Open Knowledge and Sustainability Topic Stream Recap


This blog posting summarises the Open Knowledge and Sustainability Topic Stream and contains links to presentation slides, videos, etc.

Finalised Programming

For more detailed info on each session, please click on the titles.

Session 1 Open Knowledge and Energy Data

Tuesday 18 September, 11:30-13:00 @ Aalto PRO Lecture room

  • Tags: sustainability, energy use, economy, energy data, government data
  • Session Host: Velichka Dimitrova – Open Knowledge Foundation, UK

Knowledge sharing and Open Government Data have a crucial role in the development of new and clean energy sources and energy-efficient technologies. The information technology and linking up open datasets are important tools in the low-carbon economy, where governments have a responsibility in providing publicly-owned data in a machine-readable format in order to enable re-use in all sectors of society. This panel will focus on the current state of open data in the energy sector, inviting government representatives, technologists and academics to share opinions about best practices, roadblocks and progress made in the field.

Panel Speakers:

  • Karthikeya Acharya – Aalto University
  • Ken Dooley – Granlund consulting engineers, Helsinki
  • William Heath –
  • Denise Recheis – Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, REEEP
  • Thomas Thurner – Semantic Web Company (SWC), Open Knowledge Forum Austria (OKFO)


  • Florian Bauer – Operations and IT Director, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, REEEP
  • Martin Kaltenboeck – Managing Partner, CFO, (Linked) Open Data & Enterprise 2.0 Solutions
  • James Smith – Cleanweb, UK – @floppy
  • Jack Townsend – University of Southampton, UK – @JackTownsend_

>> VIDEO DOCUMENTATION (start time 16:45)

Session2 Green Maps: Informing and Engaging Through Icons

Tuesday 18 September, 14:00-15.30 @ Aalto PRO. Optional walk outdoors: 15.30-16.30

  • Session Host: Cindy Kohtala – Helsinki Green Map
  • Tags: maps, mapping, community engagement, global, local, icons, greenmap, new york, sustainabiliity, social equity, nature, culture, ecoinfo

Helsinki Green Mapmakers and founder of Green Map System Wendy Brawer (US) welcome you to this session exploring iconography, mapping and community engagement. Around the world, hundreds of local Green Map projects are linked by an award-winning universal iconography that highlights sustainable living resources along with ecological, cultural and activism sites. Thousands of these sites have been added to the Open Green Map social mapping platform, where multiple icons point out the green principles applied in each location. On OGM or the mobile website, you can explore by the icon, illuminating the diversity of innovations. Locally published editions also use Green Maps Icons, and locally-designed or existing symbols can be mixed in, as desired, motivating residents, tourists and decision-makers toward healthier choices.

In this presentation, we’ll show how this evolving iconography has been used to leverage participation in sustainable community development. We’ll involve you in the ongoing discussion regarding the newest icons to be added to the globally designed set. We’ll learn how to contribute to the Helsinki Green Map and share your perspectives on this remarkable city. And we’ll take a stroll round the Arabianranta area to experience first-hand the neighbourhood and its built and natural environment.

Panel Speakers:

  • Cindy Kohtala – Helsinki Green Map
  • Wendy Brawer – Creator and Director of the Green Map System


Session 3 Future, Openness and Sustainability

Tuesday 18 September, 16:00 – 17:30 @ Aalto PRO Lecture room

  • Session Host: Jorge Zapico – KTH, Sweden
  • Tags: Sustainability, open knowledge, future, values

Open knowledge can be used as a practical tool for moving towards sustainability. However, openness can also make an important contribution to sustainability from a philosophical and ethical perspective, a contribution not limited to digital resources. We will discuss ideas around what role open knowledge can play in a more sustainable future and why it is important to have openness as an ethical value for sustainability. In a series of short talks followed by a discussion, the speakers will consider the cleanweb, open seeds, open education resources, open source architecture and open economies.

Panel Speakers:

  • Karthikeya Acharya – Aalto University, Finland
  • Chris Adams – AMEE, UK – @mrchrisadams
  • Hannes Ebner – KTH, Sweden – @electricbum
  • James Smith – Cleanweb, UK – @floppy
  • Jack Townsend – University of Southampton, UK – @JackTownsend_
  • Jorge Zapico – KTH, Sweden – @zapico

Session 4 Green Hackathon

Wednesday 19th + Thursday 20th September, 11:30-19:30 @ HACK workshop 3

  • Session Host: Green Hackathon, @greenhackathon, [email protected] / Contact: Hannes Ebner, KTH, @electricbum
  • Tags: Hackers, coders, designers, data analysts, open data experts, sustainability experts…

Come along and take part in opening up knowledge about sustainability to make it more accessible and useful. Two days of working hands-on to improve and disseminate sustainability data, as part of the Green Hackathon series of events taking place across Europe. It will begin with a short presentation on Wednesday morning (Sept. 19) and end with a Show-and-Tell (Sept. 20). Many different contributions are welcome, including coders, designers, data specialists, economists or sustainability thinkers.

For practical information and registration:

Session 5 Open Data for Measuring Social Progress

Friday 21st September, 11:30-13:00 © Hack Cinema 1

  • Tags: human development, economics, composite indices
  • Session Host: Guo Xu – London School of Economics and OKFN Open Economics Working Group, @misologie

Is there more to progress than simply growing the economy? How can open knowledge help us to measure progress better? The measurement of social progress and human development has seen rapid advances fuelled by the growing availability of data and theoretical concepts that call for a wider definition of human development beyond conventional measures such as income or GDP. Academics and policymakers are relying increasingly on more sophisticated “composite indices” to compare the performance of cities, regions and countries. So far, however, the public has remained a passive “consumer” of such indices. This session explores how open data and collaborative approaches can help create new metrics, as well as improve existing metrics of well-being. Bringing together speakers from the cutting-edge of academia, policy and civil society, this session aims for a creative discussion about how technology and openness can help redefine the very concept of progress.

Panel Speakers:

  • Vincent Finat-Duclos – Statistical editor / OECD Better Life Index – @twitvfd
  • Dirk Heine – OKFN Open Economics / Core Team
  • Robin Houston – Developer of Guardian’s Rio+20 Better or Worse / – @robinhouston
  • Ulla Rosenström – Senior Adviser at the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office
  • Guo Xu – OKFN Open Economics / London School of Economics and Political Science – @misologie


Session 6 Green Maps for Socially Inclusive Open Knowledge

Friday 21st September, 14:00-15.30 @ Hack Cinema 1

  • Tags: maps, mapping, community engagement, global, local, icons, greenmap, new york, sustainabiliity, social equity, nature, culture, ecoinfo
  • Session Host: Cindy Kohtala, Helsinki Green Map, and Wendy Brawer, Green Map System (US)

This session continues the Green Map discussion that began on Tuesday, with international Green Mapmakers as special guests. With so much information at our fingertips, how can a mapping process engage a fresh way of thinking about and interacting with the environment? The Green Map movement has spread to 825 cities and towns in 65 countries, including Helsinki ( The next phase of development is happening now: interoperability is being added, opening the data and platform to new collaborations and innovations.

Bring your hacker spirit and find out how the process of Green Mapmaking can help increase passion for a healthy environment and climate in your community now, and how, though interoperability, OGM’s data will become open standards-compliant, allowing its locally-sourced and pre-existing government and community map data to be shared, mixed, layered, repurposed and analyzed in new ways. Ciprian Samoila and Philip Todres, Green Mapmakers from Romania and Cape Town, will join the conversation too, and together, we can demonstrate how Green Maps turn local information into global interaction.

Panel Speakers:

  • Wendy Brawer – Creator and Director of the Green Map System
  • Cindy Kohtala – Helsinki Green Map
  • Arne Purves – City of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Ciprian Samoila – Asociatia Harta Verde Romania
  • Philip Todres – A & C Maps cc, Cape Town Green Map


Speaker Biographies

Karthikeya Acharya is pursuing his doctoral research at the Department of Design, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University. He studies material consumption in domestic environments within the context of vertical housing. His research is currently looking at constructive design research methods, like deploying prototypes in real contexts to make public the consumption of resources like electricity, water and petrol and study its implications on both residents’ behavior and on the material resources usage. He spends time between Finland and India.

Chris Adams has been working with the web for more than 10 years as a designer, sysadmin, developer and product manager. He’s worked with clients ranging from the likes of Red Bull, the NHS, Delloite, designing and building internal collaboration platforms, to scrappy startups, where he’s put environmental analytics APIs on coworking spaces, built apps to disrupt the rail industry, and designed a cure for road rage by hacking together cheap in-car webcams, gps tracking & video sharing sites.He now manages products at AMEE, in his spare time organising events for Cleanweb UK.

Wendy Brawer is Creator of the Green Map System and its director since 1995, Wendy is a designer, social innovator, consultant, and public educator. Based in New York and focused on sustainable design since 1989, Wendy is a pioneer in collaborative internet-based
development. A robust product-service system, the Green Map movement now includes a wide diversity of locally-led projects in over 800 cities in 65 countries, as seen at Wendy has co-created its acclaimed universal iconography, inclusive methodology and infrastructure such as the Open Green Map, an interactive social mapping platform that turns local information into global interaction. You can find out
more about Wendy’s consulting, cycling, waste reduction and co-design projects at

Velichka Dimitrova is a project and community coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation, responsible for economics, energy and environment-related projects with the Open Economics Working Group (, Regional Groups and OKFN Labs. She has background in economics, project management and environmental policy, researching on environmental and resource economics and land use change: @vndimitrova

Hannes Ebner has a background in Telecommunication and Information Systems and has experience with both research and applied projects. He is a PhD candidate at the School of Computer Science and Communication at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology ( and co-founder of the spin-off MetaSolutions AB ( The focus of his work and research lies on modern Web architectures, collective knowledge construction using Linked Data, and metadata interoperability. He is also one of the leading architects and developers behind numerous Open Source projects. You can find Hannes on the Web at

Vincent Finat-Duclos is a Statistics Editor in the Publishing department of OECD. He has a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Paris Dauphine University and several years of experience as a business analyst prior to joining the Organisation. For the past five years he has been working in website and database management and publishing statistics. As a Statistics Editor, his main focus is on producing new statistical outputs which are more accessible to the user who is not necessarily an expert in statistics and technology.

William Heath is an entrepreneur, currently co-founder of Mydex Community Interest Company which seeks to restore control over personal data to individuals and let individuals realise the value of their personal data. He also cofounded Kable Ltd and Ctrl-Shift Ltd, chaired Open Rights Group and is a Fellow of the Young Foundation. As a sideline he writes speeches for Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom, a senior British civil servant viscerally opposed to all forms of openness. William lives with family in Bath, England where he is restoring a farm and learning baritone saxophone.

Dirk Heine is a member of the OKFN’s Open Economics Working Group and has been involved in creating Yourtopia. He works as a fiscal economist and has a particular interest in environmental economics. Particularly in the crisis, he believes that we need to increase the accessibility of socio-economic indicators through greater openness and tools for their wide-spread analysis in order to build consensus for deep policy changes toward sustainable policy. With a personal background of 13 years NGO-work in eight countries, he is furthermore keen to support finding new ways for more innovative web-based cross-country teamwork.

Robin Houston is interested in using the web to inform and empower people, especially finding ways to take advantage of new technology to that end. He currently works for and He has been involved in Guardian’s Rio+20 Better or Worse application as well as

Cindy Kohtala is a Design for Sustainability researcher and educator at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Her special areas of expertise include design futures and scenario building, sustainable consumption and production (SCP), and sustainable product-service system design (PSS). Cindy’s special research interests include open design philosophies, self-design and distributed production trends such as fab labbing and mass customization, the accompanying new business/economic models, and the resultant impacts on the competence and tasks of the design profession.

Arne Purves was appointed as the project manager for the Cape Town Green Map, as part of the City’s Green Goal programme for the 2010 FiFA Soccer World Cup. He works in the City’s Environmental Resource Management Department, dealing will natural resource management and marine and environmental compliance.,, @capetwngreenmap

Denise Recheis is an engineer with a focus on sustainable systems and renewable energy. She currently works in Knowledge Management for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership in Vienna. REEEP is a global public-private partnership creating the right market conditions for clean energy in developing countries. Her primary area of work is the organization’s Linked Open Data portal Her background in renewable energy technology as well as her commitment to increase the share of clean energy solutions has been useful in shaping her current work. Denise sees great potential in (Linked) Open Energy Data as an accelerator for low-carbon development.

Dr. Ulla Rosenström is a Senior Adviser at the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office. She currently leads the development of well-being indicators for Finland as part of the Government Future Report. She takes part in the monitoring of the implementation of the Government Programme and contributes to the development and content of the national She also runs the national indicator expert network. An expert in the development and presentation of sustainable development indicators, Dr. Rosenström has conducted pioneering work on the researching the use of sustainable development indicators. Before her current position, she worked over ten years for the Finnish Environment Institute. Besides being responsible for the national SDI programme, she has taken part in several international working groups in her field.

Ciprian Samoila has been involved in Green Map activities since the Global Green Mapmakers meeting 2002 in Bellagio, Italy. In 2005, he followed up with an internship working on the Green Map Icon Update process at Green Map System in New York. Since then, he produced or offered consultancy on various Green Map projects in Bucharest, Bacau, Cluj-Napoca and Bistrita. In 2010 he initiated the Green Map Romania Association and took part in a 4-country Grundtvig-funded exchange program that developed ecotourism-focused Green Map activities. Outside the NGO world, he pursues a research career applying GIS and RS in Ecology, and works to complete his PhD in Biology. Contributor website:

James Smith runs Cleanweb UK, an organisation promoting cleanweb activities in the UK. He has been building cleanweb projects since 2007, starting with The Carbon Diet and Green Thing. He worked as a lead developer and platform evangelist at AMEE, along the way building the world’s first natural language carbon calculator, AskAMEE. He is currently running Therm, the first specialist cleanweb consultancy. You can find him as @floppy on Twitter, or visit his personal blog at

Thomas Thurner started his career at Schlumberger Industries’ R&D-Department as an developing engineer for energy consumption meters. Thomas became a radiopirat in the early 1990s and was thereafter one of the founding fathers of Viennas first community radio. In 2002 Thomas and his colleagues launched the SpinOut-Company “Team Teichenberg” active in the fields of audio exchange, streaming, eLearning and podcasting. In 2006 he was in charge of a two years project on setting up an innovation hub on behalf of Telekom Austria. Beginning in 2008 Thomas is coordinating Semantic Web Company’s Transfer Division as well as public relations and campaigns. Thomas is also engaged with Semantic Web Company’s Open-Data-Strategy-Branch, where he is active in community building, and consulting for an growing Linked Open Government Data scene for Austria.

Philip Todres runs A & C Maps cc, which publishes a range of special interest maps guides, and in partnership with the City of Cape Town developed the Cape Town Green Map. Together with Arne Purves, the city’s CTGM Project Manager, they maintain the website and publish the print map (now in its 4th edition). Philip is working with players in both Johannesburg and Durban to create an even stronger South African green map network., @capetwngreenmap

Jack Townsend is researching the role of openness and the Web in tackling global challenges and advancing sustainable development for all. This question has taken him from the energy sector, where he managed innovation with web applications and big data, to the Web and Internet Science group at the University of Southampton, UK. Jack recently created, a winner of the World Bank #Apps4Climate competition, which conveys the risks, responsibilities and opportunities of climate change using open data. Find him at @JackTownsend_

Guo Xu is a development economist and member of the OKFN’s Open Economics Working Group. He is interested in the role of technology and open data in fostering development. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Economics at the London School of Economics. @misologie.

Jorge Zapico has a background in computer science and in sustainable development. He is researching how computers can play a role for moving towards sustainability as a PhD candidate at the Center for Sustainable Communications in KTH, Stockholm. He combines coding and designing websites such as, Greenalytics and Footprinted with growing vegetables and experimenting living more sustainable. You can find more info at:

The Center for Sustainable Communications is a research center at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm exploring the relationship between information and communication technologies and sustainability.

Guest Programme Planners

  • Velichka Dimitrova – Open Knowledge Foundation, UK – @vndimitrova (Coordinator)
  • Jorge Zapico – Researcher at Centre for Sustainable Communications, KTH. Sweden – @zapico
  • Hannes Ebner – Researcher at Media Technology and Interaction Design, KTH. Sweden – @electricbum
  • Dirk Heine – Open Economics Core Team, UK
  • Guo Xu, Open Economics Core Team, UK – @misologie
  • Jack Townsend – University of Southampton, UK – @JackTownsend_
  • James Smith – Cleanweb, UK – @floppy
  • Chris Adams – AMEE UK – @mrchrisadams

Contact us: sustainability [at]

This is a collaboration between the Centre for Sustainable Communications, the Greenhackathon, the Open Economics Working Group and Cleanweb London.