Sunday, March 28, 2010

Collaborator backgrounds in the shaping of ideas

As I set out to build the evolutionize it core business models, my thinking is influenced quite a lot by the collaborative relationships I am currently engaged in. As I'd hoped, investing in an unsalaried year of gathering social enterprise collaboration experience first hand is sparking a lot of focused thought on how to build a business that contributes meaningfully to the development of collaborative systems in the social change sector.

I have been talking with a lot of folks lately about facilitating collaboration through different kinds of "webbed events": from 100% virtual events, to face-to-face conference events and dinner parties that "web" themselves into a living interactive virtual state, to kickstart viral collaborative action.

The people I'm talking to about that are bringing several layers of depth into the product development process. I am acutely aware that right now I am not a social entrepreneur with an idea that sports the Ashoka label, but in start-up mode once again, with untried ideas. In that reflection on transition in my own career, one of the things that is fascinating me recently is the variety of career paths behind some of the fellow social entrepreneurs I'm interacting with regularly right now.

I have been tempted on more than one occasion to post the skype chat and/or voice notes from the conversations I've been having with the people I've listed below, and may still do that with their permission. I' feel it's important to document who they are and what they bring to this process.

- Ben Metz is a social enterprise strategy consultant and former director of Ashoka UK who is spearheading the OxfordJam event, that's scheduled to run parallel to the Skoll World Forum next month. Ben shares my zeal for encouraging changemakers to develop stakeholder collaboration strategies, and has worked with me to set the parameters for some practical labs that will experiment with collaboration strategy building approaches. I am equally excited about Friday morning's FREE Social Media and Collaboration session: transforming the value of your networks, and Thursday evening's Big Collaboration Dinner we're cooking up (£25) to evolutionize collaboration through team-play. The push is on, so book your tickets to both events now!

- Suresh Fernando brings a background in investment banking, tech financing and philosophy into my professional sphere. He is currently having some high level email conversations about financing models for collaborative systems building that I would love to see taking place more publicly, with more players who have an interest in that particular field. In the true spirit of collaborative integrity, Suresh agrees but refrains from calling that conversation himself. I have volunteered to think about convening a fishbowl discussion that includes Suresh's group as well as collaborators on a couple of related projects I am aware of. I am chewing over the best tools to use to create that online conversation event, and kind of excited about it.

- Mark Grimes has been a close collaborator and friend of mine for the past 6-7 years, both during my time in Africa and more recently. Prior to embarking on building the ned model, Mark created some of the web's earliest viral marketing successes. He currently operates 2 co-working spaces for tech startups and changemakers in Portland, and owns the online wiki/discussion space for better world builders at Mark shares my will to take risks and "just do it" when it comes to simple, good ideas. There's a lot of trust and loyalty between us. He and I are having some exciting conversations about tweaking and replicating the unconference event we co-hosted in Portland in February. I'm also talking to him about maybe putting the collaborative systems building discussion with Suresh and others at

- David Ewaku helps me connect the pieces of new and old concepts. David and I imagineered ideas together in Uganda as far back as 2002. He worked with me while he was in law school in Uganda, and his current UK course of study as a CPA specializing in network security makes him a really great thinking ally. David has been a party to the evolution of these concepts longer than anyone else, so I am able to talk to him about how the pieces fit together in ways that I can't with anyone else.

- Tom Dawkins is the social media coordinator in the Ashoka Washington office. It is ironic (but pleasant) to have an active working relationship with the inner Ashoka now that I'm no longer officially a fellow. Tom and I co-hosted the recent #4change chat, which gave me a nice opportunity to experience a fast-paced conversation event. I really appreciated his willingness to let me take the reigns, and forgiveness for my mistakes. We've also talked some about ways to engage more fellows in shaping Ashoka's social media presence. Tom doesn't know it yet, but I have some ideas for helping him to do that brewing, that I plan to share with him soon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Product Development: Hosting a collaboration dinner event

I am currently exploring the value of "webbed" collaboration event design as an economically viable product to build the Evolutionize It core business model on. This involves creating contexts for collaboration to take place that integrate participation at online and offline venues for change.

The social impact objective is to develop easily replicable event models plugged into social media tools that can create a momentum of full-sensory participatory collaboration experiences which continue to live online.

So I was recently invited to host a dinner event at the upcoming OxfordJam, whose working title is "The Big Collaboration Dinner." My basic idea was that we design a team-based game that would involve creating some concrete collaborative action plans around the dinner table. My first game idea was too intricate, but then I had a wild thought:

What if the purpose of the collaboration game was to work together to enable the whole room to make a social impact; a practical exercise in building a stakeholder collaboration strategy.

Ben Metz liked it. We connected by voice, and had an exciting chat at which I took the following notes.

private room
[1:54:39 PM] C: 7-8 square tables
[1:54:45 PM] C: 5 people on each
[1:54:56 PM] C: 40 tickets
[1:55:38 PM] C: plan over-engineered
[1:55:48 PM] C: elitism in culling of winners
[1:55:55 PM] C: find a way to keep everyone playing
[1:56:19 PM] C: let people bring their own issues to the table
[1:57:09 PM] C: each table agrees to focus on an issue
[1:57:24 PM] C: table agrees to brainstorm interventions it can create
[1:57:44 PM] C: hearts/minds - technology - legal structures - financing (crowdsourcing)
[1:58:20 PM] C: rather than winner - we have 8 actions to take
[1:58:25 PM] C: central circle: idea
[1:58:31 PM] C: 2nd: people around the table
[1:59:12 PM] Ben Metz: 3rd = the whole room
[1:59:17 PM] Ben Metz: 4th = everyoines networks
[1:59:40 PM] C: use hashtags to map out impact
[1:59:50 PM] C: and other ways of keeping track
[2:00:06 PM] C: keeps building - waves of inclusion & collasboration
[2:01:46 PM] C: gift economy
[2:01:53 PM] C: food price 25
[2:04:00 PM] C: 7 pounds of dinner for everyone - contributes to breaking even
[2:12:33 PM] C: draft text about concentric circles
[2:14:09 PM] *** Call ended ***
[2:14:44 PM] Ben Metz: great chat

Yowza! I'm so excited to have the blank canvas of a dinner event upon which to design a flash collaboration game.

Here's what's tentatively on the evening's menu:

Connect-It Cocktails
Identify people working on issues you can agree to put your passion behind. Align yourselves into 5 man teams; 1 team per table.

Decide-It Dinner
Explore the assets at the table that can be combined to create a social impact your team defines. Sketch out a collaborative plan and a 1 month timeframe for measurable action that includes opt-in ways for everyone on the other 7 teams (and their networks) to participate.

Do-It Dessert
Announce your team's call to action to the other teams. Describe your action, and tell others how they can help.

Drink-It Uplift!
Toast to each other's great work, and pledge to act in support of your favorites. Let the games begin as the room starts tweeting their networks to do the same!

One month later, we'll compile an impact oriented roundup of what each of the 8 teams has achieved.

So what do you think. Could it be fun? What would you change?

Want to come? Click here!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Draft Notes: first General Meeting of the Evolutionize It Board

16 March 2010, 10am - 12pm @ the "siege social" of Evolutionize It


Present were Christina Jordan, Olivier Gaillard, Walter De Schepper, David Ewaku (on speaker phone).

Olivier is an Ashoka Fellow, also active in collaboration int he social change sector. He met Christina for the first time 1 year ago shortly after her arrival in Belgium. Is leaving Belgium end March for 1 year in the USA, working with Ashoka's Youth Venture project in Washington DC.

Walter is a private development consultant, who worked with Christina professionally at 2 consulting companies 1994 - 1998. Walter looks forward to understanding more about what social enterprise is.

David and Christina have worked together periodically since 2002. David is Ugandan, and once served on the Board of Life in Africa Foundation while Christina was chairman.

Christina's intention in founding Evolutionize It is to create a structure through which a number of project ideas to facilitate social sector collaboration might be realized.

Operational Logistics
  1. Evolutionize It Blog - Christina introduced the Evolutionize It Blog and proposed that it should be used as a main tool for Board communication. Others will see it, but content written with the board as a primary audience in mind. The blog will also be seen by others - the suggestion is to stay as completely transparent and interactive with others as possible in building the business model. Everyone present agreed with the idea.
  2. Titles/Bios/Contributions: We looked at the bios posted on the blog and discussed titles. Christina's title changed to Chairman. Walter & Olivier changed to Board Executive Member; David & Sarah changed to General Member. All members of the board have author access to post at the Evolutionize. It blog on issues relevant to the topics of Social Enterprise, collaboration for change, and/or Evolutionize It's development (posts might also include questions from our board members who are not yet well versed in this field). Christina suggested that all Board members should have a LinkedIn profile.
  3. Christina's Volunteer Status - Christina will not receive a salary this year. Any income earned by Evolutionize it will be used to help pay operational and travel expenses. Income earned beyond expenses will be budgeted in 2011, and may or may not include any salaries. In order to be registered as a non-paid worker in Belgium, Christina and Evolutionize It will sign an official volunteer agreement to be registered with the proper authorities. Olivier to forward the relevant documents.
  4. Bank Account: the suggestion had been made earlier by email to consider opening a bank account for Evolutionize It at Triodos bank, who is known for their sustainable investment practices. Christina presented the forms for an online professional account, requiring signatures by Christina and Walter as designated operators of the account. The forms called for us to determine the maximum amount any individual could authorize. Euro 5,000 was agreed upon.
  5. Meetings: While the Evolutionize It statutes call for annula meetings, the Board agreed to periodically meet via pre-scheduled conference calls using skype, as needed.
Income Opportunities:
  1. Life in Africa products: while at Life in Africa, Christina purchased a stock of paper bead jewelry. Investment in one social enterprise feeds another - Evolutionize It is now selling the jewelry via a display at the HubShop in Rotterdam. In addition to what they have already received 10% of Evolutionize It's sales will go back to Life in Africa; 90% to the Evolutionize It account. We need to talk to an accountant about how to reflect the jewelry stock donation to Evolutionize It. Walter will make introduce the idea to his accountant to see if he can work with us.
  2. Internet4Change training: Christina is developing a social media curriculum for social enterprises, which she will schedule into the summer school series at HubBrussels. Each class in the course will have a fee, with a discount offered for following the complete curriculum.
  3. Collaboration Event Planning: Following success of the Feb Unconference experiment in Portland, Christina is discussing the development of a replicable event series with several potential partners. The model for this and other events should be self-sustaining, with event proceeds priced at levels that finance online media coordination and local partner facilitation.
  1. General: we agreed that partnerships/collaboration frameworks should be formally documented when possible. Those agreements are assets to the organization. David suggested that we separate out financial agreements from work agreements, giving room for money flows to grow/change in the future.
  2. looking at possible co-branding agreement re: unconference series collaboration that includes more than user agreement.
  3. Thrivable: is also a start-up, not yet formally incorporated. Memorandum of understanding can be enough for collaboration between Evolutionize It and Jean (Thrivable project founder), but if there are money flows then Evolutionize It takes the management lead.
(David left the meeting)

Long Term Projects
  1. Micro-Success: income generating model for social enterprise collaboration. Objective for 2010 is to create, participate in and document collaboration experience; objective for 2011 is to develop/launch incentive systems that draw on lessons learned this year. Currently in progress: 6 month local social enterprise start-up support group (Brussels), planned for July-Dec: online social enterprise support group, possibly to work together toward commonly established objectives.
  2. Internet4change: collaboration Agent/Agency concept for underconnected regions, to be developed by David/Christina for simultaneous implementation in Asia and Africa late 2012.
(Walter left the meeting)

Learning/Leadership Opportunities

Christina briefed Olivier on current learning/leadership opportunities, including
  1. co-hosting the #4change chat
  2. Participating with Radical Inclusion in planning of a Virtual Unconference
  3. exploring potential collaboration with OpenKollab
  4. presentation opportunity at OxfordJam
Other Business

Olivier had some excellent advice & observations to share.

  1. Board Books: Need to start a file with all official documents and board meeting notes signed by 2 Exec members. Don't forget to include a signed page stating that the Board resolved to incorporate the organization.
  2. Project selection process: if we want Evolutionize It to be a platform for launching collaboration-related projects, we will need to have a process through which projects are chosen, and a clear framework for project management work undertaken by a project's initiator. We will need to think about financial agreements and performance risk issues, in particular.
  3. Performance Indicators: It would be useful to identify indicators for the various activities so that it will be easier for the Board (and others) to assess organizational performance. Indicators can be simple, like how many participants, trainees, events, partnerships, countries, etc. Set goals for the year and keep count; at a glance we'll be able to see what we are achieving or not achieving.
(meeting adjourned at 12:15pm)

What next? Board members please add your corrections in the comments section below. Comments from non-board members are also welcome, but will not be included in the printed notes included in the Evolutionize It Board books.

Monday, March 22, 2010 springing into action

I'm having a ball developing Evolutionize It.

Today is the first day of spring, and the foundations of an organization are emerging... like the budding leaves on the Japanese Cherry trees lining the streets in my lovely neighborhood, which will bloom in powerful pink glory about a month from now. Lots is going on with Evolutionize It that's still only barely visible to naked to the eye.

Our registration was finalized here in Belgium in January, just before I travelled for a month to the US. Last week we had our first general meeting of the Board, I've just bought the domain, and ordered some mini MOO cards. Tomorrow I'm opening an Evolutionize It online banking account with Triodos Bank.

I have yet to write up the Board meeting notes. It's on my list for this coming week. Following the Boards agreement to use this public blogspace as our primary mode of communication, I will be posting those notes here. I will also be sending each of the founding board members an invitation to post here, with their thoughts about social enterprise, collaboration, and Evolutionize It's strategic development. In addition to falling behind on the Board meeting notes, I have also fallen behind on my participation in the World Bank's Urgent Evoke game. (If by chance you're also playing, please connect with me there!)

But while I haven't managed to achieve everything I'd hoped to have done by now, collaborative activity over the past week and a half has been quite busy:

  • I am engaged in a couple of ongoing early discussions with potential partners (including, HubBrussels, and w1sd0m), in developing a replicable series of financially viable, co-branded unconference events, that facilitate concrete offline and continued online collaboration between the changemakers who attend.

  • I also reached out to some really smart people I know to get their impressions on some plans that Jean Russell of and I are getting ready to embark upon, in the context of creating a proposed guide to collaboration in the social change space online. We are currently working on developing structures through which stakeholders of the guide can participate in it's development. My old ally Thomas Kriese and my new ally Allen Gunn both offered some very useful feedback. Jean has sent requests for feedback to her friends Kevin and Greg. We're both looking forward to their input as well, in finalizing the next steps in our stakeholder engagement strategy.

  • Amy Sample Ward was kind enough to invite me to host a session on Social Media and Stakeholder Collaboration at the upcoming OxfordJam event. This past week, I've been working with the event's initiator Ben Metz (who served as Ashoka's UK director for 3 years) on possibly co-facilitating a dinner event as well, and am having some good fun imagineering participant experiences.

  • Last week was also when I hosted my first #4change chat on Twitter, learning by doing at another kind of collaboration event. Tom Dawkins of Ashoka, and the collaborators he has assembled in the #4change crew, have developed a system for managing the monthly chats that I am excited to be learning from. The chat itself was also lots of fun (though I will admit to being a tiny bit nervous behind the scenes!)

  • Earlier in the day of the #4change chat, I delivered a practical seminar for the @HubBrussels host team on developing a team approach to using twitter, in a way that builds their personal profiles and promotes a dynamic twitter presence that serves the #HubBxl community. I am thrilled to have recently joined the Board of Hub Brussels, and look forward to playing a continued active role in Hub community development.
The upcoming week's highlights include a discovery call scheduled with Suresh Fernando of OpenKollab, a Micro-Success offline start-up support group meeting, my first scheduled meeting with the Radical Inclusion virtual unconference planning team, and a weekend with Ashoka's Francophone Europe region Fellows and Investor Support Network members in Lille, France, where I get to invite folks to a 1.5 hour Evolutionize It strategy development session.

All in all, I am tremendously grateful to the universe right now for all the social enterprise collaboration work I've had the opportunity to embrace in recent weeks and months. Nearing the end of Q1 in our first year of existence, I am delighted with how Evolutionize It's structure and portfolio of experience is shaping up.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#4change Twitter Chat: How Social Media Can Enhance Events

I've recently joined the collaborative crew behind #4change, a monthly global chat on Twitter that discusses a variety of issues related to social media and social change. The #4change chat has been happening every month since early 2009, and was originally initiated by Tom Dawkins, the Social Media Strategist at Ashoka. I have participated actively in the past, but this week will be my first opportunity to co-host a #4change chat. I'm looking forward to it!

The following is cross-posted from the #4change blog:

In the wake of South by Southwest in Austin, and in anticipation of some exciting social media and social change gatherings coming up on the 2010 events calendar, we thought it could be useful to explore How Social Media Can Enhance Events as the topic for the March #4change chat.

I’m excited! Not only is this a topic that I personally want to learn more about, but it’s going to be my first time as part of the #4change collective to co-host a chat, together with Tom Dawkins (@tomjd). #Gratitude in advance for your patience, as I find the right groove!

Some pre-chat food for thought:

My new Mac’s thesaurus offers several alternative terms we could use instead of enhance:
enhance (verb) increase, add to, intensify, heighten, magnify, amplify, inflate, strengthen, build up, supplement, augment, boost, raise, lift, elevate, exalt; improve, enrich, complement.

Most of us would probably agree that social media indeed can enhance offline events, but does it always? For whom? The thesaurus also tells me the antonym to enhance is diminish. Can social media also diminish offline events?

There are so many tools we can use to try and enhance offline events. What we hope to explore in Thursday’s chat is how.

#4Change March Chat Questions:

  1. What’s the potential benefit of using social media to cover events? For whom?
  2. What makes a good events coverage strategy?
  3. Are there examples of specific events that really did the social media piece well?
  4. Which Social Media tools are best suited for covering live events?
  5. How does online reporting affect the experience of participants at an event.
  6. Is it possible to imagine online participants actually engaging in offline events remotely through social media, or will there always be a disconnect?
  7. How can the continuation of conversations held at live events best be continued online? Is it realistic or unrealistic to expect that they will?
Join the Twitter chat:

If you want to contribute to the conversation, you’ll need to have a twitter account (it’s free).
  • To follow the conversation (whether you are planning to contribute or not), use or another application to search on Twitter for #4Change
  • Jump in to the conversation by adding #4Change to your Twitter message
  • Feeling brave? Check out TweetChat – it’s a great application that integrates with your Twitter account and makes chats more fun! You can turn it off after the chat.
  • Please introduce yourself in 1 tweet at the start or when you join in

Date: March, 18th 2010
When: 2 – 4 pm US Pacific Time, 5 – 7 pm US Eastern Time, 9pm – 11pm London, UK (NOTE: check your local time carefully, as the US changed to daylight savings time earlier this week)
Where: Twitter (search for #4Change)
Topic: How Social Media Can Enhance Events

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thrivable Collaboration with All Stakeholders

My dear old friend and ally Jean Russell of Thrivable has outdone herself in curating a fabulous collection of moving essays on building a thrivable world. The list of contributors is awe inspiring - I am really humbled to be among them. I LOVE that my contribution is in the Actions section of the book.

Jean and I are also collaborating on creating a guide to tools for social enterprise collaboration online. We call about once a week to touch base on the project's development, and worked together face to face on it (during stolen hours) over the course of the Unconference for Social Entrepreneurs in Portland in February.

Within coming weeks, we'll be surveying social enterpreneurs and launching some discussions about what the guide should contain to be useful. You can be sure we plan to include as many tools as we can that enhance collaboration with all stakeholders.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Learning about Social Enterprise collaboration

2010 is a year for learning about engaging social enterprises in collaboration, both locally and globally.

To that end, Evolutionize It is currently engaged as a facilitator and participant in a 2 part experiment called Micro-Success, and is participating in various roles (convener/presenter/participant) in a number of offline and online collaboration events.

The costs and/or any possible direct income which may come from these activities will be reflected in the Evolutionize It accounts. Need to think through developing a total budget for the year.

  • Micro-Success

The first part of the experiment is offline January - June at HubBrussels (Belgium), and involves 8 social entrepreneurs with projects developed to varying degrees in a structured monthly dialogue about their successes and challenges in achieving minigoals they establish each month.

The second part of the 2010 Micro-Success experiment will take place online, July - December, and is being partially defined through the offline experience. It's likely that the online experiment may attempt to coordinate collaboration between social enterprise start-ups toward a commonly defined campaign, that also helps each of them to achieve one or more of their own project objectives. To share any thoughts, please join in the Micro-Success Experiment discussion.

  • Offline Collaboration Events

Events around the topic of collaboration that I am probably attending/presenting or organizing at in 2010 include, so far:
  • Feb 05-08: Unconference for Social Entrepreneurs (Portland, Oregon)
  • Mar 26-28: Ashoka Support Network gathering (Lille, France)
  • Apr 14-16: Oxford Jam (UK)
  • Jun 25-27: Maybe NetSquared Local Camp (Paris)
  • Jun 28-30: Maybe Ashoka Fellow gathering (Provence, France)
  • Jul ??-??: possible replication of unconference for Social Entrepreneurs (current discussions include potential partners in Brussels, Denver, Portland, Uganda)

  • Online Collaboration Events

In preparation for guiding online collaborative events and endeavours in the future, I am also participating in the following online activities.
  • Monthly: co-host of the #4change chat on Twitter (2nd thursday of each month)
  • Mar - Jun: - a 10 week game/crash-course in saving the world from the World Bank (free to play)
  • Jun 05-06: Virtual Open Space collaboration, with Radical Inclusion (participating in event planning team)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Evolutionizing Board Transparency

Just today, I've started this blog as a place to report on and organize information about what's happening with Evolutionize It.

There's a lot of info that's gone into shaping the direction and design of the 3 year action plan and the 10 year growth plan that I am trying to piece together to present to the Evolutionize It board. Some of that info is in my head; some of it's out there online. The content I will personally post to this blog will attempt to combine the two into some concrete project plans.

Reader feedback, dialogue and questions are most welcome. My hope is that this blog will become an interactive chronicle of social enterprise development experience that can not only inform my board about Evolutionize It developments under my leadership, but also inspire other social entrepreneurs to engage in more broad-based open dialogue about the development of collaborative business models.

As I write this, I do not yet have a clear sense of how involved, or uninvolved, other co-founding members of Evolutionize It may wish to be in creating additional content for this blog. It belongs, however, to all of us, and readers can learn more about who we are at the Evolutionize It, ASBL page. The first-ever meeting with the Board of Evolutionize It will take place on 16 March, at which time I will propose a framework for board members to consider contributing here.

View from the mountaintop -collaboration systems in the pipeline

Evolutionize It is far from alone in the landscape of players who are working to create infrastructure for Social Enterprise and changemaker collaboration. You may be interested in the group notes from the Unconference session on w1sd0m and other system level collaborative efforts called by @MattNathan.