I graduated from the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London earlier in the Spring.  I spent 28 productive days in the last year learning from social entrepreneurs and would-be social entrepreneurs.  When I am back from my holiday I’ll blog my graduation presentation but the lessons are all sinking in. … and a whole new year of students has started their journey.

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Skoll World Forum:(2) internet, mobile technology and cross-cultural communication


Each panellist was asked to give three “takeaways”.

Ami Dar –

He said they now have 74,000 NGOs signed up in 200 countries. 60,000 visitors every day. They send out (automated) 100,000 emails every night. I really liked his philosophical approach.

1. good intentions are hard and difficult to realise

He gave the example of an organisation called Apopo who train rats to sniff out landmines – why can’t we have these rats everywhere? Apparently also different diseases smell differently. Organisations, people and institutions have intentions – not always expressed. Herorat

2. There are no mechanisms for ideas to travel to reach all places they need to reach.

3. We are all divided – good ideas travel slowly.

Katrin Verclas of asked everyone to turn their cell phones on.

There are 3.5 bn mobile phones in the world. 50% tipping point in 2009.One person in the room admitted to not having a phone.

Three takeways –

1. We are all connected.

2. A new word … phatic.

Is this building social capital in a way that we haven’t seen before – gesellschaft to gemeinschaft?

3. Katrin talked about a few examples of using mobiles and sms in diaster relief , in Tibet, in conflict resolution, connecting people with Aids and made a plea for more projects to move beyond the pilot phase. Environmental sensing in Ghana /Accra. Giving mobile phones to taxi drivers to take environmental soundings and mapping data. Partipatory science, extreme crowdsourcing. People were told which areas to avoid due to bad pollution.

Another project in Nigeria, Learning about Living, using two kids mobile game and sexual health info project – huge taboo issues. Ask a question, give an answer.

Victor D’Allant – Social Edge.

Talked about the development of Social Edge. ‘Telling stories – storytelling is opening up to the rest of the community and for us all to learn from mistakes. Then we went onto podcasts.

“Cross cultural stories a lot of social entrepreneurs don’t use English as their first language. Didn’t want to create two classes of citizens on the internet. So we also did print out of the podcasts and now video.

“Then we moved onto sharing stories…..Itunes. Social Edge doing well in itunes.

Working with Santa Clara university – can apply online to join incubator. Three business excercises. Open processes live – 100 people make it to first excercise, 70 to second then very difficult.

Then thee was some general discussion about what is the point of one-way stories..that made me chip in! There aren’t really any one way stories if you have an audience at all. The human brain is hardwired to follow narrative. The question is is your story good enough to enable another person to take some kind of action?

Discussion about how mobiles can be used for bad and good. How do we stop the bad? Katrin says we don’t – mobiles used for all sorts of activism – rumours, and counterbalance in Sierra leone – – could update and validate what was happening in Kenya. Ethics and the media is interesting. That could be a whole other panel…

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Filed under Africa, conferences, mobile, Skoll, social enterprise, social entrepreneurs

Skoll World Forum: internet, mobile technology and cross-cultural communication

This session at the Skoll World Foum was a natural choice to me. I met Katrin Verclas at the first ever NetSquared two years ago when I went to research how to set up Mentoring Worldwide. Now, like then, I took leave from my job and paid my own way to the conference to do the research I needed. I had won a small prize via the TED blog and conference and went to meet some people who had offered help. I met John Girard and Jan Leeman in the traditional way in a cafe in Palo Alto and they effected an intro to Kiva and I met Fiona Ramsay whom I met in the traditional way in a cafe in San Francisco. Have been following them ever since on their blog now on Social Edge. Bruno Guissani is the European Director for TED, and we met two years ago and he was interested enough to write a piece about the project in Business Week and on his blog.

You might well ask why is the project taking so long to emerge? I will be eternally grateful to Ami Dar of Idealist who in this session said “good ideas travel slowly” ie things take longer than you might imagine to emerge. But I think now the time has come.

I have concentrated here on the Kiva part of the session as I was keen to see how things have moved on in the last two years, but I’ll post on the rest of the session later.

Premal Shah is the President of Kiva.

His three takeaways for the session were: Create an “Addictive” User experience; Be Radically Transparent; Crowdsource against constraints. And he added a couple more for good measure: Build in “increasing returns on data”; “Reach the “Long tail”.

For Premal “Addictive”= Easy + Fun. And the examples he gave were for easy and Facebook for Fun.

“Kiva is for everyday people not the affluent expert. You can see who you are lending to. Business relationship is built on mutual dignity. Quick and easy checkout – can be used in 70 countries.

“How to make it fun? Two constituencies…internet consumers, and microfinance institutions. Loans are snapped up, transactions happen by the minute on the site. Real time unedited progress updates from around the world. Loan officers capacity to write updates on business. Straight to your inbox. 100 businesses on the website being funded, minutes, hours, days. Popularity mix.”

The part I really liked was when he talked about Transparency and made the link between Transparency building Authenticity, which in turns builds Trust It’s also the subject of the project I am working on back at the BBC.

He gave two big examples. The CEO of JetBlue who apologised directly to customers
for cancellations and delays. And Barack Obama talked about cocaine use in a book he wrote . Premal said that one of Obama’s phenomenal appeals in the US “is that his brand reeks of authenticity which is why young people are flocking to him”

In terms of Kiva he defined it as “Radical where data inaccuracy is made explicit in a Data box on site.

Crowdsourcing – useful for constrains. Kiva Fellows and Kiva Translators are the way Kiva does this using volunteers to work with the Microfinance Insitutes and translate the site into other areas.

Premal gave us way more than three takeaways. For the “Addictive user experience – use PayPal. Get photos uploaded. Start a blog. “admit imperfection” “Build an Advisory board – evites people love a party”.

Other bloggers who covered the whole session.


Filed under conferences, Mentoring Worldwide, microfinance, social entrepreneurs, Story

what microloans miss, the business in the middle

From the New Yorker

“The cult of the entrepreneur that the microfinance boom has helped foster is understandably appealing. But thinking that everyone is, and should be, an entrepreneur leads us to underrate the virtues of larger businesses and of the income that a steady job can provide.”

via Ethan – thank you!

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Filed under microfinance, philanthropy

I’m a global mentor, are you?

A big thank you to everyone who has kept in touch throughout this year of blog silence. I have been taking some time out of work to attend London’s School for Social Entrepreneurs as a student in their block group and I graduate tomorrow. For me it’s been time to think about how best to set up Mentoring Worldwide, what it could be, what structures might suit and to meet many other people also working out how to set up new social enterprises. For others who are not necessarily working full time elsewhere there has been much more action as their projects go from strength to strength.

No matter how silent I was I still got enquiries from would-be partners, researchers and potential funders via the blog. And that’s got to tell me something about the strength of the idea.

I’m a global mentor, are you?

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Filed under Mentoring Worldwide, social entrepreneurs, SSE, Story

Collaboration and the Voluntary sector

There has been a lot going on in the UK in the field of collaboration and the Voluntary Sector while I have been hibernating.

Noticeably for Mentoring Worldwide a mention in the new published I-See-T project report to download as an Adobe PDF. It’s also available to read and comment on online in the style of the dotOrganize report: Online Technology for Social Change which says we are an organisation that has been monitored during the study.

How embarrassing – too much of our thinking of late has been done offline and my main new year’s resolution is to relaunch this project and blog.

I’d be the first to echo one of their findings…

There was however an acknowledgement that although the tools themselves might be free or low cost, a significant investment in time may be required to exploit them fully

A year ago I was full of excitement about all the new tools ( I still am) but now realise I don’t have the time or skills to test them all so am delighted to see the Orgnizer’s Tool Crib121 tools reviewed and rated…

Nancy White has reviewed the whole document, who better?

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Filed under collaboration, ICT, non profits, pledger, research, Story

Full Circle

One of the themes of my research conversations and meetings is about the “place” the work happens, or where does work happen? When I went to Netsquared to meet likeminded people in the US with the impression that the non-profit and tech sectors combined with philanthropy and funders was so better organised there I was told, in no uncertain terms , that I was mad and things were far better in London..more of this to come in following posts.

Evidently for us much work is done virtually, between real people, and or their avatars, in a place we have called and conceptualised as many things, – cyberspace, online, metaverse, chat rooms etc. But the “place” surely is the meeting place of motivation, need, demand and supply. And who better to talk to me about all of this than Nancy White whom I failed to “meet”in London when she was here talking to the BBC, hosted by colleague Robin Hamman, and to E-mint (her write up is in five posts from here to here.

Really I wanted some tips about designing our trial/pilot for maximum impact and learning and I am sure it was only the beginning of the conversation. But what really struck me is that designing for the second and third waves of adoption is going to be really interesting and pretty complex as we figure out and test the growing capacity of mobile phones to be a link in a chain of communications leading to an email or blog post for areas where fixed line connectivity may never really take off.

Links to check out from Nancy: Bioteaming and the wisdom of virtual team collaborations
Knoweldge Management for Development
The Institute for Development Studies
And a reference point for existing project groups in this area D-Groups

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Filed under communities, design, mentors, pledger, research, Resources, trial