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An Applied R&D Lab Serving Solo and Family-based Entrepreneurs in Rural and Distressed Urban Communities

Presented at the Community Capitals Framework:
Research, Evaluation, Practice Workshop

Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystems

A Community Capitals Framework for the "Flat World"

By Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky
Cofounders and Research Directors, Sohodojo


2015 Update: Many years have passed since Timlynn and I actively pursued Sohodojo. Those years were "life interrupted" as we both faced stage 4 cancer battles and have, so far at least, won a few Bonus Rounds. To this end of #PayingItForward for the Gift of Life, we're essentially re-entering the world by living our lives as much as we can by the ideas we tried so hard to help gain traction at the start of the New Millennium. We'll be mining this site for "oldies but goodies" as we engage in our "Influence Without Authority" Portfolio Lives in the Citizen Science and Citizen History domains. For more about what we do now, please visit and The Softalk Apple Project, and follow us on Twitter at @Jim_Salmons and @TimlynnBabitsky.
Happy-Healthy Vibes,
-: Jim & Timlynn :-

With the dawn of the "New" Economy and its associated Internet Bubble, there has been a growing recognition that advances in information, transportation, and communication technologies have empowered both the creative individual [1, 2, 3] and new forms of network organization [4, 5, 6].

Whether it's called "Brand You," the "Company of One," or Sohodojo's "nanocorp," a great deal has been written about the need for all of us to develop an entrepreneurial and portfolio-based approach to our relationship to work and business. Voices have been equally strong announcing new forms of network-based business organization. Yet, little has been done to draw these two trends together.

Putting entrepreneurial individuals and new forms of network-based businesses together takes up the gauntlet for creating decentralized and distributed collaborative networks of solo and family-based micropreneurs and small business entrepreneurs. Sohodojo is engaged in just such applied research, development, and social action to develop a new generation of entrepreneurial community ecosystems and their associated story-driven and game-oriented alternative "Who, How, and Why" marketplaces.

World Is Flat - Globalization Eras

Why is this new business perspective so vital when our Federal and Wall Street leaders continue to sing a Siren Song about the state of our current strong and growing economy? Because as Tom Friedman so eloquently and powerfully pronounced in "The World Is Flat," [7] mature capitalist economies are facing a growing and perpetual state of "global economic warming."

Friedman describes three eras of Globalization, each with its own core organizing unit. Globalization 1.0, 1492-1800, was organized around nations. Globalization 2.0, roughly the Industrial Era of 1800-2000, was organized around corporations. And with the turn of the Millennium, 2000-onward, we have entered Globalization 3.0 where the organizing unit is the empowered Individual.

Drawing a line in the sand between our rural and small town communities and the world "out there" of the global economy can be comforting. But to do so fails to recognize the challenges and opportunities to which Friedman has drawn our attention. No man, woman, nor local community is an island in the "flat world" of the Globalization 3.0 economy. While our national political and financial world leaders give lip service to the profound changes affecting our personal worlds, it is incumbent on us to chart our own new course for personal and community economic sustainability – to prepare ourselves for a future that will not be business as usual.

The Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem Model

The Community Capitals Framework of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development envisions the interplay of various forms of capital resulting in outcomes of healthy ecosystems, vibrant regional economies, and social equity and empowerment.[8] Sohodojo's Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem model is an ideal example of an executable implementation of the domain model captured in the Community Capitals Framework.

The focus and goals of our Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem model are reflected by each of the words that compose the model's name:

  • Entrepreneurial - reminds us that 21st Century work-life will be a creative, talent-driven, personally-motivated experience rather than a "J-O-B" of secure life-long career employment.
  • Community - reminds us that Empowered Individuals succeed through dynamic networks of collaborative peer partners. And while our work-lives may be increasingly virtual, our ability to live anywhere while participating in the global economy means that we also can find time and means to improve our place-based community of where we live.
  • Ecosystem - reminds us that social/economic networks are "living systems" that need to be understood and nurtured to be sustainable. An ecosystem is a community of organisms living together with their environment, functioning as a unit. In the G3 flat world, the ecosystem's atomic units are empowered Individuals organized around creative, alternative markets.

If we think of the Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem as an "engine" for individual and community economic development, it is composed of four subsystems:

  • Producer/Consumer Subsystem is the combustion cylinder
  • Commonwealth Value Subsystem is the fuel system
  • Network Enabler Subsystem is the lubrication and cooling system
  • Social/Business Investment Subsystem is the engine's spark plug

See the Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem Diagrams section of this paper for two model overviews. There, you will also find a note with a link to an on-line streaming audio/slide presentation that details the composition of the system and interplay of its subsystems.

Lessons Learned and Current Activities

One of our fullest experiences with this model (actually, the model was more shaped by the experience), was our work to create The Chandler Guild, a decentralized and distributed network of soybean wax candlemakers. With hundreds of early-adopter members, we got so far as to hold our first Continental Congress in Cedar Rapids in 2003. Our biggest and most valuable lesson learned to date is "Don't organize before developing the marketplace to create a funding source to sustain a self-organizing and self-managing network."[9]

In 2004, Sohodojo relocated to the small town in rural southeast Iowa. Almost immediately we became involved in a community-wide project to envision and develop an arts and entertainment center that could also serve as a business and commerce conference center. In addition, we began working with a local entrepreneur to develop a syndicated radio show and on-line community dedicated to horse ownership and horsemanship. Each project was evolved as a network ecosystem rather than as a conventional business organization.

Our goal is to develop and market a software-based "Radio Talk Show and Podcasting System" (aural storytelling) that will be part of the network infrastructure for the story-driven and game-oriented marketplaces of entrepreneurial community ecosystems. Part of this platform is being evolved from an Open Source CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system into an IRM (Influence Relationship Management) system[10] that is consistent with the multiple exchange currencies of entrepreneurial community ecosystems. Sohodojo's work is on-going and we welcome collaborative partnerships.

In 2010, after a couple years working to revive a soywax and candle company in flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids, we have refocused our efforts in support of microenterprise and small businesses networking as part of Iowa's local food system. Our work goes on...

Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem Diagrams


  • For a streaming audio/slide presentation of the Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem model that incrementally builds the whole model from its four "economic engine" subsystems, see
  • In a decentralized and distributed extended network enterprise of Empowered Individuals, the marketplace, not the business entity (organization) is central. Organizations play an enabling role providing network/market management and value chain supplements. Corporate organization also provides a brand and resource "wrapper" of each Small Is Good business network (much like a corporate shell wraps the production of a Hollywood movie that is produced through the dynamic collaboration of a network of individuals and businesses).
  • The "Idea!" Loop through which a Customer may become a role-based participant in the story-driven, game-oriented marketplace of Small Is Good business networks is the means through which the Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem model is transformed from a "producer-consumer" marketplace into a "prosumer" marketplace that extends and diversifies the network.


  • Although not required to implement a Small Is Good Business Network, the Commonwealth Trust is the means of true decentralized and distributed wealth creation. Without a means to store, multiply, and allocate retained earnings, an entrepreneurial community ecosystem is little more than a well-organized flea market.
  • The Commonwealth Trust (corporate wrapper) for a Small Is Good business network is the means to solve the "Critical Mass Problem" of launching a decentralized and distributed network. Without a means to secure and repay outside investment (usually made at below market expectations for risk capital), Small Is Good business networks would be dependent on member self-funding. A member self-funding requirement raises the bar for entry and therefore defeats much of the inspiration for these network enterprises and their associated alternative markets.


1.      Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, (Basic Books, 2002).

2.      Peters, Tom. The Brand You 50: Or, Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an "Employee" into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!, (Alfred a Knopf, 1999).

3.      Pink, Dan. Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, (Warner Books, 2001).

4.      Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society, (Blackwell Publishing, 1996).

5.      Tapscott D., Lowy A., and Ticoll D. Digital Capital: Harnessing the Power of Business Webs, (Harvard Business School Press, 2000)

6.      Zuboff S. and Maxmin J. The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, (Viking Press, 2002).

7.      Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005).

8.      North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, Community Capitals Framework overview including diagrams,

9.      The Chandler Guild home page: The Chandler Guild website is no longer on-line.

10.   Bradford D. and Cohen A. Influence Without Authority, (John Wiley & Sons, 1989, 2nd Ed. 2005). Cohen and Bradford's model for evolving "win-win" collaborations is a foundation for much of Sohodojo's peer-based networking perspective. See: for additional information including a detailed case study by Timlynn Babitsky.

11.   Babitsky and Salmons. The Yin-Yang of e-Commerce Engines: How Small is Good Business Webs Will Compete in the Story-driven Marketplaces of the 21st Century, (

12.   Babitsky and Salmons. The Nanocorp, Atomic Theory and the Network Effect: Organizing Principles and Scale in Small Is Good Business Webs, (

13.   Babitsky and Salmons. The Nanocorp Primer, ( Five related slide-based presentations, published in 2000, which document the evolution of Sohodojo's "Big Ideas for Small Business."


Sohodojo ( is an independent, non-profit (U.S. 501(C)(3)) applied research and development laboratory with an associated education mission to support solo and family-based microenterprise and small business entrepreneurs in rural and distressed urban communities. Founded by Timlynn Babitsky and Jim Salmons who serve as its Research Directors, Sohodojo is envisioning new business models that empower decentralized and distributed networks of Individuals through marketplace-centric rather than organization-centric organizing principles.

--Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
13 December 2005

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