April 28, 2010

Collaboration: The next phase of social change?

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JD LasicaAt lunch yesterday in San Francisco, eight folks in the social change sector gathered at Samovar Tea Lounge to compare notes, discuss partnerships and answer a question posed by convener Christine Egger of SocialActions.com:

What is the problem you see in your sector, and how would you solve it?

The conversation quickly turned to silos and the need not to break them down but, as Kristy Graves said, to build bridges between them.

teaThe nonprofit sector. The social change and social innovation sectors. The social enterprise sector. The Gov 2.0 sector. The citizen journalism sector. The education sector. The micro-finance sector.

There are amazing parallel needs on display and immensely talented people working in all of these areas. Sometimes our efforts overlap. Sometimes we share resources. But too often we talk past each other, focus on our own events and pass up opportunities for collaboration.

The lunch came with no agenda and we left with no game plan but with a deeper understanding of some of the efforts taking place only a phone call, email or direct-message away.

One idea was to form a sort of cross-sector group or mailing list to help these sectors cross-pollinate. (I like that idea, but we’d need more participants for that to work.)

Some social change standouts you should know

We didn’t expressly say that the lunch was on the record, and I didn’t take detailed notes, but you should be following these folks and you can ask them directly how you can work with them: Jean Russell, aka @NurtureGirl, @adincmiller, @edwardharran, Scott Bechtler-Levin of @IdeaEncore, @CDEgger, @rachelannyes and @kg. Kevin Doyle Jones, Robert Rosenthal and Susan Tenby couldn’t make it. (If you’d like to attend the next — unscheduled — lunch, let us know!)

Quote of the day from Rachel Weidinger : “What if it’s not about portaling people into an event but catapulting them into toolkits and relationships?”

Most of what I jotted down involved resources I wanted to learn more about, like:

ideaencoreIdeaEncore Network, a knowledge sharing marketplace where nonprofits, social benefit organizations and those who support them can share, sell and buy all types and forms of practical knowledge, planning materials and management tools. “Our challenge is to free information that’s in people’s hard drives,” said founder Scott Bechtler-Levin. We’ve just added them to our Cause Organizations page.

• I need to find out more about the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), which Edward was telling us about. As the website says, it’s “a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture. Guided by the principles of openness, collaboration, and resource sharing, our programs promote creativity at the intersection of art, design, sound, and technology.”

• Edward also mentioned the Senseable City Lab (see image at top) run by my old friends at MIT and its hybrid e-bike copenhagen wheel project. Again, a project we should all know about, but don’t.

IssueLab archives research about social issues, shares it with a broader audience, and advocates for the use of open licenses and open access standards in the nonprofit sector.

10,000 Hours• Kristy mentioned the 10,000 Hours Project, a concert series where college-age students volunteer their time for community work and musicians like Ben Folds and Cake perform.

• I just received a copy of the new book “Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice” from O’Reilly Publishing, and so far I’m learning a lot and loving it. Will have a review of it here in May.

• The Hub SoMa‘s San Francisco co-working space’s coming-out party will be on May 27.

• I missed the just-ended Future of Money and Technology conference in San Francisco but am catching up on it through blog posts and #futureofmoney hashtag.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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