We’d like to tie together a couple of disparate conversations that are going on at the moment on ONet. In response to this thread we posted a non-news “news” article in our personal news space. In Divide and Conquer… the Flat World, we wrote about how collaborative teams need to be composed of a complementary group of folks bringing to bear all the needed skills and experience in toto. It isn’t efficient to expect that each team member can know and do every task that needs doing on a project. The only way that the “whole” of the group can be greater than the sum of its parts is if there is specialized knowledge and talents distributed throughout the team. Otherwise, there is not need for the team as each team member could be a team of one.
Understanding that we need to work in collaborative teams, we next face the challenge of establishing critical mass of launching the team’s project. Sometimes nothing more is needed than the collective will, time, and energy of the team. Sweat equity is all that is needed to push forward. Unfortunately, sweat equity in often not enough. We need outside resources, whether contributed labor or contributed financial resources, to put the team to work.
What Christina and others are struggling to do here is to launch what we at Sohodojo call an entrepreneurial community ecosystem. Getting the IRS to understand this extended network enterprise model and to understand Sohodojo’s role took us over 2.5 years to get 501(C)(3) status as an independent applied R&D lab supporting such ecosystems. Now that we have that designation, Sohodojo faces our next and perhaps an insurmountable problem.
Funding Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in an Organization-Centric World
Unfortunately, the social sector funding institutions are just not prepared to understand these extended network social/business ecosystems and their alternative markets. Launching an ecosystem like Christina is trying to do is a dynamic, collaborative process. Her success is dependent on orchestrating the collective energy of a diverse group of individuals and organizations. In this regard, Christina is like an independent film maker. She has the script, the actors, the technical directors, etc. But she is driving herself bonkers because she doesn’t have the one partner she so desperately needs… she doesn’t have an Executive Producer who can put talent together with the financial backers and other essential service partners.
Virtually all private foundations and public funding agencies still live in an organization-centric world when everything around them is deconstructing into decentralized and distributed networks. These funding sources are satisfied to metaphorically “invest in the film industry” rather than help us to “make movies.”
We’ve written more about this situation in Paul Herman’s “A Self Empowered World of 2050?” When asked to reflect on the infrastructure needed to make real Paul’s vision for future empowered individuals, we contributed this comment that speaks to this mismatch between what gets funded and how things get done.
The single most exciting thing that could happen for the ONet community in 2006 would be for the Omidyar Network to appreciate the frustrations of social entrepreneurs who are trying to evolve ecosystem-like extended network enterprises, and to embrace the role of Executive Producer so we can work together “making movies” that help to change the world.
–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–
Add comment February 5th, 2006