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…:
"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.