Thoughts on Collaborative Social Innovation

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This is Pensaola Beach, awash with tar balls from the Deep Horizon Oil Spill.

Recently I ran across a phenomenal crowdsourcing initiative last week, Lego’s NXTLog Senior Solutions Challenge, which leverages robotic designs to create better living for the elderly. It was a brilliant blend of brand, cause and community that empowers customers to make a difference.

I could not help but wonder how can B Corps and nonprofits and general do-gooders leverage the power of new models like the collaborative economy to share and make great things happen?

Social good is no longer the domain of big donors or causes anymore, but we haven’t gotten much further than crowdfunding, social sharing, and participatory access to campaigns. There is a stiff arm between cause and community.

What if mission trips were something that anyone can take, regardless of faith? Or if you couldn’t participate in a full four week mission trip, could you offer a portion of your work to another person?

Can we build stronger volunteering platforms to allow people to intelligently make a difference when a crisis like the Oklahoma tornadoes or the Deep Horizon oil spill happens? In both of those instances individuals were turned away from making a difference because their unorganized presence created more rubbernecking than contribution. Right now it takes an organization like Crisis Commons to try and harness general volunteering and good will.

How about technology? Could people donate minutes or bandwidth to a region on a temporary basis? Or could a company share its Salesforce database with smaller nonprofit partners so they, too, might benefit from a top tier CRM solution?

You can see how collaborative model could offer significant progress to the cause space. Yet, here we are, playing the same game.

Perhaps it is time for more.

What do you think?

Sharing and Collaboration

Businesses think they own their products and experiences. That’s why they brand them, put their personal mark on them, and make signature experiences.

The role community members play in creating and developing successful brands is a stark change. This collaborative shift is caused by technology in the form of social and  mobile, and a new “we” ethos brought on by millennials.

Last week, my friend Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group team released a major study called The Collaborative Economy that drove this point home.

Brands continue evolving from something discussed to collaborative distribution channels built on the premise of sharing products and services. In many ways, collaboration provides an opportunity for businesses to create a new sales channel, something I will discuss later this week on the Vocus Marketing blog.

Beyond the core business opportunity, the movement marks a larger economic and cultural shift towards community based models.  Socialism and its less successful offshoot communism produced global failures centered on fulfilling the ideal of community based sharing. In an ironic turnabout, the collaborative economy leverages capitalism to fulfill that  ideal through a pretty cool market based approach.
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