Liquidnet is the financial technology company sponsoring the Tactical Philanthropy track at SoCap and the organizer of the recent Markets for Giving workshop. They’ve just informed me that they would like to give away a free SoCap ticket (which usually sells for $1,200) to a Tactical Philanthropy reader.
Since the conference starts on Monday, we’re going to hold a quick little contest to give away the ticket. To submit your entry to the contest, simply answer the following question in 250 words or less via a comment on this post:
“How might we mainstream the ideas being presented at the Social Capital Markets conference?”
Brian Walsh, who runs Liquidnet for Good, the company’s corporate social engagement platform, will select the best idea at his sole discretion and award the reader a free ticket to SoCap.
So get brainstorming and let’s hear your best idea!
Submission deadline is Thursday 9/30 at midnight pacific time.
Just a quick one, Sean. There are no quick fixes for mainstreaming innovative ideas, no matter how good they are. If we’re serious about implementing SOCAP ideas — and we should be — serious people will have to think seriously about what it will take to develop and market a variety of heterogeneous and cutting edge proposals. As far as I can tell, SOCAP doesn’t have the capacity for that kind of deliberation and follow up b/c the convening organization is focused solely on the event itself. That’s fine if you’re just trying to put on a great conference (which they certainly did last year), but not if you want to make a sustained impact thereafter. As a start, Kevin & Co. should organize some kind of advisory group to enlist outside support and develop an ongoing agenda to which attendees can contribute. The group could distill the most promising ideas from the conference and strategize ways to help move them forward.
Ah, the process is the product. I like it Steve.
When I hear the term “mainstream,” I think of the general public – how do we take a concept and put it into terms that lay people can understand? Consider how Buffet/Gates’ “Giving Pledge” has helped to translate jargon like estate planning and deferred gifts into everyday language. The nonprofit sector needs to explain what social capital is – in practical terms – so that folks outside of our arena can wrap their heads around it and embrace it. Sharing examples/success stories of social capital in action via press releases, news articles and blogs such as Tactical Philanthropy is one way to start.
(The conference sounds amazing, but I don’t have a way to get from Texas to San Francisco next week, so there is no need to include me in the drawing. Thanks anyway!)
The fastest way would be to attach the ideas to someone who already has a widely known brand. If not that, find someone who is in the process of creating a compelling and brand for him or herself and go along for the ride.
Of course, that’s an overly-simple response. I think the best way to take ideas and concepts “mainstream” without the incredible support mechanisms (and budgets) of the big boys (entertainment, government, sports, etc) is to use social marketing tools and build a community. Recognizing open doors and potential big-time opportunities (film project anyone?) is key. But more important is moving thru those doors with abandon.
SoCap needs a bigger tent for its ideas to reach broader audiences and to become mainstream. For future events, SoCap could create a “SoCap Ambassadors” program for influential civic, political and business leaders to participate and bring ideas back to their constituents and communities. Beyond obvious media influencers, among those who should be invited:
• U.S. mayors have a real stake in investing in innovation, since they want their cities to be on the cutting edge. Senators and representatives can inject ideas into their discourse and into committees. Foreign leaders should be invited as well.
• Faith-based leaders: megachurch pastors and highly influential leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Christian communities are a natural fit for SoCap, and will communicate new ideas for social change to their congregations.
• Business leaders: get high-level representatives from WalMart, Target, GE, Wells Fargo, or any multinational corporation/bank that is dedicated to innovation and has a strong corporate social responsibility focus. And get Oprah, too.
• Practitioners: a certain number of free spaces should be reserved for educators, students, doctors and community health workers—those who have a direct stake in many of SoCap’s topics. As part of an application process, they can commit to blogging, speaking, or incorporating into their curricula learnings from the conference.
In the short-term (e.g. this year) SoCap can have participants rate the best ideas on its online platform or at the conference breakout sessions themselves. SoCap should then commit to sharing the “best of” with identified high-level influencers.
I just saw your tweet that only one person responded for the free ticket! I would put my name in the hat, but I will be teaching at an event at that time in Atlanta–however, you bet I’ll be following along and catching up online.
So–to those reading this post and considering it–do it, put your name in the hat… You’ll be glad you did. Good luck!
“Mainstream” is an idea, and ideas are powerful. Thus we look to the mainstream for resources, because resources are our allies in whatever fight we choose to engage in. In this case, that battle is solving the problem (hopefully) of poverty and its plethora of root causes. We MUST be tactical in our approach to “spreading the word” of the little nuggets of knowledge that hopefully arise out of the SOCAP conference. OF COURSE it would be helpful to have the New York Times run a front-page story on this event, but stopping our thinking there is not tactical.
Who are the drivers behind the infusion of money into SOCAP markets? From microfinance institutions, to influential philanthropists looking to leave their mark on this world, to businesses looking to expand upon their CSR practices – every driver has their ear to the ground, listening. They’re searching for innovation, and it would be wise to recognize the ways that innovation is found. What I mean to say is, don’t forget who your target audience is! If older, retired adults are the main propellants behind the burgeoning field of social capital, then you must pay attention to the information conduits.
A good combination of human psychology and street smarts will serve thee well; how do people solve their information gathering problem with the lack of time? RSS readers … It’s simple, good SEO: find the biggest blogs, and make sure they host an in-depth, intellectual review of the SOCAP markets. Have them hire a grad student for some cheap, but high quality coverage that they can post on their blog. (I’m generalizing a little bit here – don’t forget the point about older, retired adults who might not even know what RSS readers are).
Be strategic about who you invite to the event, how you tout the event to the media, what media venues are active the most (or more importantly, who is tweeting the most at this conference?). One VERY quick way to get good coverage is to simply invite an influential tweeter, who has a substantial number of followers, and pay him or her to tweet their most delicious and appetizing tweets they can while at the event. Don’t forget, “mainstream” is just an idea – you must think through each step of the problem, and appeal to the VAST number of factors that are influential at each stage. Achieving your goal is as simple as, and starts with, recognizing the nodes and branches of the path of information.
Who reads that question, what it means, or tries to mean? Who is “we?” and then, “What do they do about what they read?” You have to agree that the questioner/reader (we/they) is/are so embedded in the “mainstream” that the question has to be seen as moot – unless it is indeed rhetorical – which is by the way most of what “mainstream” is looking for. Mainstream has little tolerance for truth, and even less for those who advocate its significance. Don’t get me wrong already; I am a long-standing member – probably charter – of the movement. What continues to plague us is that it continues to plague us! Ill-conceived, mismanaged, bad timing, inadequate funding, lack of incentive, lack of foresight, lack of follow-through – all of the (lackers) – politics, education, the family, and oh my, those kids! Fragmented perhaps, but no more so than the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There is a method in the gravitational pull that has exerted such a force upon the common, “mainstream,” individual. That method is not by accident, and it is not one that “we” ought to succumb to as “we” define the new and enlightened reality that “we” must at all cost deploy. “They” are not going to, and “they” see every reason to maintain, even promote, the status quo. Short answer; redefine the mainstream! Transparency, tolerance, inclusion, innovation, youth engagement – a national agenda. Of course there is so much more, but then…who cares (a rhetorical question)?
SoCap can mainstream its ideas by taking a two-pronged approach: engaging directly with community leaders and social activists. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
With note to the ‘we’ within the question the presumption is that this includes those attending the conference and therefore predominantly reflects the ‘converted’. A group of passionate people with compelling initiatives who are working broadly within the emerging social capital markets and representatives of leading organisations. A group of people who are so absolutely critical to the future success of this incredibly promising industry but who make up such a diminutive part of the mainstream.
Among the ‘we’ there must be a great collective, although maybe underlying belief that the mainstream are interested and would with increased veracity adopt many of the conference ideas. If this is agreed then possibly the most confusing approach would be to take all the ideas separately to the mainstream market. The ‘unconverted’ are likely to have little knowledge of products, services, investment options and alternate means of making a valuable contribution. If we think they are interested, we need to make it interesting!
A recent move by Traditional Capital Markets has been the increased exposure to the E in ESG (Environmental Social Governance). The markets however are only reacting to the mainstream participation of the E factor. If you had asked someone a decade ago how they could ‘reduce their environmental footprint’ the answers would have been limited by comparison to today.
This simple, consistent, collective and quite independent message has as a result grown immensely to nearly all corners of the globe. As more individuals engage with this concept, organisations respond with innovations and increased value in product design. This is matched with marketing and PR which in turn drives increased awareness and higher consumer engagement. This continuous cycle evolves but what has remained true throughout is the simple and united message of ‘reducing your environmental footprint’.
Could ‘we’ (the converted) collectively and proactively maneuver beneath a unified message that is easily understood, broadly engaged and widely communicated by the ‘mainstream’?
Increase your Social Handprint…???
Besides Oprah? Two ways:
First, we need to find ways to gear the message of social capital and impact investing towards young investors whose outlook and identity were forged in the financial crisis. These are the investors who are sensitive to the notion that pursuing ever-higher financial returns to the exclusion of all else is not only unsustainable in the long run, but crowds out otherwise attractive opportunities to achieve both financial and social/environmental return. They (we) will become the generation of millionaires receptive to the idea of giving half their wealth and achieving total returns on the rest, and we will be the ones to align policy and practice with a new understanding of social and financial responsibility.
Second, I believe the social capital industry needs to be intentional about measuring and evaluating non-financial impact, and to communicate that the inherent challenges in measuring social and environmental performance are no excuse for failing to innovate and advance in the area of impact measurement. As investors become increasingly interested in directing capital towards total impact, there will be a growing need for impact metrics that satisfy people’s preferences for blending social and financial return, and a candid conversation about the opportunities and barriers to measurement is an important step towards unlocking capital that is critical to scale.
And apart from that, it would give Oprah something to talk about.
Like it or not, “mainstream” means navigating our celebrity-obsessed and media-saturated culture. We’ve seen causes catapult to the public consciousness (if only to quickly fade) because a celebrity adopts the cause, most recently the hubbub over Stephen Colbert’s testimony on migrant labor, and not so long ago when George Clooney spotlit Darfur and Haiti. This kind of white-hot light needs to be supported and sustained by a consumer-facing social network and an organization which is simultaneously courteous towards the celeb (they do have other commitments) and yet can leverage the attention to bring ordinary citizens into a posture of action.
Moreover, this must stem from a place of authenticity — you cannot bolt a celebrity onto a cause, because they don’t stick with it; and because the public can smell a fraud. So before the campaign can be launched, there is a structural need to establish a credible recruitment and liaison operation with a focus upon celebrities. Most of them operate via a battalion of handlers and intermediaries, and these folks are in place to vet and filter. Winning them over takes time, credibility, and, often, brilliance. One whiff of exploitation, and the deal is out the window.
The biggest challenge in mounting a campaign such as this on behalf of Social Capital concepts is the diversity of focus – in terms of both content (many causes, many social goals, many communities) and concepts (very sophisticated and high-level strategies to change the operations of how social progress is funded and executed). As a consequence, you have relatively few examples that advance the cause of institutional changes (Skoll and Participant Media come to mind), and more relating to crisis management (natural disasters, for instance).
Challenges aside, it should be said that most celebrities (film, TV, music, sports) are hungry to give back. Many who have achieved success and popularity want to be taken seriously and wish to establish relationships which afford them the opportunity to learn and grow. Most typically, they attach themselves to a cause that allows them to dip in and out, rather than the sustaining face of a cause.
To this end, I think that a coalition of the smaller organizations, perhaps under the umbrella of the conference, could establish a clearinghouse to get this campaign off the ground.
consultant for innovation in film, media and technology
former Senior Vice President, Media & Technology, the American Film Institute
I think a lot of what I will say may echo previous commentators, but as someone who has been part of a team to launch a multi-pronged grassroots platform to raise awareness about the floods in Pakistan, I’ll reflect on what our recent experience and background.
There is obviously not one right way to “mainstream” ideas resulting from the SoCap conference – mainstream by definition represents various target audiences and age groups. The most successful approach would therefore be a multifaceted one, using one solid theme or idea as the banner in order to keep it simplified and cohesive. Because SoCap has received so much recognition and the basic vision is digestible and simplified (“At the Intersection of Money & Meaning”), it is the obvious package for the mainstream audience, with the ideas that came out of the conference properly organized to be pitched to this audience.
Moreover, SoCap, by virtue of having mainstream supporters/partners like WholeFoods, should leverage and partner with other mainstream brands that have directed social missions in order to tap into their large-scale audiences (think: Coca Cola, Pepsi a la Pepsi Refresh, Cisco, Google, etc.). A cohesive marketing approach that encompasses all these partners would tailor to a broader mainstream audience, hitting many different target audiences at the same time.
Other innovative approaches to supplement the above:
1. Social media – our flood relief campaign, Relief4Pakistan, heavily leveraged online media platforms to mobilize what was seen as a tepid U.S. donor response to the flood disaster. By using a recognizable brand (in this case SoCap) and partners, you can use Facebook fan pages, online competitions, blogs by mainstream bloggers (particularly on DailyKos, Huffington Post, etc.), and Twitter to bolster this mainstream campaign.
2. People-to-people approach – often times, too much emphasis is placed on social media and not enough is placed on face-to-face relationships. The ideas coming from the SoCap conference can certainly be disseminated to a mainstream audience through social media, but that should also be seen as a means to an end. In other words, how can the ideas and the people from SoCap be instrumental in spreading the word and “mainstreaming” these ideas?
You could be organize a nationwide appeal, where collaborators, participants from the conference, and interested social entrepreneurs plug SoCap and the resulting ideas in major cities around the country (through events, happy hours, etc.), using the aforementioned Twitter/Facebook/blog platforms to advertise and report the results back to a centralized platform. That way, you are allowing the various players to have a citizen investment in SoCap and the ideas, allowing it to be disseminated to their respective person-to-person networks. Skype/Cisco video conferencing could also help link up cities with events with other cities, to create a “mainstream” feeling of citizen action and change.
You can also design approaches geared towards high schools and colleges/universities, using a similar people-to-people approach.
3. If a video/mini-documentary comes out of the conference this can also be used and disseminated nationwide – tapping mainstream media networks on cable and local television. Getting the message to be as clear and encompassing as possible, while still allowing for the ideas to be expressed is key.
4. Celebrities are also a great way to get ideas/causes mainstreamed because the general public will pay attention. How can the various SoCap networks therefore be tapped to include celebrity personalities who act as general spokespersons for the ideas and the conference? They should be seen as part of a wider campaign, with similar messaging, similar filming of PSAs, etc.
Three to choose from:
1. Talk to the individual first, their career path second.
We decide what’s important to us as individuals first. Making those decisions based on the role we’re playing in a particular industry or organization comes second. Our messages about social capital — its value as a framework, its role in shaping how we go about taking care of ourselves, the economy, the planet — should follow that line.
2. Avoid generationalizations.
Part and parcel of anything “social” is that, at heart, it’s qualitative and not quantitative territory. And that means not generalizing. The tension at the intersection of money and meaning often comes as a direct side-effect of ignoring this. If social capital is going to take hold, the fundamental characteristics of both social AND capital have to remain intact, and this characteristic is key.
3. Make it fun.
Engage people’s creative, playful side in imagining how an appreciation for the “social capital conversation” would change their engagement with finances and social change for the better. There’s a huge difference between taking this work seriously, and taking ourselves too seriously for engaging in it. Create light points of engagement across multiple spectrums, remove the “insider baseball language,” and encourage people to have a good time with this.
Our staff (in hopes of getting me to join our CEO at SoCap) offers up two ideas:
1) Tell one good story. Because Mainstream=Accessible. “The Story of Stuff” went viral, in my opinion, because it is short, simple, interesting, plainspoken. There are no flashy celebrities, no big brands, but the story is accessible. And it balances important messages without name-calling or being unnecessarily negative. “Do Good When You Open Your Wallet” good just easily take this approach. You don’t have to do all the funny drawings, because that would be straight up copy-cat… but we all like to tell stories, and it stays relate-able, and if we tell one good story, and people listen, the bigger messages follow.
2) Show it. You know how every receipt you get these days has “You saved $$$ today” or “go online to… ” or some message about what your purchase has achieved? Well, use receipts to tell people what they have actually achieved. For retail corporations that embody this philosophy, they can show “sustainability points earned” on their receipts. Better yet… let people earn points ongoing, and aggregate them to get contributions towards community based projects like a new playground. Keep the emphasis on community!
Have fun! And hope to see you at SoCap!
Mainstream means reaching out to the middle. You’ve got to make the ideas of the conference as simple and tangible to the middle as a McDonald’s Big Mac. There’s got to be 1 compelling story that will make people sit up and say, “This would be good for me, good for the country and good for the world.” And then you have to provide them with a way to act.
One angle: “Invest for Good.” At a time when Wall Street and the very term “investment” rings hollow for the middle, at a time when confidence in our leaders and government is at an all time low, show main street how social capital markets can speed innovation that will actually create economic opportunity for those who are most in need. And show them how they can easily invest both money and time in the grassroots tradition to create positive change. This infrastructure will need to be developed if it isn’t already. Once the message has been refined, spread it through channels that reach the middle – primarily TV and well-established social networks, online and otherwise.
Reach out to and connect with people who aren’t already die-hard believers.
Look at the people who have posted in this thread – I count five philanthropy/evaluation/social good consultants, a noted philanthropy commentator, and three social business/philanthropy people, along with a number who didn’t link to a profile. (I’m a student in the Bay Area, for the record.)
Preaching to the faithful doesn’t accomplish much, but the SOCAP organizers have done little to try to reach out (except for getting like-minded blogs to cover the event). Maybe they have invited people from outside their thought bubble – I can’t know – but they sure weren’t friendly when I approached them. It took two emails and four weeks to get any reply to a request to volunteer, which would have made the incredibly high price somewhat more palatable ($150-$300 instead of $1200). Offering scholarships to accomplished social entrepreneurs doesn’t do much to grow the pool, either.
Of course, it’s hard to get outside your own social (or blog) circle, and price tag that keeps out people outside of your tax bracket doesn’t help. I have no particular idea how to do so.
I know it’s all up to Brian Walsh, but I vote for Amanda and Betsy’s proposals.
Excited to put in a bid for a free SOCAP ticket and pitch our project – LoudSauce – at the same time.
LoudSauce (www.loudsauce.com) gives people a social way to buy ad space (on TV and billboards) for their favorite causes. There are so many great organizations out there, but they usually have limited awareness and poor marketing.
We want to bring attention to the projects and organizations we know are doing transformational work, but we’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of marketing mission-driven content beyond core constituencies. We want to accelerate change, by going beyond the choir, so that the choir gets bigger! We think highly traditional, mainstream, offline advertising offers that opportunity. Advertising is simply a medium, and we believe that we can and should have more influence over the content that dominates our daily lives. Given the current economy, ad space is more accessible than ever.
There is a huge gap between those who are well-versed in the ideas at SOCAP and those who aren’t. Advertising can bridge that gap by exposing powerful ideas and projects — like the kind at SOCAP — to new audiences.
Who says advertising needs to just sell us more stuff? What if billboards inspired us toward a future we actually wanted? The truth is that it’s already happening! The power of examples like the atheist bus campaign in London last year are as much in the promotion of new ideas as in the response those ads provoked from religious organizations who took out their own ads, transforming advertising from a medium for consumption to a medium for civic participation.
In other words, “this message was brought to you by…you”!
I’d love to be able to attend SoCap. I went to the first 2 and found it was a terrific blend of people who don’t normally congregate … the conversation at the intersections are always the most interesting. Unfortunately, we just can’t justify the expense … so I’m thrilled that you’re offering a ticket as a prize.
The key strategic element that is missing is to add a measure of “social return” to the investment criteria. An analogous situation is ‘green’ was never a consideration when buying a car … and now it’s a significant factor in purchase decisions. The ratings systems being developed will certainly help. The B Corp certification certainly helps. The key tactical focus to make the ideas go mainstream is to add a measure for social return to the ratings agencies and the Morningstar reports. Over time, this rating will gain importance and prominence. But step one is to get it on the list of criteria that is reported. As for the short-term … the conversations have not continued beyond a few people after the conference ends. To make ideas spread more widely, create several listserv forums (each with a volunteer moderator) around topics/ideas that come out of the sessions.