How to start a (social) startup — CS183B — Part 1

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Hello, my name is Mickey Kovari, I identify as many things, but for most of my adult life, I have mainly identified as a budding social entrepreneur. I’m taking CS183B — How to start a startup and I’m going to try and apply it to building a new social enterprise. I’m going to share my journey here.

I co-founded a social enterprise called Flashpoint Labs in Sydney, Australia. From 2011 – 2014 I have been the volunteer CEO and bootstrapped the social enterprise from $0 in revenue to around $10,000 in revenue per month. Flashpoint Labs is a socially innovative photography agency and training academy. We focus on delivering professional photography servicesto corporations while training young people from diverse backgrounds to be creative professionals.

Due to awesome personal reasons (I had a daughter in Hungary) I have moved to Budapest to be close to my little girl. I’m of Hungarian decent so Budapest is like a second home. As Flashpoint Labs is based in Sydney, I have decided to start to step back as CEO and pass on the responsibility to a brilliant photographer and professional who is equality passionate about photography and social impact.

Now based in Budapest, I’m presented with a completely different opportunity landscape. Many of the connections and networks I developed in Australia are not worth much here, so I’m basically starting from scratch. It’s not an easy situation, but I’m trying to be optimistic about it. The obstacle is the way as the title of Ryan Holiday’s new book so elegantly puts it.

I’m a social innovation consultant and I have consulting work that will see me through to the end of the year financially, but after that, I’m not sure where my next pay check is coming from. That’s a scary realisation when you have a new young family to support. I might have been able to continue consulting if based in Sydney, but Budapest is a different story. With weak networks and a less mature market for social innovation, finding consulting work locally could be a real challenge.

In the past, when developing social enterprise ideas, I had the luxury of knowing I was on a good wage (from my work at small and medium sized NGOs and social enterprises in the Indigenous Sector) and it was a side project I could gradually grow. This meant I could experiment more and do more direct impact work without waiting for funding. Now, I don’t have that luxury.

I need to think of a social enterprise that will be socially beneficial, environmentally sustainable, and economically viable from the start. Of course, I will want it to be culturally stimulating and politically influential too, but for starters, I need it to be economically viable .

A big question that the CS183B course put up in the first lecture is, do you want to start a small business to support your lifestyle or do you want to start a mega business with hyperexponential growth? I’m not sure how important this dichotomy is? Can I aim for the first as a matter of urgency while planning for the second. Or do I go for the second and hope I make enough early to support myself. Is there an in-between? Is hyperexponential growth even a reality for social enterprises which are fundamentally different to traditional startups, which don’t always put people (and specifically people from diverse and less fortunate backgrounds) and planet first?

I guess we’ll see. This course nicely coincides with the Shopify business competition so I’m thinking of placing some constraints on my new social enterprise startup experiment. Including, it has to be a Shopify website. This means I’m probably looking at a drop-shipping social enterprise.

Two ideas have sprung to mind.

The first is organic and sustainable cotton baby clothes, via subscription, targeted at single dads. You basically sign up and get sent clothes as your baby grows. You can send back the clothes they have out grown in the same package and receive a discount on future clothes. The focus is on sustainably, simplicity and convenience. For busy, but socially and environmentally conscious dads who also want quality clothes for their kids. Even though my daughter lives with her mother, it was obviously inspired by my personal situation. I want to buy clothes for my daughter but I don’t like shopping and I don’t want to use up headspace searching for clothes on or offline. I want the clothes to be created in a way that is socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. I want the clothes to be super simple so she is comfortable and looks good too. I like the minimal look.

The second is a new business model that can be applied to multiple enterprises called BuyBack. You basically create a product, my initial thinking was a simple T-shirt, and you sell it, my initial thinking was through Shopify. The profits from the sale of the product, in this case the t-shirts, goes into a fund to buy back the factory where the t-shirts were made, allowing the workers to become owners of the factory and in control of their working conditions. We would essentially be buying the factory back from the owner and turning it into a worker cooperative.

In this way, through this model, we are enabling consumers to empower workers to take control of their work lives. Through buying a t-shirt, the consumer is contributing to the liberation of the people that made that t-shirt, by having the profits go towards buying the factory and gifting it to the workers. This whole model is inspired by a lack of workers rights and fair wages in developing nations which I want to address by giving them the power to take over the company they work for. As sustainability is important too, we would also provide support to turn the company/factory into a sustainable one. And if management expertise were required, we could budget for that too. This would all be a very complex and sensitive process, but that’s the crux of the idea.

P.S. I haven’t thought about the documentary The Take for years but I think it partly and subconsciously inspired this idea as well.

Social Innovation Strategy

10,000 year clock by Long Now Foundation. Creative Commons.

We have looked at what social innovation is, we have looked at how important it is to know your purpose for being involved, and how to find your social innovation sweet spot. It’s time now to move beyond your philosophy and to look at the strategy for making social impact. Let’s look at the ‘how’. This involves setting major goals for your initiative.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you gonna’ know when you get there? – Yogi Berra

Sometimes you have intuition about goals, you have a gut feel. I think it’s worth getting these out and writing them down. Sometimes, especially when working in areas of complexity and uncertainty, you make better decisions based on your gut than on your rigorous analysis. This is because you can never know everything about a complex social situation, there is always randomness, so technical analysis and goal setting can sometimes lead you into the false belief that you can tell what is possible in the future. You can’t. Goal setting and forecasting is educated guessing.

Once you have written down some major goals for your social innovation initiative, you can apply a few lenses and see how these affect your thoughts and goals. The universally conscious lens, the human geography lens and the timescale lens.

The first lens is what I like to call the universally conscious lens. It helps you think more holistically about your initiative. It involves thinking about the goals and impacts of your initiative in the social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political spheres. Ideally you want to be socially beneficial, environmentally sustainable, economically viable, culturally stimulating and politically influential. Of course your focus and priorities are up to you, but I think it is worth thinking about these spheres or systems and how they interact. They are deeply interconnected and decisions and actions can affect outcomes in many of the other spheres, if not all the other spheres. Having a major goal for each sphere is a good idea.

The second lens is the human geography lens. This helps you think about the human impact of your initiative and the numbers of people who will be involved and affected. You need to think about yourself, your family, your team and colleagues, your community, your city, your local region, your state, your nation, your international region and the globe. With the increase of private enterprise in space, such as SpaceX, you may need to even consider the universe. You need to think through how your initiative will impact at each of these levels.

The third lens is the timescale lens. This helps you think about timing of your initiative and gives you a short and long term perspective. You need to think about the moment you’re in, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years, the decades, the centuries and the millennium. That might sound crazy, you might be thinking, who thinks that far into the future? But it’s not crazy. It’s super important we move well beyond the idea of planning for the next 3–12 months. Conventional long term analysis and thinking is thought to be 3–5 years. That’s crazy. First Nations Peoples in the Americas based their decisions on how they would affect the next seven generations. Roughly 175 years. That’s wise. While you can’t possibly know what is going to happen in the next year, let alone the next 10, 100 or 1000, it is important to think about your life, your initiative and your impact from these longer term perspectives. It will affect your decision-making. The Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland Australia has a 500-year plan. The Longnow Foundation works on a 10,000 year framework.

We’ll continue this look at social innovation strategy in the next post.

Social Innovation Sweet Spot

People often ask me why I started Flashpoint Labs with my co-founder Leanne Townsend. I tell them that it was at our social innovation sweet spot.

Social Innovation Sweet Spot

The idea of Flashpoint Labs was at the intersection of our passion, skills/knowledge/experience/talent, sphere of influence, community needs, and what works.

Leanne and I had a passion for youth empowerment, photography and social enterprise development. This stemmed from our experiences growing up and in our work lives.

We had skills, knowledge, experience, and talent in each to some extent. Some more than others for sure. For example, I had not worked directly with young people from diverse backgrounds before, but I had been a snowboard coach for young people in prep and high school. My diverse group of friends growing up gave me a good understanding of issues affecting young people ‘at risk’ and how to relate to people from different cultures and backgrounds. I was an amateur photographer, having not taken a photography class since high school. At the time we embarked on starting Flashpoint Labs, I had initiated social innovation projects and work for small NGO’s, but I had never started my own enterprise. I had spent a lot of time reading and learning about each of these areas though and I was keen to put my knowledge into practice. I believed I had a talent or knack for enterprise development and ‘making things happen’. Leanne was significantly more experienced in all these areas and her guidance was vital.

I felt I had a sphere of influence in the photography industry as I had many friends who were budding photographers. This was crucial in deciding to start Flashpoint Labs. Without this, despite the other factors, I would not have started the organisation. It has proved to be pivotal in our success. Leanne and I also had a sphere of influence in the Indigenous Sector and the Corporate Sector, particularly Leanne. There is a growing connection between corporations and Indigenous people, companies and communities through Reconciliation Action Plans. We were keen to use our connections in the Indigenous Sector to reach young people to empower and to use our connections in the Corporate Sector to provide services to and to partner with for grants and sponsorship.

In terms of community needs, we knew that levels of education and employment in diverse communities were low. Particularly in Indigenous communities. So we knew there was a real need for education and employment opportunities. Not just any education and employment opportunities though, those that were tailored, relevant and meaningful to young people from diverse backgrounds. More than one in three or over 30% of young people are not engaged, or not fully engaged in formal learning or earning (are considered fully or partially disengaged). We know the rate amongst young people from diverse backgrounds is much higher (source). We wanted to address that by giving diverse young people, and young people at risk of being disengaged, opportunities to learn creative and professional skills in a fun and innovative way. Twenty first century employers want young people with technical skills, such as in media, design, photography and film but they also want young people with soft or generic skills such as creative and critical thinking as well as interpersonal skills and an ability to work collaboratively.

We finally looked at what was working in general and in the area of innovative education and employment training through photography. We found PhotoVoice and Adobe Youth Voices. Two amazing organisations doing incredible work all over the world. They had all the methods and content we needed to engage young people appropriately and effectively. They had both published manuals to support people to establish and run participatory photography projects. While their resources where amazing, I still saw them as quite traditional NGO’s. Both organisation ran off donations and grants from people and organisations. Neither traded much to generate revenue and ensure their financial sustainability.

This is where I wanted Flashpoint Labs to be different. Rather than set up an instance of PhotoVoice or Adobe Youth Voices in Sydney, Australia, I wanted to set up a social enterprise that had trading baked into it’s model. I wanted us to figure out how to provide products and services of value that would generate us enough money to run programs and reach as many young people as possible. I also didn’t want our connection to young people to be completely project based. I want on-going connection and support for young people engaged in our programs. This is how the apprenticeship program was born. We are now also developing a monthly program that young people can pop into and continue to learn and practice at their own pace.

So that’s how we found our social innovation sweet spot and decide to start Flashpoint Labs. I hope this helps you think about how you can find your social innovation sweet spot. Let me know if thinking about your passion; skills/knowledge/talent/experience; sphere of influence; community needs and what works, helps you pick an initiative worth starting. Some prompting questions might be:

Passion:

What are you passionate about? What do you love doing? What do you want to do with your time? What motivates you? What difference do you want to make in the world? What impact do you want to have?

Skills/Knowledge/Talent/Experience:

What are you good at? What skills do you have? What knowledge base can you draw on? What natural talents do you have? What experience do you have?

Sphere of Influence:

Who do you know? Who are you connected to? What networks are you a part of? What relationships can you leverage to help you and your organisation make an impact?

Community Needs:

What are pressing needs in the community you want to work with? What are the greatest social and environmental issues that need to be addressed? What annoys you most about society? What can you do about it given the above answers?

What works:

What are social innovations and social enterprises that work in you area of interest or in your community of interest? What are social innovations and social enterprises that work in general, both at the beginning and when scaling?

The Why of Social Innovation

“With our minds alone we can discover those principles we need to employ to convert all humanity to success in a new, harmonious relationship with the universe.”

-R. Buckminster Fuller

So in part one we looked at definitions of social innovation. Now that we have a better idea of what social innovation is, ‘an initiative for the public good’ we realise that is a very broad concept indeed. Many things can be framed as social innovations. To me, the ‘why’ of the social innovation is very important.  I’ve been influence by the ‘Start with Why guy’ Simon Sinek and his thoughts have helped me think of a framework for social innovation. This talk is worth the watch.

At the core, or at the beginning, I think knowing your personal why and your group’s why is extremely important. We often fall into the jobs we are in or even start initiatives or enterprise because of the meeting of a range of circumstances. We don’t always step back and think with intent, we could really do almost anything, why exactly are we doing what we are doing? Why are we doing ‘this’, and not one of an infinite number of other things. That’s a big question we often avoid by latching onto opportunities and circumstances that present themselves.

So the overall framework looks like this: Philosophy, Strategy, Tactics, and Practicalities, or Why, How, What, Who/Where/When. It’s really a Theory of Change or Program Logic framework. It’s strategic planning for social innovation.

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So, let’s start with why. Let’s start with the philosophy and purpose of your initiative. To me this means defining the vision, mission, principles and values of the initiative.

Wait, what is the real reason we are doing this, and why are we doing this now. Doing it first. Having these things written down and consented to will save you massive amounts of time, effort and resources as you develop an initiative. If you don’t have a very clear common purpose and language to talk about what you’re doing and to use as a frame of reference for decision making, you and your team will burn so much time and energy working at cross purposes. That’s why this is so important to do up front or as soon as possible. What you come up with does not have to be final, it just needs to get everyone on the same page and ensure everyone is clear on the purpose of the initiative and ensure that all are aligned to it.

So with Flashpoint Labs, the social enterprise I started with Leanne Townsend, we had a shared philosophy which naturally developed by working together at the NSW Reconciliation Council. The idea and choice to co-found Flashpoint Labs, as opposed to the myriad of other initiatives we could have started, was the result of our social innovation sweet spot. Something I’ll explore in my next post.

At the beginning our vision and mission where different to what they are now. Even our name was different. But it got us on the same page and allowed us to work towards a common goal with a common purpose.

‘See Through’s vision is for a world where young people are empowered to express themselves creatively and determine their own lives.’

‘See Through’s mission is to engage, educate, equip and empower young people to express themselves and determine their own lives by teaching them practical and life skills through photography.’

We even had a side note on our vision and mission: Note: ‘While this enterprise focuses on underprivileged and marginalised young people, it aims not to use deficit language in reference to them so as not to reinforce personal and social perceptions of disadvantage by participants and stakeholders.’

Here are some prompting questions to help you and your team define your vision, mission, principles and values:

1. Define Vision – what kind of world do we want to live in?

A vision outlines the ideal, or desired state, of the world the organisation wants to operate in and contribute to bringing about.

2. Define the Mission – What is our purpose and unique contribution to making this vision become a reality?

A mission defines the fundamental purpose of an enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision.

3. Define the Principles – What are our fundamental assumptions about how the world works and how it should work?

Principles are universal, natural, perennial and self-evident laws about the known universe that govern our enterprise.

4. Define the Values – What are the core guidelines and the most important characteristics of behaviour for our project?

Guidelines or standards of behaviour, our collective judgement of what is important in the enterprise’s life and work.

What is social innovation?

Social innovation is a concept that has many definitions. I want to provide you with some simple definitions so you can quickly grasp what it’s all about.

Social innovation is working towards a more sustainable society with greater wellbeing. It can be anything, an idea, action, project, enterprise, or movement that works for the public good, that sets out to make the world a better place.

An example of a social innovation that is manifest as an idea, as actions, projects, enterprises and a movement – is urban community gardening.

If I had to recommend one tool to inspire and support you becoming a social innovator, it would be this: DIY Toolkit

Key concepts underpinning the idea of social innovation are that:

– it’s social, that is, its main purpose is to create social value. Value for society and for the public, rather than value for individuals. Some people believe that it must lead to systemic change if it is to really be regarded as social in the broadest sense.

– it’s innovative, that is, it’s new or novel in some way. Whether it’s a completely new idea, a combination of old ideas, or simply an old idea in a new context.

To me, the essence of social innovation is in both the approach (the purpose, motivation and process) and the impact (the outputs and outcomes). A social innovation to me must have a social purpose, the motivation must be to create value for society and improve the wellbeing of society, or a subsection of society, which may just be a local community (I’m not hung up on the idea that social innovation needs to be systemic social innovation to be considered really ‘social’). The process of delivering that social value must also consider it’s externalities and social impacts. By this I mean, there is never a case of ‘the ends justify the means’, the means are the ends as much as the ends are the means. You cannot sell environmentally sustainable clothing using sweatshop labour. That is not a social innovation, that is hypocrisy.

Social innovation must also lead to positive social impact, more than it leads to economic impact. This means the outputs and outcomes of the social innovation must have more social value benefiting the public than economic value benefiting individuals.

Of course, this can get a bit confusing as you can argue for example that Facebook or Google are social innovations as they create a lot of value for society, they create jobs, provide free services to a billion or more people, they are platforms that can be used as tools for social good, but at the end of the day, Facebook and Google are corporations that have fiduciary duties to their shareholders. Profits and share value must come before social impact. Therefore, in my book, they are not social innovations. They are companies that have a lot of positive and negative impacts and that put profit before social or environmental issues. A social innovation to me, puts social and environmental concerns first, and then thinks about how to scale and grow impact through a viable economic model. This model may be highly commercial, but it will always be developed to serve the social purpose.

Here are a few definitions by various organisations:

Social Innovation assumes a world where ultimate good in society can be not only imagined, but also created. It is an initiative, product or process that profoundly changes beliefs, basic routines, resource and authority flows of any social system in the direction of greater resilience. Successful social innovations have durability, impact and scale. – Social Innovation Generation

‘Social innovation refers to the creation, development, adoption, and integration of new concepts and practices that put people and the planet first. Social Innovations resolve existing social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges. Some social innovations are systems-changing – they permanently alter the perceptions, behaviours, and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges.’ – Centre for Social Innovation

‘Social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.’ – Open Book on Social Innovation

‘A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.’ – Stanford Business, Centre for Social Innovation. They go on to say ‘Social Innovation focuses attention on the ideas and solutions that create social value—as well as the processes through which they are generated, not just the individuals and organisations.’

Here are a couple videos introducing Social Innovation:

What it takes to be a great leader

Roselinde Torres, believes that in the 21st Century, great leadership is about answering these three questions (and I agree):

Where are you looking to anticipate the change?

Great leaders keep their heads up, they see around corners and they shape the future. The more time you spend with game changers and inventors, the more time you spend reading cutting edge innovation and research, the more time you spend thinking about patterns and trends, the better placed you will be to see and mould what comes next.

I try to stay ahead of the game by following changemakers on twitter (and of course the new @socinnohunt).

How can you grow diversity in you network?

Great leaders have diverse networks. The greater the diversity of your network the greater your capacity to understand situations from different perspectives and see unusual patterns and solutions. Diverse networks prove your ability to collaborate with people from different backgrounds with different interests, something that is a necessity when addressing complex issues.

Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?

Great leaders often abandon things that are working well. They know, before it happens, that things will change and what is working today may not tomorrow (people like Seth Godin). So they constantly innovate and push the boundaries never fearing ridicule for their ideas. They dare to be different, to be the crazy ones that later turn out to be not so crazy. Great leaders are resilient to the haters and continue to blaze new trails thriving on their own grit.

They say the first job of a leader is to define reality (Max de Pree), maybe the second is to propose the impossible.

48 Hours of Social Innovation Hunt

48 hours and over 48 followers on twitter. Not bad. Except, as far as we can tell, we have 0 subscribers to our Social Innovation Hunt Linkydink Group.

Is there too much user experience friction for people to make the leap from Twitter, join Linkydink and subscribe to the group? Maybe we shouldn’t be using one platform and community, Twitter, to promote another as there is not much of an extra incentive to join another new platform. You get the same info on Twitter as you do on the Linkydink group. But people are not always on Twitter and they will miss links. The email digest ensures people can browse the links in one place, at one time. Their chosen time.

socinnohunt

From what we can tell, Product Hunt did more emailing of individuals to get them to become contributors. The reason we have not done this, it that we don’t want to have too many links in peoples’ inbox everyday. We want to keep it to about 5 links a day so subscribers are not overwhelmed with information. We think 5 is a good number to get a diversity of links and people might click through on a few of them. That’s enough social innovation inspiration for a day.

Maybe the social innovation community does not adopt new web products like the Product Hunt, new product loving, community does. That makes sense. Product Hunters are inherently open to new products and platforms. Social Innovation Hunter are definitely open to new things and innovations but maybe not to unnecessarily new online subscriptions/groups/communities. We all get enough email right? Maybe the people following the @socinnohunt twitter account believe following is enough and they can dip in and out as they like and hopefully serendipitously stumbled upon social innovations relevant to them?

The point of Social Innovation Hunt is to be a super high quality filter. We all get lost in information overload everyday. I recently unsubscribed from most of the e-newsletters I was subscribed to, and I feel liberated! But I also just signed up to Product Hunt, because Product Hunt filters out the crap, gives me the newest and the the best in a super simple, short, sharp and easy way. The Product Hunt experience is a lovely way to digest manageable amounts of new information about a topic we’re passion about. We want to create the same magical experience for the Social Innovation Community, a community we are even more passion about. That’s why we are testing the waters with the Social Innovation Hunt prototype on Linkydink.

Let’s see where the next 48 hours takes us.

Stay on or join the ride.

Join the Social Innovation Hunt Linkydink Group

Ps. We were pretty stoked about this, blessing from the creator of Product Hunt Ryan Hoover.

Ryan Hoover

Social Innovation Hunt

Inspired by the story and success of Product Hunt, Social Innovation Thinking and Kreater, or Mickey Kovari, Ivan Kepecs, Zsofia Ret and Laszlo Agoston, have teamed up to create Social Innovation Hunt.

Social Innovation Hunt brings you new links everyday to exciting social innovations.

Our motivating question is: What awesome social innovations are changing the world?

Our idea is to build a community for social innovators to share and discover new and interesting social innovations and social enterprises.

We are following in Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover’s footsteps as his process seemed to work. We have created a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – the Social Innovation Hunt Linkydink – subscribe now!

 

Social Innovation Hunt
Social Innovation Hunt

Linkydink is a link sharing tool based on the philosophy ‘just give me the link!’.

Ryan had immediate positive feedback on his Linkydink MVP from Venture Capitalists. We are more interested in finding other social innovators around the world and catalysing connections for collaboration. Catching the eye of impact investors who are seeking to make a social return on their investments would also be a great outcome.

If we reach 100 subscribers (people receiving a daily email with links) to our Linkydink Group by March 3rd, we will try to build a website similar to Product Hunt (which was inspired by Hacker News and Reddit). If we fail, we will give ourselves another two weeks and aim for 200 subscribers to our Linkydink Group by March 17th. If that fails, we think we’ll kill the idea.

 

Social Innovation Hunt Email
Social Innovation Hunt Email

 

Currently we have four contributors (people sharing links to the group) the founders, me (Mickey Kovari), Ivan Kepecs, Zsofia Ret and Laszlo Agoston. We are committed to sharing one link each to an exciting social innovation everyday.  We will contact a range of leading social innovators from around the world inviting them to also become contributors. If you would like to become a contributor, email me with some details about yourself and why you would like to contribute.

Let’s find the world’s most socially innovative enterprises and projects.

Join us and subscribe to Social Innovation Hunt now!

You can also follow us on twitter @socinnohunt

Social Innovation Hunt

 

Post Links

Product Hunt

The Product Hunt Story

Ryan Hoover

The Linkydink Story

Makeshift

Hacker News

Reddit

Monthnote 2 – January 2014

January was a good start to the year.

Personally, I made a few small new years resolutions and so far I’m doing pretty well. I’m using the ‘Lift’ App to help motivate me to stick to my new habits. These are habits I  have had and lost and regained and lapsed on many times over the past few years. I have simplified my habits down to these six:

  • meditate (5-20min a day)
  • cardio exercise (15-45min 2-3 times a week)
  • resistance training (60+ push ups, 45+ plus tri dips, 30+ bicep curls 2-3 times a week)
  • read (any amount of any book, articles related to work do not count)
  • write (anything, fiction or nonfiction but not directly related to work)
  • make art (anything in any medium, drawing, painting, photography, music)

In the past month I read two and  a third books. I read Clive Hamilton’s: The Freedom Paradox – Towards a Post-Secular Ethics and Guy Kawasaki’s Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (APE). I also finished a book I had been reading in dribs and drabs for the past year, The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey (cheesy I know, but it is quality and I highly recommend it).

 

I could write a massively essay on Clive Hamilton’s book, I found it very intriguing. Suffice to say, if you are interested in morality, ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, wellbeing, and notions of connectedness, timelessness and boundlessness in general, this is a great rumination on those concepts and provides ample substance for reflection.

To me the crux of the book lies on whether we reject moral relativism, as Hamilton suggests, and embrace a metaphysical morality, beyond socialisation and culture, as an anchor for decision making and living a meaningful life. Or we accept moral relativism, which leaves us rudderless in an open and tumultuous ocean of uncertainty about what is right and what is wrong. Weirdly my stance is that I generally identify with Hamilton’s ethics but I do not wish to push these onto others or make a general rule from. I believe in Schopenhauer’s dictum, ‘injure no one, on the contrary, help everyone as much as you can’, I feel a metaphysical empathy, a connectedness to everyone and everything (even if I usually arrive at this feeling more intellectually than emotionally) but I don’t know if this is true. Some in my close circle of friends and family do not feel this at all and reject Hamilton’s viewpoint completely believing any morality or ethics can only be social and cultural and derived from a need to stabilise and control communities.

Schopenhauer

You can read his talk about the book. You can read a few reviews of the book here,  here and here.

Guy Kawasaki’s book is on the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum. APE is a valuable book about the tactics and practicalities of writing, self-publishing and selling a book. Its excellent if you want to self-publish a book.

Workwise, Flashpoint Labs is progressing well. We got a lot done despite only working two weeks of the month. We now have a draft of a new strategic plan, a new website in the works and we landed a couple new clients. We are also doing some important governance work around employment contracts, intellectual property, image licensing, registering as a charity and obtaining deductible gift recipient status.

Flashpoint Labs Apprentice Photographer MacGillivray
Flashpoint Labs Apprentice Photographer Yale MacGillivray

Most importantly, we spent some quality time with our young apprentices who got to learn professional photography skills on the job with our lead photographer Tomasz. Tomasz is doing an amazing job involving the apprentices in his own photography work and giving them as many opportunities as possible to learn and get experience.

Flashpoint Labs Lead Photographer Tomasz Machnik
Flashpoint Labs Lead Photographer Tomasz Machnik

I also met a Hungarian Photographer Geza Talaber, who might be interested in getting involved in Flashpoint Labs. He also put me onto Minyo Szert Karoly and the Stop Ground Foundation who run a photography program in Budapest.

We explored Photoshelter and Redbubblle as possible platforms to sell images and products. I think we are going to go with Redbubble to start of but we might explore Zazzle and Photoshelter more later.

Other products and services I came across in the last month that you might find useful for your social innovation escapades.

  • Squarespace – easy and nicely designed website builder with customer support.
  • Chromecast – online music and video through your TV
  • KIN HR: user friendly online HR platform
  • Gibbon: playlists for learning. online learning at your own pace.
  • Typeform – Typeform makes asking questions easy, human & beautiful
  • Ask the room – online polls with people around you in an instant

Upstarts Talk

I just found a talk I gave at Vibewire’s Fastbreak event last year. Unfortunately, they don’t allow their videos to be embedded so you’ll need to click the link below to view the short 5min talk on Why we started Flashpoint Labs. I have embedded the slide presentation below. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the content or about Flashpoint Labs.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO

Upstarts Talk