Project JAR has left the building!


INTRODUCTION: Guest bloggers

Kate and Maddy learning to fly

The Studio’s guest bloggers this week–Maddy Cohen and Kate Burrows–are a special pair of young entrepreneurs who are combining their passion for the environment, collecting and sharing stories, and their love of the road through Project JAR (Just a Ride). They are traveling the country to not only collect stories of, but share and raise awareness of, clean water issues in this country. Their process of visioning, developing goals and objectives, planning their research project, funding it through Indiegogo, and sharing their findings through Twitter, Instagram, and a web site, models actualizing a dream to impact the social good that other entrepreneurs and organizations can do, too.

VISIONING: An oral history project documenting regional water issues.

As good friends who have lived and worked together over the past year, we have had a lot of time to bounce ideas off each other. Among the zany and outlandish, we have kept a pool of ideas that we filed under “JAR.” JAR stands for Just A Ride, our shared sense of spirit and adventure and an interest in exploring and learning. One project that kept resurfacing was an opportunity to explore some public health issues before we both begin graduate programs for public health in the fall. We both share an interest of the intersection between climate and health, as well as the line between environmental science and human experience. Thus, we designed a 6-week road trip to collect stories about the regional water issues that Americans are facing across the country.

DEVELOPING GOALS: “Project JAR” (as we’ve deemed it) has us talking with local residents who are living with water-related problems, and documenting and publicizing these issues using audio and video recording. Our website ( will be the final product: we hope it will serve as a platform that will provide quick and easy access to information about select water issues, and make accessible the human experience of facing water security.



OBJECTIVES:Our ideas often begin as huge, hazy, and ambitious – and we love that! It is exciting to be inspired by giant and bold plans. But it can be overwhelming. In order to make this project a reality, we started to boil it down to a more specific and streamlined idea. The basic outline of our project is relatively simple:

  • record our conversations
  • listen to them
  • choose a powerful clip
  • write a transcript of the clip
  • upload the clip and unedited conversation on our website

We recognize the power and importance of an edited, improved full conversation, but as we wanted to be accessible, and we are trying to do it as close to real-time as possible, we chose to leave the full recording unedited.


Because a lot of what we wanted to capture revolves around water access (access to clean drinking water, access to fisheries, access to any water at all), the idea of accessibility was a big topic of conversation. That trickled into how we wanted to execute this project, because if we do it right, we might inspire someone else to go sit with someone down the street, or in the café, or at the front of classroom – wherever! We wanted to show how accessible and easy it is be a curator of stories – particularly because we are fortunate enough to live in a time when we have technology at our fingertips.

Project_Jar_technology_cropWe consciously decided not to buy any additional equipment, and to keep our project low-cost we are using:

  • the standard iPhone recording app (Voice Memos) to record and clip conversations,
  • one purchased app, Sign Easy, which allows our interviewees to sign a virtual media release (which also helps to eliminate paper waste!),
  • the Noun Project for graphics (thank you: Oleg Frolov, Ahmed Elzahra, Oriol Carbonell).

While we recognize that not everyone has a smart phone or laptop, our project plan could effectively be replicated with a simple recording devices and access to a public computers with Internet.

FUNDING: Furthermore, the money for our camping equipment (we decided our trip would be more exciting if we camped and couch-surfed instead of staying in hotels!), gas, and car repair kit was crowd-funded using the fundraising website, Indiegogo. Our website is hosted by Wix, which is easily used by those who have little to no web design experience (like us). The minimalist setup of the website allows viewers to focus on the content, and not the design.

SHARING: One of our recent conversations was with John Wathen, photographer and water protector in Tuscaloosa, AL. His words shook us to our cores, discussing the biggest oil spill from a train derailment in the US, which happened near Aliceville, AL in November 2013. John’s photographs speak for themselves, and his words might inspire you as well. You can hear him and see his photographs on our website.

Grand Isle, LA: We talked with local fisherman about how the diversions of the Mississippi River might impact their homes and their livelihood.


END GOAL: Creating a Community of Concerned People

At the end of the project, we will have a completed website of stories and our thoughts surrounding them, and hopefully we will have connected strangers and opened a dialog for these water issues. We have already achieved both of those goals on a personal level – we have met amazing people and had some pretty incredible conversations, and we aren’t even halfway through! At each turn, it is a humbling experience to meet people and hear their words. In that way, this project became publicly owned as soon as we recorded our first story. Moving forward, we are excited to watch as themes begin to come together and more people get their voice heard.

Lisa and Doris have invited us to write another post at the end of this project.  In the meanwhile, please use the comments section below to ask us questions or comment, or come directly to the Project JAR site to share water stories there.  Let’s start the conversation…

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  1. […] clean water issues in this country. Things did not always go as planned…but finished well. Here is their post introducing Project JAR (Just a Ride) to WLS readers a few weeks ago.  Keep reading […]

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