The Mission: DIY Micro-Ecosystems for Digital Social Innovation

First Things First: Defining Digital Social Innovation

For a more thorough discussion of what defines digital social innovation, visit Müge Ozman and Cédric Gossart's post for a more in-depth exploration of the term.

Digital social innovation is a digital innovation with a view to solve environmental and social problems.

This is the general concept of the idea of building some kind of structure online which produces a positive social or environmental effect, either as a primary function or as a by-product of other activities.  By adding the word “ecosystems” this bundle of concepts gathers a whole new world of meaning. 

Ecosystems made up of many members evolve and sustain themselves through the interdependence of a diverse spectrum of living things.  Ecosystems function in the aggregate, cooperatively, not competitively, at least on the macro level. Sure, there are predators and prey and plenty of competition within any ecosystem but only in as much as needed for the balance of the system. 

Healthy ecosystems are polymorphic, disallowing them from moving, (again in the aggregate) like an army, or, a human civilization, weaponized to move in unison with devastating power and force. 

Why we need an ecosystem for digital social innovation

The reasons we need DIY Micro-Ecosystems for Digital Social Innovation is that the fabric of society, restructured by the disruptive effects of the internet, is in need of an intervention and there’s no one but us to do it.

As it stands, the world we live in is being shaped by tech companies.  This is acceptable to a degree, but since behavior modification is so central to internet-based business models, it’s necessary to grab the bull by its proverbial horns and define the path we travel online, to trailblaze so to speak and the best way to do this is through business-type activities.

We must become citizens of the internet, not just consumers of it in order to shape a world of our choosing. If we leave the task of shaping online communities up to social media platforms, the agency we have over our lives and our destinies will be subverted by the interests of social media platforms and technology companies. 

This is why being a part of building these ecosystems is so critical. And when we do it in the spirit of digital social innovation, we build internet machines for the purpose of providing income for ourselves and our families AND to produce positive social and environmental effects. We are all familiar with crowdfunding and this type of business is one level of this.

 

Anyone who wants to create their own platform online and potentially sell your knowledge, skills or talents will become energetic participants in the ongoing project of building the internet.  You will create internet machines with the power to define you, your virtual online selves.

It’s our job to take on the gravity of this fact when we find ways to live and thrive financially via the internet.  When we embark on that journey, we have an opportunity to do it in a meaningful way, and not leave it up to the way social media defines the way we relate to each other or to dictate the terms of who and how we live and connect online.

Digital Social Innovation UnemployedMarch

Why everyone needs to understand the potential of digital social innovation

Academia and industry define many of the terms we use to talk about big ideas. The thing is though, we all need to have access to the use of these ideas. It isn’t necessary to be educated, to have a credential or to have expert knowledge of terms like social innovation.

Instead, it’s more significant that each of us takes action and brings our own understanding of compassionate small business to life. It’s up to you to give your vision a voice, a unique voice that reaches out and touches the people who are ready to receive your message.

The Contemporary Social Problem Problem

Individuals in society have been exploring solutions to persistent problems that we all face since the beginning of civilization. In developing nations, problems are obvious and vital and efforts are often clear and focused.  

In the US in 2019, social problems often seem to relate to truth and lies in media, to drugs and mass shootings, to social media’s role in how we understand the world, to the economy or to the healthcare system or some other contemporary current event or problem of the day.

And that’s all true, but the roots of our problems are actually more simple than they seem.

What we struggle with now are actually the same fundamental conditions that we’ve struggled with for millennia:  food, shelter, housing, and health come first in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Next, come companionship and social fulfilment, then self-belief and so on until the top of human experience where we, if we make it, experience self-mastery, self-realization and personal freedom in every sense of the word.

Digital Social Innovation - Maslow Chart

Solutions to each of the rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are so difficult because people at different stages in the pyramid see from different perspectives or points of view and as a result derive different paths to solve the same problems.

The clamour of all this sharing, the endless flow of information and opinion in big common forums, places like Facebook, can be paralyzing and counter-productive. We are left overwhelmed. It’s like trying to have a conversation at a concert and it never stops. The result is that we are all “triggered”, whether we realize it or not.

A quick note on the brain.

Now, first of all, I’m not a psychologist or a doctor so I speak about it from layman’s terms but the anatomy of a brain is similar across species and phenotypes.   

And this is the deal with ours. We have the cerebellum, the limbic system which includes the amygdala and then we have the neocortex. The cerebellum is common among almost all species. The limbic system is for higher-order functions and involves the emotions and the neocortex is what gives humanity its logic, it’s reason and its unprecedented abilities and skills. 

All living organisms have an autopilot (that’s the cerebellum) and most organisms have the ability to feel and some level of attachment to their lives.  These emotional attachments are what cause us to cling to safety and security and avoid harm. 

In order to achieve intelligent thinking, we need a mind that integrates the limbic system, the part of the brain that governs emotions, with the higher-order brain of the neocortex. 

Some have made the case that world religious icons like the Buddha and Christ, visionary poets like Hafiz as well as heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi obtained the pinnacle of unifying consciousness that they did because they resolved the forces within their mind and unified them. 

In order to change the world, we also must rise above our fears and maintain a goal that transcends our own perceived limits.

How can everyone participate in an ecosystem of digital social innovation?

One of the easiest ways to be involved is as a consumer (check out this article on ecommerce shops that do well while doing good…).  Choosing where you source all the things in life is powerful.  

If you want to take it to the next level, and chances are you do if you’re reading this, then starting your own nonprofit or business is a great entry point for joining the digital social innovation revolution.

Why is a business the way to go? Because if you have an independent bone in your body and a mind that seeks to constantly learn, grow and evolve, you will love the challenge.

In the digital economy, you set the rules.  

But careful, setting your own rules is tricky!

Creating your own business or nonprofit venture from scratch is like painting, at least for me, and here’s why.

The one major constraint in painting is that you have a box of some kind that defines the boundaries of your painting.

The problem of painting is that what happens within that box is completely up to you!  There are no rules whatsoever.  There’s no gravity for example.  Things can float.

You can and must create your own rules if you want to make sense of the situation… but you don’t have to abide by them. Ironically, this is why there are so many “bad” paintings and this is also why so many businesses fail to realize their true potential:

In online business, you can do anything, you can make a million mistakes there’s nothing physical to lose except for the money in your bank account.

 

Because you set the rules though,  the fruits of your labor are yours, your team’s… and the tax man’s. Your profits are yours to do whatever you please with and if you want to pay that forward like a modern day Robin Hood, you can do that!

Robin Hood Ecosytems of Digital Social Innovation

The revolutionary power of digital business to scale

I’m not talking about big businesses here. I’m not saying you need to be Facebook or a silicon valley titan to be able to scale. No, nothing of the sort.

I’m talking about regular people who put an offer up, perhaps teach a course, perhaps publish a book, a series of books.  I’m talking about the power THAT has to reach millions of people.  Regular people do the work and make an offer and tap into the power to scale. 

In an ecosystem of digital social innovation, we do it by building affinity groups among people within caring organizations and like-minded individuals.  We achieve our goals by making partnerships with others and strengthening each other on a micro, grassroots scale. 

This is the potential to create a new ecosystem for digital social innovation, one that  monopolistic companies do not have undue sway over nor is it excessively regulated by bureaucratic 5o1c3 requirements. 

Where we began and where we ended up

So we’ve established that ecosystems for digital social innovation involve micro-economies and communities where you can participate and work reciprocally to do business, realize dreams and support one another’s efforts based on a commitment to social and environmental impact.

  • We’ve established that relationships are key to the ecosystem and that ecosystems are symbiotic and that even if we don’t have any special skills we can contribute to the building of this social innovation ecosystem.
  • The great thing is that through our relationships we have the opportunity to expand.  When we pool resources the branches and roots of our trees can have an amazing reach.
  • When we connect with each other where we share goals and values, our unique offers and solutions to the problems facing society today will gain traction and our digital ecosystem grows even more.
  • When we build our own communities outside the walls of certain social media platforms like Facebook (and this is important), we divert money and resources away from exploitive monopolies and recycle our wealth back into our own communities.

The challenge

What are you going to do in 2019 to build your business, to make a legacy for yourself and your children and to make the world a better place?  Leave your thoughts below in the comments!

Coming soon… 101 Ways that to Models for Digital Social Innovation
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The Mission: DIY Micro-Ecosystems for Digital Social Innovation
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The Mission: DIY Micro-Ecosystems for Digital Social Innovation
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Ecosystems for digital social innovation are communities of digital innovators solving environmental and social problems. This is the general concept of...
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