December 16, 2008

Activism and the social enterprise

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JD LasicaOne of the extraordinary things about the Bay Area is the relative ease with which you can bring a large number of bright, passionate, committed people under the same roof. When it’s a bar (and not just a barcamp but the real thing), so much the better.

And so it was earlier this evening when Sundeep Ahuja — a born connector and former marketing chief for Kiva who’s now on the executive team at RichRelevance.com — organized the second  awareness2action event at the Dragonbar in San Francisco’s North Beach. The event, attended by about 60 people involved with various social causes, featured an hour of socializing and an hour of panelists discussing social enterprises.

On the panel:

• Premal Shah, President of Kiva.org (here’s the video interview with Premal I published last week)

• Kevin Jones, Principal at Good Capital

• Steve Newcomb, serial entrepreneur & founder of Virgance.

No one videotaped the event, but here are a few snippets:

Kevin Jones mentioned the-hub.net, a co-working space for social entrepreneurs that began in London and has spread to about 8 locations in all. Good Capital is looking into opening a co-location space in San Francisco.

Steve Newcomb: "I’m on a hiring spree — I’m not paying anything, but I’m on a hiring spree." … "I don’t know how to replicate what the Barack Obama campaign did and apply it to business."

Premal Shah announced the first downturn in lending in Kiva’s history: a 10 percent drop from a year ago because of the economic downturn. The nonprofit has reduced its 2009 budget from $6 million to $4.4 million.

Premal said Kiva planned to release a developer platform with an open API in 2009 so that the community could create additional features and unlock more growth. Great news!

Premal also said Kiva should empower the 17-year-old in Boise, give him the Kiva Powerpoint presentation decks and publish it out on SlideShare. Even if volunteer evangelists got some of the facts wrong, just spreading the word is an enormous win.

Newcomb echoed the approach I’m taking with the upcoming launches of Social Media Camps and Socialbrite.org [this blog] by citing the "train the trainers" model. While many people thought the Obama campaign was a decentralized, democratically run effort, in truth the campaign used a hybrid model of command and control at the top facilitating grassroots efforts at the bottom — "managed empowerment," in Newcomb’s words.

Cool webite: Carrotmob. Carrotmob organizes consumers to make purchases that give financial rewards to those businesses that agree to make socially beneficial choices.

JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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