Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Virtuous Circle / Theory & Practise / Social Capital

My last entry on this topic concluded with a statement of Podolny's Dilemma (my paraphrase):

Given that supportive networks are critical to the success of a social enterprise, it behoves the social entrepreneur to build and mobilize networks. However, engaging in this activity inevitably appears self-serving, and people are most likely to respond with positive action only when they believe the "would be" networker is most interested in them, and their values. That is when they are regarded as an end rather than a means to some other end. There just aren't many people willing to serve as a means to someone else's ends.

A failure to resolve this dilemma successfully results in passive support, and passive support is inadequate support.

How might the dilemma be resolved?

Dr. Podolny's short answer:

For the social entrepreneur, the solution is to make the network itself the ends rather than means, to treat the network not as a tool for information or resources but as a community defined by a common set of values, establish his or her role as guardian of that community. When there is an affinity between the values of the community and a change agenda, the community itself becomes the agent of change by transforming the identity of individuals such that [they] pursue the change agenda.

In popular parlance, 'dig the well before you're thirsty.'

Although Dr. Podolny cites research and examples (e.g. Ripan Kapur's leadership at CRY) to backup this conclusion, I am going to skip over the academic detail, and move directly to a discussion of practical implications and tips.

The first such implication, and only one I'll delve into today, is begin building your value based network now. It is never too soon to begin building your network community.

One website that offers a number of practical tips on building a value based network is Raising More Money.

Although "Raising More Money" is a site designed to facilitate non-profit fundraising efforts, its tips on networking and building support are easily transferable. The Raising More Money model starts with building social capital (Point of Entry) that can at a later date be transformed into physical, financial, human and organisational capital. Amongst the tips:

The Emotional Hook is the golden nugget of your Point of Entry. It's been said that, as individuals, we are emotional donors looking for rational reasons to justify our emotional decisions to give. All the facts in the world, alone, won't get us to give our biggest gift. Something's got to pull at our heartstrings. . . . Rest assured, every organization has an Emotional Hook.

And if you are one who's certain that you already know your hook, you're probably thinking of the obvious possibilities: the kids, the puppies, the hunger, the stories of domestic violence, or the catchy tag-line or logo.

These may be the hooks you talk about openly. But look deeper to what basic human emotions these trigger in people: guilt, fear, sadness, joy, etc.

You need to take the time to discover what it is about your organization that really hooks people, that calls them to become involved and stay involved. As long as you're taking the time to read this, you should assume for the moment that you don't know what it is.
Emotional Hooks

At Point of Entry Events, I would recommend that you focus more on your mission and your work and less on your needs. (You can go into more depth with your needs later, after you've already engaged these people with your mission.)

In this model, you do not ask people for money until they have been fully cultivated and are ready to give. For that reason, you don't state your financial needs at the beginning of your relationship with potential donors, nor do you tell them that your organization is in need of monetary gifts. However, your Point of Entry does need to give guests an overall sense of your organization's needs and the "gap" between where you are now and your vision for the future.

Point of Entry

In the Raising More Money Model, the key to successful, terror-free asking is the answer to only one question: Is this person ready to be asked? Another way of saying it is: "Have we gotten to know this person enough so that it would feel natural to ask them to make a financial contribution to the organization now [support our enterprise]?

Raising More Money ~ Abundance-Based Asking

we have proved time and time again that loyal donors with a true connection to the organization will not skip away during a crisis.

Raising More Money Blog

For the record, neither NTC, nor I have any commercial relationship with Raising More Money.

To be continued
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Anonymous SansFaim said...

One caution about networking: It should provide value not only to you, but also to the person with whom you are networking. There is something unpleasant about people who conspicuously network in a calculated and noticeable manner.Networking needs to be mutually beneficial and based on real respect and trust."

9:57 pm  
Blogger Tom said...

I agree.

10:07 pm  
Anonymous Chris Jordan said...

It is indeed essential to create networks without a 'hidden agenda' being in play.

One of the most important things to do when buiding social capital is simply to build a 'pool' of contacts who would be valued as friends and/or business links, even if one were not involved in the current situation.

The members of the pool would then have the opportunity to find out what each member does, then connect with them based upon a mutual benefit which becomes apparent through discussion of each other's values, goals and mission.

There is no more sickening sight than a brazen 'pitch' to someone who is plainly uninterested in the subject matter. It demonstrates a total lack of sensitivity and empathy.

We should all be very careful who we introduce to our projects, as they can bring down all our hard work if their values and integrity are below the mission's.


12:35 pm  
Anonymous alan said...

I agree with everything in Chris's post except the last paragraph. To my mind our projects should be introduced to others as broadly as possible. If the mission behind our project does not resonate with another's "level of values or integrity" it is very easy to "bless and release" them from our network - not because we are being calculating or self-interested but rather because the relationship is missing the respect and trust that is essential to a mutual endeavor. If your particular mission does resonate, you may find a mutual expansion of your common visions with people you never otherwise would have found.

2:40 am  
Anonymous chris jordan said...

A very good point Alan, and one which perhaps I should have considered more thoroughly indeed.

I appreciate your point and take it on board wholeheartedly. It is of course essential to maintain the new relationships developed and there is always potential for the situation to change as the individual's circumstances change too.

Thanks for your guidance Alan - it is accepted gratefully and agreed without reservation.


3:32 pm  

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