Kindle Project and the Yes Men: A Day in the Life at EGA

Oct 11, 2013

A couple weeks ago Kindle Project and our longtime grantee, the Yes Lab, had the good fortune to attend the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) Annual Retreat in New Orleans. Kindle sponsored a concurrent session for retreat goers entitled Media Action Smackdown with the Yes Men. Mike Bonanno, Andy Bichlbaum (the Yes Men themselves) and Tal Beery (the wildly talented Yes Men Development Director), shared their success stories and strategic media tactics with a room packed full of fascinated grantmakers.

Mike and Andy held the room in rapt attention as they explained past campaigns that used media and PR tactics to accomplish their goals of getting much needed attention to often neglected important issues. They shared their highly successful endeavor of when Andy posed as a Dow Chemical representative live on BBC, promising compensation for the thousands of victims of the Bhopal disaster in India. They talked about the Yes Lab successful campaign collaboration with Coal is Killing Kids which forced the public to look at the health damages caused by the fossil fuel industry. Amidst other examples of past campaigns, they talked about their upcoming project called the Action Switchboard; a soon-to-be launched platform that will allow thousands of people to tap into and share movement-building projects around pressing issues. We were encouraged to see how many grantmakers were excited to learn about the Yes Men strategy of craftily circumventing traditional coverage of issues to bring truth into the spotlight.

Everyone who attends EGA makes grants that serve the broad field environmental philanthropy. We heard stories from subjects as varied as divestment strategies to wildlife conservation. With such diversity, mixed with a delegation from China and a few Canadian groups as well, we were more than proud to facilitate the sharing of the Yes Men’s unique viewpoint.

Some highlights of what we experienced throughout the week:
– Learning that there are currently 32 places in New Orleans that have been erased from the map because they are now under water.
– Hearing former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, speak inspiringly about her work and activism. A favorite quote from her talk: “[We need to] amplify the voices of the owners of the work.” A very important message and reminder to grantmakers.
– Meeting Raj Patel and hearing him speak truth and wisdom on a panel. Favorite quote: “There’s nothing as compelling as a good example.” This is what Kindle is hoping to accomplish with our Solutions Laboratory! Glad we’re on the same page Raj…
– Having a great sit down with Annie Leonard as the latest film in her Story of Stuff series went live.
– Having frank conversations about how environmental justice cannot be considered without having conversations about a much needed New Economy.
– Hearing the success stories from the Transition Network founder Rob Hopkins and Chair, Peter Lipman.
– Impromptu meeting of Skylar Fein and getting the chance to see his Lincoln Bedroom installation before it hits the road to NYC next month.
– Sharing conversation and New Orleans style snacks with Kindle grantee Other Worlds Program Director, Beverly Bell and their Education and Outreach Coordinator Deepa Panchang. They gave us a crash course in the complex beauty of New Orleans and talked us through some of their new and exciting programs.

A special thank you to our friend and fellow EGA member, Farhad Ebrahimi for doing so much to make all of this come to fruition!

Below is a scrapbook of photos from our time together. With a backdrop of the incredible city with much to offer and teach, we were happy to be with new friends and old and even cut a rug with the familiar faces of other Kindle grantees. Our time was filled with story-sharing, strategizing, bridge-building, friendship-making, and, of course in true Yes Men and Kindle fashion—a lot of very loud laughter.