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  • Storytelling & Four Shifting Forces

    2:27 pm on October 22, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , storytelling, 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…

  • One Book Per Week: Tumblring My Findings

    8:13 pm on June 17, 2012 | 5 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , OneBookPerWeek, storytelling,

    Since com­ing to New York, I’ve devel­oped a healthy habit of read­ing on the sub­way going to and fro from meet­ings. My Kin­dle has made it a lot eas­ier to read in a packed sub­way car and my expanded net­works have pro­vided me a wealth of books to add to my read­ing list. After a con­ver­sa­tion with a good friend who inspired a goal set­ting quest, I decided to embark on a One Book Per Week Project — where I would read a book a week as a per­sonal self-development goal. It has been two months in, and I am pleased to share that read­ing is firmly back in life and can offi­cially say that I have read all the books on my shelf. I’ve added some of the books that I read and loved to my Book List but more than that, I would love for my read­ings and dis­cov­er­ies to be shared in a more pub­lic way. Hence, going for­ward, I will be doing this in two ways:

    1) Tum­blr

    I started a tum­blr where I would post quotes and high­lights from books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Major­ity of my read­ings are now done on my Kin­dle and thanks to this awe­some tool called:, all the high­lights from my Kin­dle read­ings will be shared to my tum­blr. Quotes Galore aka. my per­sonal quote bank and track­ing of books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Below is a snap­shot of I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend that you check it out!

    2) Mole­skin Book Visualization 

    One of the skills that I have been work­ing on is the Art of Visual Think­ing. I am nat­u­rally a visual leaner, but the art of trans­lat­ing thought and com­plex ideas into pic­tures is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent thing. Hence, to help me along with this learn­ing process, I decided to com­bine it with my One Book Per Week Project. I bought some brand new mole­skins and will be sum­ma­riz­ing up the books I am read­ing into one page in my mole­skin. This not only enables pushes my abil­ity to retain infor­ma­tion, but also allows me to piece together the book in my own way.

  • Aspirational Storytelling

    4:11 pm on May 21, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , storytelling


    Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion, New York. Photo by: Cuba Gallery

    When you first start writ­ing sto­ries in the first per­son, if the sto­ries are made so real that peo­ple believe them, the peo­ple read­ing them nearly always think the sto­ries really hap­pened to you. That is nat­ural because while you were mak­ing them up you had to make them hap­pen to the per­son who was telling them. If you do this suc­cess­fully enough, you make the per­son who is read­ing them believe that the things hap­pened to him too. If you can do this you are begin­ning to get what you are try­ing for, which is to make some­thing that will become a part of the reader’s expe­ri­ence and a part of his mem­ory. There must be things that he did not notice when he read the story or the novel which, with­out his know­ing it, enter into his mem­ory and expe­ri­ence so that they are a part of his life. This is not easy to do.”

    - Ernest Hem­ming­way, unpub­lished man­u­script from the Kennedy Library col­lec­tion, Hem­ming­way on Writ­ing (Ed Larry Phillips)

  • How to Create an Impact Investing Movement

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

    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.

  • My Week's Discoveries: Storytelling Resources

    3:20 pm on April 9, 2012 | 2 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , storytelling,

    Update (April 17, 2012): Guess what? I found more awe­some resources to add to the list!

    1) Map­StoryA crowd­sourced plat­form where the global com­mu­nity shares stories. 

    Map­story allows any­one and every­one to cre­ate, share and col­lab­o­rate on sto­ries to improve our under­stand­ing of global dynam­ics, world­wide, over the course of his­tory. The cool com­po­nent about Map­Story is the “Story Layer” fea­ture, where you can layer on maps, data, etc. onto other sto­ries or cre­ate a sto­ries by com­bin­ing sev­eral dif­fer­ent layers.

    2) DefineAmerican.comPlat­form dis­cussing the immi­gra­tion debate in America

    This plat­form tack­les a spe­cific prob­lem in Amer­ica — the immi­gra­tion sys­tem. It uses sto­ries to bring in new voices into the immi­gra­tion con­ver­sa­tion. The plat­form is started by Jose Anto­nio Var­gas, an award win­ning jour­nal­ist who came out as an ille­gal immi­grant. HIghly inspir­ing. In the sto­ries sec­tion of the web­site, the pub­lic writes in, shar­ing their sto­ries and opin­ion on the immi­gra­tion debate. Def­i­nitely worth send­ing in your story too, and have your say about the DREAM Act.


    Given that I spent most of my time last week research­ing about sto­ry­telling, my (last) week’s dis­cov­er­ies are all sto­ry­telling related. Below is a small col­lec­tion of tools, plat­forms, posts and resources cen­tered around storytelling.

    1) Cow­bird — A Wit­ness to Life 

    Out of my many start-up ideas, one of them that I loved the most was to have a sto­ry­telling plat­form where peo­ple could share fic­tion and non-fiction accounts of their lives. Then after shar­ing this idea over cof­fee with an inter­ac­tion designer friend of mine, Tony Chu, he informed me of this seri­ously kick-ass plat­form called Cow­bird. When I checked it out, it was almost exactly what I imag­ined for; using sto­ry­telling as a short short-term goal is to pio­neer a new form of par­tic­i­pa­tory jour­nal­ism, grounded in the sim­ple human sto­ries behind major news events. Cowbird’s long-term goal is to build a pub­lic library of human expe­ri­ence, so the knowl­edge and wis­dom we accu­mu­late as indi­vid­u­als may live on as part of the com­mons. I promptly signed up for an account after check­ing this out. You should too.

    2) Story Pirates 

    This is a edu­ca­tion and media orga­ni­za­tion tar­geted towards encour­ag­ing kids to write sto­ries. Story Pirates encour­ages cre­ativ­ity by then bring­ing these sto­ries to life — through plays, stand up and dif­fer­ent forms of per­for­mances. They’re most famous for the Idea Storm Pro­gram — a writ­ing work­shop that is fol­lowed by a musi­cal sketch com­edy fea­tur­ing sto­ries by stu­dents and per­formed by pro­fes­sional artist. Super fun.

    3) — The starter guide to non­profit video storytelling

    A really com­pre­hen­sive  resource for non­prof­its to end­ing bad videos. This is put together by Cau­seVox and Lis­tenIn Pic­tures, two great orga­ni­za­tions that are in the non­profit space and who were also on the Be Social Change Panel in my pre­vi­ous post. If you’re a non­profit and look­ing to spread your mes­sage via video — this is a must read. Did I men­tion it’s free too?

    4) Get Sto­ried — Teach­ing Entre­pre­neurs how to tell their story 

    So appar­ently sto­ry­telling is an actual con­sult­ing busi­ness, and Get Sto­ried man­aged to do this. They have a great man­i­festo and offer advi­sory ser­vices & var­i­ous sto­ry­telling pro­gram. Next week is their Rein­ven­tion Sum­mit 2: An online con­fer­ence for sto­ry­telling in the dig­i­tal age. An intrigu­ing con­cept that allows for scale and low oper­a­tional costs. also has a great list of sto­ry­telling books to check out here. A book that is not on the list or related to that is on my per­sonal to-read list is: Res­onate: Visual sto­ries that trans­form audi­ences.

    5) IDEO Human Cen­tered Design (HCD) Connect

    It’s not secret that I love IDEO’s work and last week, the HCD Con­nect was launched, a plat­form where the pub­lic takes on the world’s chal­lenges by shar­ing sto­ries, ques­tions and resources. I haven’t got­ten around to play­ing with the plat­form yet but my imme­di­ate impres­sion is that it is pretty similar-ish to OpenIDEO to solve global chal­lenges using crowd intel­li­gence. I’ll let you know my full thoughts once I’ve had the time to play around, but it’s def­i­nitely worth check­ing out.

    6) And finally… a plethora of other sto­ry­telling resources/articles that was com­piled by Rob Wu of Cau­seVox. Knock your­self out. (Tip: I would start with Blair Miller’s next phase of storytelling)

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