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Planet Forward

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Title: Planet Forward  
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Subject: George Washington University, National University School of Law
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Planet Forward

Planet Forward
Planet Forward logo
smart people + smart ideas, online & on TV
Genre social network, TV show
Created by Frank Sesno
Presented by Frank Sesno
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 3
Executive producer(s) Fuzz Hogan
Producer(s) Maryland Public Television, The George Washington University
Running time 56:46
Original channel PBS
Original run April 15, 2009 (2009-04-15) – April 8, 2011 (2011-04-08)
External links

Planet Forward, a project of the Center for Innovative Media at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, is a online public forum where experts and engaged citizens weigh in on energy, climate and sustainability. Then, it takes the best ideas and features them online and on TV.[1]



Planet Forward is inspired by the combined power of user-generated media and the tools of journalism to discover innovations that can change the world. This initiative challenges the conventional top-down format of traditional media and rewards contributors who are working to solve these problems by exposing them to the public and igniting both a conversation and a competition to help find the best ideas to move the Planet Forward.

Planet Forward has created a dynamic public square, curating the best ideas and innovations from scientists, business leaders, advocates, students and government leaders. Being based at the Center for Innovative Media at The George Washington University, Planet Forward can engage with students and faculty from the university as well as others across the country and the world. Planet Forward collaborates with a diverse group of organizations in order to find the best ideas and to bring them to the world.

How it Works

On the Planet Forward website, members can submit videos or written descriptions of their innovative solutions tackling today's toughest energy challenges
Frank Sesno talks to guests Thomas Connelly, Jr., executive vice president and chief innovation officer for DuPont, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, and Andrew Revkin.
Frank Sesno talks to guests Thomas Connelly, Jr., executive vice president and chief innovation officer for DuPont, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, and Andrew Revkin.

Members can comment, discuss and share the best ideas with other Planet Forward members as well as "like" (i.e. vote for) their favorite innovations. Experts in clean energy and climate then look at the ideas and evaluate them on terms of viability, impact and technical merit. Finally, Planet Forward's editorial team selects the best ideas to be featured in their weekly online webisodes or broadcast TV specials.[2]
Planet Forward intern Sarah Snyder videos during the 2011 PBS special reception.
Planet Forward intern Sarah Snyder videos during the 2011 PBS special reception.


Created and hosted by Frank Sesno, Planet Forward launched its website in March 2009 and first aired on PBS on April 15, 2009.[3]

In December 2009, Planet Forward began producing weekly, online webisodes showcasing some of the best innovative solutions from Planet Forward members across the country. Each webisode is centered around a specific energy or environment-related topic, ranging from hybrid vehicles to smart grids.[4]

In October 2010, Planet Forward began producing monthly segments for PBS' Nightly Business Report. Like the webisodes, the Nightly Business Report segments focused on a particular green topic and featured ideas submitted by Planet Forward site members.[5] Planet Forward aired its second PBS special,The Energy of Innovation,[6] on April 8, 2011.[7]

Social Media

Planet Forward has a robust social media campaign, with active Twitter, Facebook and Pintrest accounts which it updates daily. As of February 2012, Planet Forward had over 8300 Twitter followers and 1600 Facebook fans.


Season 1: Energy Future

Frank Sesno interacts with the audience during the 2011 PBS special.
Frank Sesno interacts with the audience during the 2011 PBS special.

Hosted by creator Frank Sesno, the original pilot television special featured a panel style discussion that addressed the question: can we move rapidly away from fossil fuels in the near future?. The panelists for the pilot were James L. Connaughton, Hunter Lovins, and Shai Agassi. Viewers were encouraged to visit the website to submit their ideas about fossil fuels to the panel of experts. Those who submitted the most engaging and thought provoking ideas were selected to appear before Carol Browner, the senior advisory to President Barack Obama on Energy and Climate Change.

Season 2: Carbon Footprint

Since the pilot phase of the project, Planet Forward relaunched its website, began producing a series of weekly webisodes and began producing monthly special segments for the PBS business series Nightly Business Report.[8] Planet Forward also archived the content from their first season. In the spring 2010 they addressed the question, "How Can We Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?" The ideas generated in response to the question were featured on a web-only special taped on April 16, 2010, featuring EPA Director Lisa P. Jackson.

Season 3: Energy Innovations

Planet Forward staff prepares for the show.
The 2011 PBS special's rundown.

In the summer of 2010, Planet Forward launched a new question: "What is an innovation that improves how we generate or use energy?" On April 8, 2011 Planet Forward aired its second PBS special, showcasing the best innovator's answers.[9] Danny Kennedy and Jamie Hestekin were selected as the show's winners (i.e. Planet Forward's Innovators of the Year) and Planet Forward will be following in their innovative endeavors for a year.[10]

Planet Forward also entered into a partnership with National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge to produce and manage a blog hosted on the National Geographic website.[11]

Season 4: Changing Planet

In 2011, Planet Forward teamed up with The Weather Channel.

Season 5: Smart Communities

In the fall of 2011, Planet Forward asked its members to share their ideas about creating smart, green-minded communities by posing the question: “What innovation can help communities build for the future and adapt to a changing planet?”[12] The best ideas have been featured in webisodes and Nightly Business Report segments.

In March 2012, Planet Forward began producing segments for Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West” TV show.[13]

On April 17, 2012, Planet Forward and The George Washington University's Office of Sustainably hosted a "Turning Innovation into Action" symposium. Thought-leaders from government, industry, and academics joined to highlight solutions to the challenges of a changing planet. The half-day conference highlighted “Innovation Challenges” offered by participants to demonstrate their commitment to moving the planet forward. Panelists included Former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Aneesh Chopra, Mayor of the District of Colombia, Vincent C. Gray, and Vice President of GE Ecomagination, Mark Vachon.

Sources of funding

Major funding for Planet Forward is provided by: The Tawani Foundation, [14]

Featured research

Planet Forward featured projects that have developed new technology in the energy sector, such as using the Earth's geologic hear to produce energy in El Salvador [1], Innovations for absorbing carbon dioxide from urban areas [2], the works of John Obik and Matthew Mitchel Urquhart in Project Home 2011 scientific research which utilizes quantum energy for electrostatic maglev devices [3], research into using air as fuel [4], and research for using bacteria as a possible alternative source of energy [5] Planet Forward airs news broadcasts of these research projects on public television as a program trhat is actively involved with the community.



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  3. ^ Rice, Doyle (April 15, 2009). "Planet Forward"PBS takes on global energy with Web-driven .  
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  8. ^ February 18, 2011
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  11. ^ February 18, 2011
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  14. ^ February 17, 2012
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