Category Archives: social innovation

Natural Capitalism

I am just now picking up Lovins, Hawken,and Lovins Natural Capitalism book.

I am wondering if I could use it in a module on alternative perspectives on capitalism module. I also was wondering what has happened since it was published in 1999.

There is a is a website called natcap.org.

Here I found a more recent edition with a new introduction. http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/NatCap2005.aspx.

What I like best about it is the focus on solutions. I feel like that would mitigate people who dismiss change as naive idealism.

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Filed under Books, Business, Great Companies, management, Political Economy, social innovation

Primordial Ooze of Civil Society?

I always liked the phrase “primordial ooze.”  It is fun to say and the ten year old in me sees a bubbling, steaming goo that seems to defy order and good manners.  I also like it because it captures the idea of how the new emerges from the old, how complexity emerges from sets of interactions that are not supposed to add up to the emergent.

Two items from today made me wonder if we are looking at the primordial ooze of civil society.  Let me say here that by civil society I am not entering into some long-standing debate about what is or isn’t civil society.  I am looking for a term that covers the idea of collective or coordinated action of varying degrees of formality that is centered on common ground of like-minded actors.  Also, this common ground must unite people around some sense of a common good or higher purpose.  In short, human organizing motivated by “ruled” by practices that are not of formal state power nor purely economic rationality.  I am not sure if that holds up, but I’ll leave it there for now.

So, item #1.  Egypt, of course.  Like countless others, I am fascinated, hopeful, fearful, and awe struck by the events unfolding first in Tunisia and now more spectacularly in Egypt.  Through the media I have followed (Democracy Now, KCRW’s To The Point, NY time, Huffingtonpost, BBC, Guardian), there are several elements at work.  In no particular order.

* Youthful, technology-enabled activists.

* The Muslim Brotherhood

* Dissident elites (like El Baradei)

* Neighborhood watch patrols

Some of these groups seem loosely organized or rapidly scaling up and out as they absorb the tens or hundreds of thousands of newly mobilized citizens.  I imagine new organizing, new durable networks of trust and cooperation, and new alliances among the other two are a major part of the fluidity and flux.  This (to me) palpable sense of what could be captures the imagery of the primordial ooze of civil society.

Item #2: The Really Free School.  A random facebook message put me on to this (originating in theory.org.uk, home of theory trading cards).  I have not been able to explore it much, but what struck me is the basic ethos: let’s use a common space, the (Shirky-ean) low cost of coordinating, the ability of people to self-organize, and the cultural scripts of sharing knowledge and delighting in serious play.  Though not as fluid or important as Egypt, it also seems to me to get at the origins,at the primordial ooze,  of civil society in its simplicity and open-endedness.

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Filed under activism, Creativity, Hacker ethic, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, participatory technology, Protest, social innovation, sociology, technology

Social Entrepreneurs, Networks, and Technology

I am revising a draft of a paper about social entrepreneurs to give at EGOS.

Here is the core idea:

Broadly, I am trying to connect what is known about the research into new forms of organizing with internet with innovation and networks studies

Some baseline assumptions:

1) Innovators and entrepreneurs of any flavor are in a brokerage position and they engage in brokering behavior.   (Research by Burt, Obstfeld, Gargiulo, Hargadon comes to mind… I need to find others).

2) New ICT changes make #1 different.  Easier in some ways, harder in others.

3) Social entrepreneurs face special circumstances due to value orientation they use.  Social entrepreneurs solve social problems or market failures.  They move towards a new equilibrium.  The “social” of what they do emerges from social change processes unfolding in networks organizations, and institutions of contested agendas (or, formerly contested and now newly legitimate.  These include poverty reduction, public health, green design, education access, rural development, climate change, and so on.  Looks like usual suspects of civil society concerns.  But of course, it should.)

4) The process is usually gradual (uniform)- incremental innovations and experiments accumulate into profound change.  The initial recognition can then lead to rapid scaling and diffusion.

5)  To fully conceptualize the problem, we need to draw on four research streams: 1) entrepreneurship, 2) networks and innovation, 3) social movements, and 4) technology and socity.

6) A research agenda based on the assumptions and findings includes three questions:

  • 1) Do new technologies, by lowering search and coordination costs for actors, spawn more emerging or possible social entrepreneurs (as in, that is their intention)?
  • 2) Do technologies, through their ability to foster relations and community, create new value propositions?  Transparency, memory, search, and interactivity mean that thick webs of relations, which people value, can create new opportunities for social innovation or entrepreneurship.
  • 3) The same properties that create more potential social entrepreneurs and opportunities will also pose new start-up challenges because soc entrepreneurswill be more tied to the necessary networks and institutions that create legitimacy for the social of social entrepreneurs.

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Filed under activism, innovation, organization studies, organization theory, participatory technology, social innovation, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship [SiSe], technology