I’m a versatile and experienced writer. My current main area of expertise is the environment, sustainability and energy issues, but I have ample past experience in writing on everything from theatre, economics, science, the sociology and biology of HIV, technology and personal finance to copywriting for television and print media.
I am passionate about clarity and accessibility, for making often technically inaccessible materials as clear and lucid as possible, for finding imaginative, sometimes provocative, new ways to explain things and keep my audience fascinated and engaged. I am extremely good at quickly researching sometimes highly technical areas of science or policy and describing them clearly and compellingly for a general or more specialised audience.
If you’re holding a conference on business development, scenario planning or sustainability, and looking for contributions to provoke discussion and stimulate new thinking, I’m available for public speaking on a range of issues, including the intersections between sustainability, climate change, democracy and economics. I can also help you write and prepare speeches.
- ‘Human culture for a cooler planet’ – The Climate Leadership Programme, April 2011
- ‘Buddhism and economics’ – Green Drinks, Cape Town, Sept 2011
- ‘The case for the maximum wage’ – TEDxTable Mountain, May 2012
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ – Leonardo da Vinci
‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.’ – Albert Einstein
There is an art to writing well that tragically escapes all too many people who consider themselves expert in their fields. In academia, huge resources are wasted on doing and writing up valuable research – because the papers that describe that research are opaque and badly written. Ideas and insights that cost fortunes to develop are lost in a badly phrased paragraph or article. Students come to think that a good academic style is one that is pompous and inaccessible – because they’re exposed to all too many examples of dreadful writing from their teachers. Too many so-called experts hide mediocre thinking behind a veil of foggy complexity.
As an editor, I am passionate about making your ideas as clear and accessible as possible. Technical tools such as grammar and spellchecks are a great aid to proofreading, but they are no substitute for a bold and creative editor who can restructure, clarify and re-write. If you want to go well beyond the minimum standards required to ensure that you do not embarrass yourself, I’m your man. I have edited everything from whole books to research papers. Ideally, I also like to train people in writing better in the process of editing. In learning to write better, one learns to think more clearly.
Internet and web design consulting
I have long experience in building and managing websites. In 2003, I was editor of one of South Africa’s pioneering news websites, the Mail and Guardian Online. During that time, I worked to restore revenues, engage audiences, rebuild the morale of staff, commission a new content management system and expand our coverage.
I can build new websites from scratch and link them to social media, particularly using the advanced blogging platform WordPress. WordPress and other open source content management systems now allow us to create whole websites out of the box in a couple of hours or days, and clients can easily take over the day-to-day management of their websites with a little training.
I am not a trained web designer, but my advertising experience – years of working alongside art directors in agencies like Ogilvy, Bates and Leo Burnett – has given me a strong feel for design and typography, and my knowledge of HTML and CSS is good enough to allow me to adapt free or premium design templates to suit your needs. Where I can’t help you or where you need particular design expertise, I will refer you to experts.
Design consulting: Often a website may have all the content it needs, but still not be as user-friendly as possible. South African websites are all too often over-crowded or unfriendly. If you need a website usability report and recommendations for improvements, I’m happy to assist.
The spread of social media means that people have become accustomed to a social internet. A conventional static website that does not offer regular news updates or informal insights into the organisation now appears lofty and inaccessible. But not everyone has the time or ability to generate the relatively small amount of friendly or insightful organisational news that invites people to engage with you.
While a full-scale social media strategy (embracing Facebook, Twitter and other platforms) demands substantial time and commitment to develop, a blogging presence with weekly or even just monthly updates can greatly enhance your web presence – and I can help you write or manage a blog generated by your own people that gives your organisation’s website a new dimension of accessibility and openness.
I have worked on scripts for corporate and industrial theatre, and for television (the HIV documentary-magazine series Siyayinqoba Beat It!).
Social and stakeholder engagement
The foundation of making sustainability real is understanding the social context in which one wishes to create the possibility of change. Without genuine engagement and patient dialogue, very little can be achieved. In 2009, working with the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and other partners, I initiated an Editors Forum on Climate Change that helped expand the understanding of the implications of climate change in the SA media. In 2011, I helped plan a civil society conference in preparation for that year’s COP 17 climate change conference in Durban.
With genuine engagement, remarkable and unexpected possibilities, and new opportunities, emerge. If you face a problem of communications around sustainability-related change or a challenge in getting sustainability down to practicalities, let’s talk.