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SOCAP Your Town: The “Why?”

In just over five years SOCAP has grown from an auspicious convening of early leaders in impact investing into the globally recognized leader at the intersection of money and meaning.  In retrospect SOCAP could not have chosen a better historical moment to debut its first conference than October 2008, as the global economy teetered on the edge and people across the ideological spectrum began to question our economic foundations.

While the flagship SOCAP Conference has attracted larger and more diverse crowds to San Francisco for a week each fall, SOCAP has pondered how to respond to strong inbound demand from communities across the globe to “bring SOCAP to our town”.  Valuable as these events are, they are ephemeral by nature; they are not knitted into the essential fabric of the cities and communities that may wish to host them.  Ultimately what these groups are requesting isn’t a conference, but for the type of collaboration around shared value that is SOCAP’s secret sauce to take root in their town.

Through its unique convening methodology SOCAP has accumulated immense brand value, but that value is currently underleveraged.  The question remains of how to extend and deepen the value that SOCAP has created in a way that enables leaders to activate a social capital market in their town.  As was the case in Fall 2008, the moment is ripe to build the solution: that solution is SOCAP Your Town.

SOCAP Your Town will be a set of tools that local leaders can deploy in their own cities; a roadmap that leaders can follow, hack, and reconstruct however their community demands.  Chris Kieran and I are developing a prototype card deck that SOCAP “power users” (i.e. those who have been requesting SOCAP to come to their town) and their peers will use to instigate gamified interaction with Kevin and Mark’s revamped Market Map in “feeder cities” across the US.

Through a growing set of feeder cities, SOCAP Your Town tools will help companies and organizations to learn from one another via local hacking of the deck, tracked in a central repository at the R&D lab in Philly. This activity drives a collaborative learning process where distributed innovation across a global network (within Impact Hubs and other local institutions) leads to teams generating locally appropriate modules to add to the deck.

Two primary themes of the initial SOCAP Your Town toolkit will be integrating local food systems and the collaborative economy, both of which generate tremendous interest and value in cities worldwide even though their potential remains largely untapped. Both are also of central importance to cities across all geographies, making them at once intimately local and globally relevant.

In this way, SOCAP Your Town is not a direct response to the requests for another SOCAP Conference, but a lightweight response to the implicit next level of that demand.  That next level—the integration of SOCAP’s principles into the core of local economies that are globally interconnected—is the future of the impact economy.

What SOCAPYourTown is

The SOCAPYourTown R&D lab in Philly, will be where we figure out how to SOCAPYourTown; to come into your town and SOCAP it. We want to work with local people to create the market at the intersection of money, the place where they find and recognize the valuable strangers in their own region, the unlikely allies we try to create the intersections to enable faster, smarter partnerships for the common good.


The project is in its earliest phases and not everything has been worked out. We are planning to design a partner protocol to help us figure out who to partner with how once we get momentum, so we will be able to handle momentum when it comes.

The result for a town that is SOCAPed should be that accelerate the flow of capital to good,  with less friction and more collective intelligence and inclusion.

Tools and approaches like local lending clubs for good, but non venture deals. We will likely stitch together a variety of techniques borrowed from Slow Money and the folks at Balle. We could add in including Direct Public Offerings, from a partner like Edward West and his Hylo application  along with other software, but it will be a service platform for people’s IP and methodology. We are exploring a deep, operating system partnership with one group whose asset mapping and market mapping approach we want to adopt as a core module.

In the medium term, we plan to roll out SOCAPYourTown on a network, where Philly tells Detroit what’s working differently for them, where Asheville, NC, works across a common set of tools and goals to as Louisville, KY. And where, eventually we link of Manhattan and DC Impact Hub communities. But we are not opening up there.

Because it’s the kind of project where being soft of wrong and sort of wrong is a god thing; people tell us how to alter our map and plan for their needs, it’s the kind of project where the people working on it can get smart fast.

Adam Caplan and Chris Kieran are leading the project. They will be blogging, too. Probably here and on the SOCAP site, but some parts are TBD. SOCAPYourTown will be linked with, but not done in coordination with the meta map Mark Beam and I are recreating from our work of 13 years ago.

Brand managers are good things

I am an owner in a business where we have grown to the point where we have brand managers and new products or product line extensions need to meet certain criteria for message, impact, quality, diversity, etc. It’s wonderful it’s grown to that point.

This blog will be a place where I write about things that do not need brand manager coordination, which I acknowledge is a very good thing and a system to set up as basic infrastructure as a business grows.

My company’s message used to be whatever I made up at the time. Now, in those businesses and with investees, on their official sites, what I write will need someone’s buy in. It’s great that it’s grown to the point that those things are being added to bolster its growth into the future as I move increasingly out of operations and into being an ambassador and the new product R&D lab that is SOCAPYourTown.


Mapping progress, session two.

We’ve decided on two focus areas, based on two crying pain points, that Mark Beam and I sense in the Social Capital Market. One is focused on the individual and one is focused on the stage of the deal. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. We are using the metaphor of Power of 10 as a guiding architecture (as above, so below) for both the meta-map and the SOCAPYourTown projects, which are linked, but not coordinated, but should be coherent across all scales. We are going to work at making the map more usable to more people this time; last time Mark and I built it mostly to guide us, which it has.

For the map Mark Beam and I are revising that we did 13 years ago, we are focusing on early stage; below series A and deals size lower than $1 million or so.

In that space we are focusing on two critical areas: the capacity gap, the quality gap and the pioneer gap. We are not getting the best entrepreneurs into the impact space, broadly. The best who have impact sometimes hide it so as to not lose credibility with venture funds and the valley culture. And we need to improve the skills and aptitudes and business instincts of the ones we have. So we are focusing on the 23 year old hubber do gooder wanna be and her path to being the second or third or fourth employee in a startup linked to one of Village Capital’s Impact Hubs (places where reliable funding allows an industry focus (financial inclusion in SF, energy in Boulder, ObamaCare meets mHealth at Hub Boston. We (Good Capital Holdings and Impact Hub Bay Area and SOCAP we) are staffing and investing in that relationship. Our goal is to create career paths with skills training for wanna be do gooders, career changers and boomers who want to give back, maybe fix some of what we’ve broken.

And we will also focus on the pioneer gap; beyond the $300k in convertible debt that one fourth of Vilcap cohort members get from the mentor community that program has historically gotten, to the first institutional round; deals at $1 million and above to $2 million; traditional series A size venture investing.


We look at things like Eleos Foundation syndications and those that Tom Bird does, examine why Toniic Investors Circle and   other angel syndicates have and have not done. We will look closely at what Artha is doing  and trying to do. We will try to figure out why the landscape at the angel level is so fragile and siloed, and what some solutions are.

It’s great to be working and thinking with Mark again. He asks these formative, topology related, taxonomy related structuring kinds of questions and sets up those frames that I pour my research and reporting and investigation into. We have been a good team several times in the past, but it’s been half a dozen years since we worked closely together, combining our unique, but complementary skills.

We want to be ready to talk about this at Catapulta and then make it a massive mashup session at SOCAP14. SOCAPYourTown itself, will debut with a roadshow hackathon marathon from Impact Hub Philly, to Impact Hub TriBeCa to Impact Hub DC this summer. That will all be in one week, with a day in Philly to start before the opening in Philly, and then a day in Philly afterward to collect things. Adam Caplan and Chris Kieran will carry that project forward with me as a close advisor.