Sustainability: Beyond the Mirage

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Beyond The Mirage is an innovative web-based experience that aims to raise awareness and understanding about Arizona’s water supplies and demands. The project recently was selected as the winner of The New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge and was awarded the $100,000 grand prize. Developed by a team from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences along with Arizona Public Media and marketing professionals, Beyond the Mirage will use the award to help launch web and social media strategies to allow Arizonans to create and share their own mini-documentaries. The project will also will also use the hundreds of water-related clips developed for the website to create a feature-length documentary. Thom Reilly, director of Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, and Steve Seleznow, president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation, will discuss Beyond the Mirage.

Ted Simons: "Beyond the Mirage" is an innovative web-based concept that aims to raise awareness and understanding about Arizona's water supplies and demands.

Ted Simons: The project recently won the $100,000 grand prize in the new Arizona prize water consciousness challenge. Here to tell us more about the project is Thom Reilly, director of the ASU Morrison Institute, and Steve Seleznow, President and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation. Thank you so much for joining us.

Thom Reilly: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is "Beyond the Mirage"?

Thom Reilly: It's a really innovative project that looks at the challenges for water for Arizona. And really challenges citizens and young people to step up and help plan and help Arizona meet those challenges.

Ted Simons: Who was behind this project?

Steve Seleznow: Well, the Arizona Community Foundation formed a partnership with Morrison institute and the "The Arizona Republic" to really look at the important issues and vexing problems we face in Arizona into our future. And one of the things that appeared and really drew our attention was our water future. And what Arizona has done historically is add innovative bold, courageous thinking. We here in the desert enjoy a robust water environment while we look at our neighbors next door in California really suffering. That's because great leaders 40 years ago said this is what we need to do here. While we don't have a crisis today, we will have a crisis 30 years from now. The point was, how do we mobilize the next generation of leaders to act today for a problem they won't see for 30 years?

Ted Simons: How do you mobilize that next generation of leaders?

Thom Reilly: I think we saw five outstanding projects of students throughout Arizona looking at how to engage young people. How to work with social media, and how really to tap into the entrepreneur neural spirit of the Arizona to meet these challenges.

Ted Simons: We've got water experts, videographers, social marketers, all involved in the "Beyond the Mirage" project?

Thom Reilly: I was just kind of astounded at the quality of all five of the projects. It was a tough decision but they are definitely up to it to help resolve the issue.

Steve Seleznow: They have created new innovations in technology called a clip stack. You can take videos, stack them together, produce them and send them out. Anybody can do it. If you're in the technology generation that is great tool to communicate this to their friends. It's an option for news media to use content. The upgrade was to really raise consciousness. When you turn on that water faucet are you really thinking of the value of what's going down your train or what you're taking in. We wanted to go deeper than just awareness and that's what they have done.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the clip stack. Not only is there a documentary we just saw the beginning of, but anyone can put together a documentary.

Steve Seleznow: That was why that was the winning project. The scaleability of what they have created enables, we think, "Beyond the Mirage" to reach really thousands if not hundreds of thousands, hopefully millions. We saw with the prize 66 countries went to the website, 7,000 hits to that website, 3,000 active users, 35 teens. So we know the power of that social media to mobilize people around something that's important.

Ted Simons: $100,000 grand prize. Where did the money come from and what will the money be used for?

Thom Reilly: We've got go over for that one.

Steve Seleznow: The Arizona Community Foundation is one of the largest foundations in the state of Arizona. We put up the prize money, and we are a home for many Arizonans to create charitable funds. So two very, very philanthropic Arizonans helped fund the operations of it while the foundation put the $100,000 prize up.

Ted Simons: And who decided on the winner of this particular prize?

Thom Reilly: Well, I was impressed with the number of individuals that were engaged, most sectors of society, nonprofit, government, private industry, that participated in rating these proposals at several different levels. We were the last individuals to actually see the presentation. It's one thing to actually see it on video and read about it. But actually having a presentation on it brings it to a new level.

Steve Seleznow: As Tom said, there were some 35 people across the state and outside the state of Arizona, experts in water, expert in social media, experts in communication. And so there were several levels where everyone could weigh in, score it independently, and then aggregate those scores. There were several levels to get to that final five.

Ted Simons: We've had both of you on the show numerous times for a variety of reasons. How is this going to change Arizona for the better? Is this just a great concept, a great project a good idea? How is the going change things.

Steve Seleznow: We think what we have to do here is recognize that we're the beneficiaries of innovative thinking 40 years ago. What we hope this will do -- we were inspired by senator Kyle who said we hope to inspire young people who know how beautiful Arizona is, what a great life we have, and build the political will and support necessary to begin addressing as those before us did, our water future. That's what we hope will happen.

Thom Reilly: We know water is on individuals' minds in Arizona. The Morrison Cronkite poll showed that education and water were the top two issues people ranked. The topic of water, there are a lot of things coalescing together to not only raise awareness as Steve as said. Some of the challenges some of our neighbors face, like California, really are a result of poor planning. The groundwater, the issue of the groundwater problem in California, where they are using up all their groundwater was address beside Arizona 35 years ago with the groundwater act. I think it's that type of innovative thinking we're trying to tap into, so we don't see ourselves facing the same challenges as our neighbors.

Ted Simons: If people want to get one of these clips and find out more, what do they do?

Steve Seleznow: Contact Arizona Community Foundation, and "Beyond the Mirage" is getting set up to introduce their plan and their program. That's what the $100,000 is for. They can certainly contact us at Arizona Community Foundation and we will help them and direct them. This is just the first of two. The next prize is to look at technological solutions or market driven solutions to this problem. We felt it was necessary to build consciousness first and then see what kind of new and entrepreneurial thinking will be next.

Ted Simons: Very good, thank you for being here.

Thom Reilly: Thanks for having us.

Thom Reilly:Director, Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University; Steve Seleznow:President and CEO, Arizona Community Foundation;

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