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Its been a few weeks since we released our logo and we are pleased with all the compliments received thus far. In case you were curious, here’s how the logo came together:
The design process of SoJo’s logo involved many layers of opinions and concepts – all with the main purpose of engaging and introducing viewers to the project. We were looking to create a logo that satisfied the eyes from an aesthetic perspective, but also wanted to ensure that the logo communicated the aims of our organization and symbolized what SoJo represents.

We explored both text and character based options. Daniel focused on text-based options to fit-in with the common, clean Web 2.0 design trend. Bill attempted many iterations of a hand-sketched font (similar to a handwriting typeface) to create a friendly, non-rigid, and personable feel to the logo. Eventually, we decided on a friendly character would be ideal to add to a fresh sans-serif typeface. It was ideal to do so because the sans-serif type face would contrast with the sketched logo and together they would further enhance both aesthetics. 

When it came to colour, green and light blue were discussed to be the most relevant to the project; being very bright, natural and eco-conscious colours. When looking at a colour wheel [http://db.tt/AiIDacF], we discovered that blue what over-used on many social-oriented sites online and by default opted for the lime-green. Ultimately SoJo's brand identity expresses the positive, youthful energy of both the team behind it and the online tool itself.

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Our “mascot” [who is still looking for a name] was inspired by the semi-circles found at the bottom of the word SOJO. Despite the disagreements over typeface, the look of this mascot instantly stuck, as it was symbolic of an ambitious and happy individual with a “ready-to-take-on-the-world” attitude; a character that the users of SoJo can relate to.

SoJo embodies a “do-it-yourself” attitude, where it is up to the user to build and create their visions and implement their projects for social change. We played around with many concepts of an architect’s blueprint, work-in-progress idea – which explains why our mascot looks a little rough and incomplete.

SoJo is very fortunate to work with a talented design team to create this logo, among other things. When designing your logo, the following questions may help guide you through the process of creating multiple iterations – to finally reach a final product that you are proud of:
  • What is the purpose of the project, and thus, what is the functional/communicative aim of the logo?
  • What are the engaging aspects of the project that you are trying to communicate?
  • How does the logo reflect/reinforce the nature of the project?
This post was co-authored by Bill Avgerinos and Daniel Francavilla, members of our Design Team
Below is a random selection of logos that were integral in coming up with the design we have now
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As human beings, it takes a high degree of emotional maturity to remain rational, collected and cool in ‘less than ideal’ situations. Disappointed by a meeting earlier this morning, I found myself unproductive for several hours following it... Despite much anticipation and excitement for this meeting, the conversation did not go very far. What’s worse, my frustrations of the focus of the conversation caused me to develop a defensive and aggressive tone in selling SoJo, because I felt as though I wasn’t being heard. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I found myself in such a situation.

It’s an art to eloquently  ‘push-back’ to clarify misunderstandings and articulate your position and the value that you are offering – while not coming across as defensive, even though you feel you are being trampled. This is an art that I need to hone, as we will need to find creative ways of working with people who are not on the same page as us, if we wish to bring this online community together. In the meantime however, we need to stay focused on developing our strengths and building our product.

These experiences have allowed me to sympathise with entrepreneurs who get doors slammed in their face by Venture Capitalists and other stakeholders, because their audience didn’t quite understand them or get their vision. Setbacks are part of the game – and real character, I believe, comes from one’s ability to extract the key learnings and move on, instead of dwelling over what could have happened.

Changing status quo is not easy – nor is it easy to propose bold, innovative approaches that are different than what has been done before. Isn’t this what entrepreneurship is all about?  Couldn’t help but be reminded of the book The Power of Unreasonable People which states that social entrepreneurs are unreasonable because they are capable of creating visions that are unreasonable – however the book also states that the world needs these people, whose “path-breaking innovations and courageous leadership have driven remarkable change in the world,” and made the seemingly impossible – possible.  

SoJo has a grand vision – one that I am excited to have others co-create.  Although we are still figuring out HOW SoJo will come together, we know WHY SoJo is needed. We need to remain focused, work within our capabilities and eventually make room for the skeptics to come to us. It is at a time like this when we need to remain focused on our WHY; be reminded of SoJo’s driving belief; the world needs more young social innovators who need support and guidance to be more effective agents of social change, and align ourselves with people who get it and want to work together to make this happen.

 
 
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In early April, we identified that one of the major short-term challenges to creating SoJo was a simple shortage of “man hours”. Kanika read an article - which sparked the idea of inviting an Intern to join the SoJo team for the summer. 

She graciously volun-told me handle this task -- one that was daunting, considering I had never been involved with recruiting anyone beyond a team-mate for a class project. On top of that I had recently wrapped up my volunteer commitments, and was now into the travel portion of my time in Central America. My schedule was unpredictable and internet connectivity frequently in question.

For starters, I had to educate myself on the intern hiring process. This included understanding the expectations and norms for both parties as well as developing a criterion to select candidates.

Rapidly, it became apparent that as a young and evolving organization, we have tons to offer an individual who is eager to build and create an exciting new venture. Indeed, it was inspiring to note that there is no shortage of individuals looking to be involved with an initiative that aligns with their values and is meaningful to them. The challenge lies in identifying and reaching out to those individuals.

We eagerly posted our job description on every possible free job postings site including Charity Village, YouTern and Idealist. Recognizing that no-one on our team had actual editorial experience, we reached out to university Journalism programs with the hope that the students could apply their skills to a real online content publication.

The job posts were up -- and of course we had our problems. Our sign-up form was improperly set-up, but that problem soon got resolved.

Everytime an application was received in the “work” dedicated email account, I instantly wanted to open it and learn more about the people I could look forward to working with on SoJo. Instead of immediately reading the resumes and cover letters however, I forced myself to wait until we finalized the selection criterion in attempt to minimize any bias.

Once the deadline had passed, it was time to review the applications. Overwhelmed with the high caliber of the people who had applied; I had a mini-victory dance. [see post of victory dance for more context]

As we shortlisted candidates and subsequently worked through two rounds of interviews, we faced a complex “puzzle”. The victory-dance was soon over when we had to make some tough decisions. Ultimately, our decisions came down to matching up the skillsets of the candidates with the tasks that required collaborative execution in the short term, in addition to finding the complementary mix of skills and passion that meshed with the organizational culture that we aim to foster.

As I reflect upon the process, it has been a long, but exciting and certainly critical period of growth for SoJo. As we welcome and orient six analysts into our team this week, it did not come without its fair share of challenges and frustrations. Only now, we are set to unleash the power of six new fresh and engaged minds on the next set of challenges we face. I like where there is going :)

 
 
It is our goal at Sojo to help people turn their ideas into reality.
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Ideas don’t just poof into reality. That little arrow above you is actually a very complex process. When it doesn’t work it can be quite frustrating. So, what can we do to affect this process?
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We will help people get closer to their goals, knowing that their design process leads in the right direction, and fully achieve what they define as success.

We can see that creating useful content is central to the mission. It’s our meat and potatoes, our raison d’être, our trump card - content is king.

Effective content does not exist in a vacuum (we’ve looked!). How’s it’s presented, the context and the environment supporting are all extremely important.
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Here’s our general equation of SoJo Success. It was derived with intense mathematical rigor (though we might be missing a term or two). We’re working on its proof.

On the design side, we are finding it necessary to create a process to bring all these elements together in harmony – a systems design. In other words, we’re creating a design process to create a systems design to design a solution to help people design. (deep breath)

Our Design Process (insert iterate everywhere!)
- Brainstorming galore
- Create several designs
- Collect feedback from everybody
- Ask questions
    o How does the design affect content, technology and business?
    o Does it help people turn ideas into implementation?
    o Is it feasible to build?
- Build it!

We’re looking forward to the end result as much as you are. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you understand the joys and learning that occurs when we go through the design process.  To the journey!
 
 
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On my way back from the Canada 3.0 Conference on digital media in Stratford, I stopped by Waterloo for an in-person rendez-vous with Daniel Arrizza – SoJo’s newest team member. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that I am officially conferenced-out! Within the past few weeks, I spoke at, volunteered, and attended nearly a dozen conferences and events. Some of them include the Ontario Nonprofit Network unconference in Toronto, the world's largest conference on social innovation at Yale University, a cocktail for start-up tech entrepreneurs in NYC, Feast on Good social at the Soho House, and the list goes on…

The exhaustion that comes from being on your feet is nothing compared to the energy that is required to be on your ‘game.’ Although I learned a couple of new things and took some notes from the speakers, the real value that came from all these events was primarily from the networking and ‘bumping’ into people who I would not normally have a chance to chat with. Conferences bring together like-minded individuals in the same physical place – an opportunity that is rare and should be taken full advantage of. Tailoring my pitch to different audiences while keeping them captivated, and seamlessly delivering the same message repeatedly in the same day is actually quite draining. Since SoJo operates at the intersection of a handful of different circles, there is no shortage of events and networks to get connected into.

In addition to the time that is spent travelling to and physically attending an event, the time spent following-up with new connections should not be under-estimated. Conferences and events are fabulous opportunities to build a human connection with individuals – connections which have the potential to lead to valuable relationships; keeping in mind that a relationship is built over time with meaningful exchanges between both parties. I have multiple stacks of business cards, and since most of these events occurred back-to-back, I am still dealing with the backlog of follow-up emails/calls with the connections made in New York two weeks ago, while also attempting to stay on top of the key connections made in Stratford only yesterday. My calendar of follow-up conversations now looks like a jigsaw puzzle. Prioritization is crucial; there is only so much one can do in a day, and this is an art I’m looking to master. I know that of the 100+ follow-up emails I write, about 5-10% of those conversations will lead to substantial value for SoJo… but I must still respect the process of reaching out to people, and keeping in touch – as great relationships will come out of those efforts.

Side note: Attending conferences can be quite pricey, especially if they are not subsidized. Some tricks I’ve picked up along the way to reduce the costs:
- Ask to volunteer. Conferences always need help on the day of coordinating logistics. Volunteering at the registration table for example, will allow you to physically greet each attendee, which makes it easier to strike up a conversation during down-time in the hallways.
- Scan the speaker list and if you know a speaker, ask them if you can be part of their entourage. This may come at the price of bragging rights from your speaker-friend, but at least you have access to the event.
- Connect on social media to reach out to fellow delegates to find shared accommodations/transportation to the events.

 
 
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Many founders and visionaries of projects struggle with their decision to commit to their projects full-time...

It is a risky and even scary decision to make. Although entrepreneurship has been glamorized by highly successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, for many individuals when you sign up to be an entrepreneur, you decide to give up stability, structure, a stable income and are committed to embark on a journey which is filled with uncertainty and often struggle.

Based on where I am in my life and where SoJo needs to go, it makes perfect sense for me to do SoJo as a full-time occupation. There is much that needs to be done and I am very much convicted in SoJo's potential -- the decision is quite obvious.

For me, this is the first time where I am solely committed to one thing. Although I have over a decade worth of experience building and growing social ventures, they were all done part-time in parallel to other commitments. By committing to SoJo full-time the stakes have just gone up. Not only do I have to ensure this idea makes it to market, I am solely responsible for building my livelihood through it.  

Although working a full-time job and continuing to do SoJo as a part-time activity is tempting, I know that I won't be satisfied. The past 6 months have proved to me that only so much can be done part-time. I was not able to move the project forward as quickly as I would have liked, and a fully dedicated leader is needed to build SoJo.

Many people decide to quit their jobs and become full-time entrepreneurs once start-up funding has been secured or their prototype has been created and validated. All I have is conviction in my idea (which has been backed by reseach) and SoJo's vision and a relentless drive to make it a reality. SoJo doesn't even have a business model. To be fair, I don't currently have a job and did not have to make a tough decision to leave stability and a paycheque.

I am fortunate to financially be in a position where I can afford to live (very modestly) without a salary until the end of the year. This freedom will allow me to focus my energy on building the organization, the site and our community base. It is possible that all SoJo needs is a few months of my time to build the platform and it can sustain itself as a part-time venture into the Fall. It is possible that bringing this site to market will take longer than expected and that I will need to commit a longer period of time to making this happen.

All of this uncertainty is exciting and daunting at the same time. Lucky for me, I believe in SoJo and although the risks exists - they are not strong enough to keep me from taking them.

Am I doubtful - absolutely.
Will this deter me from trying - most definitely not.