When I started working at Weber Shandwick Seattle 12 years ago, there was no Social Impact practice. While we worked with non-profits or philanthropy-related clients, it tended to be on small projects around big milestones or events.
In 1996, your cell phone was more of a status symbol than a tool of everyday life. If you were like many people, you had a device tucked away in your car for emergencies, as voice plans were expensive. Unfortunately, if you were like me, when you were in an emergency situation where a pay phone wasn’t close by, you were probably also in a place where wireless signals were limited.
Fifteen years ago the cleantech sector as we know it today did not exist. Green and “clean” were relegated to the tree huggers and granola hippies of Big Sur. But as more scientific research pointed to climate change, and people realized that our oil reserves will one day dry up, a plethora of politicians, celebrities and even businesses took up the cause and began to shift the public’s view. People are starting to think differently – companies are starting to think about “greening operations,” people are exploring new technologies such as the electric car or solar panels and society is embracing new practices such as recycling – and in some cities like Seattle – even composting.
Fifteen years ago, the human genome had not yet been sequenced. It was 2001 before that milestone was reached and we could see the order of the 3 billion base pairs that determine so much of our destiny. And the beat goes on. By the end of 2011, Nature magazine predicts 30,000 individual human genomes will have been deciphered.
Fifteen years ago, in 1996, I was an ex-gamer.
When I went away to college in the late 1980s I left behind the group of friends with whom I’d spent countless hours at the table playing pen-and-paper role-playing games like Champions and Call of Cthulhu. I also left behind the Commodore 64 that brought me captivating PC games such as Zork, Six-Gun Shootout, Mail Order Monsters, and the groundbreaking Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, in which the ethical choices you made were as important as the items in your inventory.