Visit the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge community web site

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

December, 2003 – March, 2004

Social Entrepreneurs and Social Enterprise in the Small Is Good World

A Blog of Sohodojo's Forum Posts at the Skoll Social Edge Web Site

Sohodojo at Social Edge

Bla, bla, bla: It's only words...
in Blended Value Glossary Building Project – 07:06pm Mar 29, 2004 PST

Actually, that's BLA as in Business Language Analysis rather than the derisive "blah, blah, blah."

This post won't shed any light on the semantics of the Blended Value Glossary, but it will give you some ideas about how to further tackle the problem.

This forum thread and its associated manifesto gave me a real "stab from the past" feeling. (I am speaking here in the voice of Sohodojo Jim rather than our typical collaboratively authored comments by both me and Timlynn.) This discussion sounds almost exactly like the conversations I heard many times in client meetings when I was an Executive Consultant in the Object Technology Practice of IBM Global Services. I was a thought leader and designer/developer on an applied research team that created software frameworks for executable business models. The basic idea was to rapidly envision and prototype flexible business systems by directly programming abstract business models in an 'executable' form. For this, we used advanced object-oriented simulation technologies.

What we learned was this; if you want to get a disparate group of people to come face-to-face with the ambiguities and subtlties of their 'shared' language, write some software (for example, a simulation of the problem domain) that embodies this supposedly shared space. When we started working with clients' cross-silo executive teams to create such executable models, we soon ran into the brick wall of The Language Problem. Since this was IBM, we had vast human resources in the research labs and a 'failure is not an option' consulting culture that meant that we had to overcome this obstacle.

Before long, I was traveling to all client engagements with a business ontologist in tow. My buddy was Doug McDavid, who developed a consulting methodology he called Business Language Analysis. Doug would help clients figure out what they really meant when they talked about their businesses, their markets, and their industries. His analysis made my designing and programming do-able. I, in turn, brought these business models to life in software that could be experienced rather than the model just being talked about. In relatively short order, we'd get an "A-ha! That's it!" reaction from the client.

So, what might the BVG Team do to advance the movement? Consider hosting an applied, virtual workshop to do just such a language analysis and simulation development. (In this case, you'd be modeling the shared space of the BV 'industry' or shared community of interest.) In the early ninties, we had to do this kind of event face-to-face in grueling, extended work sessions. With today's on-line collaboration technologies and web-enabled simulation environments, this project could be done from the comfort of everyone's home office.

To learn more about Business Language Analysis, please see Doug's article 'Business language analysis for object-oriented information systems' (HTML abstract and full 23-page article in PDF format.)

Hope this information source and experience report is helpful. Is anybody interested in working together on such a project? The Skoll Foundation might be a potential funding sponsor, and Social Edge would be an ideal host for this applied research community project.

Scale vs. Coverage: Even BV May Not Suffice
in Building Blended Value Launch Discussion (March 23-April 14) – 01:39pm Mar 29, 2004 PST

Quick intro: We are Timlynn Babitsky and Jim Salmons. Among other things in our Portfolio Lives as social entrepreneurial free agents, we are co-founders and research directors of Sohodojo, an independent, non-profit R&D lab supporting solo and family-based entrepreneurs in rural and distressed urban communities.

Thematic point: Don't confuse scale with coverage, and understand the impact of well-meaning accountability and results-orientation on the latter.

We won't belabor the underlying context here. Please read our post 'Scale vs. Coverage: Similar but Different' from the recently concluded Social Edge Book Club discussion.

A significant problem that we see emerging is the devaluation of service to those who are more expensive to serve than their equally deserving counterparts who happen to live in a 'cheaper to service' context (i.e. sparse rural vs. dense rural). The more we move to accountability and measurable results, the more we lean toward scale at the expense of coverage, especially when we mistake scale as a necessary means to coverage.

The best blended value tools, methods and theories may give us "kinder, gentler" traditional organizations (what we think of as the Big Is Good World). And this is surely a good thing. But even if the BV Movement were to adjust all the skewed behavior of Big Is Good organizations, we still may not achieve a sustainable, healthy society and associated economy. That is, we may be risking the emergence and growth of a qualitatively different and complementary domain of the social/citizen sector.

This complementary domain is that of the Small Is Good World. This is the domain where, among other interesting activities, dynamic networks of entrepreneurial social change/service agents collaborate both to solve local problems and, more importantly, to chip away at the truly disruptive ideas and associated technologies that have every bit the potential, if not more so than our Big Is Good counterparts, to change the world in fundamental ways.

We are by no means expert in BV theory, and our lack of deep knowledge of this field may make our comments seem naive or trite. We welcome the opportunity for this discussion to help us to better understand the nuts and bolts of blended value theory so that our fears of unintended consequences will be shown to be unfounded. In the meantime, our impressions can only be grounded in experience.

We've gotten pretty used to being told that our remote, rural communities can't support the business case for getting one or another product or service offering that is routinely available in urban and dense-rural communities. But more and more we have to admit to an uneasy feeling that our remote, rural communities are growing more and more invisible as our numbers can't even make the case, blended or otherwise, for social sector service offerings.

Scale vs. Coverage: Similar but Different
in Welcome to the Book Club! – 12:44pm Mar 22, 2004 PST

Ann, your question gets at the heart of an issue that drives our interest in participating in Social Edge: "Do smaller decentralized organizations do a better of job of providing services and of "scaling" those services to reach more people?" We apologize in advance for the length of this post (nearly 800 words), but it gets to the heart of a very critical issue for the growth and evolution of social entrepreneurism.

The quick and easy answer as you cite and David's book showcases is that, yes, decentralized and distributed (network) organizations have certain sustainability and growth characteristics that make these organizational models appropriate for social entrepreneurs. The most obvious advantages are: 1) buildable/fundable piecemeal, 2) robustness (failure in one 'node' does not destroy the other nodes), 3) engender local constituent and stakeholder buy-in and ownership, and 4) adaptable (node innovations can be virally spread throughout the network), etc.

Sohodojo is working on such microenterprise network organization models as a means of business and community development in rural and distressed urban communities. (See this and this for more.) Over the last year, we've been in remote northcentral Montana where distances are great and population is extremely sparse (in some areas near us there are 1 or 2 people per square mile). This experience has made us acutely aware of a different dimension of social change/service delivery. And this realization is one of the reasons that we keep chiming in on discussions about scale and support for an emerging 'new breed' of social entrepreneur.

The Scale vs. Coverage Problem

We'll characterize this issue as being between Scale vs. Coverage. In the profit-driven business world, organizations are racing to 'hollow out' and become what Charles Handy calls 'Shamrock' organizations: a small central staff (shamrock leaf), an organization-to-organization 'leaf', and a contingency workforce 'leaf' (temporary 'free agent' workers). Business organizations are doing this to enable unparalleled flexibility, adaptability and to save money. Trouble is, we don't seem to see the same level of appreciation and use of this organizing principle in the social sector.

For example, we tend to 'silo'/focus social change/service in single-purpose organizations, a kind of over-specialization. Regardless of whether these organizations are traditional, centralized command and control organizations or more 'modern' decentralized and distributed network organizations, there is still a rather narrow focus of purpose. It's all about economies of scale (of whatever type) and often driven by funding accountability as foundations become more vision-driven and results-oriented.

Trouble is, even decentralized and distributed focused-purpose organizations cannot solve the Coverage Problem. Take remote, rural northcentral Montana as an example. We have one micropolitan area, Havre, of about 10,000 people. Leave Havre and for hundreds of miles you won't seen anything but tiny 'crossroad' towns and Indian reservations. In town X, we have problems A, B, and C. In town Y, we have problems B, D, and E. In town Z, we have problems A, C, and F.

In the social change/service domain we have Fix A Org, Fix B Org, Fix C Org, etc. Even the most decentralized and distributed among them cannot make a 'service case' for town X, Y, or Z. These places are just too small to be cost effective. For example, Sohodojo has collaborated for the last two years with a local economic development organization to get an HP Microenterprise Development grant. We've never been in the running to receive a grant because the dollars spent here (or hardware donated in the case of HP) have a low 'constituents served per dollar spent' ratio. Because service organizations have to increasingly 'make their numbers' to accountability-driven funding sources, coverage doesn't reach to the remote, sparse (really rural) areas.

A Call To Arms: Support Free Agent Social Entrepreneurs

What is needed is a 'hybrid' system. Our 'Fix A/B/C' organizations need to be better able to locate and collaborate with 'dynamic, generalist teams' of free agent social change/service agents. We need to be able to encourage and support Town X's social entrepreneurial team that is addressing problems A, B, and C, and so on. This kind of thing is happening now informally and hit-or-miss. This is similar to the situation that Ashoka saw and serviced when it said, "The social entrepreneurs are out there. We need to find them, and then ask what we can do to help them do more and better of what they are doing already."

With today's information and communication technologies, there is a new breed of 'free agent' social entrepreneur out there. They make good 'gap-filling' collaborators with traditional social change/service organizations. These folks have the potential to 'reach into the corners' to address the Coverage Problem. But like Ashoka did twenty-odd years ago, we have to believe that they are out there, find them, and ask ourselves what can we do to help them help others.

Renascer and the Network Society/Economy
in Welcome to the Book Club! – 02:56pm Mar 20, 2004 PST

Vera, thank you for joining us in this discussion, and best wishes for your continued good works and replication of your success.

It was most insightful how you made the connection in moving from healthcare as a narrow 'silo' of social service, to recognizing healthcare's interconnected place in the emerging Network Society and its associated Network Economy. Making the connection between the value of 'holistic' post-service patient care as a means to improve the effectiveness of Lagoa Hospital's primary care (and indirectly to the staff's quality of life and sense of accomplishment) was brilliant. What may be portrayed as an innovation in healthcare is really so much more than that as you tie healthcare to poverty reduction - a significant root cause of so much of the preventable healthcare demand - and ultimately, healthcare to economic/business development.

As David relates your story in How to Change the World, we were pleased to see that you quickly recognized that one means of reducing poverty among your constituents was to provide job training and microbusiness development. Just as Erzsebet Szekeres recognized the self-help value of incorporating co-op businesses into her communities for the multiply-disabled, you too saw the natural contribution that work and business can make to a family's goal of self-sufficiency. Families that are able to help themselves rather than depend on 'the kindness of strangers' or government hand-outs can be happier and less stressful even though they have the increased responsibility of self-support.

Another tactical insight that we really liked was the way you saw the opportunity to connect rich families and poor families as a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. Many folks and organizations see only the 'trickle down' dimension of benevolent assistance from rich to poor, perpetuating class distinctions. By envisioning this relationship as a two-way beneficial exchange where each side offers something and each side receives something in return. We chip away at the presumption of class differences, and begin to connect people to people which is at the heart of the emerging Network Society. Poverty will increasingly be measured as a lack of connections into the socioeconomic systems that support our physical and emotional well-being. We appreciate how Renascer is effectively using the dynamics of the Network Society to enhance and extend your organization's services.

What more can you tell us about how Renascer connects rich and poor families in extended support networks? Have there been bumps along the way or particular success stories that changed the way Renascer looks at this social networking dimension of your strategies?

[[[Note: For those of us that are English-bound, you can learn more about Renascer at the Friends of Renascer web site.]]]

Scale Is Beautiful!? And How to Change the World
in Welcome to the Book Club! – 06:57pm Mar 17, 2004 PST

There are few conversations within the Social Edge community where the issue of scale and growth and the related issue of local vs. global social impact don't work their way into the thread of conversation. As we prepared to reply to recent posts here related to scale we were drawn to our bookshelf to revisit an inspirational classic, E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered. We were sufficiently mesmerized by our refreshing visit to this timeless classic that we have made a strong recommendation for this title to be considered as a complementary follow-up to the Club's inaugural read of How to Change the World. (Please read our 'Small Is Beautiful' recommendation in the Suggest a Book topic.)

If you were guided only by its title, you might think that Schumacher was single-minded in his focus on the small to the exclusion of the large. Not so. In fact, one of the most interesting chapters in this book is titled, 'Toward a Theory of Large-scale Organization'. In this fascinating chapter Schumacher wrestles with the fragile balance between managerial order and entrepreneurial freedom. He looks at the dynamic opposition of the forces of centralization and decentralization. How familiar do these topics sound to you in light of reading about Jeroo Billimoria's evolution of Childline or Erzsebet Szekeres' design for Alliance Industrial Union communities?

In light of the many topics that we regularly discuss here at Social Edge that bear on the content of the now classic Small Is Beautiful, we believe that Schumacher's ideas are as timely and appropriate as they ever were. Given a timely first reading or re-reading of this book, we believe that folks will be pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of 'Schumacherian' strategies and tactics they will see reflected in How to Change the World.

'Small Is Beautiful' Revisiting Schumacher's Timely, Timeless Classic
in Suggest a Book – 01:10pm Mar 17, 2004 PST

As we reflect on the posts of the How to Change the World discussion, we were drawn to revisit E.F. Schumacher's classic book, Small Is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered. No matter what the context, the Social Edge members regularly wrestle with the issue of scale and social change. As self-appointed evangelists of the Small Is Good approach to the world, including the practice of social entrepreneurism, we keep reminding folks that scaling social impact does not necessarily mean scaling an organization to advocate or mangage this impact.

We were drawn to revisit Schumacher's book because there are, among its mountain of brilliant insights, two key ideas that have shaped our and many others' thinking over the thirty years since its original 1973 publication. One of these ideas, appropriate or intermediate technology has caught fire in the minds of many more folks than the other complementary idea of appropriate or human-scale organization. You don't have to look too far in today's social enterprise and social change domains to find all kinds of wonderful examples of clever designs for technologies that fit Schumacher's notion of appropriate technology. A Google search on 'appropriate technology' returns over 300.000 million references.

But when we consider his notion of appropriate or human-scale organization - that recognition of the complex interplay between managerial order and entreprenurial freedom - it is a different story. Google searches on 'apropriate scale organization', 'human scale organization' or 'small scale organization' cumulatively return only a few hundred results. We believe that this focus on technology at the expense of its complement of organizational scale is due to our post-industrial bias toward thing-solutions rather than people-solutions.

Unless we have recently revisited Schumacher's prescient classic, we forget how much he thought and wrote about entrepreneurship and its relationship to organization theory, about how we must delicately balance large- and small-scale organization to achieve both order and freedom. Small Is Beautiful is now available in a paperback, large-format 25th Anniversary Edition... with commentaries and an introduction by Paul Hawken (published in 1999 by Hartley and Marks, ISBN 0-88179-169-5). If, no, when Social Edge Book Club members (re)read this incredible book, we should all try to reference this recent edition (rather than the page-worn original edition pulled from your bookshelf). This 25th anniversary special edition includes annotation comments in the margins by more than thirty social entrepreneurs, activists, and assorted deep thinkers who have been influenced by this classic book. These comments add new depth, context, and meaning to Schumacher's work.

We believe that Schumacher's classic book is a much-deserving complement to the Club's inaugral read of David Bornstein's How to Change the World. Indeed, much of what we read in the personal stories of David's book will shed 'experience report' insights into the ideas that Schumacher so richly articulated thirty years earlier.

We believe that today many more people know about this great book than have actually read it. Many who have read it did so a long time ago. A revival read of it would breathe new respect and appreciation for the depth and timelessness of Schumacher's thinking. Yes, there are many great books out there that we all need to read and talk about. But casting our vote on a single title that we believe truly needs the light of the Social Edge Book Club shone upon it, it is unquestionable E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered.

Scale and Small Is Good in How to Change the World
in Welcome to the Book Club! – 12:43pm Mar 12, 2004 PST

Ann and Vaz have both raised the 'scale' (AKA growth) issue. As outspoken members of the Small Is Good approach to social entrepreneurism, we'd like to contribute our perspective to this discussion.

Scale and growth are not (necessarily) about size. There are three primary patterns of growth; accretive (getting bigger), replication (creating more by copy/cloning), and transformation (becoming something else, hopefully more sustainable or effective). In today's post-industrial world, we tend to think about scale/growth as an organizational feature and thereby, tend to gravitate toward (and think about) accretive (getting bigger) growth. Even when replication is involved, we tend to graft on an assumption or requirement that there be some command and control organization (that itself uses accretive growth) to enable the desired network replication.

What is exciting about How to Change the World (H2CtW), is that there is a strong underlying message about the power, effectiveness, and techniques of Small Is Good social entrepreneurism! We've addressed this theme of David's book in our H2CtW review at Sohodojo (opens in a new window). Like Edward's SENSCOT review, at nearly 1,100 words our review is too long to post here directly. But we kindly ask you to visit our site and read our review in the context of this scale discussion.

In particular, we are thinking that those of us who practice Small Is Good social entrepreneurism - that is, collaborating in peer networks of individuals through relatively 'hollow' organizations rather than creating and growing traditional organizations - that we will experience a different 'lifecycle curve' than what funding/infrastructure-supporting organizations like Ashoka and Skoll are looking for. Please see our review for more about this lifecycle difference and what it may mean in terms of 'design points' for those organizations seeking to identify and support social entrepreneurs.

Finally, for those interested in better understanding patterns of growth and how these might impact social enterprise business models, we recommend the obscure but excellent book, Grow or Die, by George T. Lock Land.

Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits
in Are there open source computer software applications for social sector use? – 10:58am Mar 4, 2004 PST

Orgcoll's follow-up to this 'teaser' about the primer on nonprofit OSS appears to have slipped through the cracks, so we'll contribute the pointer to both the primer and its organizational sponsor.

The 28-page 'Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits' is available free in PDF document format. It is written by Michelle Murrain, with Rich Cowan, Reuben Silvers, Anders Schneiderman, Amanda Hickman and Jamie McClelland. This publication is a resource provided by the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI).

This is a primer, not a directory of 'Best of Breed' OSS packages out there. It provides an excellent overview of Open Source in general, and builds a super business case of OSS (Open Source Software) in the nonprofit context. It will be extremely valuable for those who need to educate stakeholders and funders that OSS is a viable choice for building mission-critical organization information systems. The fact that this primer was funded by the IBM International Foundation also gives 'credibility points' for situations where stakeholders or funders may think that Open Source is all wacky hackers and loose cannon rebel programmers.

Highly recommended.

Knowledge at Wharton Recognizes Pyramid Bottom
in Mainstream Media News – 06:04pm Feb 25, 2004 PST

Article ImageThe newletter of the Wharton School of Business at U. Penn is an excellent resource for innovative business and economic thinking. It is not social enterprise-specific, but it never fails to be full of useful and interesting information.

In the current issue, there is an extended article and review/pointer to C. K. Prahalad's new book, 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits'.

We always seem to cringe a bit at the idea of MNCs (multinational corporations) seeing fortunes to be made in addressing markets of the underserved in developing nations, but hey, it's a free market and anybody who wants to make the world a better place has as much right to try as anyone else. It is just that some of the ideas that MNCs come up with to address these market opportunities can be so lame.

At any rate, Prahalad's work is certainly timely although he is not the only thoughtful contributor in this regard. Stuart Hart (also out of Michigan as we recall) at the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at Kenan Flagler B-school at UNC Chapel Hill comes to mind. Others that you might know about and conrtibute pointers to in replies to this post are also worth noting.

Finally, as with all Wharton newsletter articles, don't miss the Links section at the bottom of the page. It never fails that if you read a good article at Wharton, the related links will be gems, too.

The Sohodojo/MicroAid Project
in The Funding Forum – 03:10pm Feb 21, 2004 PST


The Sohodojo/MicroAid Project is a microenterprise/community development project with a strong applied R&D underpinning. Our immediate service constituents are communities (villages/towns) in Indonesia and the rural U.S. (Heartland states of the Great Plains under severe stress from depopulation and economic polarization due to corporate farming).

Our long-range goal is to create Open Source software and Open Content training and business development materials that can be used world-wide to develop sustainable, alternative marketplaces for microenterprise and small business networks. Self-organizing and self-supporting networks are a key to poverty reduction in our emerging global Network Society and its associated Network Economy.


Sohodojo is an independent non-profit R&D lab serving solo and family-based entrepreneurs in rural and distressed urban communities. Sohodojo is currently on an extended field research project in remote, rural northcentral Montana. Sohodojo founders have decades of experience in entrepreneurial business, and unique skills and backgrounds in business software design and development.

MicroAid is a social enterprise based in London, U.K. with its primary field office in Jakarta, Indonesia. MicroAid builds on over 25 years of experience of poverty eradication using small-scale enterprise, micro finance and family development as the tools of self-help for poor families.

Our Complementary Missions

Sohodojo and MicroAid are committed to empowering individuals and grassroots community organizations with the ability to self-organize and self-manage personal and community development network enterprises. These microenterprise and community enterprise networks help to eradicate poverty by contributing to the creation of sustainable local economies. To ensure their sustainability, these local economies need connections to alternative, global markets and self-support networks. Sohodojo and MicroAid are enablers of these self-organizing and self-supporting networks.

Our Project

The goal of our applied R&D project is the envisioning and initial development of a story-driven and game-oriented e-Commerce engine to enable the development of alternative marketplace networks. (For greater detail read this article.)

Project Plan and Funding

The scope of this project is: 1) to envision multiple Internet-based shopping experiences that embody the story-driven and game-oriented e-commerce design metaphor, 2) to prototype and test the effectiveness of these shopping experiences on consumer purchase decisions, and 3) to implement a 'best of' the prototyped ideas within an initial e-commerce marketplace that can be field tested in support of microenterprise networks in Indonesia and the rural U.S.

The detailed project plan is under development. Our planned publication date is mid March. This will allow MicroAid's Toby and Richard Beresford to take this plan with them to the U.K.-based Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship where they may have opportunities to do project funding and collaborative stakeholder development.

The detailed project plan will include our funding requirements. This overall project will be developed as an integrated set of individually fundable sub-projects to support maximum flexibility and to accommodate multiple funding sources and multiple stakeholder collaborations.

We will announce the publication of our project plan and funding requirements as a follow-up post to this forum.

More information

For more information and background see this article, MicroAid - International Aid In the Small Is Good World: Sohodojo/MicroAid Project to Open Alternative Markets.

Contact Information

We encourage contacts from prospective funding sources as well as research and service delivery collaborators. You can reach us by e-mail using these links: Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn, and MicroAid Toby and Richard Beresford.

MIT Student Invention Makes Quick, Cheap Eyeglass Lenses
in Mainstream Media News – 09:32am Feb 20, 2004 PST

Here's an article from USA Today that describes an amazing 30-year-old MIT graduate student and his reciept of an award for his inventions related to an innovation in vision diagnostics and eyeglass lens manufacturing.

Given that so many in our community work with distressed community healthcare issues, such as Steve Rudolph's Teledoc work, we thought that this information would be most interesting and potentially useful to you. Heck, Jeff Skoll and Jim Fructerman might even want to work with this guy to commercialize through a social enterprise approach rather than have him sucked into the mega-buck vision industry!

To Celebrate and Support the Small Is Good World
in SE New Year's Resolutions – 11:42am Dec 28, 2003 PST

We resolve to be persistent, persuasive, yet polite Social Edge community members acting as advocates for, and role models of, our belief that social entrepreneurism increasingly will be practiced by social entrepreneurial 'free agents', working in collaborative networks within Individual Space, and acting as 'change insurgents' into new and existing enterprises and organizations within Organization Space. The goal of our insurgencies is to assist in the transformation of Capitalism away from its focus on organizations and sectors as defining features, and toward a reaffirmation and expansion of the ideal that all power and values reside in, and are the responsibility of, the Individual.

Those working in Individual Space are part of the Small Is Good World. Those whose organizing principles focus on Organization Space are members of the Big Is Good World. Neither is right nor wrong, just qualitatively different. The transformation of the 'two-cylinder' Engine of Capitalism that we seek is that of putting a 'spark plug' back into the too-long-dormant Small Is Good cylinder. Only when Capitalism is tuned up and 'firing on both cylinders' will we begin to achieve the profound social and economic changes that so many of us in the Social Edge community want to see realized.

If we are successful in pursuit of this New Year's resolution, by this time next year we will have achieved all or most of the following:

  • Members of the Social Edge community will understand the ideas and implications of the emergence of the Small Is Good World such that they won't see folks like us as part of a 'lunatic fringe' but rather as relevant, vital, and peer-level practitioners of social entrepreneurism.
  • Self-organizing members within the Social Edge community will realize the need for infrastructure support (development of personal 'business models' reflecting our Portfolio Lives as a sustainable alternative to traditional career employment, angel/seed financing for collaborative social entrepreneurial projects, and guild-like quality assurance through practitioner certification to enable fine-grained project investment and funding, etc.) for those of us in the Small Is Good World.
  • An increasing number of Social Edge community members will understand that the practice of entrepreneurism in the 21st Century is in the domain of influencing business ecosystems and not managing an organization.
  • As more of us practice social entrepreneurism from the platform of Individual Space - influencing business ecosystems rather than managing an organization - we'll increasingly understand that profit/non-profit is an organizational business accounting decision and not a value statement, that sector distinctions are partitions within Organization Space that have little importance to network collaborations in Individual Space, and that all business enterprises are social enterprises whose implementation is a reflection of the values and vision of the Individuals participating in these organizations.
  • And finally, we'll know we are making progress when the phrase, 'going to scale, does not roll off of Social Edge community member tongues accompanied by the presumption that we are speaking of the Holy Grail from which all meaningful and sustainable social change will come.
There is no One Right Way. The path to a sustainable and just future will wend its way through both the Big Is Good World and the Small Is Good World.

Our resolution for 2004 - as Sohodojo organizationally, and as Jim and Timlynn individually - is to nurture the Small Is Good World as a means to the necessary and inevitable transformation of Capitalism into a system that meets the needs of the many without disproportionate benefit to the few.

Happy New Year,
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--

Wiki Woes: Peer Review of Social Enterprise Business Models
in Collaborate with us to build resources & tools! – 11:32pm Dec 8, 2003 PST


A wiki is probably not the best platform for the peer review process you want to implement. We posted a comment to this effect on your wiki's intro page, David Martin, "Peer Review of Social Enterprise Business Models: SE Startup Incubation" #, 3 Dec 2003 10:47 am, before finding this discussion. As we said on the wiki, the Web Crossing discussion platform is probably more suited to what you want to do for three reasons:
  1. attachments are supported,
  2. the forum/topic/message structure is more appropriate to such a peer review process than a free-wheeling, unstructured wiki spew-fest, and
  3. threaded discussions (through the reply feature) and author attribution are maintained.
A wiki has none of the structural collaboration features you need to implement an informal peer review process. You have a good idea, but implementation-wise, you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We'd be glad to help think this through and evolve the peer review process for early stage SEs if you want.

Wrap Your Products with Stories and Games!
in Let the Discussion Begin! – 01:57pm Dec 3, 2003 PST

Congratulations, Lira, on the exciting work you are doing with Fundación Solidaridad! Your experienced-based insights get to the fundamental challenges of marketplace competition for mission-driven social enterprises. That is, how do we compete in the open marketplace when we have the extra overhead of our mission-driven constituency service (in your case, business and craft skill development among your microenterprise network participants) on top of the standard 'burden' of production, marketing, and distribution costs faced by all businesses in the marketplace.

The sad fact is, that in most cases, you can't. But don't dispair. The full answer is that (in most cases, because there are always exceptions), you cannot compete in the open marketplaces of the Big Is Good World if your business is grounded in the realities of the Small Is Good World.

The more encouraging answer is that you can compete, but you have to think and act differently. Products and services offered by the Big Is Good World compete on price and 'everywhere all the time' distribution. Using factory-based automation and controlled production processes, Big Is Good World competitors will almost always win on price and standardized quality. Since Small Is Good competitors will most likely lose in the Big Is Good World's markets based on price and distribution, we need to shift the playing field.

The unique thing that Fundación Solidaridad has going for it are the stories of the women who make your products and the communities they improve by their successes. Big nameless, faceless corporations may make cheaper and higher quality products, but these corporations cannot wrap their products in the powerful stories that your products carry with them.

What we in the Small Is Good World need are new story-driven and game-oriented marketplaces that are powered by Who, How and Why purchase decision dynamics rather than trying to compete in the How Much and Where marketplaces of the Big Is Good World.

You will find underlying story-based (more so) and game-oriented (less so, but evolving) dynamics at work in the exciting social business of MicroAid.Net, an innovative Social Edge community member that is revolutionizing the domain of international aid using a Small Is Good strategy.

The Dream Society bookcoverYou will find additional information about these ideas on the Sohodojo web site. In particular, check out Nanocorps in the Dream Society: How 'Small is Good' Business Webs Will Compete in the Story-driven Marketplaces of the 21st Century which is inspired by the insights of Danish futurist, Rolf Jensen, in his most interesting book, The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business. And although it may get a bit 'Deep Weeds' on the business modeling side of things, you will find additional information in The Yin-Yang of e-Commerce Engines

Lira, you are obviously deeply thinking about the business and marketing challenges of Fundación Solidaridad. So some of what we are saying here will come as no surprise. We would say, however, that we think the whole domain of highly-competitive, alternative marketplaces optimized to take advantage of the unique features of the Small Is Good World is yet in its infancy. We need additional applied research and development to make the kind of sustainable advances that we believe are possible. You and Fundación Solidaridad sound like ideal collaborators to work with Sohodojo and MicroAid as we explore and evolve these ideas further.

Keep up your good work,
--Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn--

© 1998-2010 Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky for Sohodojo | Our Privacy Statement
"War College" of the Small Is Good Business Revolution
Website design and hosting by Sohodojo Business Services,
A Portfolio Life nanocorp

Support Sohodojo, the Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab exploring Open Source technologies to support 'Small is Good' business webs for social/economic development
[ Support Sohodojo ] [ Translate page ]
[ Search site ]