The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Sohodojo Meets Japan Foundation CGP Fellow
Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn had an inspiring and productive meeting with Naoko Takahashi, a Fellow of the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership. Ms. Takahashi spent her one-year fellowship at NPower New York, studying the business model and service strategies of this innovative technology services provider supporting non-profit organizations in New York.
The Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership, New York funds and facilitates programs to promote US-Japan collaboration on issues of global and common concern. CGP grants support intellectual exchange involving policy oriented research, dialogues, and access to current information. The CGP also supports grass roots exchange and outreach programs.
"I am conducting my fellowship at NPower NY in order to better understand the 'new philanthropy' which uses methods of venture capitalism and is grounded in the established U.S. legal system and its non-profit organization tax codes." Naoko said, "After my fellowship ends, I plan to support social entrepreneurship in Asia."
Naoko was intriqued by Sohodojo Timlynn's experience of having lived in Japan for many years as a teacher. And she was attracted to Sohodojo's innovative research and social action strategies.
"I know that 'SOHO' is small-office, home-office," Naoko explained, "And the word 'dojo' is a powerful word in Japanese. To us, 'dojo' is more significant than its meaning here of a 'school'. It is a place of learning the way of being and doing."
Naoko, Timlynn and Jim had wide-ranging conversations while enjoying a beautiful Fall day on the patio of Greenshield's in Raleigh. They discussed the accomplishments and challenges facing the NPO job training program at NPower New York. And they explored the potential for fellowship and grant opportunities through the Center for Global Partnership that might help to bring Sohodojo's Small Is Good Business Revolution to Japan.
"We had a delightful afternoon talking with Naoko." Timlynn said, "She is a thoughtful and highly motivated woman who we respect and look forward to working with when she returns to Japan. We are especially interested in collaborating with her and her colleagues through the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership."
Sohodojo Founders Among Raleigh-Durham Creative Class :-)
18 September 2002, Raleigh NC USA - Tom "WOW! Brand You" Peters says you are only as cool the cool dudes and dudettes you hang with. That puts us in good company then, judging by the folks profiled in Finona Morgan's Independent Weekly cover story, Why artists, geeks and rock bands are the key to economic recovery.
Fiona wanted to know why a renowned Carnegie Mellon professor of economic development would rank Raleigh-Durham as the 6th most notable hotspot for finding what Professor Richard Florida has dubbed the creative class. Finona relates her findings, with a liberal dose of personal profiles and opinion, in her provocative cover story that will surely have tongues wagging in local Triangle area Chambers of Commerce and legislators' backrooms.
Forget your old-school notions of key indicators for assessing vitality in your city's local economy. Is it alive with art, music and recreational facilities? Is it geek-friendly with computer stores and electronics wholesalers? Is your city's zoning supportive of home business? Do your state and municipal leaders know what free agents, permatemps and soloists are? Is it nanocorp-friendly?
If your community can answer in the affirmative to these and related questions, your city or town is likely to have a healthy creative class.
Among the 'hot buttons' pushed when we talked with Fiona for her article were our interests in encouraging progressive attitudes among legislators with regard to the free agent contingency workforce, and putting the kibosh on really dumb "smart growth" agendas by power-hungry suburban enclaves of consumerist monoculture like Cary.
For those wanting to dig a little deeper on these topics, we recommend the following:
Finally, we mentioned that we think of the side patio of Greenshields downtown Raleigh brewpub as our public office. We rarely entertain business folks in the inner sanctum of our home office. Not that it's a mess or full of secret stuff. We just love an excuse to sample the latest offerings from this Raleigh landmark. (And we like watching the birds raising families in the steel rafters of the patio.)
At left is a photo confirming our assertion about our use of office space. Here's a snapshot of us meeting with Fast Company editor and author of Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink, on a balmy afternoon at the 'office'. Locals will know where we are by the giant acorn behind us. :-)
By the way, did you know that Sohodojo's word "nanocorp" was recognized by Dan Pink as one of nineteen terms defining Free Agent Nation? Find out more on our Free Agent Nation book review page.
Thanks for visiting,
Sohodojo Founders on A World of Possibilities Radio Show
30 July 2002, Raleigh NC USA - Sohodojo Founders Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky have been interviewed on the syndicated public affairs A World of Possibilities radio program. This half-hour streaming audio program is part of the show's Redefining the American Dream: Living Better and More Lightly on the Planet series.
"It was exciting to have the opportunity to appear on A World of Possibilities radio show." said Sohodojo Co-founder Timlynn Babitsky, "Mark Sommer, Chuck Rogers and the entire team at Mainstream Media did a superbly professional job of conducting, editing and presenting our interview. This really helps us put a personal face on our work at Sohodojo."
"We're so used to talking about ideas, strategies, tactics and technologies at Sohodojo because we are, after all, an applied R&D lab with a social action and education agenda." said Sohodojo Co-founder Jim Salmons, "It was really unusual for us to talk about ourselves and the experience of downshifting from our high-tech Road Warrior consulting lives to those of social venturists. This interview does a great job of capturing how happy and balanced we feel by having shifted the focus and balance of our lives."
A World Of Possibilities is a public affairs offering of the Mainstream Media Project, a group of dedicated communications professionals providing quality content that scratches below the surface of typical 'sound-byte' radio programming. To meet the need for a consistently well-informed, in-depth archive of conversations on key issues, Mainstream Media Project launched the half-hour weekly A World of Possibilities radio program.
"A World of Possibilities features in-depth conversations with leading-edge analysts, thinkers and practical innovators on a broad range of issues offering fresh, solution-centered approaches to the most challenging problems we face as a people and planet." said show host and MMP Executive Director Mark Sommer, "We aim to create 'breakthrough conversations' that bring listeners new insights, options and resources, using wit and wisdom to dissolve our preconceptions about what's possible."
Sohodojo Jim Joins NFIB Federal Tech Advisory Board
22 May 2002, Raleigh NC USA - Sohodojo Co-founder and Research Director Jim Salmons has accepted a seat on the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Federal Technology Advisory Board. This group of about twenty NFIB members is selected by NFIB state and federal leadership to advise NFIB leaders and policymakers on issues related to technology and small business. Sohodojo Jim will actively represent the voice of the emerging solo (free agent) entrepreneurial membership of NFIB.
"In addition to tackling general technology issues, I am especially excited about the opportunity to advise NFIB policymakers on topics relating to the Digital Divide," said Sohodojo Jim, "especially as technology access impacts opportunities for business innovation in rural and distressed urban communities."
Jim's appointment to the Federal Technology Advisory Board complements Sohodojo Timlynn's involvement in state-level small business advocacy through her membership on the North Carolina chapter's NFIB State Leadership Council.
Sohodojo Keynotes Northern Montana Technology Exposition
24 March 2002, Raleigh NC USA - Sohodojo Founders and Research Directors Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky delivered a keynote address at the Northern Montana Technology Exposition hosted by the MIRROR Center of Montana State University Northern and sponsored by a diverse coalition of rural Montana community, education and economic development organizations. The conference took place March 22-23rd in Havre, Montana.
Jim and Timlynn's keynote to the gathering of educators and business leaders addressed the challenges of bridging the Digital Divide. They described the role of innovative business models and associated Internet technologies to support rural solo entrepreneurs and working families. A special emphasis was placed on envisioning the opportunities for collaboration among educators and economic developers to stimulate small business innovation in rural Montana. The full scripted presentation is now on-line.
Sohodojo Visits University of Central Florida - Trip Report
31 January 2002, Raleigh NC USA - Research collaborations are brewing. Sohodojo Founders Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky met with students, faculty and researchers at the University of Central Florida to spread their vision for the Small Is Good Business Revolution. Jim and Timlynn were hosted by distinguished UCF Professor and Sohodojo Advisory Board Member, Mike Moshell, during their two-day visit on January 28-29th.
Mike is Chief Scientist at the Visual Systems Laboratory of the Institute for Simulation and Training and Director of the CREAT Digital Media Program. Mike understands and appreciates Sohodojo's research and social action agenda. And Mike sees how Sohodojo's agenda complements the unique research interests of the creative folks he has assembled at UCF.
Jim and Timlynn's trip report summarizes their visit and how the contacts they made will lead to opportunities for collaborative research projects.
IST and Business Entrepreneurship Explorations
We kicked off our event-filled two-day visit with an interesting meeting with Chris Stapleton (Research Associate in Digital Media and Director for Entertainment Research at the Institute of Simulation and Training) and Cameron Ford (Business faculty liaison with IST/CREAT and spearheading development of UCF's Business Entrepreneurship Center).
To date, we've been concentrating our research vision-pitch on the structural aspects, the 'what', of nanocorps and Small Is Good Business Webs. We've spent less time articulating the functional aspects, the 'how', of Small Is Good Business Webs.
At one point in our meeting as we all struggled a bit to 'get on the same page', Chris did an excellent 'playback' modeling exercise in which he cogently diagrammed our plan for the Squirrelfeeders.com Business Web in the context of his theme park industry experience. His identifying the story-driven, game-oriented mediation of the Squirrelfeeders.com web site as our 'theme park' was a 'click'-insight for all of us! From that point forward, we were better able to relate our research vision to those of Chris and Cameron. We wound up the meeting with a shared commitment to further explore fundable research collaboration opportunities.
Further, as a result of this meeting, we identified our next article to be published at Sohodojo. The Nanocorp and the Impannatori: Trustworthy Mediation in Small Is Good Business Webs will elaborate Chris' functional model and begin our explicit description of how Small Is Good Business Webs will serve as an innovative model for entrepreneurship in rural and distressed urban communities.
StoryLab Dinner Tales
We had a delightful meal and extended conversations at a dinner meeting of StoryLab – a focused and eclectic collection of UCF faculty, researchers, advanced students and invited 'creatives' who all share a passion for story and storytelling. Hosted by the UCF Film Department and supported by the CREAT Digital Media program, StoryLab facilitates research and creative collaborations among its dedicated members.
StoryLab has been given an energetic boost from Visiting Professor Jeff Wirth who is helping to develop the focus and activity-based agenda of the group. Jeff is a leading authority on interactive, improvisational acting and theater. (See Jeff Wirth's Google links.) Don't make the mistake of pigeonholing Jeff in the 'Second City', 'Whose Line Is It, Anyway?' style of improv comedy. Jeff is a Zen-like Master of facilitating theater-style experiences that produce 'a-ha'-type group insight and personal growth in the context of great entertainment.
While the static seating arrangement impinged a bit on the breadth and depth of our one-to-one conversations, we did have a chance to experience the group's story-enhanced meeting process. We even survived the 'hot seat' of having to tell a pre-dinner story that we shamelessly turned into a plug explaining who we were and why we were there;-) And since we were seated near Jeff Wirth, we were able to determine that Jeff deeply understands Sohodojo's vision for story-driven, game-oriented e-commerce in Small Is Good Business Webs.
We're now 'official remote members' of StoryLab and will do our best to get down to Orlando as often as we can to tap into the gold mine of insights and resources this group can bring to Sohodojo's R&D agenda. In the meantime, we'll be corresponding with members to explore research collaboration interests and opportunities.
CREAT Digital Media Student Brainstorming Session
We kicked off the second day of our visit by enlisting Mike Moshell's Digital Media Production class as an impromptu focus group to help develop the Squirrelfeeders.com web site.
Subtitled 'Leadership, Management and Character', this course is an intense 'boot camp'. Designed to bring students' production, project planning and project management skills up to speed for the wide range of creative projects they will be engaged in throughout their studies, this course develops their survival skills to make it in the competitive Real World of employment.
The day we attended class Mike was covering project envisioning and preparation of the design proposal document. The syllabus called for an in-class activity to develop brainstorming techniques. Yep. You guessed it. Story ideas for Squirrelfeeders.com was the subject of the students' brainstorming exercise!
We'd like to share the many creative and funny ideas these folks came up with for Squirrelfeeders.com story-driven content... but that would tip our hand. Let's just say these students didn't let us down. We plan to evolve a number of their bright ideas into content on the Squirrelfeeders.com web site when this demonstration Small Is Good Business Web site fully launches later this year.
Icing the Cake... Meeting A World-class Squirrel Researcher!
As if all of this exciting activity was not enough, all we can say is we must be living right. As we let Mike hole up in his office to prepare for his production class, we roamed the halls of the Visual Arts building to get a feel for the place. Timlynn ambled up to one of the many web-based kiosks that supply up-to-the-minute information throughout the campus... and sure enough, staring up at her from the UCF home page on display was a too-cute squirrel!
In near stunned disbelief, Timlynn playfully poked the furry-friend image on the kiosk's touchscreen. "Jim! Come here! You won't believe this. There's a world-class squirrel researcher specializing in animal behavior from an evolutionary perspective right here on UCF's campus!"
Sure enough, there was a photo of Dr. Jane Waterman decked out in field gear on her last trip to Namibia where she studies the unusual Cape ground squirrel. We were delighted to read the article, African Squirrel Research Planned, and wondered if she was on-campus or in the bush. A quick phone call minutes later by Mike and we had an afternoon appointment to meet the good Doctor in her Biological Sciences office.
We can't begin to thank Jane Waterman enough for the generous amount of her time she gave us on the spur of the moment. We spent nearly two hours talking about squirrels and squirrel research. It was amazing and invaluable to learn about the depth and breadth of serious research being done on squirrels around the world.
What we learned wasn't simply interesting background information. Dr. Jane opened our eyes to a myriad of connections we'll be able to make in the educational content to be developed and offered freely on the Squirrelfeeders.com web site. Sure, we'll provide youth entrepreneurial business training as well as 'backyard science' content for home-schoolers and kids in traditional classrooms. But the cool thing is how many other instructional domains we'll be able to connect to our 'squirrely' curriculum materials.
Photos in this section courtesy Jane Waterman and UCF.
Next Steps - Sohodojo and UCF Research Collaborations
The ball is definitely in our court now. Mike Moshell laid a wealth of opportunities before us by hosting our visit to his unique community of simulation and digital media faculty, researchers and dedicated students. When we add in the fortuitous meeting with Jane Waterman, this visit represents a microcosm of the full range of stakeholders we'll need to develop in pursuit of the research and development agenda of Sohodojo.
We're confident that a number of the good folks we met during our visit will play key roles as we evolve the Squirrelfeeders.com Small Is Good Business Web demonstration business. Over the coming weeks, we'll be bouncing ideas back and forth and developing mutually-interesting and fundable research proposals.
Thank you Mike for making this visit possible. And we thank each and every faculty, researcher and student who met with us during our visit. You are each part of a vibrant community that is unique and very exciting. We hope many of you will find a role to play in the Small Is Good Business Revolution.
And we hope you – our readers and members of the Sohodojo community – will find what happens next as interesting as we found our visit to the University of Central Florida. In fact, we hope you'll find it interesting enough that you'll want to get involved and not let us have all the fun!-)
– Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky –