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.
Category Archives: social enterprise
Each panellist was asked to give three “takeaways”.
Ami Dar – Idealist.org
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 MobileActive.org 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.
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…
I heard great things about Taproot when I went on my research trip to the US last May. But it wasn’t until recently I managed to speak to Aaron Hurst, founder and president. Aaron won an Ashoka fellowship in 2005 for his work setting up Taproot.
Why “Taproot”? A “taproot” is the core root of a plant (picture a turnip). It gathers nutrients from lateral roots and delivers them to a plant to enable it to flourish. We see ourselves as a taproot for the nonprofit sector, drawing nutrients from the community and delivering them to nonprofits to enable them to thrive
I had been told that Taproot preminantly had cracked the three key challenges a project like Mentoring Worldwide could face. The first is in the definition of what skills we can offer, and the second is what kinds of projects and people can benefit from what we have to offer. And there is a third – how can the mentoring be done in a timely way to deliver impact when it is needed in a project This sounds simple…and I was very interested to hear what Aaron had to say about their model when we talked on the phone.
Taproot provides a range of services to eligible (and screened) non-profits in three key areas: marketing; human resources and IT. They match skilled professionals prepared to offer pro-bono work, but not as single volunteers. Rather their methodology relies on a team of five. Their team of five would consist of a dedicated Project Manager (volunteer), an Account Manager (volunteer), a member of Taproot staff to handle the schedule of work, and two or three professional according to the project in question. If you have a team, Aaron pointed out, if one drops out then the project is not in jeopardy. The team commit 1 hour a day for six months – ie a very big committment. And in his own words the learning derived from what they have done so far is that it is “process driven, not talent driven”.
I can see why this model is proven, it is highly managed which is great for the volunteers and the non-profits involved. But in the case of Taproot the team are providing a free service, like publishing a leaflet, drawing up an IT strategy, or helping an NGO with its human resources issues over six months – a big offer and a big intervention. At present MW is looking into one on one or peer-to-peer relationships which will be more dependent on the relationship than the process, albeit there will be process beneath the surface in the selection of the partnerships, training available and in some other key areas. What I take away from this really helpful conversation is the importance of screening eligible non-profits, or recipients – something which KIVA and others have already highlighted.
His approach made me think about the Media Trust in the UK , in fact, I think I will connect them up and see what happens!
I am finding I am constantly retelling the story of Audrey Cordera , an amazing woman I met at the Reuters Digital Vision Programme in Stanford when I visited last May. Audrey is from the Phillipines and is the regional rep on the Youth to End Poverty campaign, as well as running a Youth Employment Network.
She talked to the Digital Vision Fellows about helping Youth from the Phillipines out of deep poverty through entrepreneurship and getting them started on projects, however small. When she was asked how she did it all, and what her business plan was she told the story I love to repeat.
One day she was given a handbag by a friend of hers. Not any old handbag , but one made by her friend. When travelling in the US she was asked by another woman if she could tell her where she could buy one of these bags.
Disappointed that she could not buy this one-off in a shop she asked Audrey if she could buy hers! This got Audrey thinking and on her return she had a few more made and shipped them over for people to buy. But the imaginative leap she then made was to get the original friend who made the bag to work with her putting together the parts and pieces needed for the production process. She farmed out the work to pieceworkers, to women who needed work, and offered them a fair price for their labour – the labour costs of assembling the bags. She bought the bags and sold them on. Now what she does is pay for the work that is done to make the bag from the kit of parts – but also is prepared to pay more for original features added by the women, and more again if the women find the parts themselves.
This is, it seems, the work that funds her work with the youth employment network too. Some business plan – left the RDVP fellows with much food for thought.
Chatting later with Stuart Gannes, the Director of the Programme , we brainstormed how we might be able to work together. They are very well connected on the ground in some countries we might like to work in – and so a good resource for us and perhaps a partner for the trial.
Leaving Cisco and Netsquared behind, back on the Light Rail and Cal Train to Palo Alto where I met with pledgers and supporters John Girard of Clickability and Jan Leeman.
They listened hard and got their impressive brains working on who I should meet in my remaining two days. They suggested three companies and got me meetings, or phone meetings with all of them there and then!
Microfinance is an area many people have suggested might be fruitful in terms of finding mentees and I was put in touch with a new and very impressive company, Kiva. to start talking about the realities of this suggestion.
My quest to find a good user-centred design approach to our cross-cultural needs, the desire to keep things simple to use, and simple to manage led to a call to brand new start-up Ruby Red Labs.
And third Taproot, an organisation that matches volunteers with non-profits who need volunteers to help them with their capacity building.
More about all of these organisations in due course. In the meantime though – check out this elegant tea bag. ( hesitate to call it bag really made, as it was , from the finest muslin)!
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.
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!
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
One of the big question for us is what kind of social enterprise are we? As I am clear that is what we are.