Social change film festivalOn a rainy Saturday afternoon in early November 2011, an eclectic group of individuals and institutions committed to supporting and exploring social entrepreneur filmmaking and global water issues gathered on a sprawling estate tucked away in the hills of Los Altos.I didn’t know what to expect from the Global Water Crisis Symposium but was intrigued by its call to social innovation action. As I learned through the course of the engaging afternoon and evening, the symposium was a precursor to and fundraiser for the Social Change Film Festival & Institute, planned to take place in April 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.11 Key Takeaways from the Global Water Crisis Symposium

Global water symposium1. Think beyond your idea of a social innovator. The conference helped show a new face of social innovation. That of social-minded artists looking to find new avenues, audiences, and forms for their art and observations of world issues. Global Symposium panelist Charles Hambleton of the Academy-award winning documentary “The Cove”, was representative of the deep impact that social filmmakers can make as social innovators.

2. Social entrepreneurs know that risk means opportunity. If a product-based business is risky, there is equal (if not greater) risk in committing time and resources into creating an issue-based film. But as I am quickly noticing, social entrepreneurs see every risk as an opportunity for learning and growth—whether the venture is embraced in success or sinks to the ocean floor, risk is the truest catalyst for humble, deliberate learning. Stories of filmmakers and social innovators—such as Michael Nash (creator/director of “Climate Refugees” and “Fuel)– on panels at the Symposium carried this theme to new heights, and depths.

3. When in doubt, there is probably a consultant who can help. A number of speakers and panelists at the Global Water symposium mentioned their roles as consultants. Consulting firms such as Cause & Affect have worked with clients to reframe issues and find unique ways of achieving success. Sometimes when we hit a wall with our social innovation ideas, we may feel like we can’t afford to invest in outside consulting; and I am noticing that if we are truly serious about our work, these situations might be exactly the time to seek outside assistance. Answers only matter when they respond to questions we actually have.

4. There are groups dedicated to helping social filmmakers. While I have heard of accelerator & incubator programs for social innovators and fellowships for social entrepreneurs, at the Global Water Symposium I learned about groups like the Fledging Fund that are dedicated to assisting budding social filmmakers make their films, and their mark.

5. Social entrepreneurs are only beginning to tap the potential of online video. It is an unprecedented time for film. Overhead costs can be kept low while distribution can be maximized using free online platforms like YouTube. Instead of reaching limited audiences, films can reach millions. And hearing about the revolutionary work of Social Change Films, the organizer of the Global Water Symposium, exemplified the efforts to continue to explore the potential and reach of film through online video.

Global water symposium panel6. Social film is effective when it tells a compelling story. The importance of story-telling was emphasized at the Social Media for Nonprofits SF conference and was reiterated here. One of the creators of the television series “Heroes”, Tim Kring was on-hand at the Global Water Symposium was to relay how effective storytelling was a central premise for his multimedia endeavor “Conspiracy for Good” involving gamification, film, and a compelling good v. evil narrative.

7. Global water issues tend to disproportionately affect women and girls. The film “Carbon for Water” was screened at the Symposium. The film relayed how lack of clean water impacts livelihoods in rural Kenya, and through its interviews and images it showed how women and girls are particularly affected by the clean water crisis. Since fetching water falls under the traditional duties of women, the burden of travelling long distances to find resources to locate and distill water often falls on women and girls.

8. The externalities of not having clean water include deforestation, lack of education and health issues. In Kenya, as “Carbon for Water” portrayed, many Kenyan women walk far distances to forests, collect wood, and then use the wood to burn fires to boil the water. The process accelerates the rate of deforestation, leaves women potentially vulnerable in secluded wooded areas, and precludes many girls from attending school, simply because fetching wood often takes the much of the day.

9. Seek creative ways to tell a story. Compelling stories can be told in words, images, sounds, film, architecture. They can be told chronologically or through flashbacks, using third person narrative voice or through interviews. Though storytelling is a key tip to relaying a social need and social innovation, the way a story is told may be as telling as the story itself.

10. Scalability is a huge factor in determining economic viability of a water crisis solution. A panelist from BluePlanetNetwork spoke about the need for thinking of ways to bring ideas to scale in light of the organization’s goal of enabling safe drinking water for 200,000,000 people in the next 20 years. While local efforts may alleviate localized water problems—making a broader impact requires scaling solutions to meet diverse communities and to serve multiple needs.

11. Youth can do anything. While we attended the Symposium, a parallel youth track with few high school students took interviews throughout the day and then worked with established filmmakers to edit the footage to create a brief documentary. It was an impressive effort, and a reminder that youth—with their ability to embrace new technology and their genuine curiosity—  are often the ultimate change agents.

“I’m a big believer of the 10,000 hour rule” was what a fellow attendee shared with me at the Global Water Crisis Symposium which was raising awareness and funding for the Global Social Change Film Festival, set for April 2012 in New Orleans.A smile, and a nodNow, to be totally honest, I hadn’t heard of the rule so smiled and nodded at the time. We had been talking about social change film—and she shared that she had recently optioned a script with underlying social themes. Being a writing enthusiast, I was impressed and curious—how do you go from a career of consulting, running a successful business, and serving the nonprofit community to learning how to write successful screenplays! She cited the 10,000 hour rule, classes, and lots of writing as her path of choice.

There are no coincidences

And while I made a mental note to Wikipedia this “10,000” reference later, by (likely no) coincidence I heard the ‘10,000 hour rule’ referenced again the very next morning in a podcast.

Malcolm Gladwell explains 10,000 hour rule

It turns out that Malcolm Gladwell, of Tipping Point and Blink fame, coined the 10,000 Hour Rule in his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success. After studying successful, driven, and lucky individuals who have risen to the top of their fields, he noticed a similarity in the number of hours of “deliberate practice” it took for them to achieve greatness. That would be 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years.

Listen to Mr. Gladwell describe the concept and his findings to Charlie Rose here:

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Does the 10,000 hour rule apply to social innovation?

Aligned with my exploration of social innovation–harnessing entrepreneurship for social good, I wondered how the concept applies to emerging fields. Gladwell’s explanation makes sense when considering violinists or basketball players because the fields feature well-established technique and renowned experts.

But does the 10,000 hour rule apply to social innovation? Absolutely. Gladwell describes outliers—those who lived outside of the norm or mainstream–and, by virtue of luck and work, managed to rise to unprecedented ranks in their fields. Essentially, they caught a ride on an emerging field, and dedicated time and effort into understanding it.

Social innovation is ripe for research, understanding, and exploration precisely because it is an emerging and evolving field. Let’s make our mistakes now, formulate best practices, and then be willing to reinvent ourselves at a moment’s notice.

Our dedication to understanding the field and our flexibility and maneuverability could mean not only new opportunities for social change but a mainstream shift in the way business is done and the role of sustainable enterprise on a global scale.

One hour at a time

I feel a sense of excitement and even relief in learning that there is no quick escape or handy shortcut to pursuing the things we find important. Instead of trying to find an easy in, we can focus on choosing the fields we are wildly passionate and intellectually challenged by, and dedicate a perfect 10K to the task, one hour at a time.

bird on the wireWhatever stage of your social innovation journey you are on, there is another kind of social you cannot ignore.Social media—it has become a kind of currency for determining success, reach, and engagement. And just as you invest time into building your idea and social venture, you may be advised to develop and diversify your social media portfolio.

Tipping Icebergs
A website, blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Linkedin presence are just the tip of the iceberg in determining how to make a digital footprint that your future fans can find and follow. There are numerous ways to creatively engage audiences online and an equal number of ways to analytically gauge your social media reach and effectiveness.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Managing, creating, and curating content could easily consume most of your time—forget that you have a cause to address and business to develop. Instead of trying to master all of the big and small aspects of social media for social innovation, focus on a few ways to start.
What you may find, as I have found, is that much of the depth of understanding comes gradually and organically. It is by using multiple social media platforms that you may find yourself asking…”I wonder if there’s an app that can help with this” or “has anyone else faced this situation?”—questions that will not just lead you to a temporary fix but to longer-term solutions.
Frustration Moments are Learning Opportunities
Inserting new html might break a page. You may find your comment sections being power-spammed, or you might find yourself in a Twitter rut.
There’s a level of engagement and use that is required to reach a moment of frustration. And just as you did when you couldn’t get past a tricky level of Super Mario Bros., you’ll have to keep trying and assess your pain points before you can hope to rescue the princess.
10 Social Media Tools for Social Innovation
Here are a few tangible resources you can turn to—as a starting point, or a go-to resource when you hit a digital wall.
Feel free to add your own ‘best picks’ or explain how any of the listed resources helped your social venture in the comment section below.

1. Social Media Examiner Blog. I recently came across this site from a link to a post on ways non-profits can benefit from social media. The site delivers its tagline “Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle” through posts useful information and vivid images on tools and industry findings about ways to improve your social media reach.

2. Social Media for Nonprofits Seminar. If you learn best in a live setting, you may choose to kick off your social media knowledge (or develop it further) through the popular day-long seminar which brings together non-profit leaders with social media experts. I will be attending the event in SF area this week and look forward to reporting back on the experience.

3. Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals. The emcee of the Social Media for Nonprofits Seminar served as executive director of the Craigslist Foundation and edited this book on managing non-profit resources, including social media.

4. Meetup Groups. After a point of experimenting with new techniques, reading articles, blogs, and books—you may find yourself just wanting to be in a room with other people who are facing the same questions and issues with their social media. Meetup groups may be your answer. For example, I am looking into migrating from Blogger to WordPress, and just from a quick search on Meetup I not only found a number of WordPress groups but also learned about a great seminar on the ins and outs of that platform.

5. LinkedIn Groups. If you want the digital version of a Meetup group, join a few LinkedIn groups related to your social innovation interest or social media needs. Group members share articles, upcoming events, and new research—and with the active comment sections you may even find it to be a useful networking opportunity. My tip: start out with a few groups, otherwise you may feel inundated with useful information.

6. Social Media Job Descriptions. Here’s an odd one, that makes sense. How can you learn about what social media tools industries are using? A great start is to look at social media job descriptions for social ventures you appreciate or respect—they often list the tools, platforms, and analytics that they expect candidates to be familiar with. It’s a great way to ‘check your notes’ to see if you are using those tools (or are familiar with them) too.

7. Conferences and UnConferences. I love live events—the idea of listening to information, laughing at jokes, and talking to people before and after and ‘in the hallways’ fascinates me. And I have met some great, inspiring people at various events. My suggestion is to take every opportunity to take your social network live.

8. Book Talks. Another great way to get in the know is to check with your local bookstore about upcoming book talks. There are bound to be a few related to social media, marketing, or management. Being able to hear an author talk about his/her experience in writing a book and the questions that the book answers is not only informative and engaging, but you may find yourself in great company.

9. If you are looking to complete a specific social media task, you may want to tap a fiverr member. The site lists tasks that a person will complete for $5. While you probably won’t be able to get your entire website re-designed, you may be able to have someone do an SEO review of your site or send you a list of the most valuable keywords. If you are a budding operation, outsourcing a few tasks may make your time more effective.

10. Informal Intros. I have found social innovators to be a remarkably open and helpful group of folks. If you were ever wondering “how did they do that” with regards to a website, social media strategy, cause marketing, or audience engagement—you may want to just ask. By email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook comment—you may find that an informal intro to be a great way to connect and share useful information.

When you are in the midst of an emerging field, there is often no shortage of related terms and buzzwords. Social innovation is a prime example. Associated words and phrases include:Social innovation IQ

  • social entrepreneurship
  • social enterprise
  • impact investing
  • conscious capital
  • double bottom line
  • triple bottom line
  • social accounting
  • benefit corporations
  • flexible purpose corporations
  • low-profit limited liability companies (L3C’s)
  • hybrid corporations
  • blended value
  • social ventures
  • maximizing stakeholder value
  • doing well, by doing good
  • corporate social responsibility
  • and more….
Terminology, a Social Innovator Does Not Make
Through Innov8Social or various other blogs and resources, you may be (as I am) building your familiarity with key buzzwords in the field. But, as I begin to read books, listen to podcasts, and become more familiar with questions that those outside of social innovation have about the field—I realize that terms and buzzwords may not be enough to achieve the overarching goals of building new kinds of businesses that generate monetary profit while positively benefiting society & the environment.
We Need to Collectively Build Our Social Innovation IQ
What makes social innovation an intriguing prospect is also what makes it complex: it blurs the traditional distinctions between sectors such as financial, government, social, and environmental and seeks to connect them in new ways that align with mainstream business.
Judging by the burgeoning number of social innovation fellowships and accelerator programs available, it looks like more people and institutions are seeking connect with and expand the social innovation arena.
If we are putting out time into engaging and investing ourselves in this emerging field, it may be helpful to build our collective social innovation intelligence.
Components of Social Innovation IQ
Full disclosure, I am not an expert in this field. But as I learn and grow into it, I find myself developing more focused questions about what it will take to succeed as a social innovator and what it will take for the field of social innovation to succeed in impacting the way business is done. Here is my (evolving) understanding of components that can make up a social innovation IQ:
  • Financial intelligence
  • Social & environmental cause intelligence
  • Adversity intelligence
Much of it, I suspect, will begin with understanding the flow of money. Even though capital is one element of the triple bottom line, it is the one that is often most identifiable with mainstream business. Currency is like the electric current that powers machines. Though causes and action often eclipse capital in their reach and karmic importance—to understand that even the most compelling projects will require steady, consistent, and adequate funding is to understand the important role it plays.
Additionally, if we do not have a clear understanding about the history, root, and context of the social and environmental causes we aim to address—we may not be addressing issues in the most effective ways possible. Worse, we may not realize future problems that we are seeding with our best-intention ‘fixes’.
Finally, any start-up entrepreneur will tell you that there can be a fair dose of adversity required to launch and succeed. And, this likely only multiplies when your business is focused on maximizing a triple bottom line (people, planet, profits). We have to be able to identify re-frame our problems, dwell in resilience, and connect with the social innovation community for support and guidance.
What to Read
I am in the process of trying to build my social innovation IQ. I would love to connect with others interested in doing the same. Here are a few books I thought could get the ball rolling:
If this topic interests you, and you are also seeking ways to build a social innovation IQ, connect through the comments below, on the Innov8Social Facebook page, on Twitter, via email.