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Yesterday I guest-lectured at my Alma Mater on the topic of social entrepreneurship. One student asked the question: “If I don’t have an idea [to create something thing new], how can engage in social entrepreneurship?” Since when were ideas limited to building something new? That question sparked some thoughts on why SoJo exists. We want to encourage and inspire individuals who are passionate about making social change happen to believe that they can do so, through many different channels.

SoJo’s “primary” vision is to be the site that everyone thinks to consult during their process of ideas into action. We want to be universally recognized and respected as a credible and comprehensive resource that provides assistance to youth who need help in their journey of idea into action.

More revolutionary however, is our “world shaking-system disrupting” vision; which is to redefine the culture of “social entrepreneurship” and what it means to be a “social entrepreneur.” We want to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in individuals, and make everyone believe that they can embrace the principles of social entrepreneurship in their daily activities and be a part of some signification changes within their current environments. Although creating a brand new social venture is only one form of “idea-into-action,” we want people to feel empowered that they can make changes within existing systems, on campus or in their workplaces.

You are invited to join us on our journey and be a part of history in the making. Share your ideas of how we can accomplish our vision, email us with topics you’re interested in reading about, or recommend our blog to a friend. One of our goals is to engage as many people as possible with our world shaking vision and in the process inspire bright minds to dream up [and implement] world-shaking visions of their own!

 
 
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Some days there seem to be such an overwhelming variety of action items that the most attractive strategy is to get another coffee. At times, it truly is paralyzing. The dilemma is, how do you begin to start prioritizing, nevermind completing, all the things that need to be done?

While we are finalizing logos with the design team, we are constructing a social media strategy. While Kanika is networking offline, I am researching the best practices for SEO. Finally, while we are discussing our plan to expand our team, we are completing paperwork for legal incorporation. We are parallel processing to the max, and keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t self-implode (Google Chrome users think - “Aw, snap”).

This is the beautiful challenge of starting something from nothing. You have to consider, analyze and DO everything.

Entrepreneurs don’t ponder over their “To-Do list”, they execute and implement. Although reflection is going into our actions themselves, we cannot afford to spend precious time and (more importantly) mental capacity thinking about ALL the stuff that needs to get done...

So, back to the question. Where do you start?

Well, through experience, we are confident that the answer lies hidden in the question. The critical word is ‘start’. Depending on your background this might make more sense as ‘begin’, ‘empezar’, ‘commencer’, ‘anfangen’ or something else, but the common element is that you must set yourself in motion and move.

Indeed, this act-before-you-overanalyze mentality has so far proven critical in achieving the strides we have made with SoJo. This really is discovery through action.

So, before you table your idea because you’re not sure where to start, set yourself in motion on the next action item that comes to mind. After all, if there is one thing that is certain in the new venture process, it’s that your idea isn’t going to launch itself – so you better boggie and start moving!

 
 
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Yesterday I attended the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada (YSEC) annual conference in Toronto. It was quite an eclectic gathering of bright minds across a variety of disciples, with heated debates on the predictions of future trends of Social Entrepreneurship, coupled with insightful learnings along the way. This was my first time publicly telling people [outside of my immediate and trusted network] of SoJo. It is an intimidating feeling to put yourself out there and share an idea that has not yet been fully developed (we still have MANY unanswered question marks as to how this project will come together and get executed). My greatest apprehension of putting myself “out there” was vulnerability from not having all the answers and subsequently jeopardize the credibility of SoJo. Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me that was not comfortable sharing the idea before it was fully developed...

What initially started as fear, quickly transformed into positive energy. Instead of being afraid of everyone poking holes in the idea - I decided to recognize the opportunity that existed with all of the talent and insights among the delegates. I essentially used my conversations and the conference itself as a testing ground for the idea of SoJo and I gathered amazing intelligence. While leading a session on the challenges facing young social entrepreneurs I [strategically] posed questions to the group that would help SoJo answer some of its difficult questions. The chemistry in the group discussion was great and I took a away a list of notes that will undoubtedly make SoJo better.

Forces exist all around us. It is our ability to recognize these forces and not be afraid to reach out and gravitate towards them that determines what can be achieved. Although putting yourself out there may make you more vulnerable, with that risk comes the potential to spark some truly amazing conversations that can lead to outcomes beyond your wildest dreams... we just need to be brave enough to put ourselves out there.

 
 
A victory dance, an expression coined by Trevor, is how we at SoJo celebrate our milestones or our unplanned successes. Since the destination is a moving target, in order to stay motivated, it is important that we celebrate our triumphs along the way, no matter how small. Although our first “mini” victory jig was performed after launching our social media efforts on schedule, today felt extra special.

This morning, SoJo received its first external validation. It was a direct confirmation that SoJo is actually valuable and needed. Quoting a message I received earlier today:

“SoJo looks great so far! I love the design. Congrats on the launch, I can't wait to see where you will go with it...I just had to tell you how relevant your post was to me. At the insistence of my graphic designer, I finally signed up for a Twitter account a few days ago. Sometimes I log in just to stare at the "make your first tweet" button and scratch my head. I don't know what to do, or how to do it, but it is exciting all the same...The information is so relevant, so well-written and so clear. Even to chronically befuddled philosophy students! Pretty much, keep doing what you are doing!”

If I am to be completely honest, we really don’t have a plan; our staple “strategy” documents change every week; there’s no solid team in place; and [for the 100th time] we do NOT have our business model figured out, nor do we know where money is going to come from... so who gives us the right to start a blog and document the journey of THIS idea?! We do have passion and conviction in our vision and are inspired about what SoJo can become. Even though we don’t have all the answers yet, we have trust in our abilities to discover and build the tools along the way - which will allow us to answer those questions.

When you are in the trenches and wrapped up in the daily grind, with the added pressures of filling in the big holes, it is very easy to get discouraged when things do not progress as desired. At times, it is easy to forget what your vision is and why you are doing what you are doing.

Our purpose behind blogging about the Making of SoJo, is to share our uncensored and candid story, with the hopes that it will inspire you to believe that you too can start your own journey of “ideas into action.” In essence, this is the legacy of SoJo.

In closing, I had the biggest smile on my face after reading this note; partly because it reminded of spirit behind SoJo, and partly because I couldn’t help but picture Trevor doing his victory dance in rural Guatemala...
 
 
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Meetings…you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them…

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of my day in [internal] meetings, which got me thinking: how valuable are meetings? There are endless Dilbert cartoons that poke at the futility of meetings – yet meetings are a reality of any work environment.
You need to have meetings to get stuff done, but you are physically unable to do stuff while in a meeting. It feels like a vicious cycle…

External-facing meetings are imperative to build relationships and move ideas forward, but are internal meetings just as important – especially when you’re in execution mode? Although agendas are set and substantial information is discussed in our internal meetings, I am always surprised to see the time that has elapsed at the end of each one. And when a scheduled meeting gets pushed back, it seems like an eternity has passed…

Who invented meetings anyways? Could we make do without them? Imagine all the extra time gained have if you didn’t have meetings…albeit, in certain instances it can be much more efficient to have a 2 minute chat with someone, instead of a series of emails back and forth with delayed responses, but in general – are meetings really an effective use of our time? As an extrovert who derives energy from other people, the thought of plugging away behind a computer screen all day without any human interaction is depressing. Not to mention the dangers which come with working in isolation. Perhaps there is intangible value that comes out of meetings that I am neglecting to factor in. What’s the balance?

Do you get frustrated when you reflect on your day and feel as though it was spent in meetings: talking about needs and how to get stuff done, when you wish that you just got that stuff done?

FYI- SoJo will continue to have Internal meetings, because they ARE very valuable, I’m just questioning the concept to see if there is a better way…You thoughts are welcome!

 
 
What comes first: the organization or the product? Do you focus on building the product, or do you focus on building the team and an organizational structure to help create [and eventually sell] an awesome product? It is a very fine line and I often find myself straddling both sides. On one hand, it is difficult to bring credible and talented people onboard unless you have something to show for your talk, on the other hand, there is only so much one individual (or a tiny group of people) can do, and getting the right partners on board at an early stage can help define what the final product might look like. Both are equally important, the challenge is striking the balance and determining how much effort and focus should be placed on each.

The individuals and organizations whom I expected to receive early-stage support – have in-fact been the least supportive allies in SoJo. Which begs the question: should I be focused on “pitching the idea” and building the network now, when the idea is still being developed, or build a solid product and “line up my ducks” before putting SoJo out there?

Currently SoJo’s core team has 2 dedicated people: Trevor who is 3500km away volunteering in a park in rural Guatemala and myself in Toronto. We have our design team, and incredible advisors sitting on the periphery. Is that enough?

SoJo’s primary objective is to deliver relevant content [on starting a social venture] in an engaging and interactive manner. There are 2 elements that will determine the success of SoJo:
- Developing the content and accompanying technological platform
- Telling as many people as possible about SoJo and building a massive user-base

Earlier this month, we launched our social media campaign [which is how you are reading this blog]. Should efforts be spent on building the “product”, or should we be more aggressive in building a brand and create a loyal follower-base for when we are ready to launch?

My gut is telling me: Focus on what you know and organically gather support along the way. We have expertise in writing and gathering great content and will therefore focus 80% of our efforts [and accompanying milestones/goals] on building a product that will deliver value to its users. Recognizing that SoJo will only be worthwhile with users, 20% of our time will be focused on building the organization and accompanying brand. I am hoping that once our Beta site is ready, it will be easier for us to harness the powers that exist within other networks, and build a structure to bring this idea to life.

What are your thoughts? Is there a right balance between product and organization at the early stages of idea execution? At what point does a product become an organization?
 
 
Hi, I’m Trevor – normally a student on Canada’s west coast – I am currently volunteering on a community tourism project in rural Guatemala. Yesterday SoJo launched its social media campaign, and I hope you follow me as I document the evolution of our social media efforts on this blog.

This is really where my journey with social media begins. I do not have a tech background; in fact, I often suffer the brunt of family jokes when it comes to all things ‘computer’.  I am not a social butterfly who is always first to spread the news that John broke up with Jessica; in fact, Jessica will probably have a new boyfriend before I make the connection. Finally, I love the offline world; spending more time in front of a computer screen is daunting.  In other words, I never thought I would be leading the social media charge for an online start-up. Here we go!

Although I was an early adopter of Facebook, and signed up for Twitter over a year ago, I never really entirely understood the value of social media networks and what it all meant. In the Fall of 2010, I initiated a forum on social entrepreneurship. In a drive to host a successful event, I reignited my curiosity for these powerful online social media outlets. In the months that followed, I casually continued to explore the tools.

SoJo is bigger than anything I’ve ever gotten myself involved in. As I started working to help roll out the vision, in particular by leading the social media efforts, I felt some pressure to at least have some idea of what I was doing. So, I did some intense micro-research and started stalking cool people online to get a feel for their virtual behavior. Looking to add some science to the art, I even reached out “social media experts” to get their advice.

Earlier this week, I drafted multiple versions of SoJo’s first tweet and asked other people for their feedback. That’s right, I put a significant amount of effort in crafting a 140 character message…knowing that once you tweet, you can’t take it back, made me feel like I had traded my laid-back open air “office” in Guatemala for a stuffy final exam room! Our first tweet had to be perfect. We’re now live and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well.

Please follow @_SoJo_ on Twitter, like “SoJo” on Facebook and drop us a line. We’re here to stay!
 
 
While I was in Montreal yesterday catching up friends and former colleagues, I took the opportunity to share the idea of Social Journal with people who I trusted and knew could provide constructive feedback. Two individuals in particular hold respected and distinguished careers in the Communications and Media field in Québec and are disconnected from the ‘social innovation’ world I’ve been immersed in for the past few months.

Although I consider myself fluent in French, I am only capable of speaking in standard “dictionary” vocabulary, as I do not read in French and am not up to speed with expressions and nuanced terminologies. Although I spoke about Social Journal with great enthusiasm and excitement, my tongue got twisted in knots (several times) and I was unable to articulate the essence of the idea as effectively as I can in English. I was frustrated at my inability to speak freely about something that I knew so much about! It is only through expressing myself in a different language do I now realize how many loaded “buzz” words I use and how I’ve adopted a whole new vocabulary.

And so I asked myself: Do I talk in a “different language (figuratively)” to everyone I speak with and assume they know what I’m talking about?

My take-away from this incident, practice your pitch using a Grade 5 vocabulary. You do not need to impress everyone with sexy buzz-words, but rather focus on articulating what you’re trying to achieve and why it is important in basic language. This will enable you to appeal to a much broader audience and allow people who speak different languages (figuratively and literally) to join the conversation.

PS: In case you’re wondering, both of the individuals have offered their support and will act as advisors to this project. Will keep you posted on the contributions they will make to Social Journal!
 
 
Today I was remembering a second year Management Information Systems course I “took” a few years back in undergrad. Unfortunately, I coasted through the entire course and did not learn a single thing…
…fastforward to today, where I am presented with the dilemma of logically organizing hundreds of articles in a methodical way for easy retrieval and better coordination among multiple contributors. I definitely feel haunted by my past; wishing I actually absorbed the basics of databases and learned how to organize an intense amount of information in a somewhat logical fashion. No point in dwelling over what I ‘could have’ learned, and time to move forward. Trial-by-fire is my mantra, so after multiple shots of what this numerical coding system could look like, into the wee hours of the morning I finally created a system!

My reason for sharing this story with you – you should know that it is OK if you do not have all the answers or feel completely under-qualified to tackle the tasks at hand. The beauty of this journey is celebrating those tiny accomplishments along the way (even when you step back and think about how trivial they may seem). I am proud that I was able to devise a somewhat coherent ad-hoc system to capture all of the articles, and I am pretty sure it will change before we go live… but at least I found a solution to the best of my abilities, rather than get stuck and wait for a perfect solution to come my way.

Do you agree?