Plant Paradise: how we got here

Planting some trees at the Three Hares Community Woodland

I thought I’d take the chance to give an overall update to Plant Paradise, and tell you how we got to where we are now.

The inspiration

In late 2019, Umar and I teamed up and started working on a concept that got us excited. With Umar’s engineering background and my desire to help nature, we began to imagine a tool that could help restore our lost forests and ecosystems.

At the time I had witnessed, first-hand, the lack of connection between eager climate change activists and greening organisations. I attended tree planting events intended for 30 people, with only 6 attendees, yet there were thousands of people marching the streets, doing the good work of protesting for policy changes. It felt like something was missing.

The problem

Facebook, however you may view it, generally does a good job of keeping us connected. Yet, our initial research highlighted some fundamental issues. Firstly, Facebook tries to keep you scrolling to profit on your attention – not cool. Secondly, its algorithms tend to favour larger  events with more followers and activity. This can drown out smaller groups who find it harder to advertise their events.

We knew there were thousands of incredible organisations already doing brilliant work with volunteer-led eco-restoration programs. We just needed to figure out how to connect these organisations to the millions of potential volunteers that laid dormant, yet eager and ready to help. To flesh out our idea, we went to a place where only nature-loving climate activists dream of going: a towering investment capital firm in the center of London.

Pitching

We pitched our idea 5 times to a panel of experts in a Dragons Den style boardroom. These experts included software developers, legal advisors and investment fund managers. The general reception to the idea was lukewarm, but they encouraged us to go back to the drawing board and refine it. For the next few months we worked on clarifying the key aspects of Plant Paradise. We were also introduced to an awesome developer, Ross, who was ready to work voluntarily on the project until we received funding. Then COVID hit.

Fast forward to November 2020. By this point the concept had been refined to a clear goal – create a platform that makes it easy for volunteers to find planting events and easy for organisations to create and manage events. We believe a centralised directory would level the exposure for all organisations, meaning an event run by a small organisation, like the Three Hares Community Woodland would get the same exposure as an event run by an organisation  like Greenpeace. This would offer all organisations the same opportunity to fill their volunteer spaces. 

Funding

After completing multiple funding applications, we recently won the Social Innovation Competition Award. We have since recruited Ross to build the first version of Plant Paradise. We began designing and constructing the first version of the platform. I wasn’t prepared for the complexity of this task. At times we were stretched to our limits: trying to take into account all the possible outcomes of every function and detail of the platform. However, after nearly three months we built the initial version of the platform. Now it’s ready for testing!

Testing

We are going to carry out select pilot test events of Plant Paradise, with our organisational partners, over the next year. Please keep in touch with us by signing up to the mailing list to get the latest updates.

Our mission is simple – get everyone planting. And with your help, we hope to make that happen!

Thank you and we hope to see you out there.

Love,
Will