The last decade has shown us that information on social media cannot always be trusted. In fact, it’s oftentimes weaponized by nefarious forces. So how do we ensure that the information that is being shared during particularly sensitive periods — such as during natural disasters — is accurate and timely? Enter Atma Connect.

Atma Connect is an award-winning organization building the digital infrastructure to connect people together so they can share vital information and create bottom-up change.

Meena Palaniappan is the Founder and CEO of Atma Connect. She’s an Ashoka Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, and awardee of the Million Lives Club. Since 2014, Meena has led Atma Connect to become a globally recognized technology company focused on helping vulnerable people connect, neighbor-to-neighbor, by sharing practical information and solutions, taking collective action, and building community resilience.

Atma Connect built and deploys AtmaGo, a neighborhood-level mobile app in Indonesia and Puerto Rico for users to share real-time information and solutions to better prepare for disasters, improve their access to basic needs, and address chronic vulnerabilities. AtmaGo has reached over 10 million people in Indonesia, Puerto Rico, and Ukraine.

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Below is a full transcript of “The Response: Disaster Collectivism on an App with Meena Palaniappan”

Meena Palaniappan: [00:00:04] The way mobile phones are being used in development was to tell people what to do or to collect information from people, especially poor people, in the service of larger institutions and organizations. And there really was nothing out there that really saw these people on the front lines as brilliant, ingenious, powerful, and gave them a way to connect with each other so they can build their collective power. And I wanted to do that. I wanted to create multi-directional, peer-to-peer communication that was really focused on the person living in the vulnerable community or in the ignored community.

Robert Raymond: [00:00:56] Welcome back to The Response, a biweekly interview and audio documentary series where we explore how communities respond to disaster, from hurricanes to wildfires to reactionary politics and more. I’m Robert Raymond.

[00:01:11] Today on the show, we’ve brought on Meena Palaniappan. Meena is the founder and CEO of AtmaConnect, an award-winning organization, building the digital infrastructure to connect people together so that they can share vital information and create bottom-up change. She’s an Ashoka fellow, Fulbright fellow and awardee of the Million Lives Club. Since 2014, Meena has led AtmaConnect to become a globally recognized technology company, focusing on helping vulnerable people connect neighbor-to-neighbor by sharing actionable information and solutions, taking collective action, and building community resilience.

[00:01:47] AtmaConnect built and deploys AtmaGo, a neighborhood-level mobile app in Indonesia and Puerto Rico for users to share real-time information and solutions to better prepare for disasters, to improve their access to basic needs, and to address chronic vulnerabilities. AtmaGo has reached over 10 million people in Indonesia, Puerto Rico and Ukraine. Here’s Tom Llewellyn who will be conducting today’s interview.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:02:28] Hi, Meena. Welcome to The Response.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:02:30] Thank you so much. Great to be here.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:02:32] This conversation, I think, has been a long time coming. I think that we first got connected back in 2019 after we began screening our film, “How Puerto Ricans Are Restoring Power to the People.” And, you know, I’ve been meaning to have you on the show ever since then. So since many of our listeners and viewers may not be familiar with your work, just kind of start by sharing a little bit about your path and the genesis story of AtmaConnect?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:02:56] Yeah, absolutely. So I’m an environmental engineer by training and had been working early my career on environmental justice issues around the country and working on international water and sanitation. And I was in India working on a water and climate project. And just over the last decade, what had been happening is that people still don’t have water and sanitation, but increasingly they had mobile phones. And so got on this journey to say, how can we use this ubiquitous technology to make visible the invisible? So the invisible urban poor who still don’t have water and sanitation, to give them a way to be heard and seen and their needs met.

[00:03:47] And so I started a project in Indonesia, which was called Water SMS, a way for urban poor people to text in information on their water service issues and needs and have that be crowd-sourced, mapped in ways that would be unignorable to local water utilities and local governments. And in that project, I learned a lot of things. One is that the way mobile phones are being used in development was to tell people what to do or to collect information from people, especially poor people, in the service of larger institutions and organizations. And there really was nothing out there that really saw these people on the front lines as brilliant, ingenious, powerful, and gave them a way to connect with each other so they can build their collective power. And I wanted to do that. I wanted to create multi-directional, peer-to-peer communication that was really focused on the person living in the vulnerable community or in the ignored community. And that’s how I started the journey.

[00:05:00] And I also was really obsessed with scale, you know, just in the backyard and the Bay Area. It was like Facebook has reached billions of people, Twitter’s reached billion people, yet we don’t have a technology for good platform that’s reached a billion people. Why not? And so I just learned from kind of how they were doing it, which was taking a human-centric design approach, taking a lean startup approach, and just really having no attachment to what we were building. Because ultimately the user is the customer, and they’re the ones that need to lead.

[00:05:37] And so we initially launched the first version of Atma go as a way for urban poor people to share water price information in Jakarta, in Indonesia, in 2014. And we kept asking our users, at this point we’ve done thousands of human-centered design interviews, but we were doing it at the beginning too, and we kept asking our users, “how can we make this better for you?” And people said, you know, “I’m not sure I’m going to change my water service provider for price reasons, but I am interested in sharing a lot more than just water prices with my neighbors.”

[00:06:13] And so we threw away what we had developed, which a lot of non-profit tech projects just don’t do. And we said, “Let’s build what you want.” There’s no point in building what you don’t want. And so we relaunched as a hyperlocal social network, and immediately people started using it during the chronic flooding in Jakarta. This happens every year and people started using it to share photos of flooded streets. They posted locations of government flooding shelters. They were really providing moral support to each other. To the residents of Bukit Duri, we can get through this together. And once the floods were there reaching out and warning each other to watch out for signs of waterborne disease and children. And so it was this entire ecosystem of information that we didn’t even know was missing in disaster. And it was just incredible to see this paradise built in hell, which is like the connections.

[00:07:13] And ultimately, you know, I think we talk about first responders, but your neighbors are really the next responders, Like they’re the ones that are going to be there. And after we saw what was happening, you know, looking at the academic research and seeing that in all of these disasters where research was done post-disaster, finding that communities that were better connected, experienced, less mortality, morbidity, and disaster. So that was — it’s just been an incredible journey seeing the birth of that power.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:07:47] Yeah. And if you found — I mean, I know there’s that kind of landmark study that was done after the Chicago heat waves…

Meena Palaniappan: [00:07:52] Yes.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:07:53] …in the mid-nineties, which showed that there was other studies that have happened.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:07:56] After Hurricane Sandy.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:07:58] After Sandy, the triple disasters in Japan.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:08:00] Yes, yes.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:08:01] And how is — have you been able to track that impact in Jakarta and other places as well?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:08:06] Yes, absolutely. And I’m really excited that we were able to build on this evidence. So one of the key things is early warnings. How do we get early warnings to people in ways that are trusted that people take action on? And so what we did is we connected with government early warning systems and created peer-to-peer hazard warnings. And Qualcomm, one of our donors, did an independent evaluation of AtmaGo and the impact of it during disasters and interviewed 350 people, AtmaGo users, non-users, and quantified the impact, the economic impact, the mortality, morbidity, impact of disasters over the past five years. And they asked people who are AtmaGo users what they did as a result of an early warning on asthma go. They warned their neighbors, they evacuated their families, they moved valuables. And at scale, at a scale of a million people every year, this was over $100 million in economic losses avoided and over 6000 years of healthy life saved. So it was an incredible validation of what we’ve been seeing happening and how incredible this mutual support and disaster is to protect the things that we, you know, the people and things that we love the most.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:09:30] And our communities and the places and everything. Yeah, I mean, I think a lack of communication and misinformation is usually a problem during disruptions of all different kinds, and oftentimes it’s benign in nature happening as a result of high-stakes disasters that they present. But there can also be nefarious reasons for that with select individuals and groups looking out for their own interests rather than those of their entire communities. And longtime listeners of The Response will remember that we did a documentary about the 2017 Puebla earthquake in Mexico City, and there was rampant misinformation.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:09:30] There was a more well-known story about a little girl named Frida Sophia, who didn’t actually exist. But for many, many, many hours it was said that she had been trapped underneath a school that had collapsed. And I mean, there was international rescue groups that were coming from Israel, I think from Japan, from all over the place. And yet there was nobody under the rubble. And they spent days — it was on national television. It was all over the place. And, you know, it may have just been misinformation. You know, I guess one of the rescue dogs was named Frida. And so was that somehow with that name came from also the school owner who was a private school, and she built a whole addition on top of it that was nonpermitted and not structurally sound. And she actually tried to escape the country while this was happening. And so there was this question about whether or not this tkind of this story was driven so that she could get away from the space. So there was some definitely some obfuscation going on.

[00:11:03] But I tell this story because there is this lack of trust that comes happen. And that was a word that you just you just brought it up. And especially right now with everything going on at Twitter and this history of misinformation that’s been spread on Facebook, I’m wondering kind of what have has happened differently with AtmaGo that has enabled so much trust from its users?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:11:26] Yeah, that is a great question. So we’ve done surveys with our users and found that 91% of users trust the information on AtmaGo because it’s coming from their neighbors, people in communities. That’s the first layer of it is our tagline, the sort of the core of the organization which is “neighbors helping neighbors, people helping people.” And our users have said that that really affects the kind of information they put on AtmaGo that they think, is this helping my neighbors?

[00:12:04] And one of our users said, you know, all the other social media is like ego media. What am I wearing? What am I doing? AtmaGo is something different. It gives me a way to help other people. And there’s no better, you know, heartwarming quote than that. It’s incredible. And that’s really how people see it. This is theirs. And it’s for them to create better communities, better lives. And that’s the first layer is just the very core of the organization.

[00:12:38] And the second is that we have — all of the content on Amigo is curated. So we have a human in Indonesia that is curating this information. Humans, many humans that are curating this information. We have community ambassadors in locations throughout Indonesia that are curating the information. So it is real people on the ground that are ensuring the veracity of the content that’s on AtmaGo and that it’s not divisive or inflammatory. So our user guidelines are very much about is this helping others? Is it promoting tolerance and inclusion? And what’s on there is really a signal to the new content that’s added by users.

[00:13:27] So I always ask this question or tell the story that I heard during the genocide in Myanmar that Facebook was implicated in — guess how many Facebook employees were on the ground or were employed in Myanmar?

Tom Llewellyn: [00:13:43] Zero?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:13:46] Zero. And I think that we really need to remember that technology is a tool for improving our connections in the 3D on Earth. And so how do we make sure that it plays that role and it doesn’t become sort of a virtual space in itself that is sowing division and conflict and tearing the social fabric. So that is really fundamental, is ensuring that the information is trusted.

[00:14:17] And I’ll tell a story. So during COVID, there’s obviously so many stories about the misinformation that was being spread on the traditional social media platforms. And we created, within two weeks, a special microsite on COVID, which had the official information from the government, it connected people to resources in different stages of the disaster in Indonesia, ambulances and oxygen, beds were in really short supply. So getting access to those things and we provided free tele-counseling. Women and children were heavily impacted by the pandemic. Domestic violence cases really increased during the lockdowns, especially in Asia. And this was a way for people to get very accessible, free online help.

[00:15:12] Additionally, we created sort of community voices. So during different stages of the pandemic where first it was, you know, this is a hoax, COVID is a hoax. And so having a real people from different places throughout Indonesia to talk about that they got COVID or how they were dealing with business closures and turning that into an opportunity for creativity versus conflict and division. Later stages of the pandemic, it was about addressing vaccine hesitancy. So having not government officials, but real people on the ground in different communities of different ethnic backgrounds talk about — to share their story of getting the vaccine and why they did it. And it was this sort of peer-to-peer information sharing that I think really pierces the misinformation bubble.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:16:07] Yeah. And I’m wondering how, in addition to that kind of spreading that information, I’m wondering how the platform has kind of changed over time? I noticed that you can refer to it as a mutual aid tool. And I’m wondering kind of how that has manifested itself on AtmaGo.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:16:27] Yeah, so a few evolutions of the platform. So at the beginning it was really the incredible impact it had during disaster response and recovery. People were rebuilding together, they were helping each other find food and water, shelter in the hours after disaster. What was really exciting to me is how they started moving into the mitigation area and people were organizing events to plant mangrove trees to reduce the impact of flooding from sea level rise and wave events. And they were cleaning garbage, organizing biweekly garbage cleanups in dense urban areas which reduced the impact of flooding. So, the stormwater drains were cleared. So there were so many ways in which people were taking prevention into their own hands and taking collective action to ensure that we were preventing the severity of the next disaster. That was incredible.

[00:17:29] They were also gathering together to advocate with governments. So whether it was we need this river de-silted or we need to monitor government budgets and sort of make sure that the infrastructure that’s needed is being funded. So it’s incredible how this is connecting to so many other things in the way that people are taking collective action to actually create the future that they want versus reacting to these terrible situations. So that’s been incredible. And ways that we’ve been helping to support those efforts.

[00:18:06] So one of the things that we’ve created that I’m really excited about in the last two years is looking at sort of our highest value users, like the folks that are posting the most content that were the most engaged. These were community leaders often have informal groups that weren’t registered as a nonprofit in places like Indonesia or Puerto Rico, and yet they were the ones that were spearheading these activities, creating events, and we started talking to them, How can we make this more valuable and useful for you? And it was clear they had a few things that were really important for them. One is engaging, activating their communities, getting more supporters for their cause. Second, learning from other community leaders. And third is being able to access financial support for their work and to be able to do that by creating a resume of the impact that they were having, quantifying and providing photos and evidence and stories about that impact.

[00:19:14] And so we created a community impact platform where we now have 200 organizations, small organizations, who are having discussions with their members about what should the next activity be or how can we address this issue around flooding, or how can we empower women entrepreneurs and creating events and documenting these actions in ways that we can start seeing all of these thousands, millions of points of light and start connecting them in ways that it can become a force that monetizes financial resources from institutions that are looking to fund that kind of impact.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:19:57] Yeah, and I think what I’m kind of hearing from you, too, is that this is a really good example of what Movement Generation refers to as permanently organized communities that need to be able to be already working together so that in advance of a disaster or when disaster comes, they’re in a better position to advocate for their needs to public officials and to the outside world to garner support when necessary, but also to be able to help kind of support long-lasting change coming out of that disaster so that the communities don’t face the exact same thing again and again and again, which we see, especially in marginalized communities where there aren’t the same amount of resources that may be in other communities. And so it sounds like the platform you’ve been able to kind of use it to achieve a goal similar to that.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:20:44] Absolutely. Yes, it is that I define resilience as bouncing back better, bouncing back stronger. And that’s fundamentally what we need to do is sort of take it from responding to this disaster to creating an even more resilient community in the future and a better-organized community through collective action and these connections that are going to reduce the impact of the next disaster and ultimately change the frame. So that mangrove trees, for example, not only reduce the impact of flood events, they also store carbon. And so how can we fund both of those things together? We need to do that.

[00:21:26] The communities that are on the front lines of climate change and experiencing these extreme weather events had the least to do with the amount of carbon that’s causing this level of disruption. And without a doubt, any resources that are available from the international community need to go to these frontline communities so that they can invest in the resilient infrastructure and solutions that are going to protect their communities and also mitigate carbon.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:21:59] And I mean, I think and right now a lot of that’s being talked about in Egypt, you know, and there is this reluctance of the global north to pay the fair share to help mitigate the great harm that is happening right now in the global South that is, you know, only going to increase. And there’s a number of different levers. I mean, you know, we talk about the larger policy levers. We talk about community organizers that are pushing for this work. And I understand that you’re also kind of working on these kind of environmental, sustainability, and governance opportunity from kind of getting investment and support as well. Just wondering how that’s — kind of I think that kind of speaks to what you’re talking about with the mangroves.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:22:43] Yeah, absolutely. So what we have now is this community impact platform and a dashboard that is aggregating this impact at scale. How many trees have been planted? And the next phase is to get funding into this and to help these communities. SO one of the approaches that we’re really excited about right now that we’re putting together with a coalition of organizations is how can we align economic incentives for forest communities? And this is absolutely the number one driver of deforestation, over 90% of deforestation in the Amazon, in Congo, in Indonesia is illegal and it’s driven by livelihood needs. And we need to solve this. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the most effective solution for deforestation. And it’s the way that really sees and solves the needs of communities in forest communities.

[00:23:44] And what we are creating — and technology has moved to this point in the last few years where we’re talking about Web 3.0, which everyone is a co-creator in Web 3.0, and we’re creating a framework where people in forest communities can share their stories, their ideas, their photos, their solutions, and have that be funded in ways that will change the economic incentives for deforestation. And that initial funding then moves into how can we start funding not through microfinance or loans, but through injecting capital to help these individuals start and grow forest-aligned businesses. So this is I think the — it’s really a transformative solution to this that is not about having money flow into carbon markets where it’s not reaching communities and the people that are most affected. But let’s get it to the front line. And that’s our goal.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:24:58] It sounds like an upstream solution, which is, I think, in alignment a little bit with a recent audio documentary that actually our partners over at the Upstream podcast have done investigating kind of the difference between kind of a Green New Deal and a and a green capital perspective and kind of dives into those larger economic factors, those community factors and the environmental factors that that really are kind of in a push pull relationship between those two things.

[00:25:25] I know you mentioned that, you know, we just kind of started talking a little bit about how you are looking beyond Jakarta. And I know the platform has now grown beyond Jakarta in the last number of years and starting with with Puerto Rico, which is again, a way that we first got connected because it’s the disaster that was Hurricane Maria is one of the things that inspired us actually to start this show in that year of 2017 when there was, I think, 16 major disasters in the United States alone, causing thousands of lives to be lost and trillions of dollars of damage. And so I’m wondering kind of how the the platform is kind of looks and feels on the ground in Puerto Rico and how people are using it there.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:26:05] Yeah. Really exciting to talk about Puerto Rico. And I can say a little bit about Ukraine too. Puerto Rico has been really amazing and in some ways unique in that in Puerto Rico, what we really have focused on is community leaders, many of whom are women. And many of whom are involved in addressing one of the big issues that became visible after Hurricane Maria, which was food insecurity. And it, varies, but over 80% of the food in Puerto Rico was imported. And it’s a big issue. And so what we’ve been doing is helping to support community gardens and farmers to share their strategies and approaches across the island and really create this sharing of best practices and create communities of best practice.

[00:27:01] We also created a program, and we did this with the National Park Service as a partner, and it was a way for community leaders throughout Puerto Rico to talk about the past, present and future of their communities. And it was a really incredible series in terms of the diversity of community leaders are profiled and how much they enjoyed all interacting together in sort of like the compendium event and how much more we need of that, because sometimes this can feel like a lonely road. And yet when we brought community leaders together from Indonesia and Puerto Rico, it was incredible. You know, despite all the translation issues, there was so much energy and so much commonality in their struggles and their celebrations. So it was incredible. We need more of it because it is it is lonely sometimes swimming upstream, working to create change in in places. So yeah, it’s been really, really heartwarming.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:28:14] Yeah. And then in Ukraine because I know that’s where you’ve mobilized most recently after the Russian invasion I think in the last few months, right? And earlier this year we did an audio documentary about Ukraine kind of exploring the forced displacement of the Ukrainian people and what mutual aid looks like during wartime. And it was very much focused on kind of that initial evacuation, like people, you know, either moving to other — the far western corner of Ukraine or moving into other countries like Moldova, and kind of how people were welcomed, how they were able to sustain that work, how they were able to support the populations and kind of what that was looking like at that stage, really in the first few months of this manmade crisis.

[00:28:57] And, you know, here we are today, we’re moving in towards fully into winter. I think there was it was snowing yesterday, I think below zero degrees. It’s now kind of a compounding disaster on the ground in Ukraine. You know, not only just the just the war, but the fact that so much of the infrastructure has been destroyed. You know, the energy crisis, people are hearing a lot about that I know project that we’ve been a little bit a part of on the on the peripheral in Petaluma, California, are running a solidarity action and getting people to reduce their consumption of resources in Petaluma to mirror the consumption that’s happening in Ukraine. So there’s awareness about it and using it as an opportunity to build awareness about what’s going on the ground. And, you know, with this kind of new phase of, again, that manmade disaster that is war in Ukraine, I’m wondering how AtmaGo is being implemented there.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:29:50] Yeah, it’s interesting. And those crises that you’ve talked about are certainly challenging. We do have like low-bandwidth and all of these things integrated into the technology and all of those things are real and have an impact. So we really did want to focus on internally displaced people. And as they’re moving to new cities to create those connections and have that peer-to-peer support and help them find the resources they need. And we did that in Vinnytsia, which is the location that we’re in, where people are sharing resources — there are volunteers that are sharing resources on the platform. And before we decided to do this, we talked with several international large international organizations that work on this and they just really were not able to move that quickly. They did not have a team in Indonesia. They were not able to use existing platforms that they built in Ukraine.

[00:30:54] And there’s research that’s showing that there’s a tremendous amount of international money that’s come in to address the Ukraine crisis — much of it is not being spent in Ukraine, and yet 90% of the work is being done by volunteer organizations in Ukraine. And so how can we really get more support and resources to these organizations? That’s really you know, again, I see getting visibility of these internal organizations that are doing the work and getting them resources.

[00:31:29] This is what’s needed: that we support the neighbors who are already there on the ground creating this change. And so I think that’s been — it’s definitely been a different situation. You know, I mean, I would say that on one of our board members always says there’s no natural disaster, everything is manmade. And yet this disaster has a number of other things that we had to really think about before going in terms of definitely following all of the the regulations in terms of what can be shared on the platform and making sure that, you know, ensuring safety and security of folks, that those were things that we wanted to really ensure.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:32:11] And I think you brought up a really good point there about how much of the traditional kind of charity model of emergency response — I mean, charity in general, but especially in emergency response. The money does not flow through the communities that are the most impacted by those disasters. One organization, I think, is doing a really good job of showing another way is World Central Kitchen, which, you know, goes and helps to support the local businesses, give them the ingredients. If they don’t have access to it, pay them for the creation of the food. And it’s, I think, a really good model.

[00:32:40] I mean, there’s there’s been so much criticism, especially, I think one of the most well-known examples is in Haiti, where so much of the money that’s gone towards supporting Haiti has gone to international NGOs, you know, and very few houses have been rebuilt, you know, and the impact on the ground has not been felt by the people themselves.

[00:32:57] And, you know, one thing that I’m now really interested about, maybe we’ll do a follow-up at some point in time, but finding out kind of how that support looks for internally displaced peoples. I know last year in 2021, there was 38 million people that were internally displaced, 14.4 million coming as a result of conflict and violence and just under 24 million by disasters. And here an example of the conflict and violence. But, you know, right now I think there is close to 60 million people that are internally displaced around the world. And so there is a huge need for connecting people when they are displaced —making sure people are able to find the available services that they need to be able to survive and thrive in the new locations that they’re being forced to be put into.

[00:33:49] And as we have more and more of these massive climate disasters that we’re going to even if we do everything right, we know that we’re going to have more of these before it starts getting better. We have to start to really kind of think about how we are going to mitigate the secondary harm that comes after these disasters, that comes after these displacements of those impacted communities. And this seems like it may be on the pathway to be one of the answers to that question.

Meena Palaniappan: [00:34:15] Yeah, absolutely. We’re just scratching the surface on the need and we don’t have the name brand of these international — yet — of these name brand international organizations. And yet we were able to in a few weeks have the platform up and running in a language, you know, it’s not Roman characters. There’s a lot of, you know, there are a lot of issues. And we were able to do it because we got a few individual donors that supported it. And that’s great. But the need is massive. And I not only want to have the platform serve as a way to be able to see these local organizations that are doing this work and get them resources, but also as a way for people to — and this is kind of how we’re now thinking about, we’re sort of moving towards this in Ukraine, is having people on the ground be able to use it as a Yelp for these services. There have been a lot of issues in terms of human trafficking and gender-based violence and issues in the Ukraine situation, because the majority of people that are in transit are women and children. And we want to create a way for their voices to be heard. Like, is this service working? Like, did this actually reach me so that we can get more — we can increase the effectiveness of the aid that is flowing to Ukraine?

Tom Llewellyn: [00:35:47] Yeah. So wondering kind of what’s coming next? What are you working on right now? And is there other places around the world that you’re working to expand?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:35:58] Yes. So we are very interested in this climate justice alliance. So creating living forest economies. And after this COP and the tremendous, urgent need that we have on this and the tools that we have available to create from the bottom up the solutions that governments and the carbon market and companies can start flowing money directly into people’s pockets. And that’s really the first step of a vision called the Plenty-Verse, which we’re working to build. So it’s the exact opposite of the Metaverse in every way imaginable. So rather than sowing conflict and division and creating a virtual world, it’s about connection. It’s about getting resources, driving resources to things of real value on Earth. The people that are protecting forests, the forests, it’s changing the economic system to flow to things of real value and mediated through a very simple tech platform that’s focused on the people that need it most.

Tom Llewellyn: [00:37:12] Yeah. And is there anything else you’d like to share before we end this interview?

Meena Palaniappan: [00:37:17] Yeah, come check us out at my connect dot org and how we’d love to collaborate.

Robert Raymond: [00:37:34] You’ve been listening to “Disaster Collectivism on an App with Meena Palaniappan” to learn more about Meena’s work visit We’ll put the link in the show notes.

[00:37:44] This episode of The Response was hosted by Tom Llewellyn and was presented and edited by me, Robert Raymond. Additional communications and operations support were provided by Zanetta Jones and Alison Huff. The Responses Theme music was written by Cultivate Beats. Support for this show has been provided by the Shift Foundation, Platform OS and tax-deductible donations from listeners like you. This is a project of, an award-winning non-profit media outlet Action Network and consultancy promoting people-powered solutions for the common good.

[00:38:19] Please rate and review The Response wherever you get your podcasts. It really goes a long way in helping us extend our reach and make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @responsepodcast. That’s it for today’s show.

Until next time. Take care of each other.

The Response: Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of Disasters

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