Imperfections and Failures. Processes and Lessons Learned.

In Justin’s class, we talk a lot about transparency. He often says, “put everything you’re doing right now online”. It has not been the easiest concept to wrap our heads around. I feel as though we’ve been taught all our lives to only show our very best, only to re-learn now that it’s okay to show progress, imperfections, and even failures – publicly. 

Some non-profit organizations have adopted that openness model, and it has been working very well for them. Tactical Philanthropy published an article earlier this month titled “Nonprofit Shares Failure & Looks Great”, featuring charity:water’s failed Live Drill and how their transparency about their challenges made them even more compelling. Engineers Without Borders Canada has also been publishing on their website “Failure Reports” to document their lessons learned through all their development projects. 

After presenting our contextual inquiries in Lauren’s class, we all had plenty of lessons learned. As the inaugural class at AC4D, we should be staring a culture of documenting our thoughts processes, decisions made, successes & failures, and reflections (like Alex’s post about feeling strangely energized after 3 hrs of sleep). Only then we can see our growth and later be able to make sense of the way we have become. 

To begin, I have shared the notes I took from class while everyone was sharing feedback from their research thus far. It’s currently published as a Google Document here

[Note to AC4D class: I’ve also given access to everyone so please feel free to add to the document if anything else comes to mind. I hope to see it grow as a collective document. As our list of lessons learned get longer , then perhaps we can think of a more sophisticated way to capture them more comprehensively and visually.]

Process Manifesto #1: How to consume, digest, generate and share content using social media

This is my first attempt of a process manifesto. It’s a diagram of how I consume, digest, generate and share content online using different social media channels and tools. This is by no means perfect, but it has worked for me more or less. I’ve tried my best to break it down and include what I think are the most important. Fellow classmates, please:

  1. adopt it, modify it, add to it and make it whatever would work for you
  2. let me know if any of you can help me make this look better (whether a better sketch/diagram, or in Illustrator)
  3. make me explain anything that doesn’t make sense and help all of us refine the process

Here’s a bullet version explaining the diagram: 

  • I primarily use 4 tools/channels: Google Reader, Twitter, Posterous, and Delicious to manage my “social media” life.
Consuming content: 
  • I consume information from 2 places: Google Reader and Twitter. If I like a link I found from Twitter, I add the blog RSS feed to my Google Reader. If I see a blog post that I like, I follow that blogger on Twitter. I usually spend no more than 5-10 minutes scrolling through feeds each time. But I do go back and check often (every ~4-6 hours has been average for me).
Digesting (and sharing) content:
  • When I see an interesting article, it generally falls into 3 categories: “too long to read now”, “worth sharing”, and “want to blog about later”. Each follows a different work flow. 
  • If it’s too long to read, I bookmark it to delicious using my chrome extension and tag it with “read later”.
  • If it’s worth sharing, I do shift+s to share if I’m reading in Google Reader, and RT if I’m on Twitter/Tweetdeck (also see Lessons Learned below).
  • If it’s something I want to blog about later, I bookmark it to delicious using my chrome extension and tag it with “future post”.
Generating (and sharing) new content:

  • With retweeting and sharing, you are only redistributing the content to a different group of people. Whenever possible, you should generate new content to put in the ecosystem.
  • My content generally comes from 3 places: 1) discussions from AC4D classes, 2) daily observations, and 3) opinions and thoughts after reading other articles (where the “future post” tag comes in handy).
  • I use posterous to share my content because: 1) I can post to it using gmail, 2) it lets me cross-post to other channels such as the AC4D blog, twitter, flickr, etc with just one click, and 3) It also auto converts all links, documents, photos, videos, etc into the appropriate formatting. 

As far as lessons learned go, here are my top 3: 

Lesson Learned #1:
I’ve learned that it’s better to post something real-time (whether it’s photos from a conference, a half-finished thought, half of a discussion, a link you intend on expanding later..etc), then add the rest of your thoughts when you have time as a second post. If you wait, it might be another day or two before you get to it. By that time, the content will feel old and you probably won’t end up posting it after all (which happened to me many, many times).

Lesson Learned #2: 
Use browser plug-ins, keyboard shortcuts, and autopost services. They will make your life so much easier. If you have to choose one browser plug-in, install delicious. Learn to close tab (ctrl+w for chrome) and share articles (shift+s for google reader) quickly. Make your Google Reader shared items autopost to Twitter (, because it’s much faster. Make your URLs on Twitter auto-bookmark to delicious ( because it’s close to impossible to find the links again after a few hours.

Lesson Learned #3:
Create tags such as “read later” and “future posts”. I have them in gmail and delicious. It helps to prevent information overload and makes it easy(or easier) to revisit something later. Clean up and reorganize the tags often – I’d suggest weekly (which I am very behind). Your repository will grow over time and it’ll make a really good resource library for your blog.

How will social enterprise unlock the $120 billion market opportunity for impact investment?

The Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP) is “a gathering of investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators at the intersection of money and meaning.”

I was first exposed to the idea of social finance by Acumen Fund, and got increasingly interested when I learned about the social stock exchanges that are being developed in Toronto, London and Singapore.

With $1195 being the fee to the conference, I simply cannot afford to go at this point. So when SOCAP posted a challenge asking for blog submission on the topic “How will social enterprise unlock the $120 billion market opportunity for individual impact investments?” for winning a ticket to the conference, I decided to write something. 

I am not expecting to win with this entry as I am still new to the space. But I remember Jon said to have an opinion on everything (even if you later realize it’s wrong) and Justin said to “think make” (turn an idea sitting in my head into something people can see). And hey, I might even get a couple comments for feedback. So here was my attempt, which I submitted last night: “Making it part of daily banking“. My favorite post is ““Build Human Capital for Social Investing” by Daniel Kreps, which is also ranking #1 on the list so far. For the Money for Good report released by Hope Consulting on the $120 billion market potential for impact investments, here’s a good summary

[Sidenote: Jon Kolko will also be speaking at SOCAP 10!]

Why Twitter is my trusted source

“Facebook is for friends that are now strangers. Twitter is for strangers that should be you friends.” I heard the original tweet was from @damnitstrue, but I could be wrong, especially after it has been retweeted over and over again.

Twitter has been my trusted source since 2008. Through twitter, I discovered people that inspire me (Sacha ChuaRebecca ThormanTaylor Davidson, and many others), conferences/events I wouldn’t have known about otherwise (re:VisionAcumen Fund Toronto chapter launch, etc), and sites that continue to help me learn about the social enterprise space ( design changedowser.orgunreasonable institute, etc). All of which eventually led me to make the decision to attend AC4D – and yup, which I also found out through twitter.

The first Twestival in Feb 2009, an event organized entirely via Twitter, helped raise over $250,000. Beth Kanter’s entire blog is devoted in helping non-profits leverage social media.

When the entire Skoll World Forum crowd was stranded in London because of the Icelandic volcano, Nathaniel Whittemore organized TEDxVolcano in 36 hours by emailing and tweeting. They even had it livestreamed, which 600 more people logged on and watched.

My favourite example of twitter doing good is when it was used together with Uchaguzi at the Kenya’s election to help aggregate reported problems and document incidents by location and type.

I was convinced long ago that twitter is more than finding out where your friend had for lunch. Try jumping into one of the #SocEnt chats next time and you might see twitter in a different light.

Why this feels right

You know you are on the right track when you are surrounded by a group of people who are all saying the same thing:

I am super excited. I got bored. I didn’t want to get too comfortable. I want to grow. I want to create. I want a better world. I want to spend my time on things that matter. I believe we can do good and make money at the same time. I believe design shapes culture, which shapes everything else. I love that I am a part of the inaugural class. I love the diversity in the class but our paths are crossing. I just got to Austin. Can we get to work yet? I had doubts, but I’m over them. And, did I already mention I’m super excited?

Well, looks like there is only one way left to go – Forward. Even if it really has to take 10,000 hours of hard work.