001: Using the Whole Whale

The concept of using the whole whole is an idea that looks at how we can treat data and technology the way that the Inuit used the whole whale as compared to the whalers of the 1900’s. More about creating a data culture in your organization.

Episode 1

This is using the whole whale, a podcast that brings you stories of data and technology in the nonprofit world. my name is George Weiner, your host, and the chief whaler of wholewhale.com, thanks for joining us.

George: Hello this is George Weiner, and this is using the whole whale. Today we’re talking about the actual concept of using the whole whale. So right now it is March, and were in New York City, it is roughly 17 degrees fahrenheit, it’s absurdly cold, let me promise you. But it’s the perfect temperature to talk to you about using the whole whale and the inuit actually. The inuit about 7000 years ago, were the native people of arctic alaska and canada. And 7000 years ago it was also cold up north, and when the communities up there would go out whaling, which was their primary source of food and survival. When they go out whaling, they would go out on these open boats, and they go out on the water, and they work in teams in order to land a bowhead whale, they really had to work for it, we’re talking about things that would make Ahab look like he was on the jv team. They would pull back the whale and bring it into shore, they would have the whole village involved, using every single part of this whale, everything from the blubber to the bone. they were using the skin, they were using the bone for tools, they were turning parts of it into vitamins, they weren’t going to waste any part of it. When your house is made out of ice block you’re really trying to stretch every dollar, or bone in this case. So the idea here is something we’re seeing again and again, where scarcity breeds creativity, poverty breeds innovation.
When were now fast forwarding to the golden age of whaling in america which was around the mid 1900’s, they thought of whales as floating oil wells, they would really go out there in search of whales predominantly for the oil, as well as corsets, corset bone that they were making. These floating oil barrels basically, once you got your oil, the blubber out of the whale, distilled that down, they left the rest of it literally just out in the ocean. Which of course caused some serious problems, when your clear cutting the ocean of whales, you’re really wasting. What the inuit, in their world, it was a religious taboo, literally if you wasted any part of the whale it was against their religion it was so important to use every piece of it.
So in contrast in a world of scarcity, where whales are being treated as oil wells, you had tremendous waste. And eventually what happens actually the oil industry in Pennsylvania saves the whales ironically, and we find a new non replenishable source of energy, which we can save for another podcast as to what that approach is. So you’re looking at how scarcity breeds the innovation, abundance breeds this incredible types of waste. Now I look at, and when we talk about using the whole whale, were looking at how not for profits can look at technology and data, and what I see is we’re wasting a lot of the whale. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity out there when you think about how technology can be leveraged to increase our impact, to automate processes, to help basically more people. Beyond that even reach more people with our causes and our messages. What’s more, the data being created today, under the “big data” that is available, only a small piece of it, just if you will, the oil of it, or the very core parts, are just beginning to be used, when there is tremendous amounts of information that we could potentially leverage to watch what we’re doing. Now, of course this is not a call to look at every piece of data ever-imaginable for your organization, but I do think there is opportunity to be looking at a lot more data more and be using technology more effectively for our nonprofits.
So now let’s talk about an example of this idea of using the whole whale. The other year
I was traveling with megan, my now wife, and her family in kenya, we were on safari. We were in the Masai Mara, a natural preserve out there. We came across this incredible moment, which was actually very savage, very real, of a water buffalo, a mother water buffalo and her baby, and a group of hyenas. Well, first there was only a few, but as we recorded this scene, what happened was this hyena made calls out to its other friends to come over and surrounded and then chased off the mother. it was an incredible thing to watch, and as we recorded it, I had this thought, of here’s this incredible moment, and of course being from the digital generation I had to get this on youtube.
The Kenya Wildlife Trust, was a not for profit organization that we learned was helping take care of animals, preserve and protect them from poachers as well. The Kenya Wildlife trust was, as i saw it, sitting on a gold mine, literally in their backyard. they have these types of incredible moments, that could potentially be recorded. So I took the video, I put it online, properly tagged it on youtube, put up different types of advertisements on it, so it could generate revenue for the kenya wildlife trust. I couldn’t have possibly imagined what happened next as it climbed from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, to one point two million people viewed. the ads were able to generate one thousand dollars, or so to date for the Kenya Wildlife trust. What’s more, is it then was picked up by national geographic institute, as one of the world’s deadliest videos, and the commision we got from that we gave as well to the Kenya Wildlife trust.
Aside from just saying “find a video make it go viral” which is terrible advice. You can’t make a video go viral. What this story shows us is, organizations like the Kenya Wildlife Trust, are sitting on literally goldmines in their backyard. They have incredible stories they could be telling, through their animals that could potentially be supporting their own protection. Taking these videos, turning it into a channel, turning on advertisements so that they could have a revenue stream that could in perpetuity, or for quite some time support their work in the field. Now this is something that you don’t come up with this idea, until you youre looking with this perspective of using the whole whale. Every opportunity to leverage data and technology to increase the impact.
So that’s just one of many stories we hope to find and uncover, as we have conversations with other people in the field, in not for profits and data and technology. and we hopefully help you think about your own organization, and ways that we can help you use the whole whale.

This has been using the whole whale, the podcast, for more information about topics covered in today’s show please check out wholewhale.com, and consider following us on twitter @wholewhale. Thanks.