in Movies that make a difference – 06:58pm Nov 21, 2003 PST
One of the distinguishing factors of those who are truly entrepreneurial is reflected in the first two words of our personal definition of entrepreneurism, that is, a "relentless passion to change the world through innovation." Having passion in this case is that 'love affair' you have with what you do, the thing that gets you up in the morning.
The 'relentless' adjective of the relentless passion of the entrepreneur is the qualifier that sets him or her apart from most people. Truly significant innovation is so challenging that you have to keep in its pursuit WAY beyond what your family, friends, and colleagues think is justifiable. These folks who are closest to you sing the most seductive Siren Song that can detract you from your mission. Your family and friends are not doing this is make you fail as they genuinely care for you and your well-being. Try as you may, a few notes of those Siren Songs creep into the back of your mind.
No matter how passionate and relentless you are in your entrepreneurial mission, we're only human and have doubts... days when we question ourselves and the decision we've made to blaze the Road Less Traveled. Those few Siren Song notes play over and over in your mind like a bad radio advertising jingle you can't get out of your head. That's when we turn to movies that remind us of the need for relentless passion. The television mini-series, Longitude, we mentioned a couple posts back is just such a source of inspiration. Brassed Off!, Tucker, Whale Rider, Rabbit-proof Fence, and The Business of Fancy Dancing, among many other films that do the same thing for us.
When we need to charge our entrepreneurial batteries, we turn to an inspiring film that reminds us that the journey is the reward.
in Movies that make a difference – 01:24pm Nov 21, 2003 PST
Longitude, the four-part, two-disk DVD set of the A&E television mini-series is quite simply a rare case of the adaptation being better than the source book, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. This is really saying something as the short, highly readable book is excellent. The television mini-series, however, is outstanding and unquestionably inspiring.
Why cite this title here? Because Longitude is the best movie/mini-series we know about that truly captures the spirit of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Longitude, the historical mini-series, recounts the trials and tribulations (an understatement, we assure you) of John Harrison, the English clockmaker, who dared to solve the famous navigational problem with a mechanical solution, while the Powers That Be were set on a celestial solution.
Chances are, if you are like us, you were never taught about John Harrison in school. But truth be told, he is as important an historical figure as any you can name in terms of single-handedly and single-mindedly dedicating his life to changing the World As We Know It. And by any measure, he succeeded. Unfortunately, those Powerful Ones foiled by his success ensured that John Harrison's story would be relegated to a footnote in history.
Why do we like this movie/mini-series so much? Well, it is unusually well-written, beautifully filmed, and a joy to watch. Michael Gambon as John Harrison is brilliant and perfectly cast. Jeremy Irons as Rupert Gould, the modern Naval officer who rediscovered and rebuilt the Harrison clocks, is equally inspiring. But the real reason to watch this production is its content. This mini-series reveals the story of an incredible man who epitomizes everything folks need to be to sustain ourselves and succeed in today's world. And John Harrison led this exemplary life in the early 18th century!
First, John Harrison is entrepreneurial to the core of his being. This means he had an unrelenting passion to change the world through innovation. When everything and everybody told him to throw in the towel, he bucked up and kept going. Harrison spent the better part of his life in pursuit of the solution of The Longitude Prize, the official contest to develop a reliable method for ocean-going ship navigation.
To succeed in today's globalized, hyper-competitive world, we all need to be entrepreneurial in the passion we bring to our lives, and to the dogged determination we keep in pursuit of solutions to the world's tough problems. We all need, in other words, to be like John Harrison.
John Harrison stood up to, and held his ground in earnest opposition of, the Powers That Be. In the Big Is Good World, the Powers That Be define the rules of the game and are its referees. It is unbelievably difficult to 'reinvent the game' when competing against those who have that much control over Life As We Know It. For John Harrison, it was the bureaucrats of government, the clergy, and the learned fellows of the scientific societies who quite literally mocked him nearly to his grave.
In today's world, we each need to be as dedicated to our convictions as was John Harrison. We each need to find our own path and stick to it no matter who sings a Siren Song to dissuade us from our life's course.
And above all, John Harrison believed in himself, and he tapped that wellspring for the energy it took to change the world while so many stood against him. If each of us can be half the True Person that John Harrison was, there is hope for the future.
Social entrepreneurs everywhere will find a kindred spirit and inspiration in the story of John Harrison, an extraordinary 'ordinary' clockmaker who changed the World.
in Defining Business-Social Ventures – 02:55pm Nov 14, 2003 PST
No, not Karl, Groucho. Many of us are familiar with the the quote attributed to Groucho in which he quips, "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member!"
We can't help but think that one of the underlying motivations for folks to add the 'social' adjective to the terms enterprise, entrepreneur, venture, and similar business-related words is that many people have negative opinions about the domain of business and the system of capitalism. It's as if we just add this magic term to a traditional business concept and we suddenly have a club in which we can accept membership. We don't mean to sound cyncial, but there is probably more truth to this than many of us would care to admit.
Personally, we don't think of ourselves as social entrepreneurs, nor of our business/life strategy as a social enterprise or social venture. We are first and foremost competitive entrepreneurs and happy capitalists. Admiting this may well turn some folks off. But the reality is that it is how you behave as an entrepreneur and how you practice capitalism that gives the domain of business a positive or negative value basis. For us, that value basis is measured in whether your life and the organizations you create or join lengthen or shorten the flight of Spaceship Earth during human beings' stewardship at the helm.
Once we learned about and started participating in the Social Enterprise community, we started using this terminology to be understandable to others. But fundamentally, we are businesspeople and capitalists who 'fit in' to a community like Social Edge.
We don't have to get rich to be happy, and we don't like the idea of working hard to make a few rich folks richer because they invested in our business early on. These and similar personal values impact how we behave as businesspeople, and how we envision and implement a business.
Business is business. Corporations are simply 'wrappers' around collaborative networks of people. The people, as agents for the ephemeral entity of the corporation, determine the good or bad works of the legal entity. Big or small, the impact of a corporation is the result of peoples' actions.
For example, we intend the Chandler Guild, a microenterprise and small business network of soybean wax candlemakers, to be both a wildly successful industry competitor and a humane and environmentally-friendly business. How we design and implement this business will determine if it might be viewed as a social-business enterprise. But ultimately, how well this business succeeds in the marketplace will be a function of its competitive strength in the industry.
Our challenge with the Chandler Guild, and the challenge for similar 'social-business ventures', is to figure out how to capitalize on the characteristics of Small Is Good World organizing principles to create a unique competitive advantage in the marketplace. We'll need, for example, to innovate in the creation of "Who, How, and Why" marketplaces rather than trying to sell into the "How Much and Where" marketplaces of price and distribution that are optimized for Big Is Good players.
Once we understand that business is business and capitalism is not a dirty word, then we are starting on the road to creative competition in the Real World.
So, in response to Thomas' original post, since business is a domain of action by and for people, then all business is social by nature and has a social impact. And in response to Karin's point about the flexibility of terminology, we agree. Actions speak louder and truer than words.
in Recommended Readings – 01:15pm Nov 14, 2003 PST
Kris, thanks for these pointers to such interesting and relevant articles. We'd like to balance these excellent domain-specific recommendations with a few titles that are tangentially related to our mutual interests. Here are four books that we have found incredibly inspirational and insightful in evolving our social change vision and strategies...
Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure is a slim, non-fiction volume that pulls together Quinn's provocative ideas about history, human nature, and our future. This book rounds up the inspirational ideas sprinkled throughout Ishmael, The Story of B, and My Ishmael, and annotates them in a conversational question-and-answer style that is most enjoyable reading.
Foremost among Quinn's Big Ideas that have shaped our thinking at Sohodojo are:
- There is no One Right Way: Tolerance of
diversity is one of Gaia's survival strategies, not a moral
- Any social change strategy that requires individuals or corporations to become more saintly or to sacrifice in the name of simplicity or the Common Good is doomed to failure.
That second point may sound cynical or arrogant, but it is neither. The lesson to be learned by social entrepreneurs from Quinn's provocation is to 'Just Do It!' - your social change strategy had better be competitive in the dog-eat-dog world of a free marketplace which is subject to intentional manipulation through scientific marketing. If your strategy relies on re-educating consumers or appealing to the 'enlightened few', don't plan on changing the world. Yes, you might have an impact, maybe even a significant impact by social sector standards, but you won't change the world on a planetary scale that will substantially lengthen the flight of Spaceship Earth.
Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi is a must read source of insights that will help shape your social enterprise strategies and tactics. This is a wide-ranging and very readable overview of the application of the Big Ideas in network theory. Most of us are increasingly familiar with the Six Degrees, Strength of Weak Ties, Rich Get Richer dynamics of social network theory. Familiarity is one thing, true understanding is another. Barabasi's book will give you a crash course in social network dynamics that are essential to social change strategic thinking in our network society and network economy.
There is no book that makes a better case for the re-emergence of the Small Is Good World than Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin's The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. Smart executives and marketers from the Big Is Good World are devouring this book to help formulate their next generation of product and service offerings. If you don't read and re-read this book to imprint its content into your strategic thinking, well, prepare to move to the back of the bus.
We finish our short list of recommended readings with a more practical and less Big Picture title that should be on everyone's bookshelf. Walk, don't run to your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy of Influence Without Authority by Allan Cohen and David Bradford. While written in the eighties, it remains in print and is even more relevant in today's world than when it was written.
In a prior post about defining business-social ventures, we made the point that the domain of entrepreneurism is shifting from managing an organization to influencing a business network ecosystem. Cohen and Bradford's book is the definitive guide to the strategy and tactics for survival in this growing domain where thought leadership, not command and control, rule.
We were so impressed and influenced by this book that we wrote an impassioned e-mail to Allan Cohen, distinguished professor at Babson College, and convinced him that Small Is Good World entrepreneurism is an emerging new face in the practice of entrepreneurship. Through subsequent communication we developed a mutual admiration. We're pleased to be able to say that Allan Cohen is now a much-appreciated member of the Sohodojo Advisory Board.
While we are all swamped with domain-specific reading and endless demands on our time to move our social action agendas forward, we do not hesitate to recommend that you find time to add any or all of these books to your reading list.
in Defining Business-Social Ventures – 12:38am Nov 13, 2003 PST
We vowed that we would do our best to keep our posts short and to the point for this event. And here we are on our second post and it is much longer than we'd like. But please bear with us. We believe there is a point to be made and it will take a bit of explanation and example. Please don't be deterred by the length of this post.
There is an unspoken assumption in the Ashoka/Changemakers Solutions Bank that makes it difficult for us, as social entrepreneurs if we are to be categorized in this regard, to paint ourselves into this picture. This assumption is that the fundamental organizing unit of social change is the organization. Whether characterized as a business-social venture, a project, a non-profit or for-profit corporation, the assumption is still the same. According to the Solution Bank model, organizations are the 'players' in this domain and individual social entrepreneurs are invisible.
For those who 'play the game' according to Big Is Good organizing principles, this is not a problem. From a Big Is Good perspective, my social impact strategy and my organization are one and the same. But this is 'old school' entrepreneurism. Over the last 150 or so years, Industrialization and urbanization have gone hand-in-hand with the rise of the corporate form of organization (regardless of sector distinctions). But as the speed of change accelerates, ownership becomes a liability and we are increasingly seeing the 'deconstruction' of traditional corporations into what Charles Handy has called Shamrock organizations; a three-leaf network of permanent core employees, outsourced service providers (business-to-business relationships), and the contingency (temporary, as-needed) workforce.
What was once done by 'command and control' through monolithic organizations is increasingly done through dynamic business networks. The organizing unit, in other words, is increasingly the business ecosystem rather than the business organization. With this change, the domain of entrepreneurism is shifting from managing an organization to influencing an ecosystem.
So what does this have to do with social entrepreneurism and the Ashoka/Changemakers Solution Bank? Well, this goes to the heart of what the Solution Bank can tell us about the domain of social entrepreneurism. There is a growing community of social entrepreneurial free agents. These are entrepreneurial Individuals who believe that the best way to make his or her most significant social impact is to serve as a change insurgent into many dynamic interrelated organizations rather than affiliating with just one. The Solution Bank can tell us about organizations within the Social Enterprise domain, but it will under-represent this emerging approach to the practice of entrepreneurial social change.
Let us take ourselves for example. We are the co-founders and research directors of Sohodojo, an independent, non-profit, applied research and development laboratory supporting solo entrepreneurs and working families in rural and distressed urban communities seeking sustainable participation in the Network Economy. Sohodojo is a network enabler, serving as the outsourced R&D lab for a new generation of microenterprise and small business networks. But Sohodojo is only a one part of our comprehensive entrepreneurial social change strategy.
We are also entrepreneurial participants in some of the microenterprise networks that Sohodojo seeks to support. For example, we are active in the Chandler Guild, a microenterprise and small business network of soybean wax candlemakers. We helped envision and start the Chandler Guild, but we don't own it or control it. Sohodojo Jim ran for and was elected to the Table of Twelve, the Guild's leadership committee. And he was subsequently elected by the Table as the Business Co-chair to help guide the evolution of the Guild. Here, we exercise influence without authority rather than command and control through ownership.
While we stand to profit from our active peer-based participation in this business, we will not gain a windfall return from having a founding ownership stake in this business. And any software technologies or educational materials that Sohodojo helps to develop to support the Chandler Guild will be published under Open Source and Open Content licenses to be available to any entrepreneurs who want to start and evolve a similar microenterprise or small business network.
In addition to Sohodojo and the Chandler Guild, Timlynn is Director and Jim is Entrepreneur and Futurist In Residence of the North American Rural Futures Institute at Montana State University Northern. In these capacities, we are doing applied field research and social action to add a Small Is Good dimension to the rural futures research domain.
While you might map any one or another of these organizations into the Solution Bank based on its mission and characteristics, you would be missing the forest for the trees. It's not about any one of these organizations. Rather our social change agenda is about the interaction and mutual support of these various organizations and their stakeholders and participants. This is an example of a business-social venture ecosystem. An essential element in this ecosystem is the trusted network of entrepreneurial individuals that bind these organizations together.
We don't yet know how to reconcile this emerging sub-culture within the social entrepreneurial community into the model of the Ashoka/Changemakers Solutions Bank. We welcome insights and suggestions in this regard. We do know what's at stake however. Failure to fully appreciate the re-emergence of the Small Is Good World (the domain of the Power of the Individual rather than the Big Is Good World's power emanating from organizations) can mean that the social enterprise support infrastructure (organizations such as Ashoka, Skoll and Schwab, etc.) will increasingly cater to social change organizations rather than support the social change entrepreneurs from which these organizations and ecosystems evolve.
For additional background on these ideas, please see our article, Cross-Sector Partnerships: New Perspectives in Social Entrepreneurism.
in Let the Discussion Begin! – 02:38pm Nov 12, 2003 PST
While we resonate with the spirit of this event and discussion, we cannot help but cringe at some of the statements herein. Not that they're wrong nor improper, but that they carry an implicit assumption about how the world works, and where we will find solutions for social and environmental/planetary problems.
Kris, in your bullet list of questions to consider for this event you list, "What are the legal, institutional and cultural barriers to creating business-social ventures, and how do we overcome them?" To our mind, the most detrimental assumption underlying the best intentions is that big problems need big solutions and that, of necessity, drives us to the pursuit of scale.
Since the problems of poverty, injustice, and other social ills are so grand and global, we jump too quickly to the conclusion that significant social change can only come from scaling up the organizations that tackle these problems. The mistaken assumption is that organizations and their actions produce significant social change. We believe, however, it is ideas and the infection of ideas from person-to-person that truly produces historic and global social change. And such Idea Power is as likely to be exercised in the Small Is Good World as it is in the Big Is Good World.
Take for example the idea of agriculture. Long before the Internet and global telecommunications, here's an idea that took root in one individual or small group of hunter gatherers and, arguably for better or for worse, eventually transformed the human condition and the fate of our planet. It didn't take the formation of a for profit or not-for-profit organization to nurture and spread this innovation, it just happened. Sure, various organizations have been influential in shaping agricultural development. But these organizations are instruments of, or enablers of, the idea of agriculture.
Let's take an example that is perhaps less grand but more specific to the business-social venture topic of discussion. That is, let's look at Toby and Richard Beresford's MicroAid company. What is exciting and revolutionary about MicroAid is not the company nor its technology platform. What is exciting and revolutionary about MicroAid is the idea that international development can be done "in the small" on a person-to-person basis. What has always been the domain of nations and large international aid organizations is being transformed as it is realized in the Small Is Good World through the business-social venture of MicroAid.
In all likelihood, the lasting and significant contribution that Toby and Richard Beresford will make to the extension of the flight of Spaceship Earth will not be the creation of a long-lived legal entity, MicroAid. Rather it will be the infection of their powerful idea that international development can be effectively practiced as a personal and small business enterprise.
We look forward to the evolution of the discussions during this event, and we promise to consistently contribute ideas and opinions from the Small Is Good side of the fence.
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--
in Movies that make a difference – 03:27pm Nov 6, 2003 PST
Keely has already mentioned Rabbit-proof Fence which is a recent favorite. To that we'd add another recent film, Whale Rider.
But for an all-time, we never get tired of watching (and love the music) Brassed Off! is among the best.
If you have never seen Brassed Off, we challenge you to rent it, watch it, and not be moved and inspired.
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--
in It's a Wrap: Closing Remarks – 09:37am Oct 3, 2003 PST
Our stated agenda in participating in this on-line event -- the conscious reason we used to motivate our participation -- was to serve as change insurgents into a world of change agents. Anyone who has followed our posts knows that we are evangelists for repopulating the Small Is Good World. You know that we want to put a spark plug in the two-cylinder engine of capitalism's Small Is Good cylinder, and give this economic engine a much-needed tuneup.
A largely unspoken agenda -- or at least one we did not dwell on too much for fear of 'jinxing' the possibility that it might happen -- is that we hoped that the power of our ideas and our ability to articulate these ideas would capture the attention of one or more of the 'big players' in the SE domain. We hoped, like many of us here we are sure, that perhaps our daily struggle to piece together the finances, stakeholders and collaborative partners to furher pursue our life's mission would be made less stressful and tenuous through our selection by Ashoka, Schwab, Skoll, Echoing Green, or similar organization for a fellowship or some such program. We hoped that such validation and assistance would provide the financial, networking, and mentoring support to help us take Sohodojo out of start-up mode.
Who knows? Maybe something like this will happen. But we can't depend on angels (as in the seed funding kind) and miracles to move us forward. As entrepreneurs we have to take each day as it comes. We have to persist in our determination to change the world through innovation no matter what. We are resigned, in other words, that our day in the Sun may not be just around the corner.
Then, out of the blue, something truly special and consistent with the spirit of this event happened for us last night... something happended that is classically entrepreneurial. We've discovered some kindred spirits, father and son team Richard and Toby Beresford, and we've learned about their brilliant social enterprise, MicroAid. We learned about their business model and technology platform that is profoundly targeted at the Small Is Good World.
We went down this exciting path by coming across Toby's post (tobyberesford, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!" #29, 24 Sep 2003 1:22 am) and sniffing out a hunch.
We spent hours exploring the MicroAid site last night, and the light bulb that lit was a 1,000 watt searchlight! With everything they have done, we saw where we might collaborate with them to add Sohodojo's "secret sauce" to their menu. We wrote a bit about this technology development agenda in our post about SE's needing a story-driven, game-oriented e-commerce engine (Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn, "Collaborate with Us! Build a Toolkit" #21, 2 Oct 2003 11:28 am).
We believe the current MicroAid platform will be useful to us for a number of strategic agendas we have developing. Over time if this collaboration works out, we know exactly what we can add to a collaborative vision that could make our combined impact greater than the sum of our individual efforts.
This is a perfect example of entrepreneurial networking, putting needs and offerings together in a 'Win-Win' way to increase our chances of mutual success. Sohodojo and MicroAid won't have to wait for either of us to develop significant funding to move forward. We don't have to solicit anyone's permission to explore our prospective collaboration. If it's right, and we like and respect each other, perhaps we'll do big things together... or maybe not. But you have to keep trying. And our next steps are as simple as a thread of email exchanges and a phone call or two.
Thank you Skoll, Ashoka, and Schwab for hosting this valuable event. If any of you hosts would like to know more about the exciting collaborative agenda that Sohodojo is exploring with MicroAid, you know where to find us! Today we know better what we would do with a fellowship opportunity than we did when we arrived at this event.
Keep on keeping on,
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--
P.S. We are speaking strictly on behalf of Sohodojo in this post. We have only had an initial e-mail exchange with Toby in the last 24 hours with regard to our interest in MicroAid. So some of what we are saying here will be a, hopefully welcome and intriguing, surprise to Richard and Toby. For those of you interested in reinvigorating the Small Is Good World, wish us luck.
in Collaborate with Us! Build a Toolkit – 01:56pm Oct 2, 2003 PST
Jim, you hit on a Super Sensitive Hot Button for us at Sohodojo. As an independent, nonprofit research and development lab serving the needs of solo and family-based entrepreneurs in rural and distressed urban communities, we intend to use Open Source and Open Content licensing to make our materials available to our constituencies.
By freely giving away our technical and educational materials to anyone who wants them, we will actually strengthen these materials we make available to our target constituencies. This ever-improving process is powered by the OS and OC licenses requiring the recipient of the materials to give back any improvements or extensions they make to the materials for the benefit of the Common Good. This paradoxical feature -- that is, giving to all in order to improve our service offering to our constituents -- has had our IRS friends scratching their heads in the processing of our form 1023. But that's another story.
The problem is, until Sohodojo has the financial resources and network of significant stakeholders necessary to protect ourselves, we have to play our R&D cards close to the vest. Until we can consider obtaining defensive software and business method patents, we run the risk of of doing all the hard work for some cherry-picking, greedy bast_rd from the Big Is Good World.
Currently there are a number of foundations and community minded organizations available to help with the proper wording and packaging of IP to be disseminated under Open Source and Open Content licenses. Unfortunately, we don't have similar resources to protect what is expressed in the works disseminated under these licenses.
Granted, the best solution would be a world in which software and business method patents did not exist. But they are a fact of life. They are one very visible method by which the Big Is Good World exercises its authority through ownership. Patents are also a mechanism to transfer the rights to an idea from the Individual to the Corporation. Patents are, in other words, a mechanism that works to unlevel the playing field between the Big Is Good World and the Small Is Good World.
We know this by personal experience. At the dubious height of his professional corporate career, Sohodojo Jim was an Executive Consultant in object technology at IBM. His area of expertise was in the design and development of executable business model software technologies. Throughout his nearly five-year tenure at Big Blue, there was intense pressure to patent his ideas. Had we (Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn are life/work partners)... had we succumbed to the siren song of financial and career advancement incentives offered, we would literally be locked out from our ability to pursue our life's work at Sohodojo. We could not, for example, be working on and floating around the ideas we've discussed in our post about wanting a story-driven, game-oriented e-commerce engine (Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn, "Collaborate with Us! Build a Toolkit" #21, 2 Oct 2003 11:28 am).
Obtaining and then protecting the rights afforded under a patent is a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Until we can find an effective way to add the legal resources Jim Fruchterman has identified for our SE Toolkit, we will have a difficult time giving the engine of capitalism that tuneup it so desperately needs.
in Growing to Scale – 12:01pm Oct 2, 2003 PST
In the 'civilized' world, non-lethal (economic) competition is a replacement for lethal, physical warfare. The reason that humans appear to be of a 'higher order' than our next closest sentient creatures on Earth is because we systematically killed off the competition until we felt enough of a 'comfort zone' in terms of competition for resources and territory.
The same thing goes on in the non-lethal business world. We see the ecosystem of a couple biggies and a bunch of smaller players because of self-regulating dynamics at work. The middling competition is driven out of the marketplace, and the cost of 'killing off' the other couple dominant players to too great to risk your own existence. And the benefit of chasing down and killing off the litte guys is marginal.
We think the reason you see a 'muddier field' in the non-profit domain is that this competition is less lethal than the market mechanism of free enterprise. Non-profits compete for the scraps of excess production of Big Is Good capitalism. But by and large, they do not go after each other the way competitors do in the private sector.
Bottom line, we think you observation is perceptive. The phenomena you describe reflects an inherent dynamic of the 'rules of the game'. Given this train of thought, it might be interesting to speculate about whether the SE domain will, over time, be more reflective of the competitive dynamics of the private sector rather than those 'muddy waters' of non-profit sector competition.
in Collaborate with Us! Build a Toolkit – 11:28am Oct 2, 2003 PST
At Sohodojo, we're on a mission to give a major tuneup to the two-cylinder engine of capitalism. It's been missing a spark plug in the Small Is Good cylinder for well over 100 years. By running on the Big Is Good cylinder all this time, we can't help but pollute our environment (along many dimensions, not just environmental) due to the inefficiencies from our economic engine being so far out of tune.
The Big Is Good World and the Small Is Good World are shorthand references to the dialectic opposition of motive forces that underlie capitalism. Neither is right nor wrong. Neither will necessarily produce bigger or better results. They are, in a word, two aspects of the human condition and the human experience.
The managerial logic of the Big Is Good World is based on corporate and institutional organization. The managerial logic of the Small Is Good World is based on personal and social network relations. The entrepreneurial challenge in the Big Is Good World involves managing organizations. The entrepreneurial challenge in the Small Is Good World involves influencing business or social ecosystems.
Yes, this is a gross simplification, but you get the idea. For more on the two cylinder engine of capitalism and the practice of social entrepreneurism, please see the following article:
When it comes to what we'd like to see in an SE Toolkit, we believe that what's good for business ecosystems in the Small Is Good World will be useful to social entrepreneurs in general. Consequently, the thing we'd most like to see in this Toolkit is a story-driven, game-oriented e-commerce engine.
A story-driven, game-oriented e-commerce engine is a framework of Internet based software technologies that will support the creation of new "Who, How, and Why" markets that will provide an alternative to the Big Is Good World's "How Much and Where" (price and distribution) markets.
We won't belabor the details of this Toolkit requirement further in this post. For more about this commerce engine, please see the following article:
At Sohodojo, we believe that repopulating the Small Is Good World and giving the engine of capitalism an overhaul and tuneup are among the most important challenges we face for improving the quality of life on, and the length of the flight of, Spaceship Earth.
in Welcome! How do you fit in the world of Social Entrepreneurs? – 12:59pm Sep 26, 2003 PST
Run, don't walk to your favorite bookseller and get a copy of the classic book, Influence Without Authority, by Babson's Allan Cohen and Stanford's David Bradford. These two distinguished business professors have written a book that is a guerrilla manual for leadership in the Real World.
This excellent book was written in the late eighties and has a decidedly business-oriented case study approach. So don't be thrown by its focus. Just do some mental re-application to see how the wealth of strategic and tactical information in the book can be applied in your situation.
We are fortunate enough to have Dr. Cohen as a Sohodojo Advisory Board member.
You will find additional insights about living in a world of influence without authority in this article:
Good luck in your work. It sounds like a challenge that you are ready and able to tackle.
in Welcome! How do you fit in the world of Social Entrepreneurs? – 09:15am Sep 26, 2003 PST
Our dinosaur metaphor used in a prior post (Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn, "Welcome! How do you fit in the world of Social Entrepreneurs?" #164, 25 Sep 2003 2:43 pm) was not used in a pejorative sense, nor limited to their infamy at being extinct. Rather, it was used in the sense of ecological niche, adaptability, and the recognition that there is No One Right Way.
We used this metaphor in the context of your lament about the paucity of social entrepreneurs in Western Europe. We were suggesting that due to recent social and economic 'climate changes', you will be more apt to find early stage social entrepreneurial mammals than you will find late stage social entrepreneurial dinosaurs.
What do early stage social entrepreneurial mammals look like? They are more often free agent change insurgents than organization builders. Their adaptability and effectiveness comes from dynamic peer networking rather than from their fitting into the conventional mold of what an organization should be and how it should act.
Also please understand, Pamela, that our use of the phrase Big Is Good is not the same as BIG. Big Is Good is a shorthand reference to a constellation of ideas that describe the World As We Know It today. This world is one characterized by rampant consumerism, extreme disparities of personal wealth, and inequitable access to the products and services essential to a decent quality of life.
Many of today's social innovations address one or another of these characteristics that divide the haves and have-nots in today's world. These social innovation efforts can and should be continued.
But the emergence of the Small Is Good World as a complementary counterbalance to the Big Is Good World is potentially among the most significant and necessary social innovations of our time. For more background on this idea of the two cylinder engine of capitalism and social entrepreneurism, please see the following article:
Gaia had the wisdom to place bets on both the Big Is Good World and the Small Is Good World during the Mesozoic era. The question today is, how far into the future are foundations like Schwab and Skoll willing to look when they make their social innovation investments.
in Welcome! How do you fit in the world of Social Entrepreneurs? – 02:43pm Sep 25, 2003 PST
We couldn't have paid you to ask a collection of more pivotal questions that we are itching to answer. There are very likely others, like us, who have visited the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship web site and thought, "If only they understood what we were trying to do, the scale of its potential impact, and its potential for diffusion through replication. If they understood us, then they might support us like those we've seen showcased on their web site's example case studies."
Well Pamela, now that you've asked, here's what we've been thinking.
In your post, "Nurturing Social Entrepreneurship", you lament:
Over the last three years, we at the Schwab Foundation have spent a significant amount of time identifying accomplished social entrepreneurs around the world... These people are very difficult to find. Why can't we find more of them?... Why is it that in the course of 3 years, with our own headquarters in continental Western Europe, we have found so few accomplished social entrepreneurs here.We could recast your questions as, "Why is it so hard to find social entrepreneurial dinosaurs?"
The better question might be, "Why aren't we looking for social entrepreneurial mammals?"
Just as their biological predecessors succumbed to environmental changes, so too are social entrepreneurial dinosaurs becoming an increasingly rare breed. This is because social and economic transformations that can be characterized as the Network Society and Network Economy are enabling a resurgence of the Small Is Good World. And big social changes can come in small packages.
Not that the Big Is Good World is going away anytime soon, nor should it. But rather, we're putting a spark plug into the Small Is Good cylinder of the engine of capitalism. And we're giving that engine a tuneup.
What's at stake is the transformation of capitalism from being in service to the Corporation, to being in service of the Individual. This isn't just wacky rhetoric from the fringe. If you haven't already read it we strongly recommend that you grab a copy of Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxamin's provocative book, "The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism."
There is a dialectic of complementary motive forces underlying capitalism which may be characterized as the opposition between the Big Is Good World and the Small Is Good World. Neither is right nor wrong, but qualitatively different. And the counterintuitive thing is, world shakingly impactful social changes can come from either side of the Big Or Small Fence.
The loaded word "accomplished" in the Schwab Foundation's search for accomplished social entrepreneurs focuses your search on the Big Is Good side of the fence. That's OK, it just means that the Schwab Foundation is in the business of second-tier venture financing of Big Is Good social entrepreneurs.
As any venture capitalists can tell you, there are times when there are plenty of quality second-tier investments to be made. Other times they're nowhere to be found.
Rather than looking to tweaks in the external environment to produce more second-tier Big Is Good investments, perhaps the Schwab Foundation could consider expanding its business model.
We would recommend that the Schwab Foundation take a nontrivial percentage of its investment resources and start a Small Is Good Angel Investment Incubator. Redirecting as little is 10 percent of your resources to support of potentially high impact Small Is Good social entrepreneurs could provide a much-needed paradigm shift in the practice of social entrepreneurism.
This doesn't mean that the Schwab Foundation gets into the business of supporting any and every small project in any neighborhood that comes knocking at your door. The competitive criteria of large impact and repeatability can be just as rigorous as your current standards. But you would need to work at understanding the nature and potential of the Small Is Good World in the context of the emerging Network Society and Network Economy. The result of this expansion of your business model would be a more balanced and dynamic investment portfolio.
When you've got your incubator up and running, and you take a second look at Western Europe in search of social entrepreneurs, you won't be looking for dinosaurs. And you will be amazed at the social entrepreneurial mammals scurrying all around you. And any one of them could be the source of the Next Big Thing that changes life as we know it. And you'll be saying to yourself, "Why didn't we see these good investments before?"
in Growing to Scale – 09:57am Sep 25, 2003 PST
Thank you for your thoughtful post, Challenge. We would like to respond in two parts. First, we would like to use your real world example to further elucidate the ideas we have been discussing in terms of scale and growth patterns. In a follow-up post, we'll reflect and expand on your suggestion about tools.
Your Challenge post was partially in response to our comments about scalability found here, Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn, "Starbucks Does It. Why Can't We?" #26, 23 Sep 2003 10:37 pm
in Scalability Assumes Accretive Growth... Don't forget other growth patterns.
Your College Summit example is perfect to better understand the subtleties of scaling and of growth patterns.
First, we must understand that scaling impact, that is, increasing the end result of a program is not necessarily tightly coupled to the need to scale the means to the achievement of that end. In particular, computer technologies are an excellent example of tools that allow scaling of impact without the prerequisite of scaling the human organization needed to achieve that impact growth.
In your College Summit example, you said:
An example from my organization, College Summit, that seeks to increase the college enrollment rate of low-income students in the U.S.: There are activities required to achieve our mission that scale. Building a robust on-line data system that enables colleges to get better information on low-income students scales well. Build it once. Use it around the country. No one of our local partners could efficiently build this valuable tool themselves. J.B. Schramm, "Starbucks Does It. Why Can't We?" #28, 24 Sep 2003 7:32 amFrom your description, we would say that College Summit scaled its impact by using a shared computer technology to replicate a service offering. In other words, scaling the means is not required to scale the ends.
In the second part of your example, you stated:
In contrast, our mission also requires that students have a convenient place to apply to college. There are schools and youth agencies in every neighborhood. We've concluded that scaling local apply-to-college centers, in place of schools and youth agencies, would not produce better results.In this case, the technology component is out of the picture. Scaling your impact, the ends of your program, can only be achieved by scaling the human organization required to deliver its service. In this case, your choice is between a decentralized replication strategy and a centralized accretion (getting bigger) strategy.
In certain cases, the expert knowledge and human system productivity constraints can drive you appropriately to a getting bigger strategy. But there is a tipping point where that accretion can take on a life of its own.
When that two-person volunteer team who developed your PHP/MySQL technical solution suddenly needs to be replaced by a professional team to develop that replacement solution based on a new Oracle database and Enterprise JavaBeans-enhanced server, start monitoring the canaries in the mine shaft of Bigger Is Better. When you need a bigger marketing staff to expand your program in order to justify the expansion of your technical staff and its technology licenses, monitor those birds closely.
In short, when your capacity building and resource expansion is driven by your organization's requirement "to be" rather than by its requirement "to do," your organization is reaching that tipping point where "Money changes everything."
in Growing to Scale – 10:37pm Sep 23, 2003 PST
We agree with jhouk and Ken regarding their cautions about scaling.
What is it that feeds our current fascination with the Big Is Good World? Bigger, faster, better is understandable in the Big Is Good private sector where excessive wealth creation for a few is often a primary objective. By why is it that we implicitly assume that bigger, faster, better is a proper lens for the evalutation and evolution of innovations in the social sector?
Our guess is that we've developed a dysfunctional belief in the One Right Way of the Big Is Good worldview. If an innovation in the small is constructive and sustainable, then if we can only figure out how to do the same thing bigger and faster, that's better.
The trouble is that scalability is not just a matter of quantity or efficiency. Sometimes the growth needed to scale an innovation requires a qualitative change that is destructive to the nature of the innovation. This is because scaled growth is accretive growth, meaning an attempt at accummulation of more of the same... Bigger is better. Unfortunately, some systems collapse under their own weight when subjected to excessive accummulative growth.
But accretion is only one of three growth patterns. Let's not forget about replication and transformation. Interestingly, these two forms of growth are often disruptive in the Big Is Good World. As such, they are too often ignored or overly managed in a way that takes the 'teeth' out of innovations diffused through replicative or transformative growth.
Replication and transformation are literally the life blood of the Small Is Good World. Social innovations that truly tap the dialectic motive force of Small Is Good in our capitalist economy will not be diffused by misguided attempts to increase their impact through scaling. We need to be smarter about matching innovations to growth and diffusion models.
When foundations and program funders truly understand that significant social impact can come equally from either side of the Big Is Good and Small Is Good fence, then social entrepreneurs committed to the repopulation of the Small Is Good Parallel Universe will be able to effectively compete for support that now reifies the Big Is Good approach to addressing social problems.
One of the bullet points stimulating this discussion asked about favorite books. In the context of growth patterns and sustainability, we cannot more strongly recommend George T. Lock Land's obscure but classic systems theoretical title, 'Grow or Die: The Unifying Principle of Transformation'. For more information, see:
in Entrepreneuring without money – 12:50pm Sep 23, 2003 PST
Absolutely, Bill. Your Portfolio Life saga sounds exciting. And your experience reminds us that in the Big Is Good World, 'Money changes everything', as Cyndi Lauper says. By extension, we might say that "Success changes everything" in the Big Is Good World.
We view capitalism as a two-cylinder engine representing two dialectic motive forces -- Big Is Good and Small Is Good. For the last 100 or so years, we've been missing a spark plug in the Small Is Good cylinder. Being so in need of repair, capitalism could not help but run inefficiently and pollute its environment.
What most folks don't understand is that these dialectic motive forces run orthogonally to the 'sector distinction',
and so we are caught in a relatively meaningless and unresolvable situation of trying to 'tune up' the Big Is Good World.
Counterintuitively, and you understood it during your initial attraction to Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful era, BOTH the Big Is Good and the Small Is Good worlds can produce earth-shatteringly significant, planet-reshaping social and economic change. The trouble is that the World As We Know It is bent on evaluating Small Is Good agenda through the Big Is Good lens.
For more on this perspective, we encourage you, Bill, and others to visit this on-line resource:
Thanks for an interesting and inspiring Life Tale. Perhaps we can work together to foment some new spins on bringing about the Small Is Good Parallel Universe!?
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--
in Welcome! How do you fit in the world of Social Entrepreneurs? – 10:07am Sep 23, 2003 PST
We are Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky, founders of Sohodojo and together, a two-person Portfolio Life nanocorp. Sohodojo is a non-profit, independent, applied research and development laboratory supporting solo entrepreneurs and working families in rural and distressed urban communities seeking sustainable participation in the Network Economy. We do this by encouraging the envisioning and realization of the Small Is Good Parallel Universe -- that is, to tap the complementary forces on the 'other side' of capitalism.
This event is excellent timing for us as we have just done a keynote presentation at last week's Wired.org conference. Our topic was 'Cross-Sector Partnerships: New Perspectives in Social Entrepreneurism'. For more on this topic, please see this article:
We are looking forward to a stimulating week.
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--