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The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Rants and Raves newsletter #17
Shamrocks and Nanocorps:
'Small is Good' Business Webs to Bridge the Digital Divide
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Table of Contents

  1. Around the dojo...
    • LegalSIG: Update on the Enterprise Communities Legislation
    • TechSIG: Open Source - Trust in a Self-organizing, Collaborative World
    • LifeSIG: The COBRA Spotlight on a Sohodojo Expert
    • Webrings: Lexington VA Small Business Joins 'the Revolution'

  2. Shamrocks and Nanocorps - Business Webs and the Digital Divide
    • Center for Communities of the Future
    • Blacksburg Electronic Village
    • Sustainable Jobs Fund

  3. What do YOU think?

Around the dojo...

Lots of people are hand-wringing these days. The "get-rich-quick" folks are running in droves from the dot com bandwagon. Stock option 'honey' is no longer attracting potential new employees. And, the nervous "new economy millionaires" are triple-checking their employment, mortgage, and car loan contracts.

Here at Sohodojo, we say "Don't worry about the wrong stuff" ! Now let's get on with the real promise of this New Economy.

While many have bought into the myth of instant wealth for the speedy, others have been working hard toward evoking fundamental change -- in organizations, in education, in the ways we can use this new technology to bring about social and economic innovation.

In this issue of Sohodojo's Rants and Raves, we profile Communities of the Future, the Blacksburg Electronic Village and Sustainable Jobs Fund as we summarize the fourth installment of The Nanocorp Primer - Shamrocks and Nanocorps: Bridging the Digital Divide with 'Small is Good' Business Webs.

Welcome to Sohodojo,
--Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--

LegalSIG: Update on the Enterprise Communities Legislation

Rants and Raves #16 covered the American Community Renewal and New Markets Empowerment Act and particularly how the 115 Enterprise Communities were about to be left out of this important economic development legislation.

Since then, so much pork has been added to this legislative barrel that the Senate Finance Committee is having real difficulty reconciling the Community Renewal Bill which cleared the House, with the current write-up of the Bill still in the Senate. Where does this leave the Enterprise Communities? It is still an open issue. We continue to work hard to see them added to the pending tax legislation now scheduled to the hit Senate floor sometime this week.

For the latest change insurgents' news on this legislation visit Sohodojo's EZEC web page to see what's happening and to find out what you can do to help.

TechSIG: Open Source - Trust in a Self-Organizing, Collaborative World

Open Source development is a HOT topic these days. The Sohodojo TechSIG's Center for Community Collaboration Technologies is focused on developing the tools and processes which support Open Source development projects and self-organizing agendas using the latest collaboration technologies.

Although cooperation and collaboration share some of the same requirements, good collaboration depends much more on elements of mutual respect and mutual trust. But how do you determine mutual respect and mutual trust when project participants are geographically dispersed? How do we make a collaboration environment useful and sustainable in an increasingly wired world? We'll have to provide a wired means for establishing cohesion, familiarity and trust in our distributed, self-organizing, collaborations.

To this end, we've been spending time communing with kindred spirits on the Advogato website. One of the goals of Advogato is to serve as a research testbed for work on group trust metrics. Trust metrics will be an essential element of role/actor executable business models and other collaboration technologies which are under development at Sohodojo.

LifeSIG: The COBRA Spotlight on a Sohodojo Expert

Our LifeSIG is getting itself organized. The hot topic in this area lately has been health insurance, particulary questions on COBRA.

COBRA is an acronym for the law imposing health insurance continuation requirements on employer health plans. It covers employees who lose their jobs for any reason and in certain other circumstances. It gives affected employees the right to continue their health insurance coverage for up to 18 months at their own expense. And not surprisingly, we get e-mails about COBRA issues.

The dojo's COBRA and HIPAA expert is Tom Farmer, from St. Augustine, Florida - a member of Sohodojo since August 1999. Tom calls himself "a part-time nanocorper" who had his own C.P.A. firm until one of his clients pressed him into a full time CFO position with an offer he couldn't refuse. He's planning to return one day to his full time nanocorp but in the meantime he brings a wealth of expertise to his two Nano-economics Forums:

Be looking for more from Tom in the Sohodojo LifeSIG. He's particularly knowledgeable on forms of organization (S-Corp, LLC, Partnerships C-Corps, Sole proprietor), on keeping books to keep Uncle Sam off your back (small business accounting systems), and, as he says, "of course, any tax topic."

Queue up your questions folks, the LifeSIG is coming...

Webring Updates

The Webring of Small Business Revolutionaries welcomes its newest member, Colonial and Country Collections of Lexington, Virginia. Karen and Bill Crumpler are small business entrepreneurs with a brick and mortar business in the historic Shenandoah Valley.

They've been clients of the Sohodojo Business Services nanocorp since we first wired their business then built them an e-store on the Internet. They are pioneers among their fellow small businesses and a test lab for Sohodojo's small business shopkeeper software. Take a look at their wonderful collection of gifts and accessories. Our favorites are the Laafs Little People and the Christhomas collection of Family and Friends.

ALERT REMINDER: Don't forget to get a Yahoo Webring ID and associate your website with the SBR and other webrings to which you belong. This editing will take a few minutes. But your website will be listed in the Yahoo WebRing Directory within 24 hours! Do it now while the Yahoo WebRing Directory is still uncrowded. (Go here for more Yahoo webring info.)

Shamrocks and Nanocorps - Business Webs and the Digital Divide

The fourth installment of The Nanocorp Primer Shamrocks and Nanocorps, Bridging the Digital Divide with 'Small is Good' Business Webs is on-line at the Sohodojo website. In it we present a strategy for using 'Small is Good' organization dynamics to open up a new category of economic opportunity. And, we showcase how this applies to the U.S. Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. But, the same model can apply to small business development anywhere in today's Internet-enabled economy.

At the heart of Primer #4 is Charles Handy's 'Shamrock' organization model from The Age of Unreason and Sohodojo's "ruthlessly small" nanocorps combined into 'Small is Good' Business Webs to bridge the Digital Divide.

Proposed 'solutions' to the Digital Divide have typically focused on grants applied to provide Internet access and maybe some job training to a fortunate few. But 'rescue missions' to bring folks across the Gap are only part of a sustainable solution. We need to build bridges as well as provide access. We need to do more than train people for jobs that will take them out of the local economy and into suburban hi-tech sectors. Shamrocks and Nanocorps -- Business Webs of 'Small is Good' collaborations -- can provide a fundamental change in how we approach the Digital Gap problem.

To begin with, Charles Handy's Shamrock organization and its three 'leaves' are changing the face of business and the workplace. There is the 'core' (employee) leaf, the contractual fringe (organizations or individuals paid for results in fees not wages) and the flexible labor force (the fringe self-employed with a portfolio of part-time or temporary jobs). These three 'leaves' make up the Shamrock Organization. You see Shamrock structures all around you from big to little organizations. The Shamrock organization is a logical response to global competition and the increased speed of change.

The nanocorp is the 'unary business' - the 'atomic' building block of a 'Small is Good' Business Web - 'ruthlessly small' and committed to collaboration. Groups of nanocorps form dejobbed small businesses where they fill contractual roles, not jobs. These dejobbed small businesses can form a Shamrock 'core' or offer services at the contractual fringe. Free Agent nanocorps can form temporary dejobbed small businesses with other nanocorps or function at the fringe as part of the flexible labor force. Free Agent nanocorps and Dejobbed Small Businesses are the basic building blocks of 'Small is Good' Business Webs.

Business webs, or b-webs, are fluid congregations/collaborations of businesses that come together loosely or in highly structured networks to accomplish shared agendas.

How do we bridge the Gap with Shamrock-based 'Small is Good' Business Webs? We believe that nimble elastic networks of entrepreneurial free agents and innovative dejobbed small businesses can succeed where others fail. And that the 'Small is Good' B-Web can elastically grow and shrink from a few to hundreds or more members with many of the same properties of the Internet itself.

To see how this applies to a real world business, take a look at as our case in point in Primer #4. This is not just theoretical. We are poised to move forward to build the Shamrock and Nanocorp Business Web around that will show how this business model can help to bridge the Digital Divide.

If you are interested in hearing more about the ideas in Primer #4, or if you want to help build the 'Small is Good' Business Web, or if you want to be a sponsor of this Sohodojo R&D agenda, let's start talking.

We are not alone in recognizing and addressing the crying need for creativity and innovation to transform our rural and urban neighborhoods in danger of being left on the 'wrong side' of the Digital Divide.

Right here in North Carolina, home of Sohodojo, and in near-by southern Virginia are three significant resources addressing 'sustainable community' and small business economic development issues and opportunities.

Center for Communities of the Future

Rick Smyre's Center for Communities of the Future is an evolving network of people and organizations throughout the U.S. and other countries that are working in collaboration to develop new concepts of governance, economic development, and education/learning for a fast-paced, interconnected, and increasingly complex society.

COTF is unique in its approach to community transformation to the 21st century. One of the foundations of Rick's work is helping local communities build capacities for transformation. This concept emphasizes five critical capacities which do not presently exist in most local communities:

  • using a futures context to resolve present and future issues,

  • developing an electronic infrastructure for real time information flow,

  • developing process leaders who are able to complement traditional leaders,

  • integrating a new 21st century concept of the common good (help each other succeed) into the thinking and activities of its citizens, and

  • building 21st century skills in its citizens.

There is a wealth of innovative ideas and experience-based reports on the COTF website. And we met with Rick for a long afternoon dialog last week to discuss collaboration and fit on our mutual and shared agendas. You'll hear much more about this in the coming months.

Blacksburg Electronic Village

Blacksburg Virginia's wired neighborhood is the world-famous on-going experiment on the impact of wiring a small town to create an electronic foundation for governance, community action and small business development. If you are not familiar with this agenda, take a look at the Blacksburg Electronic Village website and look around to see how it works.

For more information read Sustaining Civic Networks: A Blueprint for Community Use of Technology, a chapter in the on-line resource Pathways to Sustainability: The Age of Transformation edited by Andrew Cohill and Joseph Kruth. Among other things, Dr. Cohill is the head of the Blacksburg Electronic Village experiment.

If you are interested in how cyberspace and the Real World are intermingling, read David Gelernter's Mirror Worlds: Or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox: How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Visit the Blacksburg Electronic Village ( The Internet is changing the world as we've known it, and these changes have only just begun.

Sustainable Jobs Fund

Effective local governance and a proactive community are incomplete without collaborative private sector investment. That's where innovative venture capital comes into play. We have an active and growing relationship with the good folks at Sustainable Jobs Fund of Durham, North Carolina.

David Kirkpatrick, Anne Claire Broughton and their partners have raised a $17-million investment fund which targets job creation and business development in urban and rural communities of the Eastern United States. You can find out more about this progressive venture fund in this The Triangle Business Journal profile reprinted on-line at the Sohodojo website.

To see the New World of venture capital investment, take a look at The Nanocorp Primer #2: Old Economy Venture Capital, New Economy Venture Capital: A Nanocorp Perspective. As this short presentation shows, it's all a matter of how you put the pieces together and how you look at the Great Game of Business.

What do YOU think?

There is no 'Quick Three to Go' poll this issue. It will be back when we roll out the on-line web poll at Sohodojo and in the newsletter. But, we do want to know what you are thinking right now.


We'll select from your responses and publish the most interesting letters at the Sohodojo website.

(Note: If you want to give us a piece of your mind but don't want your letter published, please let us know that in your letter.)

As always, thanks for reading this issue of Sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter,
    --Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky--
    Hosts, Sohodojo

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