TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and it is a pretty fascinating social innovation experiment aimed at sharing big ideas by thought leaders in those fields—and posting those talks online for all of us to glean something from.This is an interesting one by Melinda Gates. She explains the concept of aspirational marketing–using the ubiquity of Coke as a model.Aspirational marketing—finding ways to make ideas core to social progress, well, “cool”– is an interesting concept. And it seems like tools such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook can be apt instruments for spreading the aspirational marketing gospel by allowing a leveled playing field for getting front-and-center to the masses, leaders, and you and me.

you can watch Melinda Gates @ TED 2010 in her talk “What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola” below…


Intrigued? I definitely was when I read a recent blog post from the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “Monk, Architect, Diplomat” by Mark Albion.Don’t hold your breath for a punchlineAnd it turns out the post didn’t just have a witty title to pull readers in, well, unwittingly (on that note I will admit that I do give a hearty mental ‘bravo’ to witting, insightful, or just plain well-put titles). The article was a well-reasoned piece on how social entrepreneurs can successful scale-up as their organizations grow. Rather than lack of finances, Albion argues that the underlying reason social entrepreneurs have difficulty scaling to a larger version of themselves is due to challenges in leadership.Albion focuses his leadership advice into three simple statements:

1. Be a monk, not a father.

2. Be an architect, not a captain.

3. Be a diplomat, not a dictator.

Through these metaphors he describes the successful expanding social entrepreneur as one who is socially engaged in her work, and mindful of her impact on others. For the greater goal of the mission and vision, she is willing and capable of distributing leadership and building a strong team. And she’ll spot the forest from the trees by not hesitating to be collaborative and compassionate.

It’s a great read. And inspiring. Sometimes being in a hierarchical framework such as a corporation, non-profit, or social enterprise it may seem like you are on a ladder with the options being continuing up, falling back, or holding still. This article and metaphors of leadership, allow us to be makers of a delicate yet resilient web of work—far reaching, three dimensional, and progressing in more than one direction. I like it, and I like the possibility and scope of thinking of meaningful leadership in this way.

If I had to add a #4 to Albion’s list, it would be:

4. Be a sherpa, not a ranger.

While I have not been in a position to scale-up a social enterprise as Albion describes, I have been part of the active leadership of social organizations that have changed hands. And I have seen first-hand the importance of sherpa-ness. While sherpas (Wikipedia) supply the necessary support and guidance on a demanding trek, it is not their hike. They serve as support for those who have chosen to undertake a challenging journey.

In the same way, “alumni” or subsequent generations of an organization or cause don’t necessarily need to hide under a rock so as not to influence the path of successive leadership. But I think they can benefit from seeing themselves and their accumulated expertise as support. Perhaps the support that would have helped them when they were actively leading or the support to help traverse a particularly tricky pass. Most of all they should form the support that is asked for by the noveau leaders.

While rangers no doubt save lives, prevent forest fires, and maintain pristine surroundings—in a social entrepreneurship venture ‘naysaying’ by organization alums may create confusion and uncertainty that can handicap a growing organization.

Read on:


I find myself thinking about how social media would have impacted the journey of historical figures in the past. Would Gandhiji have been able to explore nuances of ahimsa and satyagraha through reading comments to his latest posts by other thought leaders of the time…would blogging about his fasts and marches have hindered or helped their impact?

globe gazeIn a world in which people are busy with their daily routines, whether it is tending the farm or keeping up with the Kardashians, would Mother Theresa’s tweets about the mundane and profound aspects of her day have shown her twitter followers that she is human like them and also underscored her choice to dedicate herself to a path so unlike many around her?What if Shakespeare practiced his compositions on youtube. Would he have been discovered as the Justin Bieber of his time? Or would his advanced use of iambic pentameter have seemed less striking amongst throes of other youtubing poets.It’s hard to say really. And then it’s not at all. Because as we connect through this post, there is a “Gandhi” starting a new one, a “Mother Theresa” tweeting from a smartphone, and a “Shakespeare” uploading some new rhymes. In fact somewhere in the web of social media is our future President and a future Olympic gold medal winner. It is a major way our world now communicates.

This blog is about exploring and learning. It is a chance to examine topics—even if through the breezy tones of a blog format.

So, 5 goals for this blog? Here they are:

1. Write.  I have enjoyed writing for a long time, and this is a chance to do so in a free-form style and with assignments that are self-imposed. A chance to be creative, to be informative, funny where merited, and to write with an audience in mind.

2. Explore. If you’ve ever blogged, you may relate to the sometimes-challenging task of identifying content. Having a blog will be a good way to encourage exploration of new content by reading interesting posts by other bloggers and scouring related news.

3. Connect. If you believe the adage that “no person is an island” then connecting with others becomes key. Those interactions with others may be invaluable catalysts for our own understanding and growth.

4. Innovate. Before I blogged I may not have associated innovation with the act of blogging. But truth is, it’s all about innovation. How you decide to structure a post, what you choose to include and leave out, and so many other unique aspects go into blogging. This is a great chance to be innovative, in content and style.

5. Challenge. This is a chance to challenge my own perception of what I know and think I know about the fields of social entrepreneurship, photography, and writing.

Thanks for taking the time to read & I hope that this blog may be of use to others exploring any/all of these interests.

*Note: This post has been republished. The original version can be found here.