Posts filed under 'Various Other'

Self-Empowerment and Friedman’s “Reform Retail”

Dahna Goldstein said:

[snip] Rousseau’s Social Contract springs to mind… Historically, it has been the role of government to reflect the general will, and government, in this framework, has a responsibility to provide things like social services. The Social Contract has clearly played out in different ways in different societies… One way to look at the social or citizen sector is that it steps in where government has failed to live up to its Social Contract obligations. In this vision for the future, what is the role of the Social Contract? How does the collective take responsibility for the individuals? And what sort of governing principles and practices apply to enable this vision?

Interesting insight and provocative questions, Dahna. While we are persistent advocates of self-generated self-empowerment (as Nike would say, “Just do it.”), there is a limit to the self-empowerment that individuals can achieve on their own. And, yes, the public or social sector can try to lend assistance when governments fail their citizens. But in certain vital areas, there is no substitute for effective/enabling government action and policy.

Reform Wholesale and Reform Retail

The World Is Flat bookcover In The World Is Flat, Tom Friedman distinguishes two kinds of governmental socioeconomic reform: reform wholesale and reform retail.

Reform wholesale consists of the Big Picture things that a government (usually at the scale of the nationstate) can do to prepare itself and its citizens for participation in the emerging network society and its network economy (what Friedman would call Globalization 3.0). Getting trade policy right, establishing rule of law especially as applied to international business relations, getting roads and utility infrastructure up to quality standards, etc.; these are the things that a nationstate can do largely top-down and by fiat to prepare itself and its people for participation in the Flat World.

The problem is that many nations too often stop at reform wholesale. They don’t move on to the second phase of preparing the themselves and their citizens for the hyper-competitive world of Globalization 3.0. That is, they don’t move on to reform retail.

Reform retail is all the devil in the details of preparing a country and its citizens for effective participation in the Flat World. Such things as how easy and affordable is it to start a business and deal with licenses, how easy or hard it is to hire and fire workers, what are the rights and responsibilities of property ownership, how available is credit, what protections are there for investors, how easy or hard is it to pay business taxes and do they stimulate or stifle economic incentive, do bankruptcy laws encourage or discourage risk-taking and innovation, how long does it take to enforce a business contract through the legal systems, et cetera. These are among the fine-grained details of getting a country and its people empowered for participation in the Flat World.

A ‘Reform Retail’ Best Practices Resource

Friedman cites the 2004 version of an interesting and ongoing study by the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank. The “Doing Business” Economy Rankings look at five broad areas;

  • Starting a Business
  • Dealing with Licenses
  • Hiring and Firing
  • Registering Property
  • Getting Credit

These areas are combined into an overall Ease of Doing Business ranking. You will find an abundance of information related to the importance and means of reform that enable competitiveness in each of these areas on the IFC’s DoingBusiness.org web site. You will also find detailed information for each of the 155 national economies evaluated under this ongoing study. Follow this link to survey a cumulative list of all 155 economies ranked by their ease of doing business.

Self-Empowerment: Nature or Nurture?

Entrepreneurial self-determination, at its best, knows no bounds. Some folks are born to combine vision, persistence, ambition, pride in a job well done, and the many other traits that are needed to succeed in business, in life, or in any competitive domain. These folks will succeed against all odds. But what about the rest of us?

For those whose nature may not overcome all adversity, we need a little help from our friends. In the case of economic self-empowerment, we need that extra push of a ecosystem that is conducive to our survival and growth. Anthea and Mfume are much more likely to succeed as self-empowered individuals if they find themselves in New Zealand (#1), Iceland (#11), or Thailand (#20), rather than if they find themselves in Cambodia (#133), Sudan (#151), or the Democratic Republic of Congo (#155).

Our socioeconomic environment plays a large factor in whether the seed of self-empowerment grows or lies fallow. Knowing this, we need to hold our local, regional, and national government officials accountable for how well they work with us to ease our starting and sustaining our businesses. The Doing Business project is a readily available resource to monitor and encourage improvements at the nationstate level of the multilayered ecosystem in which we are trying to express our individual empowerment.

But we need finer-grained tools to monitor and improve our self-empowerment environment. We need to encourage nations to adopt and adapt the Doing Business methodology to take this best practices monitoring to the provincial, regional, and state levels. We need to encourage our local town and county officials to stand up and be counted in terms of how well they are helping us to participate in the Flat World of Globalization 3.0. Because, as Friedman so powerfully reminds us in The World is Flat, reform wholesale without an equal measure of reform retail is reform wasted.

While the proverbial saying tells us that we will find the devil in the details, it might be better if we were to look there to find the source of self-empowerment.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment February 15th, 2006

Human Nature and Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystems

Thomas George said:

In response to Lars’s, Jim’s and Timlynn’s insightful comments, I would like your reaction to the last part in my original comment “given the unpredictable nature of human interactions“. Using Jim’s and Timlynn’s example of eBay, what will be the nature of such a network if transparency of transactions and documenting of the reputations were absent?

Without intending to sound glib or too Zen-like, Thomas, we think the answer is in your Socratic question. That is, such network marketplaces will not be sustainable without mechanisms to enable transparency of transactions and documenting of the reputations of its participants.

Link opens the Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem model (PDF format) In a number of recent interviews that touch on his understanding of the social impact of eBay, Pierre Omidyar cites the fact that eBay enabled tens of millions of individuals to trust a stranger such they might engage in buyer-seller transactions without the traditional context of shared community and face-to-face interaction. eBay did not accomplish this significant feat by mild encouragement to suggest that people observe the Golden Rule and just be nice to each other. eBay accomplished this social impact by being the intentional network enabler of such transactions; by providing the trusted mediation services together with the software infrastructure to enable such transactions in an anytime, anyplace world.

In this regard, it is a business model design point for anyone aspiring to create and sustain a network marketplace that, at a minimum, they cover these complementary network enabling services of transaction transparency and trusted reputation building. You will see these components clearly in Sohodojo’s input/output model for entrepreneurial community ecosystems. (Click the graphic above to open a PDF on this model.)

And, Thomas, we’re sure that such components are included in your market development plans at Vipani. If you are still in the development stage of your systems design and development, we would be very interested in collaborating with you to advance your important mission. It is clear from your web site that you appreciate the power of story to transcend the market’s traditional product-price focus and to broaden that perspective to include personal and community supply chain impacts.

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

Add comment February 8th, 2006

Six Degrees in the Self-Empowered World of 2050

Lars Hasselblad Torres said:

although the vision doesn’t resonate with me (ie a world in which to live healthy, happy lives one must be “wired”), i really appreciate the place from which the vision springs.

Lars, you may have a bit of the old “Can’t see the forest for the trees” Syndrome going for you in this context. If you look at “wired” as being technology and technology literacy, then your skepticism is justified.

We’ve seen decades of “Digital Divide” programs that are built on the shortsighted assumption that access to technology was the enabler of socioeconomic development (also known as empowerment). But it is not access to technology that is the source of power. Rather the technology is a means to an end. It is access to others, access to markets, access to information, etc. that is the means to self-empowerment.

So in Paul’s evocative story above, it isn’t that Anthea and Mfume are wired tech geeks that is important. Rather, it is that these Empowered Individuals have low-cost, easy-to-use, non-censored access to people and information that let’s them be self-sustainable in the world. The “wired” aspect is just a means to an end.

It is important to note that the “Six Degrees” (Small World) dynamic of scale-free socioeconomic networks is at play in this regard. In Paul’s world of 2050, it is not required that every Anthea and Mfume in the world be equally wired and technologically literate. What is important is that as many people as possible be connected through the shortest paths possible to the Flat World of Globalization 3.0 and its emerging person-to-person network marketplaces.

Just as we all cope with parents and grandparents whose VCRs are still flashing midnight, so too will Anthea and Mfume have a circle of family and friends who they help, directly and indirectly, to connect to this future world.

This Small World network dynamic is one of the themes in our recent post, Divide and Conquer… the Flat World. We wanted Christina and all the great Life In Africa folks to understand that everyone doesn’t have to become a techno-geek in order to be connected to, and to participate in, the “wired world.”

Bottom line: The “forest” to be seen among the technology-trees, Lars, is the ability of individuals to connect in meaningful ways with other people. It is the connection itself, not the means of that connection that is the source of self-empowerment.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment February 4th, 2006

Envisioning A Self-Empowered World in 2050

Paul,Your evocative story will hopefully play out entirely as described well before 2050. It is also reasonable to think that the spark to fund this vision will come from the Omidyar Network. And, it is also likely that this vision will “trickle over” from ONet to become the strategic basis for the expansion of eBay’s core business processes from price-focused product markets into the potentially far larger markets of impact-focused relationship markets of the 21st century and beyond.

While the pundits speculate on which technology-driven market Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo will choose as the battleground to topple eBay (The Big Guns’ Next Target: eBay), they miss the “end run” in play by which eBay may leverage itself into a whole new ballgame. This is, interestingly, the level playing field of Tom Friedman’s Globalization 3.0 described in The World Is Flat, that is, the emerging world of Empowered Individuals.

From Shopping for Things to Shopping as Experience

Certainly Anthea and Mfume are empowered Flat Worlders. Their world, as you have described it Paul, is experience-oriented rather than materialistic. They are inprosumers engaged in a cyclic process of investing, producing and consuming rather than being the insatiable recipients at the end of a one-way supply chain of more stuff.

In the Ned and Life In Africa discussions at ONet, we have contributed a number of posts envisioning and encouraging this evolution toward impact-oriented, relationship-driven consumer markets. You will find a collection of these posts pulled together under the Inprosumer and Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystems categories of Sohodojo’s Omidyar.net Blog. These comments and short articles certainly resonate with your vision for the Self Empowered World of 2050.

Learning from Hollywood

As to the all-important question of what can we do now to bring this vision for a Better World into reality sooner than later, we believe social enterprise funders need to turn a learning eye toward Hollywood. There are important lessons to be learned in understanding the evolution of the film industry from an organization-centric world of centralized studios to the decentralized, network-based production of independent films in the last half of the 20th century.

The funding and infrastructure support requirements to enable the entrepreneurial community ecosystems and alternative markets of Anthea and Mfume’s world are similar to those that support the network-based process of independent film making. Unfortunately, the vast majority of social sector and social enterprise funders have an organization-centric mindset. They are, metaphorically, more interested to investing in the film industry rather than funding and facilitating the production of films.

We have written more extensively on these ideas in a grant proposal, Workshop on Funding and Support of Social Business Ecosystems in the Small Is Good World, that we submitted to the Skoll Foundation. Although the theme of this year’s Skoll World Forum is “Leveraging assets, growing social capital markets: sustainable routes to wealth and well-being,” this proposal was rejected with the only explanation that it did not fit the focus and interests of the foundation. While this proposal is unfunded, it is nevertheless full of insights and recommendations from those of us struggling to be pioneers in the creation of these social business ecosystems and their alternative markets.

The single most important thing that needs to happen if Anthea and Mfume are to live in their future Self Empowered World, is that social sector and social enterprise funders have to shed their organization-centric blinders. We need funders who will embrace their roles as executive producers of the entrepreneurial community ecosystems and alternative markets of Anthea and Mfume’s Self Empowered World.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 31st, 2006

Cast a Wide Net, Literally

Christina Kirabo Jordan said:

I wanna learn how to blog!

Absolutely, Christina. Blogging (AKA weblogging, personal publishing) is a potent empowerment tool. Its ‘ripple effect’ of giving a voice to individuals is amazing.

It is not only important for you to get blogging, it is an essential Flat World life skill for Monica, Kiwanuka, Teopista, and other LiA, WE Center, and I4C folks to learn and use.

While it is great to have a standard web site, web sites are like “content islands”. They are great and a powerful way to have a presence in the world. But you have to get folks to your site. And that is not a trivial challenge.

Blogging is different. Blogging is not just a style of piecemeal, personal diary-style content authoring. Blogging has evolved into a combination of web inter-communication protocols — that is, standardized inter-linkage cross-referencing that creates the blogosphere. Now, with specialized blog content search engines, and specialized tagging systems, blogging is more than just about personal journalism. Blogging is a potent means to become less, or to keep from becoming, marginalized as an individual in the increasingly Flat World of Globalization 3.0.

One of our goals with this group is to create a kind of self-support learning center where ONetizens can learn and share what they know about blogging. So, by all means, we invite and encourage all LiA, WE Center, and I4C folks to join this group and have fun learning how to reach out and have a voice in the world.

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

Add comment January 24th, 2006

Trackback linking for ONet posts

A screenshot of Sohodojo's Omidyar.net blog Douglas Arellanes said:

Seems like this would be a lot easier if there were more O.Net RSS feeds; currently there are only a few feeds available. That way you could set up an aggregator and go that way.

Spot on, Douglas! But there are blogging standards that may be even more useful for decentralizing and distributing ONet conversations. In particular, consider the impact if the ONet development team extended the basic architecture of ONet posts to support trackback linking!

We have written an article on this and related ideas in our personal news post, Blogging ONet For Focus (which you will find cross-posted on our blog here). Of course these ideas/opportunties for ONetizens to blog their posts are not limited to WordPress.

In 2006, we would be very pleased to see the Omidyar.net community reach out into the blogosphere more effectively. This will not only enrich our conversations with additional insights from nonmembers, ONet blogging could work as a very effective outreach channel to recruit new members as well as potential funders of our projects.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 4th, 2006

WordPress ‘How To’ Harvest ONet Posts

Hi Doug,

To do this Big Bang harvesting, we simply went to our Profile page and for sections like ‘Recent discussion posts and comments’ clicked on a ‘Comment’ link to zero in on a past post. We then click the timestamp link on the target post to get that post in a ’solo post’ view that contains the post timestamp, the link to use for the ONet Source link-back, and the post itself.

We then simply do a click-drag to copy this whole post, then paste it into the WYSIWYG editor in WordPress. We then click the HTML button on the WordPress editor to pop open the HTML source for the post where we select and cut the source link.

We then close the source dialog by pressing the Update button, and do a ‘Save and keep editing’ save on the post so we can add a custom field. We then select the ‘ONet Source’ custom field name and paste in the link we just grabbed. We click checkboxes to assign categories, and if needed, we edit the timestamp and save/publish the post.

This sounds like a lot but it is very fast and easy once you do it a few times.

We are going to look into creating a WordPress module or maybe better yet an independent utility that could use a CURL session to do a server-to-server harvest of posts programmatically. This would be especially helpful to Big Bang populate blogs for folks that want to start an ONet blog like we did at Sohodojo. But once you have your backlog posted, it is really no big chore to follow up an ONet post with a blog repost.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment December 29th, 2005

WordPress 2.0 for ONet Blogging

We just installed the latest WordPress 2.0 and used it to harvest all our ONet posts to our ONet blog. Check out the launch announcement here:http://www.omidyar.net/user/u193325011/news/4/We have used Drupal extensively for many various grassroots and business sites, but it is overkill for a basic blog. (We know, this is heresy to a Drupal fan. But there is much to be said for simplicity and design to specific purpose.)

With the hot-off-the-presses release of WordPress 2.0, we thought it would be a good time to check out WordPress while harvesting our ONet content for republication on the Sohodojo web site.

As others have said, the install was fast and painless. The new default TinyMCE-based rich text editor makes it easy to copy and paste our ONet posts to the blog. We then use an ONet Source custom field to link back to the original post on ONet.

If a bunch of ONet members do similar “post cloning” to external blogs we will both enlarge the search engine semantic/topical “cloud”/constellation of linkage to ONet content as well as help to increase the blogosphere presence for the ONet community.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment December 28th, 2005

Sohodojo Launches Omidyar.net Blog

In preparation for what will surely be an exciting and active year as the collaborations spawning at ONet gel, we are pleased to announce the launch of Sohodojo’s Omidyar.net Blog!The idea is pretty basic and a “win-win” proposition. A lot of us are generating a lot of interesting content here on the ONet web site. Sometimes our activity here is at the expense of creating new content on our own web sites. By harvesting our own posts and republishing them on our blogs we accomplish two things:

  • we get a stream of new content on our own sites without having to burn the writing candle at both ends, and
  • our blogs help spread the word about what is going on at ONet as well as serve as kindred spirit recruiting doorways to the ONet community.

Many search engines today don’t just look at a page or site in isolation. They look at the ‘cloud’ or constellation of linkages into and out of a network of sites and pages to determine content relevance and popularity. As more and more members blog their ONet posts, we will not only positively impact the overall ONet search engine cloud/constellation, we’ll be helping to increase the ONet community’s presence (visibility) in the blogosphere. The result should be more new members who share our interests and passions… and maybe we’ll attract some funders to boot! :-)
A Very Happy and Positive New Year to All,

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

2 comments December 28th, 2005

Our Two Cents on Should Nonprofits Seek Profits?

The only discussion title more sensational then Should Nonprofits Seek Profits? would be Should Nonprofits Have Sex? The dogged fascination many folks have with the ‘P’-word is motivated by the same fascination we have with other taboo topics. It’s that ever-vigilant-though-we-deny-it Protestant Ethic creeping is as a guilt-driven constraint to shape how we think about and behave in the social sector.

Our obsession with profit/non-profit concerns reinforces a shared belief that private sector business is a Red Light District of sin and depravity, and that we must keep our ‘kinder, gentler selves’ from straying too close to the flame. Unless we’re establishing a mission to reform the fallen among us, what purpose does a saint have hanging around on the wrong side of town?

It is no accident that Jim Fruchterman has such a strong and experienced voice in this discussion. More than most, Jim’s work through Benetech weaves an ecosystem-like network of activity bringing private, public/social, governmental, and emerging hybrid organizations together to tackle significant social problems. Jim is fortunate and skilled enough to be doing his good works in a big way.

But what about the rest of us? Creating and sustaining a Benetech is not in the realm of possibility for most of us. Most of us, in other words, inhabit the Small Is Good World where our lives as individuals determine our contribution to society. Michael Herman raised this issue in his heartfelt post when he asked (our emphasis added):

“what does social enterprise look like at the level of the ‘little individual’? i am a for-profit person endeavoring to do work that could be 501c3′d into an organizational form, but that would take lots of attention and energy away from the work i actually want to do… how can for-profit people do non-profit service-type work as individuals and still generate enough funds to live on? does everything have to be an organization to succeed?”

Jim Fruchterman’s social business ecosystem is organization-centric. At Sohodojo, we’d say Jim works largely (though not exclusively) in the Big Is Good World. Being organization-centric is not inherently a good or a bad thing. It is just a feature of the scale at which Jim works.

But what about Michael’s ‘little individual’? What do social business ecosystems look like when the nodes of the network are individuals rather than organizations? How do collaborative networks of solo social entrepreneurs form, manage, and most critically, fund themselves? In other words, how will things work in the Small Is Good World?

We are only beginning to understand and ask these important questions. The answers to these questions are a work in process that is most visible in places like the Omidyar Network and Skoll’s Social Edge on-line communities for social entrepreneurs.

A major challenge for the social investment community is to learn to add a new perspective and skill set to its approach to philanthropy. Metaphorically speaking, the current philanthropic community is primarily skilled and comfortable in the art of “investing in the film industry.” However, the social investment community is relatively unaware of and unskilled at playing the executive producer role of funding the social sector’s activity of “making movies.”

Just as the Hollywood film industry went through “network-ization” in the mid-20th century, the social sector is going through it at the dawn of the 21st century.

Modern information and communication technologies empower individuals to aspire to be effective solo social entrepreneurs. The dynamic projects we want to create and participate in are the “movies” of the social sector. We don’t want to have to be an employee of a film industry organization in order to make movies. As we move into the realm of the individual in the Small Is Good World, the profit/nonprofit issue becomes more of an accounting decision rather than a value-laden litmus test of social good or evil.

When we figure out how to nurture social business ecosystems as a vital part of the Small Is Good World, we will have come a long way toward addressing Michael Herman’s desire to be an effective ‘little individual’ helping to lengthen the flight of Spaceship Earth.

For more on the Small Is Good World, social business ecosystems, and the challenges facing the social investment community, we encourage you to visit the archive of our Social Edge posts at Sohodojo.

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

Add comment March 6th, 2005

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