Friday, October 8, 2010

Social Enterprise Weekly Updates - Justmeans

The power of pull: How to seduce your employees into being green! - Clare Cunningham

Socially responsible companies are generally considered leaders in driving forward green innovation in the workplace, however  at Forster Communications they are more into cycling it forward. The London based communications agency has gained a reputation as a leading socially responsible company in the UK by placing care of the planet at the heart of its operations. The company prides itself on being a communications agency, which helps change people's lives for the better; whether this is through green initiatives, improved health or building strong communities. Last year the Forster won The Sunday Times Best Green Company award. Forster's list of clients includes Amnesty International, Vodaphone and The National Trust (the UK's largest historic and natural conservation trust). Among their most successful work are the cycling campaigns they have run for National Bike Week and Devon County Council.

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New Guide Explains How To Establish A Social Enterprise - Harry Stevens

In its first week of existence, a social enterprise guide produced by Social Enterprise London for the local authority umbrella body London Councils, was downloaded 4,000 times, the online publication Third Sector reports. The guide, called Transitions, is an introduction to public sector workers who are thinking of creating a social enterprise to deliver services traditionally reserved for the public sector. The guide explains the concept of social enterprise and details information on the types of areas to which it can be applied.

Transitions also addresses some of the barriers and challenges one faces when creating a social enterprise, explains the process of establishing a business and outlines ways to receive support from employers. Social Enterprise London points out that social enterprise is not appropriate for everyone. It does assert, however, that social enterprise has shown a great deal of success in the UK, with over 62,000 social enterprises in existence which demonstrate "that the values of fairness, community investment, local control and a social or environmental mission can make for more efficient services, better user experiences and happier staff."

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The USDA Announces Winners of the Apps for Healthy Kids Competition - Audrey Watters

The USDA has announced the winners last week of its Apps for Healthy Kids competition.

The competition was a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! national campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. The competition invited software developers and game designers to build innovative tools to help teach nutrition and health concepts in an engaging way and to encourage kids to eat better and engage in more physical activity.

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Indian Billionaire to Invest in Social Enterprise - Harry Stevens

SKS Microfinance's initial public offering (IPO) on the National Stock Exchange of India in August raised over $350 million for the company. One of the chief benefactors of the IPO was Vinod Khosla, the self made billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems who clocked in at 880th place on Forbes' most recent list of the planet's richest people. SKS's IPO netted Khosla, who invested in the microfinance firm a few years ago, about $117 million. Now Khosla plans to start a venture capital fund that will be used to reinvest his returns into Indian enterprises that are fighting poverty while turning a profit. The fund should prove to be a tremendous boon to Indian social enterprise.

Khosla also seeks to change the culture of philanthropy in India by encouraging his fellow Indians to give more. India's economic growth over the last decade has brought unprecedented wealth to the country - Forbes estimates that no less than 69 billionaires hail from India, a dramatic increase from just seven in 2000.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Crowdmap Offers a Cloud-Based Crisis Mapping Service

Improvements in mapping and mobile technologies have helped facilitate the development of new social innovation tools that respond quickly and efficiently to crisis situations worldwide. "Crisis mapping," as its called, is a processing of collecting mobile and map information and crowdsourcing, visualizing and analyzing that data. Mapping can be undertaken by researchers, first responders, NGOs, citizen scientists.

Ushahidi is a software tool uses for such mapping projects. Swahili for "witness," Ushahidi was initially created following a disputed presidential election in Kenya in 2007. The website collected eyewitness reports of violence, contributed via email and SMS. The software used to build the site was open sourced in 2008, and the Ushahidi platform has been in development since then.

Today Ushahidi announced the launch of Crowdmap, a hosted service providing Ushahidi "out of the box with nothing to install." Analogous perhaps to the difference between (a downloadable version of WordPress that you run on your own server) and (a Wordpress blog hosted on the Wordpress server), Crowdmap will provide a hosted version of the Ushahidi software.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Social Media and the Hyperlocal

Although one of the promises of Internet technologies is that it can put global information resources at our disposal -- it is theWorld Wide Web after all -- there has been a turn recently towards these very technologies being used to put us in better touch with our local communities, right down to what's happening in our neighborhoods. Although the buzz around location-based social networking has been going on for a little over a year, with Foursquare's launch last year at SXSW, the turn to location-oriented technology tools could mark a shift towards paying attention to a localized sense of place, and this in turn could promise a way for a more engaged citizenry.

Local Social Networking: The GPS capabilities in smart-phones have facilitated the growth of location-based social networking. These services allow you to "check in" in a particular location, marking your presence at a particular site. These services are particularly attractive to restaurants and other venues, who reward customers who check in with promotions. Location-based social networks do just that -- intersect social networking with a particular location, allowing friends to interact online and offline. Popular location-based networks include Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite. Local review site Yelp recently added the ability to "check in" as well.

Local Search: Although people have become accustomed to turning to the Internet to "search," they often want to be able to find something -- a product or a service -- locally. Many new Web 2.0 tools are being developed to replace the "yellow pages" as the resource people utilize in order to find local information.

Local Blogs: Blogs have long been one way to maintain a connection to the news and events of a particular community. Local blogs often pay attention to happenings that might not rise to the level of the local mainstream media. Written by local authors with a local readership in mind, blogs are one way in which the Internet technologies help communities stay up-to-date with what's important.

Local News: Although the mainstream media has suffered substantial cuts to its labor force in recent years, people's desire for news has not changed. Although many people have turned to national, syndicated sources of information, there seems to be a turn lately towards localized news. Social media startups, including sites like Fwix, EveryBlock and Outside.In, offer hyperlocalized news, allowing users to indicate not just the city or topics they're interested in, but the specific neighborhoods. These hyperlocal news sites aggregate local blog posts, local news feeds, and other public data, including in the case of EveryBlock, 911 calls, restaurant inspections, and other civic data.

All these new social media toolspoint to the importance in remaining connected to one's community. Despite the ability of new technologies to connect us to the rest of the world, the increasing popularity of these services indicate that people still are deeply interested in what happens at home.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crowdsourcing & Web 2.0

For many years, it seems the buzzword in business circles has been "outsourcing," the idea that companies turn to third-parties (often overseas) to fulfill some of their services. But it may be the new "sourcing" buzzword is "crowdsourcing," turning not to a single third-party but to "the crowd" for help in projects. With the growth of social media and Web 2.0 tools, crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular.

The idea of crowdsourcing draws, in part, on James Surowiecki's 2004 book
The Wisdom of Crowds. In it, Surowiecki makes the argument, as the subtitle suggests that "the many are smarter than the few" and that collective wisdom has much to teach businesses and governments.

This potential for benefiting from the "wisdom of crowds" has been embraced by several new technology tools that allow users to weigh in and assist in the development and decision-making processes. These crowdsourcing tools are innovative ways in which public sentiment can be used to shape the direction for a product or a project.

Crowdsourcing has been used to assess a number of different areas, including determining speakers at conferences, in deciding on logos for businesses, and -- in the case of perhaps the best known example, Wikipedia -- in determing what constitutes "knowledge".

Typically crowdsourcing efforts fall into one of three areas:

  1. Creating products and projects: When using crowdsourcing for product creation and testing, input from users is taken and weighed in order to ascertain the direction for a project.
  2. Predicting outcomes: Recent studies have shown that analyzing sentiment via Twitter is a good indicator for the success a film will have over its opening weekend
  3. Organizing information: Wikipedia and StumbledUpon are good examples of taking user input to categorize information.

While there are many tools that can be used to help with crowdsourcing -- tools where companies can solicit input and gauge users' response -- it is important to remember that sometimes the wisdom of the crowd proves to be decidedly "unwise." Surowiecki speaks to the dangers of this in his book, noting that crowds can be swayed by the emotionality and conformity of the group. Sometimes "the crowd" is too homogeneous to be innovative. And Surowiecki reminds readers that despite crowdsourcing's "wisdom," crowds are only as smart as their smarted individual member.

Nevertheless, crowdsourcing seems to point to interesting potentials for engagement with the customer and can be a powerful way to
do good. "Outsourcing" has been a controversial move for some companies. It remains to be seen if crowdsourcing will be viewed as a positive or negative move. After all, what are the implications of handing over your creative processes to outsiders?

Have you tried to crowdsource any projects? What were your experiences? Comments welcome!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Social Enterprise Alliance Summit 2010

Passions X Competencies X Resources = Social Impact

The Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) states that passion is something that will most definitely be sparked and cultivated at this event. There will be influential guest panelists and speakers that will offer their insights in an effort to ignite greater passion in the social enterprise realm. There will be awards offered to those who are currently making a difference- which will spark a drive in others to also become recognized for their work. The goal is to motivate like minded individuals and increase the love of social enterprise.

Beyond cultivating passion, the conference hopes to enhance participant’s knowledge and offer new skill building opportunities. It is the hope of the SEA that people will walk away with new skills and abilities that will then affect their ability to facilitate social impact. There will be workshops offered and firsthand accounts on how to maximize positive impact for every dollar received.

The final component of the equation deals with resources. SEA plans to bring together social entrepreneurs from all across the globe. Part of the conference is called the World Forum. The conference boasts the presence of nearly 50 sessions that will showcase all the ways that social enterprises are playing a role in shaping the recovering economy. By exchanging ideas and strategies, SEA desires to foster strong efforts to build a strong social enterprise field. An especially interesting element of the conference will be the Angel Forum where eight social entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch their social enterprise to a panel of judges and a live audience. This will offer these budding social entrepreneurs the potential to be featured on the Social Enterprise Alliance website; and could lead to angel investors or other funders.
The title of the conference is “New Approach, New Economy: Realizing the Potential of Social Enterprise.” According to SEA, it is vital that all social entrepreneurs who work hard during the year in their particular ventures to come together and share their learning, offer encouragement, and seek ways to collaborate for the purpose of advancing the field. Registration is still available and participants can even register onsite for an additional fee. Some of the discussions that will be held are as follows:
  • Investment & Finance
  • Models & Strategies
  • Policy & Advocacy
  • Leadership Development & Education
  • Communications & Storytelling
If you are attending please offer your comments upon your return and share what you learned.

Photo Courtesy: socialearth

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Marketing Strategies for Social Enterprise

In the social sector competition and marketing are becoming increasingly more relevant. In the realm of social enterprises this could not be truer. When all things are said and done, social enterprises are businesses. The nuances of those businesses are what set them apart from other profit making businesses, but one thing that is shared is the need to compete and market oneself effectively. Thomas Wolff, the author of Managing a Nonprofit Organization in the 21st Century offers a nonprofit definition of marketing. He expresses that marketing is seen as effectively engineering the satisfaction of all constituents who will assist the organization to successfully accomplish its mission, while meeting program goals and achieving financial stability. The process of marketing is executed by conducting market research, establishing a brand, and finally implementing a marketing mix.

In order to develop an overall marketing strategy or plan, a nonprofit organization must have the facts n how well it stacks up against the competition; how it is perceived in the community; how its programs, activities, and products are regarded; and how it might command a bigger share of customers, clients, funders, or other constituents (Wolff). Marketing research is the vehicle to which all of these questions are answered. To begin the market research process an organization may decide to segment the population to create a “target market.” Target marketing is the process whereby decisions are made about which groups an organization will choose to serve. Each segment of the target market that is identified as being important to the organization needs to have a marketing method applied to ensure their needs are being addressed. Market segmentation allows nonprofit organizations and social enterprises alike the ability to control whom they serve by choosing where it is most effective or most important, according to organizational mandate or mission, to spend limited resources, as opposed to letting the limits of their funding arbitrarily make that decision for them.

Once a target market has been identified the organization can move onto conducting extensive research on those members of the population. To successfully analyze the environment, an organization should seek to determine what market related questions they would like answered.
Preliminary research may have to be conducted to ensure that all necessary questions are asked and all marketing objectives can be met. Following the preliminary question formulating phase, a formal research plan must be created. This includes creating instruments that will allow the organization to successfully gather relevant data (e.g. surveys, questionnaires, phone interviews, etc.). Of course after all the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and taken into consideration as the organization moves forward.

Branding is also important to the marketing process. It is the process of establishing the organization’s public image. According to Stephanie Krick, a professor at the University of Central Florida, the goal of the brand is to create a positive and favorable organizational image in each target audience. These positive reactions are based on an individual’s beliefs, ideas and impressions of the organization’s services, programs and management styles (Krick, 2010). As mentioned in a previous post on, a strong brand is the main component in being noticed, which is why it is crucial for nonprofit organizations to get their image right.

So, the research has been conducted, and the image has been created, now comes the task of actually reaching the target audience. This is done through an intensive process called a marketing mix. Within this process an organization has to determine why someone chose to buy a product, purchase a service, pay for programs, or even make a contribution to a nonprofit organization (Wolff). To answer these questions, a marketing mix consisting of four elements must be facilitated. Those four elements are the four P’s of marketing: Product, Promotion, Price, and Place. Once these decisions have been made an organization will then tailor its products, services, and messages, adjust its prices and delivery systems, and promote itself in ways that truly serve the target market.

Photo credit: The Text Works

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Battling Social Media Overload

As someone who works in the technology field, I'm quite accustomed to spending most of my days online. And as someone who is heavily involved in social media, I admit to spending a lot of time checking updates via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. (OK, the latter isn't necessarily work-related. Scrabble anyone?) I am also an early adopter of many new technologies, but again, this is part of my work world. But I do sometimes find the number of social media sites I must visit and update overwhelming. And I've seen more and more friends lately post on Facebook that they're giving up social media. Suffering from social media overload, they are opting not to participate in social media at all.

This decision seems a bit drastic, I would contend. Instead of cutting all social media out of your life, I recommend the following steps -- for both personal and professional use -- to help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by social media choices.

Avoid social media for social media's sake: Rather than signing up for every service possible, pick the sites that best serve your goals. Do you want to reconnect with old friends? Try Facebook. Do you want to connect with potential business associates? Try LinkedIn.

Use the services you're most comfortable with: If you already belong to a social media network, it might be better to remain active and increase your presence there than it is to create profiles on every site. The drawback of the latter is that you might find yourself with a lot of unused and out-of-date profiles. There's little use to having people stumble upon your profile if it hasn't been updated since 2006!

Engage: One of the keys to make participation in social networks useful is to, well, participate. But remember that these services are not bullhorns. Do not merely "shout" at your "friends" and "followers," only using these networks to push information out. While social media is a great place to share information, it is important to be responsive -- listen, comment, engage.

Trace, evaluate, adapt: If you are using social media for professional purposes, do be sure to utilize the analytics tools that many of these services offer. These can help you ascertain the traffic levels and the user engagement. It is important to check these regularly to evaluate the ROI of a platform. But as the field of social media is ever-changing, you should be prepared to adapt. For example, just because a service like Foursquare is popular now, does not mean you should be forever wedded to location-based marketing.

Take a break: If you're feeling overwhelmed, step away. Rather than delete your profiles and swear never to return to Facebook again, simply designate a small amount of time (daily or weekly) to give to social media. You needn't feel compelled to respond to every post or every comment or every tweet.

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