Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Inner Ring

Today's entry falls into the guest author category. C.S. Lewis would have been 107 yesterday (29 Novemeber). Although the text that follows was delivered many years ago, its message is still timely, and not just for university students. As social entrepreneurs we must build networks, but let us not fashion inner rings.

Oration at University of London, 1944

May I read you a few lines from Tolstoi’s War and Peace?

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. "Alright. Please wait!" he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood- what he had already guessed- that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system- the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.

When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it. I shall in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live. I do not mean by this that I am going to talk on what are called current affairs. You probably know quite as much about them as I do. I am not going to tell you- except in a form so general that you will hardly recognise it- what part you ought to play in post-war reconstruction.

It is not, in fact, very likely that any of you will be able, in the next ten years, to make any direct contribution to the peace or prosperity of Europe. You will be busy finding jobs, getting married, acquiring facts. I am going to do something more old-fashioned than you perhaps expected. I am going to give advice. I am going to issue warnings. Advice and warnings about things which are so perennial that no one calls them "current affairs."

And of course everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But one of this trio will be enough to deal with today. The Devil, I shall leave strictly alone. The association between him and me in the public mind has already gone quite as deep as I wish: in some quarters it has already reached the level of confusion, if not of identification. I begin to realise the truth of the old proverb that he who sups with that formidable host needs a long spoon. As for the Flesh, you must be very abnormal young people if you do not know quite as much about it as I do. But on the World I think I have something to say.

In the passage I have just read from Tolstoi, the young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.

There are what correspond to passwords, but they are too spontaneous and informal. A particular slang, the use of particular nicknames, an allusive manner of conversation, are the marks. But it is not so constant. It is not easy, even at a given moment, to say who is inside and who is outside. Some people are obviously in and some are obviously out, but there are always several on the borderline. And if you come back to the same Divisional Headquarters, or Brigade Headquarters, or the same regiment or even the same company, after six weeks’ absence, you may find this secondary hierarchy quite altered.

There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called "You and Tony and me." When is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself ‘we.’ When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself "all the sensible people at this place." From outside, if you have dispaired of getting into it, you call it "That gang" or "they" or "So-and-so and his set" or "The Caucus" or "The Inner Ring." If you are candidate for admission you probably don’t call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness.

Badly as I may have described it, I hope you will all have recognised the thing I am describing. Not, of course, that you have been in the Russian Army, or perhaps in any army. But you have met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the school ring was almost in touch with a Masters’ Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of an onion. And here, too, at your University- shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings- independent systems or concentric rings- present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings- what Tolstoi calls the second or unwritten systems.

All this is rather obvious. I wonder whether you will say the same of my next step, which is this. I believe that in all men’s’ lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Rind which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that "Society," in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside.

People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from all the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communistic côterie. Poor man- it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants: it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we- we four or five all huddled beside this stove- are the people who know.

Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, "Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow" or "Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee." A terrible bore… ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.

Freud would say, no doubt, that the whole thing is a subterfuge of the sexual impulse. I wonder whether the shoe is not sometimes on the other foot. I wonder whether, in ages of promiscuity, many a virginity has not been lost less in obedience to Venus than in obedience to the lure of the caucus. For of course, when promiscuity is the fashion, the chaste are outsiders. They are ignorant of something that other people know. They are uninitiated. And as for lighter matters, the number of people who first smoked or first got drunk for a similar reason is probably very large.

I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous. As Byron has said:

Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady.

The painless death of a pious relative at an advanced age is not an evil. But an earnest desire for her death on the part of her heirs is not reckoned a proper feeling, and the law frowns on even the gentlest attempts to expedite her departure. Let Inner Rings be unavoidable and even an innocent feature of life, though certainly not a beautiful one: but what of our longing to enter them, our anguish when we are excluded, and the kind of pleasure we feel when we get in?

I have no right to make assumptions about the degree to which any of you may already be compromised. I must not assume that you have ever first neglected, and finally shaken off, friends whom you really loved and who might have lasted you a lifetime, in order to court the friendship of those who appeared to you more important, more esoteric. I must not ask whether you have derived actual pleasure from the loneliness and humiliation of the outsiders after you, yourself were in: whether you have talked to fellow members of the Ring in the presence of outsiders simply in order that the outsiders might envy; whether the means whereby, in your days of probation, you propitiated the Inner Ring, were always wholly admirable.

I will ask only one question- and it is, of course, a rhetorical question which expects no answer. IN the whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction? If so, your case is more fortunate than most.

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it- this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing- the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an ‘inner ringer." I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in- one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

I have already made it fairly clear that I think it better for you not to be that kind of man. But you may have an open mind on the question. I will therefore suggest two reasons for thinking as I do.

It would be polite and charitable, and in view of your age reasonable too, to suppose that none of you is yet a scoundrel. On the other hand, by the mere law of averages (I am saying nothing against free will) it is almost certain that at least two or three of you before you die will have become something very like scoundrels. There must be in this room the makings of at least that number of unscrupulous, treacherous, ruthless egotists. The choice is still before you: and I hope you will not take my hard words about your possible future characters as a token of disrespect to your present characters.

And the prophecy I make is this. To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still- just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naïf or a prig- the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which "we"- and at the word "we" you try not to blush for mere pleasure- something "we always do."

And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face- that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face- turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.

My second reason is this. The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice, but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel and onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.

This is surely very clear when you come to think of it. If you want to be made free of certain circle for some wholesome reason- if, say, you want to join a musical society because you really like music- then there is a possibility of satisfaction. You may find yourself playing in a quartet and you may enjoy it. But if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic.

Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be "in." And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you. The old ring will now be only the drab background for your endeavor to enter the new one.

And you will always find them hard to enter, for a reason you very well know. You yourself, once you are in, want to make it hard for the next entrant, just as those who are already in made it hard for you. Naturally. In any wholesome group of people which holds together for a good purpose, the exclusions are in a sense accidental. Three or four people who are together for the sake of some piece of work exclude others because there is work only for so many or because the others can’t in fact do it. Your little musical group limits its numbers because the rooms they meet in are only so big. But your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There’d be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

We are told in Scripture that those who ask get. That is true, in senses I can’t now explore. But in another sense there is much truth in the schoolboy’s principle "them as asks shan’t have." To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of "insides," full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no "inside" that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction. It is like the house in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Producing Results

The following passage from Steve Pavlina's blog is filled with tips on how to go about producing results in a single season. If you are not yet producing the social and humanitarian impact that you want to produce, then follow the link to Steve's blog and read what he has to say.

Over the next 10 days this blog is going to be published on an irregular schedule. Why not add a little content of your own, let us know what you think of Steve's tips, and share any tips of your own.

Thanks for your patience.

The first step is to know exactly what you want. In a Tae Kwon Do studio where I used to train, there's a huge sign on the wall that says, "Your goal is to become a black belt." This helps remind each student why s/he is going through such difficult training. When you work for yourself, it's easy to spend a whole day at your desk and accomplish nothing of value. This almost always happens when you aren't really clear about what it is you're trying to do. In the moments when you regain your awareness, ask yourself, "What exactly is it that I'm trying to accomplish here?" You must know your destination with as much clarity as possible. Make your goals specific, and put them in writing. Your goals must be so clear that it would be possible for a stranger to look at your situation objectively and give you an absolute "yes" or "no" response as to whether you've accomplished each goal or not. If you cannot define your destination precisely, how will you know when you've arrived?

The key period I've found useful for defining and working on specific goals is ninety days, or the length of one season. In that period of time, you can make dramatic and measurable changes if you set crystal clear goals. Take a moment to stop and write down a snapshot description of how you want your life to be ninety days from now. What will your monthly income be? How much will you weigh? Who will your friends be? Where will you be in your career? What will your relationship be like? What will your web site look like? Be specific. Absolute clarity will give you the edge that will keep you on course.

Do It Now by Steve Pavlina

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SE Theory

In a comment appended to my entry Dealing With Brownshirts Wealth Bondage's Happy Tutor suggests, 'Maybe it would be helpful to post something about the whole ethos of social ventures, and link to some of the many sources and examples.' I think his is an excellent suggestion. Understanding the 'ethos' of social entrepreneurship, and the theory/theories underpinning it, is of more than academic interest. Even the most practical social entrepreneurs will at times encounter intense theory generated opposition to their effort.

Poets and novelists, though entirely ignorant of literary theory, may produce great literature. Indeed, theory driven literature is often second rate literature. I don't think the same exemption applies to social entrepreneurs or their enterprises.

A single post on the 'whole ethos' and theory of social entrepreneurship, however, is not to be desired. Unfortunately, no universally accepted theory of SE exists, and any attempt to explore more than a few select positions would, I fear, prove unduly long. Long and blog do not strike me as a happy combination. Therefore, in place of one long entry, I will instead, over time, blog an informal SE theory reader/anthology. (I find writing about theory - literary, cultural or political - tedious. Be patient)

Today's entry (and it may some days before the next theory entry is posted) presents something akin to an Austrian/libertarian theory of social entrepreneurship. Some folks with a social conscious believe that libertarianism precludes humanitarianism. In the excerpt that follows, social entrepreneur Max Borders argues against that supposition. Is Borders' case compelling? Or, is his critique more compelling than his solution? Do read the full article before reaching your verdict.

What if you could take the dynamism and prosperity of the market and inject it into social services, environmental protection, and the welfare state? What would a market for altruism be like? Enter: social entrepreneurship (what I like to call "charity on steroids").

Many of us are tired of trying to use political channels to bring about social change. We're dissatisfied with the way government handles such projects, we're fed up with the bureaucracy, and we resent having our money taxed from us every paycheck to be managed by those who only claim to know better.

Since the New Deal, we have voted away so much of our sense of responsibility for our fellow citizens to bureaucrats who may not have the proper incentives to effect positive social change. By sending our altruism to Washington, we have effectively killed many budding philanthropic industries, and probably prevented some ever from coming into existence. Don't believe me? What ever happened to:

TCS: Tech Central Station - The Altruism Boom

One last note, I will not be posting entries in any particular order. No order of merit is intended or implied.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Developing Networks

We are offering this report to the public free of charge. It's 35 pages and full of valuable information on preparing, maintaining, and supporting a social network. It also features a comparitive analysis on the various methods that some of the most popular social networks use within their design.

Social Networks Report Tidbit

The above report is must reading for social entrepreneurs who are trying to develop their mission focused support network using web2.0 tools. I urge you to click on the link and download the report now.

Thanks go to Mike Reining at Blinklist for tagging and sharing this link.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Dealing With Brownshirts

If you are an active social entrepreneur, you are going to encounter rejection. Some of it will be thoughtful, but far more of it will be ignorant and malicious.

How ignorant and malicious?

One recent comment on my NTC activity reads:

"There's a precise wavelenghth true bottoms give off. And a particular kind of bottom - the most egregious kind, the kind that create predicaments of chaotic violence just to please themselves and the appetite-god they serve-gives off an almost irrestibly seductive pheromone that demands it be beaten into submission. This guy drips those chemicals all over the page; no mean feat considering it's a digital representation."
Juke the Moron
Wealth Bondage

Such brownshirted and scatological remarks, when encountered, should neither surprise, nor unsettle you. The disdain of brownshirts is no disgrace, and their respect is no honour.

Visit the Wealth Bondage site (see link above) and read what Juke and others of his ilk have to say. Become familiar with their methods. Learn to combat their sophistry. And, most of all, develop an indifference to their sneers.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Go Big-Have Vision-Take Action

Go Big, Have a Vision, Take Actions, and try to Change your world or even The World. Why thinking small when we can think big? I mean, this is just thinking, everybody can think, this is a question of mind-shift and focus. If we have the biggest vision and the biggest goal to drive our life, we will also try to do the actions to reach these goals. Our vision will drive our actions to reach our goals. Frederick Giasson

Although one might be tempted to snicker at Frederick's nonnormative expression and capitalisation, it would be a mistake, I believe, to ignore his advice. If you want to change the world, and what social entrepreneur doesn't, then "Go Big, Have a Vision, Take Actions, and try to Change your world."

I'd especially urge you to take action, if you want to change the world.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Practice, Practice, Practice | D*I*Y Planner

Practice, Practice, Practice: "Psychologists studying expert and exceptional performance found that it's not really about talent; it's about practice. The athletes and chess players we admire have practiced for around 10,000 hours over a span of 10 years.

That's just three hours of practice a day. So if you want to be exceptional, just start practicing. Step out of your comfort zone and deliberately improve your skills.", also see:

Building a supportive mission centered network does require skill, but those skills are within your reach. The question isn't 'can you do it?' The question is 'will you make the effort to develop the skills you need to do it?' Will you do the reading? Will you seek out mentors? Will you do the study? Will you subordinate your interest to the interests of the network mission? Will you tell people about your work? Or, are you are hoping somehow to save the world, at least those you want to save, and reap rewards without much effort or skill?

Aikido master Roger Alexander writes:

There may be nothing wrong with winning the lottery; however, the pursuit of unearned success which it represents can be a danger to all aspects of your life . . . . we want the secret to unearned success. We want to win the lottery. . . . We understand the difference between an amateur and a professional. However, our tendency is to excuse the amateur's lack of commitment, and by implication, approve of his desire for unearned success. . . . The "lottery mentality" practiced in one part of our life will soon spread to other aspects of our life like a cancer. Without recognition of this disorder, we will soon be wasting away our energy chasing "lottery tickets" rather than committing to our everyday practice.

Have you crafted your mission statement? Or, do you just wing it when asked to explain why you are doing what you do? Are you spending time learning how to make use of web2.0 tools? Or, are you seeking mastery through ignorance? Are you reading about how to create humanitarian good through social enterprise? Or, are you relying on the osmosis a la Edgar Cayce? Are you content to let whatever will be, be? Or, do you want your life to make a difference?
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

10 over 100

10 over 100: "Making a difference in the world starts with action, and there's nothing even a small organization can not achieve. I'm reminded of a classmate of mine, Patrick Awuah, who returned to his home country of Ghana to start a university to provide opportunities for his fellow Ghanians, and the quote from Goethe that inspired him: 'If there is anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.' Many thanks to Patrick for introducing me to that quote. It's time for the spirit of 10 over 100 to begin!"

Strictly speaking, I don't suppose 10 over 100 qualifies as an example of social entrepreneurship. However, it does reveal the deep yearning to make a positive contribution harboured in the hearts of many successful commercial entrepreneurs. Are you tapping into to this? Are you telling people about the power of social entrepreneurship every day? Or are you working like a secret agent?

If your humanitarian enterprise isn't growing, it's not because there aren't enough people interested in social and humanitarian entrepreneurship, but it might be because excessive timidity.

As James Hong puts it, 'making a difference in the world starts with action.' What actions to make a difference have you taken today?

See: He Made His Money on a Whim, but Now He's Got a Serious Idea - New York Times

Remember that the New York Times only allows free access to its articles for 2 weeks, so I urge you to read the above article today.
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Announcing Ambreso

The Ambassador now has a partner (blog). Her (its) name is Ambreso.

Ambreso will track and report on resources (especially web 2.0 resources) relevant to the interests of Oxford NTC Alliance members - and any other social entrepreneurs who happen to follow the Ambassador.

As Ambreso's focus is tools and resources that enhance entrepeneurial effectiveness, discussion on its pages will at times bear only a tangental relationship to the unique concerns of social entrepreneurs. The Ambassador will remain the Alliance's primary social entrepreneurship forum."
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Don't Hold Back

"When I was a Boy Scout, we played a game when new Scouts joined the troop. We lined up chairs in a pattern, creating an obstacle course through which the new Scouts, blindfolded, were supposed to maneuver. The Scoutmaster gave them a few moments to study the pattern before our adventure began. But as soon as the victims were blindfolded, the rest of us quietly removed the chairs. I think life is like this game. Perhaps we spend our lives avoiding obstacles we have created for ourselves and in reality exist only in our minds. We're afraid to apply for that job, take violin lessons, learn a foreign language, call an old friend, write our Congressman - whatever it is that we would really like to do but don't because of personal obstacles. Don't avoid any chairs until you run smack into one. And if you do, at least you'll have a place to sit down."--Pierce Vincent Eckhart

On The Road with Dave

My friend Dave posted the above on his blog under the title "Sunday Thoughts". I think it's a pretty good thought for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday too.

As social entrepreneurs we are in a position to save real lives today, but to do that we must risk potential rejection. Sometimes our ego's can build potential rejection into a major mental obstacle. If we don't learn to negotiate that obstacle real children will starve, and our own business enterprise will fail. The business consequence you experience may be just, but children starving is not (Nourish the Children - Click Here).

Don't let fear keep you down. Don't let fear dominate your life. Don't let fear starve innocent children.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.~Marie Curie Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.~Usman B. Asif

Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.~Robert Louis Stevenson Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.~Henry S. Haskins The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.~Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken

There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.~George S. Patton Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. ~Brendan Francis There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.~Andre Gide

There is much in the world to make us afraid. There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid.~Frederick W. Cropp Fear is faith that it won't work out. ~Sister Mary Tricky Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.~Arnold Glasow

TweedyFear is the highest fence.~Dudley Nichols To lead by example is difficult when you're a follower of fear.~T.A. Sachs To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.~Katherine Paterson

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.~Bertrand Russell Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day. ~Brendan Francis He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who fear life are already three parts dead.~Bertrand Russell Fear makes us feel our humanity.~Benjamin Disraeli A cheerful frame of mind, reinforced by relaxation... is the medicine that puts all ghosts of fear on the run.~George Matthew Adams

Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.~Samuel Butler Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.~German Proverb If a man harbors any sort of fear, it percolates through all thinking, damages his personality and makes him a landlord to a ghost.~Lloyd Douglas

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?~Maurice Freehill I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness. Other things being equal, I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side.~Katharine Butler Hathaway He who fears something gives it power over him.~Moorish Proverb

Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.~Author Unknown Fear can be headier than whiskey, once man has acquired a taste for it.~Donald Dowes The wise man in the storm prays God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1833

Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile... initially scared me to death.~Betty Bender I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically the fear of change.... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.~Erica Jong The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid. ~Lady Bird Johnson

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Passion is the Killer App

According to the wildly successful Bill Joy, co-creator of Sun Microsystems in 1982, if you want to start a company, "You should do it because it's an idea that you're very passionate about, without any financial expectations. You're not anticipating failure, but you have to accept that if it's worth doing, and it's hard, you can't be guaranteed of success. You have to be doing it for the right reason." 60 Seconds with Bill Joy, Fast Company, 11/05

If you don't love your product or the idea of your business madly to begin with, how will you keep the attitude you will need during the hard times?

Check your love it madly quotient for your product and business.

Although Ms Klaver's words are directed to commercial entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs would do well to heed her advice. A love and passion for 'the mission' is a prerequisite to our success as social entrepreneurs.

Kim Klaver is a Harvard educated network marketing consultant. Her 'tell it like it is' approach provides a refreshing contrast to the hype spun by many, if not most, 'so called' networking experts.

As social entrepreneurs we need to learn all we can (as per Podolny ) about building supportive, value centered, mission based networks, and those who have successfully developed commercial networks (e.g. Ms Klaver) have much to teach us. I encourage you to make an open minded visit to Klaver's Blog. Give serious consideration to how we as social entrepreneurs might adapt some of her ideas to our use - especially how her methods might be used to resolve Podolny's Dilemma .

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Celebrity Endorsement - The New Evangelism

Today’s post, “Celebrity Endorsement – The New Evangelism,inaugurates the Ambassador’s guest blogger programme. Active social entrepreneurs are invited to submit short opinion pieces on topics of current interest to social entrepreneurs for publication in the Ambassador. I hope these guest entries will reveal both the rich diversity of opinion held by social entrepreneurs and stimulate robust discussion.

The byline for today’s guest entry belongs to Alexander “Sandy” Frew. Sandy is a successful social entrepreneur based in the United Kingdom. He owns and operates Sans Faim, a humanitarian enterprise that supplies food through Nourish the Children to the Malawi Project and other organisations dedicated to feeding malnourished children in Africa, Asia and Latin America. More on Sandy and Sans Faim can be found at: Sandy Frew .

Celebrity Endorsement – The New Evangelism

by Sandy Frew

This year, perhaps more than any other, has seen a rash of celebrity endorsements for good causes. First it was Sir Bob Geldorf along with a raft of “personalities” in Live 8, then Bono making his speech at the Labour Party Conference.

I shall not enter the debate concerning the motives of these celebrities but will examine what I feel are the unintended consequences of their actions.

Sir Bob’s original intention of “raising awareness of the plight of Africa” has brought about the evolution of Make Poverty History and the birth of the inappropriately named Trade Justice Movement, which is in reality a metamorphosis of the anti-capitalist movement.

On 2nd November 2005 over 8,000 trade justice campaigners from across the UK gathered in Westminster to warn Tony Blair that generations of people will continue to live in poverty if his promise to allow poor countries to protect their markets is broken.

The ubiquitous celebrity endorsement came from Pop group Razorlight , along with Adjoa Andoh, actress and star of television's Casualty.

Richard English, Oxfam's campaigning manager said: "This lobby is a key moment for MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY and the campaign for Trade Justice. International trade rules must be weighted in favour of poor people and developing countries must not be forced to open their markets. We ask the government to stand by its promises and use its influence to allow developing countries to choose the policies needed to protect the livelihoods of poor people and the environment."There is a fatal flaw at the heart of the Trade Justice movement’s pitch: it demands rich countries remove trade and non-trade barriers to goods and services from the developing world but insists that the developing world keep its protectionist barriers in place. Free trade for the rich, tariffs for the poor – it would be hard to imagine a better way of keeping poor countries poor.

Christian Aid which states that "we strive for a new world transformed by an end to poverty and we campaign to change the rules that keep people poor" has placed itself at the forefront of the Trade Justice lobby.This charity now devotes 12% of its £71m budget not to helping the poor but to political campaigns which propagandise against free trade in the most emotive terms. One advert says "Aids, droughts, tsunamis – can we add ‘free’ trade to that list?"

This propaganda is propped up by basic economic fallacy and selective statistics.

For example Ruchi Tripathi, Head of Food Rights for ActionAid UK, said: "We have seen the impact of inappropriate liberalisation on communities in developing countries. Indian silk weavers and sari makers' livelihoods being destroyed by cheaper imports from abroad and in some cases lives being lost. We are heading for a development disaster unless rich countries allow poor countries to protect their industries and people." Yet India for 40 years after independence languished in protectionist policies, during which time poverty and illiteracy remained endemic. Since abandoning protectionism in 1991 40m Indians have been lifted out of poverty.There is overwhelming evidence that governments that protect their industries hurt their economies and their people.
The followers of the new religion of celebrity endorsement would do well to heed the words of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations:
The man of system... seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board; he does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress
upon it.

In a previous article The Raw Materials of Social Entrepreneurship the question was posed “How many people must be made to suffer needlessly in order to satisfy the whims and wooly thinking of the arrogant, the self-righteous and the sanctimonious?”

I believe this situation will continue unabated until blind faith in the new evangelism of celebrity endorsement is replaced with rigorous debate.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005


It's really easy to center one's entire focus online. Why have a live event if you can have a online community? But we've learned that there is tremendous value in face-to-face team building and support that no Web 2.0 (or Web 5.0 for that matter) technology will replace. The trick is in the balance, at least that's what we've found.------------------Judi SohnOperations DirectorC3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition
TechSoup - Forums: Web 2.0

Ms Sohn's observation merits your attention. Web 2.0 compliments face-to-face team building. It facilitates rather than replaces social interaction in the physical world. Building a strong value/mission oriented network still requires (and no doubt always will) an element of face-to-face interaction.
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Web2.0: Melding Online & Offline Activity

"It’s interesting that many introverts have no trouble socializing online. In that environment they’re able to play from their strengths. But you can also use your strengths consciously as leverage to branch out into more face-to-face socializing. For example, after I graduated college, I met a woman on a local BBS (before there was much of a World Wide Web). We got to chatting online over a period of weeks. Eventually we met in person and became friends, and I soon fell into her pre-existing social group through osmosis. My social calendar went from empty to full almost overnight. That woman, by the way, has been my wife for the past 7.5 years. If you socialize online, see if you can’t use that strength to build new local relationships. While people have done this in global forums like online games, I think it’s easier to try it in local forums. For instance, there are message boards for people who’ve recently moved to Las Vegas."

Steve Pavlina

How to Go From Introvert to Extrovert

Developing a value based network to support your social entrepreneurial activity, as recommended by Yale's Joel Podolny, should ideally blend online with offline activity. Steve Pavlina, author of the above text, offers several practical tips for doing just that. If you are at all introverted (I am), then I urge you to read what he has to say about being more comfortable in offline networking situations.

Here's tip for using Linkedin ( to develop your on/offline network:

1. Search Linkedin's database for people interested in "social entrepreneurship" in your community. You may locate, as I have, several folks in your region with an active interest in social entrepreneurship.

2. Having identified these individuals, use Linkedin's established referral procedure to gain an introduction.

3. Once introduced online, arrange to meet in person to explore the feasibility of starting a community Linkedin Social Entrepreneurship Group.

Meeting for lunch or coffee once a month to support and motivate one another might well lead on to far greater deeds.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yahoo's Packaged Solution

Setting up a social network to provide advice can take time. But Caterina Fake, one of the founders of Flickr and now a Yahoo executive, pointed out that virtually everyone under 30 had already created such networks. What about those not young or hip enough to have done so yet? Eventually, according to Ms. Fake, more users would create networks as the process became easier and more worthwhile. The New York Times

Those of you who are searching for a solution to Podolny's Social Entrepreneurship Dilemma should take a look at the New York Times article by Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows cited above (6 Nov 2005). (The NY Times doesn't leave its content open to the public for more than a few weeks, so click on the above link now. )

Although I am sticking with my previous recommendations (with one edit pending), you would be ill advised to ignore Yahoo's packaged solution.

My recommended tools for social entrepreneurs:
Oxford Social Capital / creation / tools

Do scroll down and read the comment left by pbh recommending AirSet. It is, in my opinion, an impressive tool.
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

A New Model

'The new entrepreneurs, impatient to resolve global problems more quickly, are applying the very business models that made them rich at eBay, Microsoft, Google and America Online to battle the most vexing issues, from poverty to childhood disease. "We ought to be looking at business as a force for good," Omidyar [eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar] said in an interview. . . .

"Who says philanthropy has a monopoly on making the world a better place?" he says. "There are lots and lots of businesses that make the world a better place by their very existence." ' - Ebay founder takes lead in social entrepreneurship

We need to keep Mr Omidyar's remarks front and centre when discussing social entrepreneurship with those who want social entrepreneurship without entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship - those who are blinded by a nonprofit mentaility. The nonprofit mentality as defined by Jerr Boschee is:

The belief that capitalism and profits are social evils

Oxford NTC Alliance Ambassador: The Raw Materials of Social Entrepreneurship

Hillary believes that government delivers services well and that the quest for private profit is the root of all selfishness and vice in American life.
The Observer Review - Dick Morris

Oxford NTC Alliance Ambassador: The Nonprofit Mentality in Politics

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Are You Thinking Like A Social Entrepreneur?

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer in her often cited study of the attitude of schoolchildren toward people with disabilities provides us with an observation worth pondering.

In one classroom Langer put up a picture of a person in a wheelchair and asked, ‘Can this person drive a car?’ The students answered ‘no’, and backed up their conclusion with a long list of reasons.

In a second classroom Langer asked students, ‘How can this person drive a car?’ The students in this class produced a list of creative ideas on how a disabled person could be helped to drive.

Are you asking yourself ‘Can this be done?’ Or, ‘How can this problem be solved?’ ‘Can death by starvation be stamped out?’ Or, ‘How can the death of children by starvation be brought to an end?’ Is the question, ‘Can I build a value centred support network? Or ‘How can I build the network I need?’

Which list of reasons do you want to own?

Professor J Gregory Dees states, ‘. . . entrepreneurs have an opportunity orientation that leads them to see the possibilities and to think in terms of how they can get something done rather than seeing the problems and thinking of excuses why they can’t.’ Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson adds that entrepreneurs pursue opportunity ‘without regard to the resources currently controlled.’ This is, of course, a most unbureacratic attitude.

Commercial entrepreneurs are often advised to ‘find a need and fill it.’ That is also good advice for social entrepreneurs to heed. Our world has an abundance of social and humanitarian problems in need of a solution, and therein is our opportunity.

As social entrepreneurs we seek compensation not for humanitarian administration (profiting from other people’s problems), but for humanitarian results. If you aren’t getting the results you want, then maybe you should try thinking along the lines described by Professors Dees and Stevenson.
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