Creating friendly places for the re-emergence of mutualism

The SHINE09 unconference gave me a chance to catch up with Ben Metz, UK director of Ashoka, who I last met in December when he spoke in Lisbon, at a social innovation conference, about the emerging ecology of support for social entrepreneurs.

Since then the landscape has changed still further, and not for the better. The collapse of the capital markets makes things tough for any type of entrepreneur. On the other hand, social media enables organisations like Kiva and Zopa to raise funds in a highly distributed fashion.

This opens the way for a shift in the ownership, governance and management of enterprises with, perhaps, increasing interest in mutualism and cooperatives and more concern for values that profit. I summarise …please listen to the interview, where I ramble around and Ben is admirable clear.

We ended up talking about Twitter and similar tools encouraging sharing and a gift economy – because you are only as good as what you give. We agreed (I think) that the task for organisation with members was to create a friendly environment for hard-nosed approaches to soft/gentler living enabling people to learn to live better with each other. Some of this ties in with the discussion recently at a seminar organised by the UK Carnegie Trust, about civil society organisations, where Andy Gibson was promoting mutualism.

Ben is leaving Ashoka, but will still play a part in the social enterprise ecosystem. He’s promising a blog at within a week or two.

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