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  • Building relationships, communities and ecosystems

    10:41 pm on September 2, 2014 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communities, community building, ecosystem, entrepreneurship, movement creation

    I had a con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier in the evening with one of my co-founders, Jason, about how to mea­sure com­mu­nity engage­ment — or even — how are we even defin­ing com­mu­nity. We quickly breezed past this ques­tion in favour of get­ting to the more tac­ti­cal nature of our con­ver­sa­tion — but on my walk home, I was mulling over this con­cept and the dif­fer­ent lev­els of com­mu­nity. Thought that I would share some of my favourite readings/ dis­cov­er­ies on com­mu­nity and rela­tion­ship build­ing, start­ing from an individual’s per­spec­tive and how this rolls up into an ecosystem.


    1) Why being the most con­nected is a van­ity met­ric - Michael Sim­mons,

    Sim­mons talks about about the sci­ence of net­work bro­ker­ing and com­mit­ting to dis­cov­er­ing ‘new groups’ as a way of gain van­tage point and pro­vide value to your com­mu­ni­ties. I also enjoyed his more recent piece of the evolv­ing nature of build­ing relationships



    2) 1,000 true fans — Kevin Kelly

    A lovely way to think about the long tail, the impor­tance of acquir­ing fans and how it con­nects up to mak­ing a liv­ing. Bonus read: Kick­starter sub­scrib­ing to the 1,000 true fans philosophy 

    3) Tribal Orga­niz­ing — Seth Godin

    If you tee up the pre­vi­ous arti­cle, with this one by Seth Godin — it might give you some ideas about how to sep­a­rate out engage­ment points to gain ‘true’ fans. Seth Godin talks about effec­tively build­ing tribes around: con­nec­tion, com­mit­ment and conversation

    4) What to learn from the man who man­aged  Reddit’s com­mu­nity of mil­lions - First Round Cap­i­tal, The review

    I believe that there’s a pretty large dif­fer­ence in the way that you man­age in-person com­mu­ni­ties vs. online com­mu­ni­ties. The rules of the game are dif­fer­ent, and was struck in this piece, how the com­mu­nity man­ager bal­anced man­ag­ing time and cul­ti­vat­ing con­nec­tions. Worth the long read



    5) How did Sil­i­con Val­ley become Sil­i­con Val­ley? — Endeavor Global

    Thor­oughly enjoyed this report about the power of alumni in cre­at­ing an ecosys­tem and how entre­pre­neurs can kick­start a community


  • Storytelling & Four Shifting Forces

    2:27 pm on October 22, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , movement creation, , technology,

    Back in New York, I attended one of the best Cre­ative Morn­ings ses­sions, a cap­ti­vat­ing talk deliv­ered by Jonathan Har­ris on the sto­ry­telling. I’ve blogged before on decon­struct­ing the power of sto­ry­telling, and if you’re look­ing to under­stand more about this, Jonathan Har­ris’ projects are absolutely remark­able. They have ranged from doc­u­ment­ing an Eskimo whale hunt to cap­tur­ing human emo­tion on the inter­webs to inter­view­ing Tibetans on hap­pi­ness. Here’s his Cre­ative Morn­ing talk and my visual notes from that day:


















    So my notes couldn’t quite cap­ture the tail bit of his talk (I basi­cally ran out of space!), but essen­tially, he high­lights key trends that he is observ­ing in our evolv­ing world of tech and storytelling:

    1) Rise of Social Engi­neers: Never before has there been such a small sub­sec­tion of soci­ety ( aka. soft­ware devel­op­ers in tech star­tups who are hav­ing a big effect of mil­lions of human through design of software.

    2) Urges & Out­comes: All tech extends some pre­ex­ist­ing urge. What is the urge within humans that needs to be enhanced?

    3) The Ethics of Code: How can we reg­u­late soft­ware? Could there be a self-directed eth­nics from the cre­ators of soft­ware? This ties in back to point 1 on the respon­si­bil­i­ties of a social engi­neer, given their wide-spread influence.

    4) Heal­ers & Deal­ers: Star­tups are basi­cally falling into two buck­ets: heal­ers and deal­ers. Heal­ers: mar­ket­place com­pa­nies that con­nect peo­ple. e.g. kick­starter. Deal­ers: Atten­tion economies that take up your finite resource aka. time by con­vinc­ing peo­ple to spend time on their product/sites. e.g. facebook.


    All in all, I was very struck after the end of his talk with this question(s): what kind of pres­ence do you want to have in this world? Am I a healer or a dealer? As our world’s lan­guage con­tin­ues to trend towards a technology-based one, how do we posi­tion our­selves to become cre­ators once more, instead of just cura­tors of information?

    For now, I sup­pose I am sat­is­fied with being a Healer in the invest­ment world. The big­ger pic­ture of all of this, is won­der­ing, as an investor, what trends in soci­ety do I want to help accelerate…

  • My Week's Discoveries: Malaysia

    9:17 am on August 31, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , movement creation,

    So, I’ve been in South East Asia for the past three weeks, namely Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore. The trip has been long time com­ing as I haven’t been back to my home coun­try in over five years, and boy — am I ever glad I did. I have never been so inspired, hum­bled and proud of my fel­low coun­try­men for the incred­i­ble work that they are doing in South East Asia. If you have the priv­i­lege to be involved with their orga­ni­za­tions or have a cof­fee with these remark­able indi­vid­u­als, I assure you that it will be time well spent. Also, given that today is Inde­pen­dence day in Malaysia, thought it would be timely to share a few of my dis­cov­er­ies with you.

    1) Malaysia Social Enter­prise Alliance

    This is a Malaysian orga­ni­za­tion for social enter­prises and entre­pre­neurs with solu­tions to some of the most urgent social prob­lems in Malaysia and glob­ally. One of their more notable endeav­ors is Change­Week­end, a 9–10 month pro­gram as a facil­i­ta­tive plat­form that would equip orga­ni­za­tions with design think­ing and devel­op­men­tal skills. Even more incred­i­ble is the dri­ving force behind all of this is a won­der­ful lady, Ellynita Lamin, who has a heart of gold and is trail­blaz­ing her way in this part of the world. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what one of the local news­pa­pers has to say about her work too!

    2) Teach for Malaysia 

    Teach for Malaysia (TFM) enlists Malaysia’s most promis­ing lead­ers to improve edu­ca­tion in Malaysia. It mod­els after Teach for Amer­ica, where it is a two-year, fel­low­ship pro­gram where fel­lows are placed in local schools. Besides the fel­low­ship, the team has not only enlisted an incred­i­ble amount of sup­port from pri­vate and the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, but clear strat­egy and vision in how fel­lows can trans­form Malaysia’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem from inside out. Change is on the hori­zon. This ini­tia­tive is par­tic­u­larly close to home for me as I went through the pub­lic edu­ca­tion sys­tem in Malaysia (yes, just like the adorable kids in the video!) and to get a glimpse of what TFM is up to, check out the video below.

    3) Week­end: The Week­end Movement 

    This is a com­mu­nity of peo­ple that is cre­at­ing a week­end move­ment where they come together to build projects, cre­ate solu­tions and bring great ideas to life. So far, their week­ends con­sist of Hack Week­end, Make Week­end and Change Week­end, and I’m sure it doesn’t stop there. The week­ends are designed to kick­start inno­va­tion and new projects. If you ever are in Malaysia for a week­end that coin­cides with one of their work­shops, def­i­nitely don’t hes­i­tate to check it out!

    4) Malaysia Design Archive 

    This is a beau­ti­ful project com­bin­ing design, his­tory and preser­va­tion of cul­ture. The project traces, maps and doc­u­ments the devel­op­ment of graphic design in Malaysia to pro­tect our visual his­tory. Malaysia’s his­tor­i­cal design influ­ences are par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing as this is a meet­ing point and cul­tural cross­ing of the East and West — from ornate Islamic texts, to Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy and Euro­pean engrav­ings. As you browse the site, the graph­ics tell a won­der­ful story of Malaysia’s cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion. I highly rec­om­mend you start here.

    5) Other notable mentions:

    • SOLS 24/7: edu­ca­tion pro­gram in Cam­bo­dia, Laos, East Timor, Malaysia and Thai­land that has edu­cated over 80,000 youth.
    • Gawad Kalinga: Build­ing com­mu­ni­ties through tourism, social enter­prise, dis­as­ter relief, recon­struc­tion and devel­op­ment to end poverty.

    Thanks to Ellyne, Shie Haur, Nicole, Tas­nim and John for inspir­ing this post.

  • On What is Possible and Impossible

    4:16 pm on June 21, 2012 | 1 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , movement creation

    When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. Peo­ple who know what they are doing, know the rules and they know what is pos­si­ble and what is impos­si­ble. You do not, and you should not. The rules on what is pos­si­ble and impos­si­ble in the arts are made by poe­ple who have not tested the bounds of the pos­si­ble by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impos­si­ble, its eas­ier to do. And because no nobody has done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop any­one doing that par­tic­u­lar thing again.”

    - Neil Gaiman, 2012 Com­mence­ment Speech at the Uni­ver­sity of the Arts

    Neil Gaiman Addresses the Uni­ver­sity of the Arts Class of 2012 from The Uni­ver­sity of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

  • How to Create an Impact Investing Movement

    11:19 am on April 27, 2012 | 2 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , movement creation,

    I’ve been stalk­ing the impact invest­ing space closely for the last few years and it seems that across research papers, from the recently released Acu­men Fund-Mon­i­tor Group: Case for Phil­an­thropy in Impact Invest­ing (which is a great read!) to goals of foun­da­tion tack­ling impact invest­ing — a sys­temic issue that resur­faces is the lack of infra­struc­ture to help peo­ple iden­tify and func­tion as a part of the impact indus­try. A recent con­ver­sa­tion with a friend on move­ment cre­ation sparked this idea on fig­ur­ing out how to build this infra­struc­ture. It also reminded me of a old twit­ter exchange I had with Steve Wright (Grameen Foun­da­tion) and Kevin Jones (SOCAP) on the value of mar­ket­ing and sto­ry­telling in the social con­text. A snip­pet of our con­ver­sa­tion is below:

    I believe that marketing/value-positioning is an under­val­ued prac­tice in the impact invest­ing space. How­ever, if we’re look­ing to expand the space beyond those who care about the impact value of cap­i­tal, we have a to start look­ing at cre­at­ing a move­ment of impact invest­ing — a sus­tain­able and scal­able plat­form. We have to look closely on how we can cre­ate pull-factors needed for a suc­cess­ful impact move­ment. Now, I am not as naive to think that the world of phil­an­thropy and for-profit invest­ing should cease to exist. What I am sug­gest­ing is that the movement’s aim is to help the gen­eral pub­lic and those in the invest­ing world to have a third way to think about cap­i­tal: a blended value of cap­i­tal and impact.

    So, this is my attempt to build this movement’s basic frame­work and my vision of what core ele­ments of an impact invest­ing move­ment would con­tain and look like.

    Defin­ing the Movement’s Core

    Edu­ca­tion is the key to the move­ment and a first step is shift­ing people’s per­spec­tive to a third way to think about cap­i­tal. I would like peo­ple to think of their port­fo­lios as fol­low (Note: the pie charts below are based on a hypo­thet­i­cal way to think about cap­i­tal — main point is to illus­trate the inclu­sion of impact invest­ments when an indi­vid­ual thinks of capital):

    I believe the core of an impact invest­ing move­ment should be two-fold:

    1) The choice between impact and profit should not be a binary one.

    2) Close the men­tal dis­con­nects and iso­la­tion between the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of the Impact chain of cap­i­tal: (Input –> Out­put –> Impact)

    Dis­tinc­tion of Tar­get Groups 

    Just like the ‘real’ invest­ing world, in the impact invest­ing world, there are two dis­tinct investors to tar­get: Insti­tu­tional and Retail. By the nature of the way that cap­i­tal flows into the space, influ­ence on the retail end is bot­tom heavy + per­sonal and on the insti­tu­tional side, it is top heavy and polit­i­cally bar­ri­ered. (Side­note: A great report to read to under­stand the institutional-policy rela­tion­ship in impact invest­ing writ­ten by Pacific Com­mu­nity Ven­tures & Har­vard Uni).

    Another tar­get group (and this is admit­tedly the harder group to pen­e­trate than the for­mer) would be both insti­tu­tional and retail invest­ment advi­sors. Straight away, the inher­ent chal­lenge to cre­ate this move­ment is how to cre­ate a simul­ta­ne­ous pres­sure on both ends and in each respec­tive groups.

    Five Strate­gies

    In cre­at­ing this ‘pull’ plat­form, because cap­i­tal flows through a sys­tem through an impact chain, the plat­form should become the mech­a­nism by which ‘push’ plat­forms must engage in. The graphic below illus­trates this point using the recently announced Mor­gan Stan­ley Invest­ing with Impact plat­form. The idea is that on Mor­gan Stanley’s end, they can only get so far by engag­ing their cur­rent clients. How­ever, if they look beyond their Invest­ing with Impact plat­form, and engage in a mid­dle ‘pull’ plat­form that edu­cates the masses, their mes­sage and reach would more than double.

    I believe that a suc­cess­ful impact invest­ing ‘pull’ move­ment would con­tain the fol­low­ing practices:

     1) Rad­i­cally lower knowl­edge barriers

    The land­scape of impact invest­ing is slowly com­ing to light. There is great research and data that heav­ily sup­ports the sec­tor. How­ever, bite size pieces of infor­ma­tion are far and few in between. Investors and advi­sors need under­stand: the rea­son for impact invest­ing, proof of con­cept, and how it would affect an institution’s or individual’s port­fo­lio. The knowl­edge bar­rier should also include a way to dis­sem­i­nate authen­tic and real sto­ries (see: twit­ter exchange above) about impact invest­ing and the results of the invest­ment — a form of curated ‘entertainment’.

    2) Uncover and dis­rupt offline analogies

    Most form of human inter­ac­tions sur­round a pre-existing way of think­ing. e.g. before email, peo­ple would send let­ters. In the case of think­ing about cap­i­tal, the tip­ping points of where some­one starts to think about money is in the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, with a focus on uni­ver­si­ties and col­lege (typ­i­cally an individual’s first expe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing a sub­stan­tial amount of money).

    3) Empower key com­mu­nity leaders

    I’m a big fan of Seth Godin’s prac­tice of build­ing tribes. Peo­ple are more pas­sion­ate about this issue than you think they are. A great orga­ni­za­tion that organ­i­cally (and per­haps unex­pect­edly) tapped into the power of tribes is Acu­men Fund. (Full dis­clo­sure: I cur­rently vol­un­teer with them, and this is by no means a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their per­spec­tive on the mat­ter. Just my own). Acu­men Fund cur­rently has 12 volunteer-led chap­ters around the world that sup­port and spread their cause. These chap­ters are going into local com­mu­ni­ties with a depth and reach that Acu­men would not have been able to achieve just by themselves.

    4) Reduce friction

    Think­ing about cap­i­tal — can be an over­whelm­ing expe­ri­ence, espe­cially on the retail side. The move­ment needs to cre­ate a fric­tion­less and sim­ple expe­ri­ence that cat­alyzes ‘pull’ for trans­ac­tional activ­i­ties. A great exam­ple of this prac­tice is by Learn­Vest, a bud­get­ing and advi­sory plat­form to help indi­vid­u­als achieve their goals. Sim­ple and clear. I envi­sion a suc­cess­ful impact invest­ing plat­form to embrace a sim­i­lar fric­tion­less user experience.

     5) Get­ting started

    No sin­gle agenda or strat­egy is equally rel­e­vant to all tar­get groups. I see two main engage­ment strate­gies embed­ded in the move­ment, which in some cases can be exe­cuted sep­a­rately or com­bined. One is a online-mass led propo­si­tion with mul­ti­ple knowl­edge engage­ment pieces. The other is a high-touch with direct chan­nel dis­tri­b­u­tion. The lat­ter would fit in more with the advisory/‘push’ plat­form engage­ment tar­get group whereas the for­mer would fit into a engag­ing retail investors. The high-touch com­po­nent is def­i­nitely more of a chal­lenge as we would be look­ing at a tar­get group of banks/corporations/venture cap­i­tal­ist that have sys­tems in place in order to achieve exe­cute their busi­ness model.


    There are mul­ti­ple ways to con­tinue to build out this frame­work. The points above are merely a start­ing point in the basic wire­frame of this impact invest­ing move­ment. All ideas are wel­come, and if you want to have a brain­storm ses­sion about this — hit me up!

    Thanks to Erika, Jo-Ann, Steve and Kevin for inspir­ing this post.

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