Monday, November 26, 2007

PSA: Two good links (inter-related)

Two interesting and interrelated links came up today. The first, Joel On Software, is written by a software developer and CEO of FogCreek Software. It's a pretty good read for anyone technical or interested in the sausage factory of software development. (It's not always pretty but the end result is usually tasty).

But the thing that caught my eye, which I wanted to relay, was a link to CatalogChoice. I'd seen similar websites that contact catalog companies and unsubscribe you from their paper mail, but this was the first free one. It's sponsored by several foundations. The main paper mail I'm trying to get rid of are those persistent coupon foldovers; we'll see how it works.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Project VIEW on the internets!

Just a quick post to link to a few places Project VIEW is mentioned on the net. Firstly, I'm very happy to be included on Nokia & Vodafone's collaborative best practices site; They have a quick summary of the summer collaboration with BAVC.

Also, there's a great article on about a collaboration with Steve Vosloo that allowed us to connect San Francisco, Sao Paulo, and South Africa using mobile storytelling to describe our neighborhoods and lives.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Good Afternoon, Mr President

One of the things I love about this project is how much of a effect synchronicity and going with the flow has. One recent example of this is my friend Ken and I were chatting about someone he had been trying to contact at the Hoover Institute about his project. "Rumsfeld?" I joked, but it turned out to be Larry Diamond. Ten minutes later, I saw a poster advertising an event.

Twenty minutes later, we were listening to the former President of Peru (Not Fujimori, Alejandro Toledo) in conversation with Larry Diamond from the Hoover Institute, who's written quite a few books about democracy. President Toledo was a great speaker, and it turned out, had several degrees from Stanford. He spoke about helping the poor during his term, and the importance of grassroots, on-the-ground projects. In particular, he highlighted a program that he was particularly proud to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor, and talked about how to balance the short term and long term societal improvements.

It was difficult to get much of the details in only a few minutes of Q&A, but the principle was the key take-away for me. That to improve a society, you must improve education, healthcare, and basic living conditions for everyone, starting from the bottom up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

DiSCO Neighborhoods Project

Digital Sister Cities Online (or DiSCO) is a collaboration between Bay Area Video Coalition and CDI, a leading social action NGO in Brazil. Our goal in this project was to show how the digital link between San Francisco and Brazil could also be a personal connection to sharing culture and creating art while developing real-world job skills. Over the summer, five high school students in San Francisco collaborated with their counterparts in Sao Paulo. To show San Francisco in their eyes, the students used camera phones to document their neighborhoods, using the universal language of images and music. Please enjoy their work.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Skype on my phone?

This has been pretty widely covered on mobile phone blogs, but it was still news to me. I'm planning a vacation trip to Turkey (late summer vacation), and was looking for different applications I could load my phone up with since I'm not bringing a laptop.

And one of the best discoveries so far was an application called fring which finally connects your phone to skype, MSN, GTalk, or most any SIP-based voice over IP service. So if you have a wifi phone, you can now connect to skype directly from your phone!

Pretty cool.

In other, more project related news, we're wrapping up some awesome neighborhood videos that I'll be promoting here and elsewhere in the next few days.

You can see some of them linked from my Vox blog if you just can't wait.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who needs computers? Citizen Journalism direct from camera phones

There's a great article on AfricaNews today about training African camera phone-based journalists to capture & file stories using Nokia E61i phones with portable keyboards. They are calling the reporters 'camjos' (a combination of camera & journalist). The acronym may be a bit unwieldy, but the idea is amazing -- it's great to see more and more of these project start to happen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Group and New Ideas

We have started with a new group of Digital Pathways interns from Bay Area Video Coalition. They are a very bright group, and working on two sets of videos about San Francisco culture, which I'll link to later this week.

Also, I saw a great post on boingboing (linking to Daniel Hernandez's blog, linking to the LA times) about African hand-outs versus African support by Femi Kuti, the great musician Fela Kuti's son.

The gist of it was that aid wasn't nearly as effective as interchange, tourism, commerce, etc. The "people" relationships need to be supported by the business relationships in a spirit of real interchange, not just paying to get rid of problems.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wrapup from Communities & Technology Conference

(Warning, this is a long post)

I presented a paper last week at the 3rd annual Communities & Technologies Conference. Overall, it was a great conference. I've mostly been to more corporate events, so the academic side of things was a good change.

My paper was on how mobile storytelling (digital storytelling with cameraphones or other mobile devices) at a minimum gives participants the ability to tell their own story, increased self-esteem and technical skills. And when well aligned with industry and government, like the Digital Pathways project, you also start to see job placement and even job creation!

My presentation is at the bottom of the post; here are some of the highlights.

Day 1 was the Workshop about business clusters in emerging markets. The highlight for me was the presentation by the Shantanu Biswas and Soumya Roy from Motorola research in Bangalore who had done an in-depth case study of Bellary jeans cluster, in Karnataka, India. There are around 800 small companies in a relatively small area who are all involved in the production of cheap blue jeans for the Indian market. They talked about the ecosystem from textile wholesalers to packaging and shipping. In this particular cluster, ICT usage was quite low and everything was done by hand; with paper reciepts and messages being sent through runners. It was a great look 'under the hood' at how this specific group of businesses worked together, and could work together better.

At the end of the day, Marc Smith from Microsoft Research gave the keynote. He talked about a number of topics, all around Digital Traces, visualizing the 'footsteps' we leave behind as we communicate in various ways. One cool thing he's done is create an outlook plugin called SNARF to allow more people-oriented ways of sorting email, like 'who did I get a lot of email from last week that I haven't gotten any this week?'

His prediction for the future was that in 24-36 months mobile devices will start to recognize the presence of others and actually do something about it. I've seen this on a small scale with some bluetooth apps, like itunes pausing when your phone goes out of range, but it would be interesting to see it on a larger scale.

Day 2

My highlight for the second day would have to be the 'history of slashdot' by CmdrTaco and Hemos (AKA Rob Malda & Jeff Bates). (flickr photo by eschipul)

It was clear they had worked together and been friends for a LONG time.. They had a great back-and-forth banter as they talked about the history of Slashdot from the pre-mod_perl days to the multi-homed, multi-loadbalanced present.

Some random Slashdot factoids (mostly on the techhie side)
  • All incoming submissions are viewable: (not nearly as entertaining as the just-updated livejournal feed, though)
  • Comments are about 10% of the traffic but 50% of the work
  • Slashdot hardware:
    - 20-25 machines
    - 2 master dbs, 4 slave dbs (search, backup, slaves)
    - 15 front end machines (static, dynamic, ssl)
    - bunch of helper boxes -- SMTP, NFS, logging
From the community point of view, it was interesting to hear about how they trained new editors; a mix of picking the right people and the appropriate editing guidelines. Unlike digg (for example), Slashdot will never be dominated by Paris Hilton news. (I read both for what it's worth)

Also interesting was the talk about Rhythms of Participation on Facebook. It's mostly what you'd expect for the college crowd, spike from noon Friday to noon Sunday, lots of random messages after 2am. :)

Day 3

The keynote for the third day was Judith Donath from the MIT Media Lab. She gave a talk based on her upcoming book about "human signaling in mediated and face-to-face communication". It was fascinating; she talked about the basic idea of signaling theory. She describes it as:
Many of the things we want to know about each other are not directly perceivable. These qualities include emotional states (are you happy?), innate abilities (are you smart?), and the likelihood of acting a particular way in the future (will you be a loyal friend?). Instead, we must rely upon signals, which are perceivable indicators of these not directly observable qualities.

Qualities can be almost anything: strength, honesty, genetic robustness, poisonousness, suitability for bookkeeping employment, etc. We rely on signals when direct evaluation of the quality is too difficult or dangerous. A bird wants to know if the butterfly it is about to eat is poisonous before it takes a bite, and relies on the signal of wing markings to decide whether to eat or move on. An employer wants to determine before making a hiring decision whether a candidate will be successful or not, and relies on signals such as a resume, references, and the candidate’s actions and appearance to predict suitability for the job.
I can't really do it justice in terms of a summary, but it was fascinating look at how we communicate both explicitly and implicitly. She has a chapter of her book available if you're interested in reading more.

My presentation is embedded here from Slideshare:

EDIT: Joe McCarthy from Nokia Research just posted a very comprehensive summary as well, reminding me of a few things, like the "Daddypants" philosophy of moderation on Slashdot.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pre-blog: 1st day of Communities & Technology conference

Well, here I am in beeyooutiful Michigan, at the MSU campus. I saw lightning for the first time in a long while. Thunderstorms are one of the things I miss living in San Francisco.

Anyway, I just got in last night and met up with a few people at the cocktail reception. It looks like it's going to be a great conference. I met a woman from Australia who's presenting on a generative 'what's the community mood' sculpture, and chatted for a bit with Joe McCarthy from NRC. I went back and re-read his blog, which is always inspiring.

This morning, I'm presenting my paper at a session called ICT for Business Clusters in Emerging Markets. I think it's going to be great. My basic idea for this paper is that media education, in particular mobile or digital storytelling can always be effective for participants in self-expression and digital education. And when it's properly aligned with industry and government, there is huge potential for job opportunities and even job creation.

I'll try to blog throughout the conference.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A picture's worth ten thousand miles

We've been having a great series of videoconferences with Keio University as part of their English Language Lounge (E-Lounge). In particular, here are two really cool ones.

In this picture, you can see me, Hernan, and Edgardo (three Digital Vision Fellows) chatting with some E-Lounge students. We had this chat last week, where we explained our projects and their subject areas; mobile storytelling, micro enterprise resource planning, and financial services for the poor through cash cards and SMS.

This week, we presented projects about San Francisco culture. Three interns walked around the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco to take pictures with our camera phones.

Afterwards, we created stories (two web pages and one video) about San Francisco culture. I think they are great. Check em out!

Rowvin (WEB PAGE):

Anton (WEB PAGE):

Seanne (VIDEO):

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Doing Good With POWER!!!

Quick linkblog today. I saw two noteworthy items about power, big and small.

On the big end, I saw a link to powering the Google-plex with rooftop solar. They have a cool Flash realtime graph about how much power they're saving (and what it means in real terms. Like how long it would power a flat-screen TV).

On the small end, I got a newsletter from Nokia about alerting you that you can unplug your phone when it's charged.

It's a great idea, actually. Phantom loads actually account for a lot of power overall.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Show your culture

The Project VIEW team (me, Anton, Rowvin, & Seanne) had a great time today prototyping a new project.

We talked a lot about culture, and what is American culture, San Francisco culture, and each of our own. Then we tried out a empowerment evaluation, which I just learned about from Dr. David Fetterman here at Stanford. It was quite interesting to involve the students in thinking about how they would measure cross-cultural impact based on the framework we were using.

We did a little field trip to a nearby Safeway and shot some other camera phone pictures to document American and San Francisco culture around the neighborhood. Here are some of the highlights. They're great photographers.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Project VIEW expands international finance operations

Nothing so grand actually. But one of my initial Kiva loans has been repaid. Senora Llanas from Mexico has repaid her loan to buy more videogames for last year's Christmas rush. So now I've invested the grand sum of 25 bucks into a new business. This time, I'm funding the purchase of two cows.

Microfinance is a very interesting topic, but it makes it even cooler to directly participate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Newsletter 4

Website launch

It's been a little while, but I have great news! My project at Stanford is going amazingly well, and I'm proud to announce the launch of my website,

| Digital storytelling videos

The last few months have been a flurry of activity, in addition to building the site. I have been working with Bay Area Video Coalition, the oldest media arts center in the bay area. Four interns (props to Nick, Seanne, Anton, & Rowvin) from the YouthLink program have been working on Project VIEW, and in particular, have used camera phones to create interesting videos about their neighborhoods. And the twist is there are no voiceovers; they are just using local sounds or music. This was done deliberately, to make them more accessible to a global audience who may not speak the same langugage.

Please post your own videos! There's a link to the instructions and place to post them.

| Mobile Storytelling Film Festival
Project VIEW is also hosting a Mobile Film Festival at the end of the summer. Details will be coming soon, but get started with your ideas! The basic idea is use a camera phone to use create a 2 minute movie (or less), nonfiction, with a personal perspective.

| Partnership with Keio University in Tokyo

My other big news is a partnership with Keio University, the oldest private university in Tokyo. In conjunction with the Foreign Language Labs, we have launched a series of online videoconferences starting with an introduction to some of the Digital Vision Program fellows.

Thanks very much for your interest! As always, if you have any interesting ideas for collaborations or questions, please email. Also if you'd like to unsubscribe or change email addresses, let me know.

Warm Regards,

| Links
Project VIEW Website:

Project VIEW Blog:


Project VIEW Place Videos:

Keio University:

Monday, June 04, 2007

At the Wharf (no voiceover movie) by Seanne

Pilot neighborhood video about Fisherman's Wharf, by Project View intern Seanne. Filmed on a Pure Digital Videocamera

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When Worlds Collide

I am very pleased to link to a very nice write-up by Ikona from the N-Gage Arena online gaming community. We had a nice lunch the other week, chatted about the latest in mobile gaming as well as digital storytelling. After a bit of brainstorming, we thought it would be great to tell the community what I'd been up to.

It got me thinking about how social change and corporations come together, something I've been following avidly during this project, and I realized how much I'd already learned from the N-Gage Arena members about themselves and their communities. It's also really cool to see how much connecting to other people globally has meant to N-Gage Arena members and how that fit very well with the late Sega Chairman Isao Okawa's desire for 'world peace through online gaming.'

Monday, May 07, 2007

Tootin' my own horn

I'm speaking at Stanford Humanities Lab on Wednesday afternoon. If you're interested, let me know. The blurb is here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Something like a phenomena

I won't post the actual number, but I have been fascinated by what's been happening in the last day on Digg. Someone found one of the decryption keys for the new High Definition DVD format (HD-DVD), allowing users to copy HD-DVD content (ie movies) without any copy protection, in some limited series of circumstances.

Anyway, the bottom line is there is a relatively short number that "the man" is trying to supress, whether "the man" is the RIAA or the lawsuit-wary staff at digg. So some of the stories from users trying to spread the key were taken down. My view is the posting motivations have a wide range; either as mischief, civil disobedience, making a statement against DRM, or simply because it was topical.

As you can see from the screenshot, not only is this generating a huge controversy, it's generating a huge amount of traffic. Typically, digg stories on the front page have anywhere from 50-200 diggs with occasional stories getting a thousand or so.

Something around this issue has touched a nerve. I'm interested to see what happens next.

But the result is a huge amount of traffic and activity.

EDIT: Digg has decided not to actively takedown these posts, which seems to have calmed down the users a bit. More coverage and overview from the official digg blog and from BoingBoing

Monday, April 30, 2007

La Mission (by Nick)

Part of the Place Project (describe a place you love) This movie (shot on a Nokia N90) covers the mission district, and is filmed only with local sounds and music. Without a voiceover, it is much easier to share across cultural and linguistic boundaries. This was shot & edited by Nick, one of Project VIEW's video interns at Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Doing Good by Doing Well (and being Green!)

One of the persistent memes (or perhaps I should say tropes to be be more in the storytelling idiom) in social entrepreneurship is the phrase "Doing well by doing good."

Needless to say, this is one of the things I have been avidly following, looking for examples where companies are socially responsible without sacrificing their bottom line. These take a variety of forms, but I wanted to call attention to a few I have encountered recently.

Firstly, I met some of the executive team from Discovery Mining (document processing for law firms) at a recent Stanford event. We were chatting about my program, and I started brainstorming with them about how companies can add a social benefit that will strengthen their core products by applying a bit of creativity. (for example, Discovery Mining could use their product for something similar to Benetech's Human Rights Data Analysis Group)

Anyway, I was very interested to hear that they were buying carbon credits to offset travel for all of their sales force. In addition to 'doing the right thing', I'm sure this more than pays for itself; the sales team can feel good about themselves and the company adds value to their brand by being progressive and modern.

At the same time, I noticed two other interesting things:

The San Francisco Chronicle website added a Being Green section which includes how to calculate your carbon footprint, links to ecotourism, and other related articles.


Microsoft's MSN Messenger launched an initiative similar to Working Assets, but for instant messaging. "Every time you start a conversation using i’m, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective organizations dedicated to social causes."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Off topic: Best kept secrets

Some Friday fun. Here are two of the best-kept secrets that everyone should know about.

1. San Francisco parking meter prepaid cards. Save those quarters for laundry! That's right, every parking meter with one of those diagonal slots will take this thing and your prepaid money.

2. Move over, Google Earth! NASA's got something meatier! I was searching around for open source maps, and I found NASA's own 3d global satellite data flyaround thing called World Wind. But in addition to earth, it also has Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

This is a picture of one of the moon landing sites.

Friday, April 13, 2007

e-Nostalgic for BackInTheDay-dot-com

I was just browsing TechCrunch (Yeah, I know.. that's my first mistake) and complaining to a fellow Fellow about web 2.0 names. I am actually a little nostalgic for when you could just add e, i or dot-com to a regular word. etoys?

There were a few predecssors of the current gibberish trend like kozmo (bike messengers, videos, and ice cream? sign me up!), but for some reason, diigo and fleck, complete with meaningless 'simple design' logos were particularly egregious.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Videoblogging Week 2007, Day 7: Sushi

A little glimpse into one of my favorite local sushi restaurants.

Starring: Spinach with peanut sauce, hamachi negi-tori, snow white roll, char, aji, and Japanese snapper.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Videoblogging Week 2007, Day 5: Brief Glimpses

A sneak peek behind the scenes of a project I'm working on, helping the Stanford Alternative Spring Break class document their experiences visiting social entrepreneurs in the bay area.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Videoblogging Week 2007: Day 4 - Third try at Second Life

Daniel Huebner, Second Life's head community honcho, spoke at Stanford today. One of the things I find challenging about SL is nothing has hooked me yet. There's still a sort of gap until you play for a certain amount of time, after which you're supposedly hooked. This video shows two of the things I checked out today in SL - outer space and drinking.

Irish Bar
International Spaceflight Museum

Videoblogging Week 2007, Day 3: Sunny Day; Sunset's Great

I went on a little walk through the Sunset this weekend, and it was actually sunny out! So I put this together, set to a nice creative commons licensed song from ccMixter.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

DV Vlog 6: Mayor Newsom re-opens the sunset library

Day 1 of videoblogging week 2007, and here's my first video. My local library branch finally re-opened, so I got a bit of San Francisco's mayor giving a little speech and cutting the ribbon.

Edit: There's a picture of me making this video in the coverage on NewTeeVee. I'm top right.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Open Gardens covers Project VIEW

In the interest of blog reciprocity (do we need a new portmanteau like blogiprocity?), I wanted to thank Ajit Jaokar, author of Mobile Web 2.0 and main writer at the Open Gardens blog for writing a nice article about the Digital Vision program and Project VIEW.

Ajit spoke to the fellows about Mobile Social Software earlier this year, it was a very interesting topic and quite useful in development of my own social service.

(update: also covered in an MS Mobile Development blog here)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dr. Lehrer I presume

Just a quick note to publically thank and embarass my friend Dr. Lehrer for helping consult with me on a curriculum plan. As of now, I have an excellently detailed plan for implementing a digital storytelling workshop in an afterschool program. Mix in the existing pilots, add a dash of new students and a pinch of digital cameras, and BAM! We're cooking.

The basics were already there, but it was exciting to see them come together more formally.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Newsletter 3

Greetings loyal reader! Sorry it's been a while, but I have several exciting updates.

January was a big travel month for me. My first destination was Colombo, Sri Lanka, where I did some field work. My friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) is working there, so I visited Colombo and met some of the local folks she works with. It was an amazing place to be; there is tremendous hardship but also tremendous potential. One of the Digital Vision fellows from last year did a project in Sri Lanka, so I also met his local contact. He is working to set up business process outsourcing companies in rural areas that already have computer literacy and English education available.

After Sri Lanka, I went to Switzerland for the Schwab Summit for Social Entrepreneurs. I was very honored to be invited, and it was extremely inspiring to be chatting with the same people who were my initial inspiration for this type of project, such as Nick Moon and David Green.

My favorite panel at the Schwab Summit was called "The Business Case for Working with Social Entrepreneurs." The panel was made up of executives from Microsoft,, BCG, Deutsche Bank, Swiss RE, and Ernst & Young. All of the companies were working with social entrepreneurs in some capacity. For example, Microsoft has a group that works with social entrepreneurs, which increases their employee retention as well as exposing them to new business ventures. Akhtar Badshah, a Senior Director at Microsoft said that their long-term view was toward changing how society views poverty and development.

The Project VIEW team is also growing. In addition, to me, myself, and I, there are now four Bay Area Video Coalition interns on the team as well as a professional product manager, who volunteered from a Stanford class.

Finally, my big news is my first academic publication. I am presenting at the Digital Stream Conference in Monterey, and my paper will be included in the conference proceedings. Voila! A publication!

The next big step in the project is the website. I have registered a domain and the web interns and I are working on a full website to showcase everything. Stay tuned, I'll announce the launch in the next newsletter.

Until then, please email me if you have any ideas or feedback.

John Kuner
Digital Vision Fellow
jkuner AT stanford DOT edu

Bay Area Video Coalition:
Digital Stream Conference:
KickStart (Nick Moon):
Aravind (David Green):

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Liveblogging Guy Kawasaki at Stanford

Guy Kawasaki came to speak at Stanford today for Entrepreneur Week, talking about failure. He was a very funny and also down to to earth.

- The only way to guarantee failure is not to try.

- Failure is forgiven, it may even be a badge of courage.

He also told a funny story about coming into business and how one of the benefits of youth is that you don't know what you don't know. When he came to apple from the diamond business, he thought

"One day I was schlepping diamonds, the next day I was schlepping computers.. how hard can it be to sell people on using a platform with zero install base?"

He talked about the steps listed in 'The Art of the Start', then gave a few tips from the VC viewpoint.

- When they listen to financial projections, they divide by 100 and add a year. "We know you're lying, we just want to figure out by how much. It shouldn't be the Mariana Trench"

- Most projections seem to be $25 million for some reason, even if they're for shrimp processing software.

- One other thing to look for in companies is did they start out with 'Wouldn't it be cool..' rather than 'Is there a market for ..."

Ryan Says.. also covers this event (and has a better picture). :)

EDIT: Fixed Marianas to Mariana, added a new picture, added link to other coverage.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Announcement: Rodrigo Baggio to speak at Stanford


Rodrigo Baggio (founder of CDI, Brazil) will be speaking at Stanford in Cordura Hall, Room 100 on Monday, Feb 26 at 3pm.

He founded the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI) and opened CDI’s first technology school, called an IT & Citizens’ Rights School in Dona Marta, one of Rio’s oldest slums.

The innovative model garnered support from all spheres of society and rapidly spread throughout Brazil and then internationally. Today, CDI is an extensive network of 900 schools in eight countries – Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay and South Africa. More than a half million people have already benefitted from CDI programs.

More info is available at

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mobile Persasion Conference - Cross Cultural Storytelling

Mobile Persasion Conference

I attended the Mobile Persuasion Conference at Stanford yesterday -- it was a great event, all day at Stanford, covering lots of facets of how mobility is used in persuasive computing.

There were some great sessions from Nokia, Intel, Stanford, and others. Ian Bogost of Water Cooler Games had an amusing joke -- "If HCI people designed games, they would only have one button that you press to win."

Today, I'm at the Bar Camp, where I hosted the Video for Cross-cultural communication section. It was small, but very interesting. We had a bit of a rambling discussion, including a stop into storytelling in a corporate context, thinking about what videoconferencing means in differenct contexts, and my favorite puzzler: What would it look like to mix Alternate Reality Games and Flash mobs in a corporate context.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day Two from the Schwab Summit

The second day at the summit was also a great experience. I've met up with and been inspired by so many amazing people.

It's amazing to think a year ago I was watching a documentary about entrepreneurs like Nick Moon, Martin Fisher, and David Green, and now I'm chatting with them over coffee. I don't mean this in a namedropping sense, but more as a 'spread the love' message -- as Martin Yan (who was not here, but I love his cooking show - cut-em-up-cut-em-up-cut-em-up) says, "If Yan can cook, so can you!".

This theme, which Bill Drayton (founder of Ashoka) describes as 'everyone a changemaker', has been quite prevalent over the entire conference. Today, the panels were about how social entrepreneurs can interact with governments and with industry.

The overall theme of the government panel was that the social entrepreneurs happen to make great government workers as well by not changing their methodology or passions, and that with the right partnerships and innovative thinking, a lot can actually be done within the system.

The corporate panel (with representatives from DeutcheBank, Swiss Re, Boston Consulting Group, Ernst & Young, salesforce,com, and Microsoft) talked mostly about employee involvement programs, and how mobilizing employees toward social change helped retention. has a bit more involvement, with a commitment to donate 1% of profits, 1% of product, and 1% of employee time to social causes. Overall, I was happy that it has moved a bit beyond Corporate Social Responsibility, but I don't quite see momentum in incorporating social goals into mainstream business yet.

I think the framework is there, and now that we are looking at business models within the DV fellowship, I can challenge myself to quantify social and financial returns in my model, whether that means teaching youth to create and then sell video IP or a consulting service, or some new model that will come to me in the car some morning.

Anyway, Guten Nacht from Zurich for now, and more blogging about the rest of my trip and some photos will be following soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Day 1 at the Schwab Summit

Well, Day 1 is winding up at the Schwab Summit for social entrepreneurs, and it has been an amazing day.

It's being hosted at the Center for Global Dialogue by Swiss Re, a big swiss insurance company. Their CEO spoke this morning how their company actually started as a social venture 150 years ago, trying to protect against catastrophe. As a big insurance company, they were interested in participating with social entrepreneurs due to huge synergy in emerging markets and climate change. This very much echoed an earlier sentiment from SAP Labs, who hosted the DV fellows for several workshops, and their management also expressed a lot of ties between big business and social changemakers.

Another interesting trend is that microfinance is starting to expand into microinsurance, so its great to see services for the poor expanding.

Next was a panel entitled "Social Entrepreneurship: Interesting Trend or Paradigm Shift". It was pretty clear how that would fall out in this forum, but Matthew Bishop from the Economist made an interesting contrarian point about the successes of BRAC and Grameen Bank despite the huge problems with the government in Bangladesh, and how some of those problems were mirrored in difficulties in transparency with Grameen in the past. Hopefully the recent successes and attention to microfinance groups can trickle upward into societal change.

Bill Drayton spoke last on the panel, and was very inspiring as usual. He spoke about long term perspective, and how the real key to success was to empower and support local changemakers... working toward a world in which everyone is a change maker. Youth was also a key, which was very exciting for me since thats my target.

I'm starting to see some interesting connections that can be created using mobile storytelling, and most of the people I described my idea to were very excited about the possibility, which I'm describing as the use of technology like camera phones with storytelling to bridge cultural and geographic boundaries.

Now its off to dinner... Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007