Defining Social Capital

Social capital. What is it?

Social capital can be the value of our social networks. And there are, within that, a wide spread of definitions. I’d say it is the use of relationships to store value shared between people which can be applied later within a gift economy framework.

But if you show up at SoCap (Social Capital Markets Conference), you will find they mean something else entirely. What they mean is financial capital going to social enterprise.

How then would you refer to the use of social connections to support social entrepreneurship? Social Capital squared?

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Being a Contribution

People want to be a contribution.

This comes from Art of Possibility. Ben tells a lovely story about biking where he got a flat tire. He went to a gas station to pump up the tire. The air pump costs $.25 or whatever. He didn’t have change. He asked if they could make change. They sadly said no. He asked if he could have $.25 then. And the man at the station lit up brightly and said, “yes!” This story is burned in my mind as a turning point where I began to believe people actually want to help and be useful. They just need the right invitation.

To have something to contribute to, it needs to be unfinished. So don’t finish that if you want help with it!

“In the age of participatory, nay, collaborative culture, as soon as something is finished it can’t be collaborative. If you want other people pitching in to make an idea work, software better, or actions more impactful…don’t dictate what should happen and push out what has been finished. Open with curiosity. Share vision and motivation…share ideas as rough sketches for group discussion.”

Of course, we worry about doing that will show our insides, our raw edges, our dare-we-even-say-it weaknesses. It makes us vulnerable. But wait, what if vulnerability is good? What if being vulnerable is actually a sign of strength? What if being vulnerable means you are strong enough to endure the consequences instead of needing to protect yourself all the time?

Brene Brown’s lovely talk on Vulnerability:

Brene Brown Vulnerability

How are you being vulnerable enough to share what is unfinished and ask other people to be a contribution?


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Epic Win!

“What is all this talk about an epic win? Sounds great. What do you mean?”

Games are designed, often, to get you to the epic win! You defeat the monster at the end of the course. You built skills along the way and then proved you could use them against something big and atrocious. When you get through that big hurdle at the end, your face lights up. High fives all around. Major score!EpicWinFace

In the work world and in personal development, we often set only one threshold. Below that threshold is failure. Above it is success. In my coaching, I have had to break people of setting bold goals that would be epic wins who then chastise or even berate themselves for not achieving them. Effectively it is like shooting your aspirations in the foot.

I am particularly a fan of “Any (insert task to goal) I do AT ALL is an improvement on the (previous state) where I was before. Improvement is good.” This is a gentle, loving-yourself approach to getting stuff done. We have enough external pressure from the world. Give yourself some encouragement.

I do love bold goals. I love the audacity to think you can do something that seems impossible. Give me your BHAGs! However, I do not think it is useful or productive to then declare failure on what doesn’t achieve or surpass the epic goal. It doesn’t build energy. You defeat yourself.

If you want to achieve epic wins, design — like a game designer does — for early wins and ongoing learning. To build energy, focus on celebrating the victories all along the path and at each threshold crossed. This jazzes you up for the achieving the epic win!

Set up three goal layers:

  1. Minimum. What is the minimum viable? Below that threshold, it really is failure.
    • Failing to achieve the minimum means the experiment failed -> now do something else or approach it differently.
    • Succeeding here is like an early win.
  2. Success. What threshold would allow you to say you were successful?
    • Failing to achieve this means the experiment could be improved -> how will you make it better next round?
    • Succeeding here is victory! Good work. Design next round for bolder goal. Reflect on where you can improve for even better results.
  3. Epic Win!
    • Failing to achieve this means there is room for improvement, sure, but be proud of how well you did!
    • Succeeding here is ultimate victory. Shout from the rooftops, dance till you drop. Laugh out loud. Drink champagne. Consider yourself a graduate and master. And then go level-up.

Think about something like StartSomeGood. There is a minimum viable – the project doesn’t get funded if you don’t reach that goal. Then there is the goal – if you get that, you can do the project as you intended. And, if you raise more than that – wow, you just got a mandate to do more!


Ps. you probably do not want a picture of your face for the epic win. It is not the most beautiful face you make. However, it will make other people smile compulsively. Here is one of mine from my very first time sailing. It was glorious! See how wide the grin is!!!


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Slow Down to Move Faster

Let’s look at learnings from building and launching The Agency itself this week.

Slow down to move faster. 

During production, I was trying to fix an error in the website. Without thinking it through I revised the theme, hoping that would debug it. However, that deleted all the work Kathryn had done to spice up the graphics and fonts. My thoughtless minute led to several hours of repairs. Move slower on the last 10% of finishing.


“Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry” ~ Napoleon


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Defining New Economy

“The new economy” swirls in the air of many network circles now. What does that mean? How did we shift perspective on the old economy in order to see this new possibility? What and how do we need to build our economy better?

Wikipedia says new economy means the shift from manufacturing to service. But I think the Nation writes about an even greater economic shift: “the movement seeks an economy that is increasingly green and socially responsible, and one that is based on rethinking the nature of ownership and the growth paradigm that guides conventional policies.” Wired magazine suggests this is the end of the era of conglomerates.  New Economics Foundation, a think-do tank, inspires and demonstrates real economic well being.

What if talking about an Agenda for a New Economy, The New Rules, or the rising Social Era turn out to be facets of the same new economy? One where we use social intelligence lubricated by clear purpose and ethics with metrics to increase well being, take responsibility for our actions on the planet, and optimize our methods of organizing ourselves?

Keep in mind there are two perspectives that I am suggesting could blend: the network production model favored by geeks and the people, planet, profit model from environmentalists. When you hear people say new economy, check your context to see which one they might be meaning.

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Perspectives from Builders

Where have you shifted perspectives?

How has shifting perspectives enabled breakthroughs for you?

How has it resolved conflicts?

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SCRUM March 1

SCRUM is part of Agile Methodology for software development. We are hacking it for our purposes here. Rapid fire, on our weekly checkin, we will each share:

  • Done – What have you done that matters?
  • Aim – Name 1-3 goals for the week
  • Challenge – What challenges you on your path to an Epic Win?
  • Ask – How can we help you? Connection, action, or partnership?

Put your answers to these questions in the comments below, so we can all see during our checkin.


Jean Russsell

Done: sent welcome packet, researched amazon ebook, emailed champions

Aim: send email for Agency, Finish reviving LEAD booklet, Breakthroughs revisions part 2.

Challenge: LEAD booklet, once written, needs good design and advice on ebook process. Napier and John on my back to get the book edits done – how do I fit that in the schedule?

Ask – help me be accountable for getting the writing out, advice on booklet design or process

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So exciting to have launched this publicly!

A little history:

  • October 2011:Concept – named and business sketched in first iteration with Pritha RaySircar.
  • November-December: Iterations – chewed on what form would work, how it fit existing efforts, and how much to prioritize it, started hacking on website and stalled on “buddypress” compatibility issues.
  • January 2012: Architectural Design - with Todd Hoskins, completed the detailed business design based on sketches with Pritha. Built site architecture using wishlist, paypal, and mailchimp. Kathryn Bottrell jumps on to improve design after seeing test version.
  • February: Final Iterations and Launch – Soft launch February 10 in San Francisco. Language refinement and increased focus. Debugging. Public launch February 24.

Two days before public launch, I went to fix the slider. And without thinking it through, I upgraded the theme. I lost most of the beautification that Kathryn had contributed and created several new problems. Kathryn gracefully helped repair the damage, and the site it stronger for it. However, I was pulling my hair out at how my rush to fix a small thing cascaded into a day and a half of repairs. Deep breath. And so it goes: moving slowly and carefully in these final moments is very, very important.

The day before launch, Pritha suggested “pay what you are worth” pricing. I think it is a much better way to establish value and trigger agency, so I quickly put it into place. However, that change involved: making new purchase buttons, redoing the paypal forms, changing text on several pages, changing language in the mailing, modifying images on home page, and making the income projections more uncertain. I think it was worth it, but we will see if our experiment works.

Today, in response to inquires and questions, I added the FAQ page. Let me know what else you want to see there!

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Defining Thrivability

Thrivable. To thrive. The ability to generate. To create more value than you consume. Play. Aliveness. Flourishing.

What does thriving, thrivable, or thrivability mean to you? How do you recognize it when you notice it? What isn’t it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: deanoakley

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Shifting Perspectives

Where have you shifted perspectives?

How has shifting perspectives enabled breakthroughs for you?

How has it resolved conflicts?

Creative Commons License photo credit: steve p2008


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