Mirror, Mirror in the Cloud

It’s been a while since something dramatically altered the way I think about social media, so I figured this insight warranted a post:

During the launch of the #domosocial experiment, Josh (our undeniably brilliant CEO) made a pretty big deal of an ex post facto pardon for an employee who’d challenged one of his tweets.

And it bothered me.

My colleagues tried to explain that Twitter simply wasn’t the right forum for a challenge like that, which just irked me more because for me, social media is the perfect forum for “spirited debate.”

Then suddenly, I got it!

When you interact with people on social platforms, you do it on their terms.

Listen for a while. Try to understand the value they’re looking for from social media. And then try to give it to them.

It’s not pandering. You don’t have to become some sort of social chameleon. This is really just another example of the subtle mirroring that makes so many aspects of life easier (and more successful).

So, by all means, challenge and debate with the theorists. Send personal messages to the socialites. Pass interesting news to the information sponges. Sincerely compliment the promoters. Respond to the conversationalists. And don’t call out the brand-conscious CEOs.

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“I want to be part of that!” (Part I)

Attended the kickoff event for the BYU chapter of Students for Social Entrepreneurship last night. I left behind half a dozen strangely quiet students. The palpable energy caught me off guard, probably because of its stark contrast to my depleted state.

A few steps later, one of the girls just stopped.

When the others turned to face her, she sort of shook her head and blurted out, “I want to be part of that!” I didn’t catch anything else as they walked away, but it made me smile, and I wondered if perhaps I’d just witnessed what Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green calls a “moment of obligation.”

Maybe someday I’ll tell you mine.

Kiva Can’t Get Growth Capital!?

Had a conversation (if you can call shouting into each others’ ears in a dim room over pounding bass a legitimate conversation) the other day with Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva. Went something like this:

SJ: “So, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?”
Matt: (with not a moment’s pause) Funding.
SJ: (after a moment of disbelief) Funding? But…you’re Kiva…Funding!?

Yes, funding. Kiva, Matt explained, currently covers about 80% of program and operating expenses through the optional user donations that accompany each loan. The other 20% is made up by various fellowships, grants, and major funders. Kiva is essentially self-sustaining.

But Matt wants more–he wants to grow. And what founder of an organization that fundamentally altered the philanthropic landscape wouldn’t? But the funds for that growth have been hard to come by. In Matt’s words: “No one wants to fund infrastructure.”

Now I’m not saying that micro-finance is a silver bullet, or that Kiva’s model is perfect. There are legitimate questions about impact, about transparency and about long-term sustainability.

But there were a whole lot more questions before Kiva jumped in and changed the game. And if anyone should be given the risk capital to take a shot at these new, deeper issues, it’s Kiva. There are hopeful signs for change on the horizon, but if the foundations and investors of the world can’t or won’t wake up soon, we’re just going to have to find another way.

Lost and Found

On the poster-sized post-it calendar on my living room wall, I called this “the Month of Jetlag … or How to Write a Prospectus at 30,000 Feet.” And, though I am no closer to clearing that particular academic hurdle than I was a month ago, JetBlue’s “all-you-can-jet” pass has proven quite an adventure. Here’s a quick recap:

Number of Flights: 20
Cost/Flight:
$29.95
Miles Flown: 39,248

LOST/LEFT/MISPLACED

  • 1 black half-zip REI layer jacket
  • 1 pair of fuzzy green slipper socks
  • 3 sets of miniature shampoo/conditioner bottles
  • 1 set of scriptures (left with CouchSurfing host on first NYC visit)
  • 1 Pilot G-tech C4 pen. Dangit.
  • Cell phone (temporarily—on the seat of the car that had just dropped me off at the airport—thanks JetBlue ladies and Jessi)
  • A couple hundred hours of sleep 🙂

FOUND/GAINED/DISCOVERED

  • A new allergy
  • How to walk on a fractured foot
  • The best place to spend the night in JFK.
  • Not the best place to spend the night in LGB.
  • 1 set of scriptures (delivered to airport by CouchSurfing host last night in NYC-thanks, Julie!)
  • A fantastic spot for home-made whole-wheat vegetarian pizza in Portland
  • Great 4/$1 dumplings in Chinatown in New York
  • The “historic nub” of Boston (and it only took about 2 hours to get there…from across the highway)
  • Increased appreciation for the designers of public transportation systems
  • Half a dozen fantastic organizations with whom to collaborate on a social entrepreneurship curriculum
  • Great new vocabulary words like “sector agnostic” (more on that later)
  • About a hundred follow-up emails to write

I’ll be attempting a return to “normal” life this week and anticipate blogging will be an integral part of processing this past month. Stay  tuned.

Is Social Entrepreneurship a Double-Edged Sword?

The germ for this post comes from a tweet by @montero a few days ago describing social entrepreneurship as a double-edge sword; one edge entrepreneurship and the other the “social” element.

I admit the idea made me chuckle at first—the most common use of the idiom being to refer to something risky, unsafe, something that “cuts both ways.” And I suppose social entrepreneurship has the potential to be just that. But, I thought, there must have been a reason someone centuries ago decided to sharpen both edges of his sword.

It seems to me that at least two conditions must be met before a double-edged sword would be a relative advantage.

1. The blade has to match the style, skill and training of the person using it.

Double-edged blades are used differently then single-edged ones. They require a different stance, different attacks and different defense maneuvers. This can be a distinct advantage, especially if one’s opponent (say, poverty, ignorance, or social injustice) is only accustomed to attacks from single-edged weapons (maybe government programs or pure market enterprises.)

But in the wrong hands, especially hands that tried to use it as it if it was something else (a single-edged blade perhaps), a two-edged sword could be much more dangerous for the one wielding it than the opponent.

2. It has to match the task at hand.

Fine blades are crafted with specific characteristics that suit them to a particular purpose. (Think bread knife vs. meat cleaver, bone saw vs. scalpel.) In fact, some of the best knives (like that odd split one for sectioning grapefruit, or the almost floppy one for filleting fish) are only really good for one task—and ill-suited for just about anything else. A double-edged sword is unsuitable for most blade tasks in my daily life, but if I ever meet a dragon, (or the six-fingered man who killed my father) I sure hope I have one handy.

So, is social entrepreneurship a two-edged sword? In the right hands and put to the appropriate tasks, I think it could be.

A New Prescription for Innovator Growing Pains?

Aaron Sklar’s exposition on the potentially analgesic effects of integrated evaluation really got me thinking. He points out that innovation is by nature uncomfortable, and suggests carefully-defined and continually re-defined meaningful metrics can play a role in easing that discomfort by clarifying the”end” to keep in mind.

Perhaps there’s even more to it than that:

So often in life, discomfort is the result of poorly managed expectations: It’s the classic “this won’t hurt a bit” you hear from the well-meaning nurse as she jabs a 4″ needle into your hip, the regularly-spaced reassurances of how important your call is while you wait interminably on hold, the gut-wrenching panic when you try on “your size” at a new boutique only to discover you can’t even button the trousers.

In addition to, or perhaps as a result of providing structure in a new (ad)venture, integrated, authentic, continual evaluation creates a different set of expectations in an organization. We expect to discover things that don’t work, we expect middle-of-the-ride course corrections (and the accompanying jolts), we expect transparency and honest critique, and we expect iteration.

It’s amazing the levels of “discomfort” we can adapt to if we expect it, and the performance we have the capacity to achieve through it is even more exciting.

Hello? … Anybody home?

Head spinning right now with thoughts from SoCap09. Wasn’t there, mind you. Just eaves-dropped through twitter. More on that later…maybe.

But this line’s on repeat in my head: “Social Media advice…don’t just talk about yourself, talk about the world and show that you’re listening.” As far as I can tell, the tweet originated from David Jay, and it’s got me wondering: How do you show the world you’re listening? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Compliment. Affirmation has always been a powerful social currency. RTs, comments, track-backs and diggs have put flexible, convenient new denominations at our fingertips. Spend freely! Look for reasons to congratulate, to thank, to encourage and to acknowledge to efforts and contributions of others.
  • Critique. Obviously not as easy or as fun as the previous option, thoughtful criticism (carefully given) can build even deeper, more active social capital.
  • Coordinate. Connecting individuals and organizations with potentially synergistic interests/objectives/resources etc. can be rewarding in so many ways. A simple introduction can inspire loyalty and the oh-so-valuable (sometimes even sub-conscious) desire to reciprocate.
  • Collaborate. Taking time to understand someone’s thoughts/ideas enough to actually build on them is a significant investment–one not commonly made in today’s information-saturated world. Don’t underestimate the potential impact of the effort.

The obvious corollary to this sort of strategy is that it’s not the world you’ll be listening to. The world is too big, too loud for anyone to really listen to. Listen to your tribe, that self-selected sub-population you want to lead. Get to know them, engage, and reap the benefits.

Who knows, with all this engaged listening, you might just learn something.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants–at least for an hour!

They call it Power Hour–after-school tutoring for at-risk kids–and it works wonders. Connects kids to positive role models, keeps them of the streets and passing algebra, and fosters social adjustment and self-esteem.

I figure I could use a little tutoring (not to mention positive role models who understand the “algebra” that is the intersection of business, social change, technology and media) to prepare for some of Tipping Bucket’s next adventures. So, I’m launching my very own PowerHour!

This next week will be a big jump-start, but I plan on 1/week into the foreseeable future. For now, we’ll meet on BYU campus; Tanner Building W139 conference room. Come in person if you can, but Skype can work wonders for you geniuses outside “happy valley.”

Here’s the tentative lineup for next week (starting the 13th).

MON: Target Market/Market Sizing
TUES: Branding/Messaging/PR
WED: Social Media Strategy
THUR: Development (Prospects List/CRM)
FRI: Strategic Partnerships

Please leave me comments with the topics you’re interested in, your broad availability next week, your lunch/snack suggestions… and vote here on the best time slot for you going forward.

Let’s see if this works as well as it does for the 4th graders!

Next Iteration…

TTB_homepageC3What do you think?

Looking for Feedback…

TTB_homepageC

This is my first shot at a homepage for the Tipping Bucket website. What do you think?