Shoelacing social innovation

March 7, 2008 § 1 Comment

Social innovation (or any kind of innovation for that matter) can be a lonely gig. There you are, focused intensely on an issue or problem that you are passionate about, trying to invent / evolve / evangelize an approach that will really make a difference. Poverty. Hunger. Education.  Democracy. Knowledge. Whatever the issue, that’s all that matters. One day, you’ll have time to connect to other innovators to share what you know … and learn about what they’re working on. But not now. One day. 

A week or so back, the Young Foundation and gaggle of groovy partners launched the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) to overcome this story of isolation. Here’s the web site:


The idea is great: radar emerging social innovations and lightly shoelace the innovators into a network (or at least make them aware of each other). Case studies highlight interesting innovations. Blog postings create a babble of emerging ideas. And face to face events (very promising) create the deeper human connections and content that will fire fuel back into the web site.

The problem is, great ideas also need to work in the real world. I have hope for SIX, but competing for attention, and even generating content, in a busy web world is tougher than ever.

As an already-busy-with-my-own-life-specialist-in-residence at SIX, I want to help with this. I want to contribute compelling content that draws people. I want to show up to comment and discuss stuff when it’s helpful. I want to evangelize and get people excited. The thing is, I am just as time and attention strapped as the next guy on the social innovation block.

My hope is that that basic web 2.0 tech mashed up with some good ol’ community media work can help with this. I scribbled some ideas on this earlier:


On the web 2.0 side, SIX could easily build up a more compelling feed of news by importing and rebranding RSS items from me and other specialists-in-residence who already have their own blogs. I’d be super happy to see them do this. The SIX editors just have to select the stories they want and publish them o relevant section of the site. I get extra exposure and a sense that I am contributing. SIX gets stories. Everybody wins.

SIX could quite easily build up it’s case study section with some simple audio interviews. Most of the case studies seems to be super short descriptions of a project. This is great as a radar, but doesn’t let me dig deeper. However, it’s very tough to get people like me to write a long case study, and expensive to get researchers and journalists to do it.One way around this is for the editors to do quick Skype interviews with partners who have projects to profile, and then post these as podcasts along side a one paragraph description of the case. Or, to do fast interviews at SIX face to face event. Either way, it’s like bootstrapped community radio on the web. We did something two years ago for the IDRC eALF project. I worked brilliantly, cost nothing and took up almost no time.

The other small and easy way to increase the value of the SIX site would be better and simpler outbound RSS feeds. Right now, I can only see a feed for the main blog page (which would be super useful if combined with the republishing idea above). However, I can’t see a way to get feeds of the case studies or the features. If I had this, I could radar for interesting articles, and then come to comment on the site when they come up.

SIX could definitely go somewhere, but it needs to make contributing and engaging easy first. The good news is that there are some smart (and young) people behind it all. I am going to offer to help out with some of the ideas above in the hopes that it move things along.

PS. I just heard that the Young Foundation is also doing SocialInnovationCamp. Very cool. I suspect (and hope) that some of the web / event 2.0 energy of SIcamp will infuse itself in SIX.

PSS. To see RSS feeds an rebranding in action, look at my original posting here and the feed version here.

§ One Response to Shoelacing social innovation

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