By Steve Prince, Managing Principal

Last year, the Designing Futures Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Harvey Mudd College to support an innovative environmental sustainability education initiative created by Professor Paul Steinberg. Professor Steinberg’s team has just completed a “Making of the Social Rules Project” video that shows how the animation and video game, made in collaboration with students from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and the Claremont Colleges, came to life. The Social Rules Project, and the way that Professor Steinberg has empowered and engaged students throughout the process, is truly inspiring. Below is a link to the video that I hope you will watch and enjoy.

I also interviewed Paul to learn more about where the project stands and the next steps.

Tell me how this “Making of” video came about.

The Social Rules Project itself grew organically–first as a book for the general public, then an idea for an animated film, and eventually a video game and social media website. There came a point when, with 100 students busily working on these various projects, we realized that we’d better start documenting this remarkable collaboration on film. The outreach staff at Harvey Mudd College lent us their talented videographer, Josh Gilson, who only recently graduated from Claremont High School. So from start to finish, this project is student powered.

I know you are very grateful to the HMC Designing Futures Foundation. Why has the $5,000 grant been so important for this project?

The foundation world can be very compartmentalized, yet creative communication and problem solving require, more than ever, breaching professional and disciplinary boundaries. This is an unprecedented and highly experimental project by the standards of academia, and so it doesn’t fit in the boxes that academic funding sources are accustomed to. HMC Designing Futures Foundation came in at just the right time to allow us to start work on the animated film in summer 2012. This was the $5,000 that gave the other $70,000 wings, by allowing us to reach beyond the Claremont Colleges and set in motion the film that will attract visitors to The Social Rules Project website.

I admire your perseverance considering the long timeline of this project. I know your book, Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives, will be published by Oxford University Press next year, so what are you still working on from now until then? What are some big things on your “Social Rules” to do list?

Right now the priorities are twofold, both of them related to outreach. First, we’re seeking advice on outreach strategies. We have a lot of the pieces (educational media) in place, but could use help knitting them together into a coherent social media strategy. Second, we’re reaching out to environmental nonprofit organizations that would like to partner with The Social Rules Project, using these free educational materials to motivate members to scrutinize, and rewrite where necessary, the rules (policies, contracts, city codes, design standards, etc.) that shape how we interact with the planet.