Category Archives: conferences

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

social enterprise (netsquared contd)

Lee Davis from NESst summed things up nicely for me in the session on new web tools and their revenue models when he talked about the need to match the values of the work you want to do with the business model chosen. “social enterprise is the current term for this kind of funding and area” he said. He highlighted the need for creativity in thinking about how to do this and extolled the benefits of the MFA over the MBA when it came to the field of social entrepreneurship.

With this the link was made at the conference bewteen non-profits , charities, and social entrepreneurs, a link which had been missing up until that point. Jim Fruchterman suggested that “Mission-based fundraising” was really the subject of this panel, and how to make the customers of your mission-based business your fundraisers. He felt the sector (non-profit) was years behind the times in terms of technology.

“People need to feel personally connected and get an emotional return” argued Clara Miller, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

Lots of useful links in this session. Global Giving. Desribed by Wikipedia thus

GlobalGiving is an online marketplace that directly connects donors with grassroots projects in the developing world. Its mission is to become the world’s richest marketplace in international aid and philanthropy – rich not only in terms of funding, but also in terms of knowledge and innovation. Its long-term goal is to globalize opportunity

VolunteerMatch. Does what it says on the tin!

Benetech, founded by speaker Jim Fruchterman, supported by the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network and winner of the Skoll Award for Social


NESsT’s mission is to find lasting solutions to systemic poverty and social injustice through the development of social enterprises — mission-driven businesses that increase the financial sustainability and social change impact of civil society organizations.

NESsT achieves its mission by combining the tools and strategies of business entrepreneurship with the mission and values of nonprofit entrepreneurship to support the development of social enterprises in emerging democracies worldwide

Surdna Foundation its history here. Non profit sector support.

Non Profit Finance Fund

One of the big question for us is what kind of social enterprise are we? As I am clear that is what we are.


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Filed under conferences, non profits, philanthropy, social enterprise

old media is the new new media

the netsquared session on the developing world was fascinating. It contrasted two approaches to thinking about connectivity – one in India the other in Africa.

Partha Pratim Sarka from Bytes For All talked about how the telecentre network in India was being used in creative and ingenious ways far beyond the humble telephone call. In fact they were also being used to email and to blog – by sending an email from a telecentre to a blog blogging became possible in an area of minimal connectivity. This really demonstrated (to me, at least) the underlying cultural practises of sharing, collaboration, harnessing collective intelligence and peer to peer communication in a world where technology is not owned, but shared. There are 600,000 telecentres around India and the Mission 2007 is to develop a training commons for grassroots connectivity and learning.

David Barnard of Sangonet presented a very different picture. While he mentioned that of a population of 850 million people in Africa 85 million had moble phones (1 in 10!) , he concentrated on the benefits of broadband and suggested no progress would be made until Africa was all internet connected. At only 2.6% internet penetration this suggests a way to go. While he pointed to various examples of innovation in connectivity he concentrated on the necessity of deregulation. It’s true the cost of telecoms in Sub Saharan Africa is way too high – I think he is missing some signs of innovation and hope in the mobile phone area. After all it is quite possible the fixed line will not be a necessary staging post.

For me the interest was in the contrast of the presentations. One very bottom up, one pretty top down. It is true the intrastructure in India is considered to be better. Partha told us that there is a complete fibre optic network connecting the train stations of India. People took a long time to realise that could be used for other things, but they did!

At some point the immoderator asked “what can web 2.0 do the for the developing world?” It seemed to me it was the wrong question. More interesting to think about what can the developing world do for web 2.0? Invent, invent invent!

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Don’t speak! Point! (thanks to Ethan)

So, NetSquared. Lots of good posts and commentary here. Great gathering by Compumentor of clans from charity, ngo, philanthropy, funders, technology partners and activisits to discuss where next for remixing the web of social change. This is something we don’t do yet in the UK, I wonder why..I feel a plan coming on.

Highlights for me were meeting Beth Kanter, Anne Marie Bellavance and Marshall Kirkpatrick all of whom signed the original pledge, all of whome I had been talking to online for a while. I remet Kim Spencer from Link TV whom I met 20 years ago in London when I was a fledgling producer. He’s now President of his own station it seems and filmed the whole event!

Amongst the speakers Howard Rheingold and Paul Saffo put the politics back in the mix for which I was grateful. The whole issue of network neutrality was bubbling under the two day event and it looks set to become something of daily concern. Amy Goodman was a revelation to me and a breath of fresh US air as we don’t get Democracy Now in the UK. Ethan Zuckerman (sharing a platform with Dan Gillmor and Hong Euan Tek) seemed to be blogging and presenting from his session on Citizen Journalism Nonprofit organisations and Social Change.

Ethan was primarily speaking about how the role of the advocate is changing and reflecting on the evolution of Global Voices but when the panel was asked at the end of the session by a bright spark in the audience whether Editors were still relevant these days of citizens media managed to summarise in one nifty line ” Don’t speak. Point!” everything the WE MEDIA conference didn’t manage to say in two days. “Point to People and get out of the way!” The old days of advocay as speaking on “behalf of people” are so over.

The way I see the role of the Mainstream Media in the debate about user-generated content and the blogosphere is to be a decent facilitator or moderator. It’s hard for an editor to change herself/himeself into a facilitator the skills come from different mindsets …but some are having a go. We talk about this a lot at the BBC where I work and now it’s time for the walk.

Beth Kantor’s presentation was a gift to anyone who saw it not only those in the world of the non-profit as were her great slides.

I can’t believe that my desire to meet Tara Hunt led me to her session where I finally had to confront the whole snakesonaplane thing – and on a big screen! I am seriously phobic and I don’t even like the idea being in my head. Having said that it was a great session and we talked later about barcamp, winecamp , geeks and mentoring – something to follow up if ever I catch her again, now her whole life has changed!

But the two sessions that were eyeopening for me re Mentoring Worldwide (the reason I came to the conference ) were the ones on new tools and the developing world and on what business models are good for not-for-profits …so I’ll post separately on those.

The worst session for me – run by good guys but whatever possessed them only to take questions via email and laptops? People had come a long way to be in a real room wih one another …they set up a digital divide in the room itself assuming every table had a laptop and that every laptop was connected. When I put my hand up to speak , they thought I was calling the five minute warning. By far the worst real life conference behaviour I have ever seen – is this to do with Silicon Valley? Did the speakers from Cisco and Microsoft ask for the questions to be pre-moderated? What on earth was going on…(actually I’d really like to know).

It’s possible here that a fear of potential hostility actually led to conference management behaviour which engendered hostility…and we all had stuff to say even though that was the session with the biggest gap in understanding between the panel and the floor. Why am I bovvered? Because I go to and organise conferences and this is a new one on me!

And since it would be deeply churlish to end on this note – I’ll mention instead a couple of people I found inspirational when I bumped into them at tables, in the lift – wherever. First Ginny Hunt of America’s Impact – you’d have no idea what she does from that org name however they are campaining to get candidates elected on the basis of their interest in a progressive foreign policy – now there’s a thing.

America’s Impact is a new political action committee that helps concerned Americans elect good candidates with a global commitment to support policies that improve people’s lives.

I wish her and the team all the best – it’s a great idea. And last but not at all least Lee Davis co-founder and CEO of Nesst who gets my vote for best business card and who kindly took some time to hear about mentoring worldwide, share thoughts and get me running for my notebook (yes , pen and paper).

Ok – pesonal disclaimer time.this post contains my personal views – any views expressed here are my own and not my employer’s. I am so never going to be a live blogger. Thanks Ethan how do you do it? Blogging and presenting at the same time, that is!


Filed under conferences, Set-up, Story



I’m taking a week of the day job and going on holiday to see friends and to go to this conference. Meeting up with various pledgers, and people who have blogged the pledge and the project some of whom have offered to help and take on specific roles. I’ll be introducing them here when I get back! Actually Marshall Kirkpatrick has already given me an online tutorial on OPML files (don’t ask!), John Girard has been co-authoring our first stab at a requirements document for the new service, Anne Marie Bellavance is going to set up the wiki.

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