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Bittersweet news: Upwell is shutting down.

Ray Dearborn's picture
on January 12, 2015 - 12:16pm

“It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.” - Ernie Harwell, broadcaster. 

Happy New Year to all of you on Team Ocean. We hope your holidays were restful and delicious, and that you’re excited for a 2015 of #oceanoptimism.

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 marks the fourth year of Upwell's existence. The Tide Report first fluttered into your virtual mailboxes in June 2012, and as you can see, it’s evolved a lot since then. We’ve covered a lot of ground: from ocean plastic cleanup schemes to ocean acidification warnings to Gangnam Style (remember when that was a thing?) on the Rainbow Warrior. Plus, of course, there have been plenty of random but necessary pictures of sea otter cuteness:

Yes, exactly like that. And outside of the Tide Report, Upwell has sharkinared and attention lab-ed, and oystered New York, and oh so many things, and none of it would have been possible without all of you, and it’s been wonderful which makes it so difficult to write this next sentence, but here goes.

Upwell will be closing up shop this spring.


We know, we know. We feel the same way. But, while we are sad to deliver this news, we are also filled with hope.

Here’s the honest truth about how and why we’ve made this decision. 

After two years of exploring a variety of funding options and models, we’ve been unable to secure dedicated ocean funding that is sufficient to maintain our core ocean programming. In partnership with our major funders, we’ve made the difficult decision to close down our program, with a likely end date of March 31.

We really tried to find a way to sustain Upwell, promise. Upwell has been interesting, fulfilling work for all of us. And it was worth fighting to keep this project alive - up to a point. Now, closing down is the right path for us as individuals and as an organization. While bittersweet, this is the right thing to do.

We were fortunate to be able to do this movement-level work, collaborating with so many organizations, scientists, journalists and passionate activists. We’re grateful to our funders and collaborators, and to our current fiscal sponsor the New Venture Fund, for believing in this work and helping achieve the great many successes we’ve seen since we began our little organization back in 2011. Many took a chance with us, in hopes of creating change and deep impact.

Thank you for your trust. Thank you for the many times you amplified the story that the ocean is in crisis. Thank you for all of your good advice and tips. Thank you for not giving up on the ocean.

We are not done yet.

Our focus for the next couple months will be learning and sharing. Over the past three years we’ve advanced Big Listening - a way to measure and understand conversations at scale - and found ways to amplify great content through networked campaigning in order to increase the attention to the most pressing ocean conservation issues. We’ve been so grateful to work with a community that is not only open to, but excited to learn about this new way of working, and we’ve so enjoyed watching Team Ocean grow.

From Sharkinars to acidification memes to baby seals, we’ve got lessons and memories abound. We want to hear yours too.

Here’s how you can help.

Consider this the beginning of a conversation about how the movement can carry forward this work. Tell us what you’ve learned through working with Upwell, and ask us your burning questions.

We'll be extending invitations to celebrate and learn from this community in a variety of ways over the next couple months - over email, social media, coffee, and video chats. (There may even be some rum involved.) To begin, we’ll be having an “open house” over Twitter tomorrow. Come to us with your questions and ideas, and the team will be standing by to answer.

Tuesday January 13, 11-1 PST/2-4 EST.
Upwell Open House - Participate in the conversation with the hashtag #upwell.

As always, send us your tips (or hopes, fears, missives, manifestos, dreams or ocean gossip) to It goes from you, to all of us.

Rachel, Ray, Matt & The Good Ship Upwell

P.S. The most excellent Upwell team, past and present, has every intention of continuing to work in this (these!) veins. You should hire them, say I, Rachel. They are hilarious and brilliant and brave. Individual contact info here.

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