Background image of Annex wall at Ecotrust and daffodils


Innovation Space

New and innovative projects

Beginning in 2011, Ecotrust staff have had the opportunity to spend a couple days a month on new and innovative projects for the organization that interest them. A group of us are ready to share one of our first projects.

This idea of allowing time for good ideas to percolate and come from anywhere within the organization isn’t new. Google’s 20% time was popularized in recent years and 3M developed the idea of 15% time for their engineers back in the 1950s. But having time isn’t enough, as many point out. You need a culture of sharing, a ‘marketplace of ideas’. At Ecotrust, we are fortunate to have that within the organization, which is constantly pushing for transformative ideas, and within our building, the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (below), which features a whole suite of businesses pursuing a new, restorative economy.

For Ecotrust’s first innovation project, our software team joined with one of our extraordinary cartographers to develop a new workflow for creating and sharing online maps and the data behind them.  We wanted it to be simple, we wanted to allow our developers to work more closely with our cartographers and program staff, and, above all, we wanted beautiful interactive maps that felt less like tools and more like stories. As Ric Young, an Ecotrust Canada board member, once said, “the best story wins.”

We didn’t have to look far for the building blocks to make our idea come to life. Our good friend and former Ecotruster Dane Springmeyer has been doing amazing work with the folks at Development Seed on a project called TileMill, an open source design studio for creating rich interactive maps. Combining TileMill with complementary tools like Modest Maps, Wax and TileStream gave us a complete workflow for publishing maps online.

With our new mapping tools in place we connected with the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative, an Ecotrust program which brings together federal and state agencies to fund high-priority salmon habitat restoration projects. Together we created an interactive project map that allows people to see WWRI-funded restoration work and to find out whether they fall within a priority area and are eligible for a WWRI grant.

This first map is just a start and we see a lot of potential for enhancing it further, including incorporating project audio, video and photographs. Going forward we envision using this new suite of tools to showcase Ecotrust’s work across the Pacific Northwest landscape. And there’s huge potential for other organizations to use the tool for geo-based storytelling.