Monday round-up: ethics, business and Davos

Few things to round-up this morning:

– The British Library’s Business and IP Centre is hosting an event this evening entitled "Ethical Entrepreneurs", featuring John Bird (who featured in the Sunday papers commenting on Ruth Turner) and  one of the Innocent founders Richard Reed amongst others; will be webcast at a future date (pronounced Ziggy, and which is kind of mapping the social investment world online) points to a Business Week article called Beyond the Green Corporation, which has nothing really new ("Imagine a world in which eco-friendly and socially
responsible practices actually help a company’s bottom line. It’s
closer than you think"…er, yes) but good detail on the responses and actions of  the corporate and investment worlds

– Jim Fruchterman (of Benetech fame) is going to Davos….on behalf of social entrepreneurs everywhere

– Another blockbuster social entrepreneur, Victoria Hale of One World Health, is interviewed for 15 minutes on the Global Envision site; if you want to know more about pharmaceuticals, ethics and drug development, this is a good read (originally in Stanford Social Innovation Review)

– A new guide from has just been launched to provide practical guidance to
those wanting to take a Social Firm out of a council or NHS Trust; see the press release on Social Firms UK

– And, last but by no means least, it is Voice 07 on Wednesday in Manchester: we hope to be blogging from there on the day….

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Is i-genius the networking site social entrepreneurs have been waiting for?

There’s been plenty of talk in social entrepreneurship circles about use of new technology and, specifically, web 2.0 type social networking stuff. Why? Well, as is often repeated to be the case, social entrepreneurs (indeed, all entrepreneurs) thrive on networks of support, resources and opportunity. So, in the manner of a screenwriter pitching a bad film concept, the idea of a "MySpace for social entrepreneurs" has been bandied around a fair bit (OurSpace? ThinkedIn? etc.)

Now, in principle, I like this idea, and it makes sense to me. We use an online extranet with various networking features to connect our SSE Fellows with (to be honest) differing degrees of success…but it has value. So I was interested to get an e-mail from i-genius (to my old GlobalIdeasBank job address) asking me to link to it…which I guess I’ve just done.

I went to check it out, and registered to have a proper look around. Seems ok and fairly intuitive, and the kind of features you would expect. Also has an impressive list of partners at the bottom. But (isn’t there always a but)….do we need it? David Wilcox has written about this today, and I’m inclined to agree with some if not all of what he says, which is not hugely complimentary…:

"So far I can’t see how igenius does anything you can’t get from Linked in, or ecademy, or many of the other social networking sites"

"The igenius site has worthy logos along the bottom: Unesco, British Council, Ashoka, African Foundation for Development, Make Your Mark: Start Talking Ideas. No quotes from any of them, though in an email from Kim they are described as funders and partners.

I think about whether I want to be part of a network of people calling
themselves igeniuses. I don’t. I go to my profile page to de-register,
but can’t find how to. I have to write to the editor.

Perhaps I’m being cynical and unfair in my comments on igenius. If
so, I’m sorry … but the way it currently presents made me cross and
suspicious.  Igenius may be a totally worthy effort, launched in a
rush, with lots more features and clarification to come."

Whatver you think about the detail of the site (which is true: it’s light on detail of who’s funding it, who’s editing and maintaining it, their motivations etc….), the bit that stood out for me from this was that it’s not doing anything that LinkedIn or other social networking sites could do for a social entrepreneur. Indeed, social entrepreneurs work across all sectors, so would they want to be siloed on their own site? And there are no real resources of value as yet…or many entrepreneur members (most seem, like myself, to come from second-tier agencies….)….obviously, some of this could be to do with the early stages, but I can’t help feeling that it’s more than this.

I was speaking to someone about another site I was involved in with an online community of 8000+ members, and we talked about this web 2.0 technology and that one, but both agreed that it was NEVER the case of simply putting the technology up and letting it happen: the important parts were "socialising" the site, interacting, engaging, involving, being open and so on; things that it is is not always easy to get right. This may be as unfair (or not) as David’s write-up, and I may well be proved wrong as it develops in the coming months, but i-genius feels a little bit too much like it wants to be closed, elitist and exclusive….and that’s not the kind of network that appeals to many working in this  movement.


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Saving the world one species at a time

SlenderlorisI’m renowned at SSE as not being a great animal lover (due to being allergic to most of them), but an e-mail from a friend prompted me to look at a new website about species which are "evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered" (EDGE). It’s called Edge Of Existence, and is a project of the Zoological Society of London, aiming to conserve these species by implementing the necessary research and conservation actions.

In a stroke of fundraising genius, you can choose to support in a variety of ways…but most will surely choose to support specific actions to help a particular species. My donation went to the uber-cute Slender Loris.

It’s a fantastic site, albeit in the early stages, and an extraordinarily effective way of getting important research funded. Not only in the linking to specific animals, but also detailing exactly where this goes and why it is important. Obvious fundraising steps, but executed superbly, and with good and appropriate use of new technology to both invite questions and promote interaction and engagement.

[thanks to Fev for the link]

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(Eco) Marks and Spencers: first of many?

Obviously the big CSR news this week has been M&S’ announcement of a significant and, one has to say, pretty substantial plan to reduce their environmental impact. As Xpress Digest reported:

“UK retail giant Marks and Spencer has this week revealed details of a
massive new environmental policy that is set to feature in every area
of its business and ramp up pressure on high-street rivals to go green.
The wide-ranging £200m ‘eco plan’ covers issues such as ethical supply,
renewable energy use, waste reduction and sustainability. Under the
100-point plan, M&S aims to become carbon neutral, eliminate use of
landfill, extend sustainable sourcing, set new standards in ethical
trading and promote healthy living to customers and staff by 2012. The
voluntary programme represents one of the biggest corporate social
responsibility commitments in UK history, and signifies a clear
response to environmental problems.”

It’s certainly impressive: you can’t help but view it as a massive green gauntlet being thrown down to its high street rivals…which can only be a good thing, particularly as it comes on the back of such a strong economic recovery (and therefore even more difficult for rivals to ignore). Clearly, it isn’t a cure-all solution, but (as the press release makes clear) there is some really good stuff in there. I’m not talking about the bottles-to-Tshirts stuff (which got a lot of the headlines)…more impressive to me was the commitment to label everything they import by air. And being pragmatic and honest about it: basically saying, “we’re not going to louis vuitton väska kopia stop importing food by air, but we are going to make it clear(er) to our customers to allow them to choose”.

Quite an achievement (endorsed by Greenpeace and WWF!), and it will be interesting to see who follows in their wake…but M&S have certainly got a big leap/advantage from simply being the first to do so on this scale.

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NonProfitBlogExchange 2: HaveFunDoGood

Periodically, this blog takes part in the NonProfitBlogExchange in which blogs blog or link to each other….building networks, knowledge and appreciation of what’s going on out there. [See previous round of the exchange…]. This time I’ve been viewing and reading the aptly-named HaveFunDoGood, written by Britt Bravo. Britt has a great deal of knowledge about social change and innovation, and how these worlds interact with new technology…so it’s worth also checking out her writing on other blogs (like Huffington Post and BlogHer). She’s also a contributing editor to one of our favourite blogs, WorldChanging.

The blog covers a great range of posts with (as the name would suggest) enthusiasm and passion: in January, for example, articles have ranged between new tech fare (Bloggies and Virtual Volunteering as a new year resolution) and fair trade/developing world (Rugmark and Colombia as 2nd happiest country). It’s an engaging mix, and there’s plenty in the archives for the wandering social entrepreneur to browse….Indeed, the engaging mix is probably the point: the blog is sharp and breitling replica interesting reading because it constantly walks that line where new technology (particularly blogs and podcasts) meet the world of social entrepreneurs in the developing world and the US.

If that sounds like your interest, this could be a new blog subscription for you: it has been for me.

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