Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Virtuous Circle of Social Capital / creation / web 2.0

The social entrepreneur's efforts to build and mobilise a networks supportive of his or her favoured social / humanitarian objective typically converts relatively few to act on behalf of any cause for which they were already acting, and this weak support from the social entrepreneur's network is, according to Joel Podolny, a significant obstacle to positive change.

There must be relatively few social entrepreneurs who've not experienced a feeling of despondence after being let down by those they believed they could count on. It would be easy, but misguided, for social entrepreneurs either to despise the members of their networks, or to lose confidence in the viability of their enterprise. Strong support for social entrepreneurship from networks absent a strong focus on values and sense of community is rare. It is not to be expected.

Podonly suggests that social entrepreneurs think of networks not as 'conduits or pipes for information and resources.' Although networks are indeed conduits, such a view, he states, is unhelpful and incomplete 'in explaining the role that networks play in social change.'

It is only when a network impacts individual identity that it becomes a force for change. Hence, Podolny's conclusion that, 'The creation of the community needs to be the first and foremost priority of the social entrepreneur interested in social change.' This advice I believe cannot be overemphasised.

If it seems as though I am harping on this point, that's because I am. Bootstrapping social entrepreneurs who try to build without the support of a strong network community have relatively little hope of success. However, experience and research indicate that social entrepreneurs who work at creating a value based network community as an end in itself have much brighter prospects.

In a previous post on creating social capital, the Raising More Money mission centered 4 step model was introduced. If you have not yet been to the RRM site, I urge you to go there and acquaint yourself with the mission centered model now (www.raisingmoremoney.com/workshops/model).

I'd also suggest that you visit the archives at the RMM and read the series of features filed under the heading Point of Entry (www.raisingmoremoney.com/resources/archives). The insights offered are sound, and will, if embraced, help you create a strong and supportive network.

Building a value based network, if you follow the lead of competent advisors, need not be an unpleasant experience. However, such building does require organisation, discipline and effort. And, in my experience, no amount of discipline and effort can compensate for poor organisation. The good news is that web 2.0 movement pioneers have developed a number of FREE tools that make the task of organising and building network communities far easier today than it has been (even 6 months ago).

It would be difficult to review every web 2.0 tool that a social entrepreneur might find useful. In this entry, I will cover 5 tools that I think have great potential to help bootstrapping social entrepreneurs organise their efforts to create strong network communities. I will review other tools on another occasion. (If any of you know of other useful tools, please append a comment to this post.)

Now my five recommendations:

1. Voo2do. Voo2do (www.Voo2do.com) is a free project and task management tool. There are innumerable tasks involved in building a successful network community. If you find it difficult to design and execute detailed plans (I do) Voo2do is for you.

The influential Lifehacker blog writes of Voo2do:

Voo2do is great for those who are looking for a 'medium sized' online solution that does a bit more than simply list and tick to-dos. The estimating feature is nice and the interface is clean and fairly intuitive. Oh, and at a price of zero dollars and zero cents, it's gotta be worth seeing if it fits into your system.
Lifehacker

Over the years I've tried a number of project management systems. As a rule, I have found these systems overly complex and difficult to maintain. Voo2do is an exception to the rule. It is user friendly, and yet powerful. Its only serious shortcoming is that it doesn't have an open (public) feature, but this flaw is overcome by the next web 2.0 tool on my list:

2. Tilika. Tilika (www.tilika.com) is a combination calendar (public and private), contact manager, todo list manager, referral agent and network management tool. I must admit this has been a close call. Two other calendars deserve honourable mention. They are: www.planzo.com and www.mypimp.com.

If I were recommending a plain vanilla personal organiser, I'd recommend either Planzo or Mypimp over Tilika, but when it comes to network and community building applications, I'd say Tilika is (currently) the best tool. Its user interface is clunky compared to both Planzo and Mypimp, but neither come close to Tilika as a contact and group management tool. And, Tilika is an excellent compliment to Voo2do.

Tilika comments:

Tilika allows you to create a online calendar that you can use to manage your busy life. Additionally, you can create events on your calendar (Birthday parties, Get-togethers, Reunions) and invite everyone by email and keep track of who is coming. You can choose to share your calendar with friends so that they can see what times work for you, or if you wish, make it public so everyone can view it and request appointments on it. Public calendars are most useful for people in the service industry - doctors, tax consultants, professional photographers and hairdressers, etc. [and social entrepreneurs]


Tilika also aims to make it easy for you to build an extended list of friends that you can reach out to f or referrals. Whether we are looking for a recommendation for a doctor, an insurance agent, a realtor or a contact inside a company, we often turn to our friends. While we might not know the right person for a particular purpose, we very likely know someone who does. Equally, we often know just the right person that someone else is looking for.

And when inviting guest to a networking event, Tilika offers the following powerful feature:

Once you add your invites, they get notified by email about your event.
If any of the invitees happens to be a Tilika.com member, then this event shows up on that person's calendar.

In either case they have the option to indicate either a Yes, No or a Maybe as well as optionally leave an explanatory comment all of which are visible to you immediately on your calendar.

Your calendar is accessible to you from anywhere that you can connect to the interet, it's that simple!

And it really is that simple!

3. Blink. Blink (www.blinklist.com) is a social tagging system. At first glance the relevance of such a tool may seem obscure, but Blink is nonetheless relevant. Blink, and other social tagging systems (e.g. de.icio.us), offer the social entrepreneur an opportunity: to display their expertise; to make contact with others who share similar interests; to make use of others'expertise; to promote their activities; to back their favourites list up (on the web); and to retrieve their favourites on any computer linked to the web.

A member of the Blink team describes Blink as a "Personal Discovery Engine." It is that and much more.

4. Linkedin. Linkedin (www.linkedin.com) makes it possible for social entrepreneurs to put their profiles in front of thousands of people who may have an interest in their project, and to discover valuable but hidden links within their existing networks. The Times (UK) says of Linkedin:

FORGET those stiff business dinners, tiresome trade shows and your golf club membership. You can let your application to that Pall Mall club gather dust too and move on from learning how to shake hands like a Mason.

The business schmooze has been wired to the internet age with the emerging popularity of LinkedIn.com. The Sunday Times - Times Online

Linkedin offers a free service, but it is by invitation only. If you are not a member of Linkedin, but would like to be, then contact me. I'm not promising to issue invitations indiscriminately. However, I will send invitations to those who can establish that they are legitimate social entrepreneurs.

5. Gmail. Gmail (http://mail.google.com) now known as GoogleMail in the UK makes staying on top of e-mail easy, or at least easier. With 2.5 gigs of storage there is never a need to discard any e-mail; with Google's label system there is no need to waste time filing e-mails; and with Google's powerful search facility important e-mails from the past can be retrieved in fractions of a second. The massive storage Google provides also makes it possible for you to store (backup) important files on Google, then retrieve those files on any computer linked to the Internet. For more ideas on how to use Gmail effectively go to: http://www.gmailtips.com. (Gmail users also have access to Google Talk. It's the best talk program I've found.)

Gmail is by invitation only, but once again I am happy to supply an invitation to any legitimate social entrepreneur.

There are, of course, many other useful web 2.0 tools in existence, and many more in the pipeline. (I have been writing this entry on a pre-beta Flock browser. It has some bugs, but when they are handled, I predict it will become the browser of choice for social entrepreneurs.) Web 2.0 offers us a number of powerful tools, but that power is only realised in action. Put these tools to work. Don't talk, act! Begin building your value focused network today.

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2 Comments:

Blogger pbh said...

Hi Tom:

I'd encorage you to demo AirSet http://www.airset.com along with the other apps you mention (full disclosure: I work with AirSet).

It's free and enables you to share calendars,
contacts, lists, blogs & weblinks within and between your important groups. Syncs to Outlook and Palm. Email and cell phone text alerts. RSS feeds, et al.

Hope you'll give it a look.

6:17 am  
Blogger Tom said...

Thanks for the tip.

10:36 am  

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