SXSW 2011: The ROI of Relationships

You CAN measure the ROI of relationships – personally, and professionally, and this seminar will show you how. No spreadsheets needed for this lecture, and only minimal algebra. Bring a cocktail napkin, a flair ink pen, and learn how to calculate the net present value of your future mate, your pet, or the 8,299 followers of your company’s Twitter feed. Yet ROI alone will not tell you the ultimate value of your relationships. What other indicators do you need to be looking at to predict whether or not you, your future mate, your pet, or your followers will be happy with the relationship in the long run?

Strong relationships depend on other factors – connection, a sense of fairness, health, humor, fun, the ability to learn and evolve together, and a sense of overall engagement with each other, and with life. At a more macro level, communities need to understand the equity they are building not just economically, but socially and environmentally as well. As the social graph reveals a huge volume of data about our actual relational behavior, we have an opportunity to pause for a moment: to consider the value system reflected in how we measure each other, ourselves, our relationships in the world. Participants will walk away not just with a clear and precise method for how to measure ROI, but also a holistic framework for measuring return on social behavior.

Vote for this panel at the SXSW panel picker.

Forgot About the Carpet Mother

But really, this is the best example of sustainable design that I have ever seen.

Wire Mother Carpet Mother

Harry Frederick Harlow’s experiments on rhesus monkeys demonstrated primate connection to fuzzy, soft objects in the absence of a real, actual mother monkey. Notice how baby monkey clings to carpet mother. When given a choice between food and terry cloth, monkeys who had soft, tactile contact with their terry cloth mothers behaved quite differently than monkeys whose mothers were made out of cold, hard wire. The carpet babies were healthier and happier because they had formed emotional attachment through cuddling. Herein lies the design challenge. I can’t currently cling to my Prius dashboard, or my Tweet-a-watt. What if I could.

Design to Influence Behavior Change

In prep for a panel talk at SXSW on Designing for Irrational Behavior organized by Robert Fabricant, these are emerging examples from design, tech, engagement marketing, not-for-profit, academia, social networking… telling the story of how people who design things are creating participatory platforms that lead to more conscious consumption and use of things. 

Backstories: Where does it come from, what’s in it, who made it, how did it get here? 
“where it comes from”  
These Flocks by Christien Meindeertsma. And a book by the same artist, PIG 05049.
May have inspired this “BAA Code” concept from Icebreaker, a New Zealand wool company.
Background Stories by Arlene Birt tells the story of 3 chocolate bars.
Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles tells you the backstory of five products.
“what’s in it” 
WorldChanging Product Label for their book, one of the most comprehensive labels, created by Dawn Danby and Jeremy Faludi.
Skin Deep cosmetics database of ingredients by the Environmental Working Group
“who made this”
Dole Organics tells you who grew your banana.
Digital ICS gives farmers the ability to report on fair trade conditions and organic farming.
Etsy.com of course allows you to converse directly with the craftsperson who made their goods for sale.
World of Good is Ebay’s effort to connect buyers with organiations that aid artisans and craftspeople in the developing world.
Twittering the Earth: 
CeNSE : HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth
Environmental Traffic Light Greener Gadgets Concept
Conscious Consumption: How do I own and operate my things for more positive social and environmental impact? 
The Prius dashboard remains the best example of how to design for better environmental impact, at the personal level.
The Onzo home energy management kit enables me to know how much power I’m using, and to manage it.
The Powerhog kid’s home energy piggy bank meter – a conceptual product from the Greener Gadgets competition.
Standby Monsters – another simple conceptual idea from Greener Gadgets.
Eco Rio android phone.
Conscious Collective Consumption: How are we as a society using our things for more positive impact?
SMUD’s utility bills tell Sacramento residents what they’re consuming vs. their neighbors.
Personal Kyoto project from Eyebeam, using ConEd bills to chart your use against others.
Wattzon.com lets me calculate my own energy use in clear simple kilowatt hours, and compare to what everyone else is doing.
Energy HubGreen Box and now Google PowerMeter are all working on energy display devices connected to the Smart Grid.
EcoNeighbuzz greener gadget invites your neighbors to share you stuff.
Tweet-a-watt! the ultimate greener gadget (and winner of the competition) – DIY, social behavior, awareness, it’s got it all.
Participatory Design: How do we co-create the future? 
Designers Accord multiple platforms – one site won’t do. Wiki, Yahoo Groups, and participation in existing communities to collect the intelligence of 100k + designers globally
The Heya Toyota Project asked about the future of transportation.
Nokia: Calling all Innovators ideas for social and environmental change.