Thank you for visiting this page to learn a bit about Ashoka, its Changemakers.com community, the LEGO Foundation and the Ashoka/LEGO #Play2Learn Challenge. You likely found your way here from a link provided in an email, a tweet, or blog post by Jim Salmons and/or Timlynn Babitsky on behalf of our twin #Play2Learn projects, FactMiners and The Softalk Apple Project.
You are therefore likely a member of one of two groups; super-cool people who we are inviting to be an Advisor, Volunteer or other role for the informal team we're building for our participation in the #Play2Learn Challenge, OR you are a super-cool participant in the #Play2Learn Challenge and you are interested in how we're using the Challenge to grow interest and participation in our projects. In all cases, welcome.
Quick Background: Who's Who
Many people are unfamiliar with the incredible work of Ashoka and its visionary leader Bill Drayton. In essence, Ashoka is an "applied social action R&D lab" (i.e., an innovation incubator) that finds and nurtures both the PEOPLE who change the world – its Ashoka Fellows, an "Army for Good" of about 2,600 – and the STRATEGIES most likely to accomplish the goals of that army working to make the world a better place.
You might think of Ashoka as an "action-oriented Gartner" or similar research-driven consultancy. The big difference is that an outfit like Gartner accumulates its knowledge and insights to sell to the highest bidders in search of a transient market advantage in such domains as enterprise software or consumer electronics. Ashoka, on the other hand, applies a rigorous research-guided methodology that targets finding and amplifying the best practices of social change practicioners; that is, they are in the business of Changemakers.com.
Ashoka follows roughly this process when it targets an area for a "social good insurgency":
- Determine a Social Need ripe for innovation, whether by its own decision process or by way of a strategic partner encouraging a collaborative agenda.
Example: Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation have initiated the 3-year, multi-pronged #Play2Learn agenda to promote innovations in the application of, well obviously, "play" to "learn(ing)." The good folks at the LEGO Foundation announced this wonderful #Play2Learn collaboration with Ashoka at this year's IDEA Conference (which is one of the coolest, most fun-looking websites EVER!).
Survey its current army of Ashoka Fellows to develop a "first cut" model of "who is doing what" in that targeted space.
Example: Ashoka published and is freely distributing this incredible action-oriented interim report, "Social Innovation Mapping: Entrepreneurial Patterns for the Future of Learning" (46-page pdf).
- Announce and conduct an "open audition" Challenge on its Changemakers.com website/community. The purpose of the Challenge is to test and refine the "first cut" model and to identify new "players" in the space.
Example: The #Play2Learn Challenge.
- Analyse the data, refine the model, and initiate a "spread strategy" to help more people and organizations implement the reforms and innovations identified through this rigorous applied research-driven social change method.
Example: That's what's ahead as we all #Play2Learn.
Why You're Here – #Play2Learn Team Building and the Karma Economy
At first glance, you might be mistaken to assume that an Ashoka Changemakers Challenge is YAG – Yet Another Grant opportunity – where folks fill in an application, submit it by the deadline, and then cross fingers and toes awaiting the announced "winners" of never-enough cash to go around. Surely some folks, even those who make it so far as to submit entries into the various Ashoka Challenges, make this incorrect assumption.
When Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation pose the question, "Up for the challenge?" on the #Play2Learn Challenge homepage, they lay it right out in the next sentence: "Here’s the big incentive: everyone is a winner." They go on to describe how participating in the Challenge is an opportunity to interact with Kindred Spirits, meet potential volunteers, advisers, and maybe even talk to some funding sources.
But the unspoken implication is that the Ashoka Changemakers community runs on a "Karma economy" – what you get out of it is a function of what you put in. So participation does not mean, "Oh, come look at me and my project? I need your help. Me, me, me..." Rather, the opportunity is here for us to be the initiator of help to others which, in return, is very likely to result in a "multiplier return" – you get back more than you put in.
Knowing this, Timlynn and I have decided to treat the #Play2Learn "Team" aspect of our Project Profiles as a "honeypot" for engaging the Challenge-specific interest in our projects by people and organizations that we aspire to work with, or whom we value as "smart folks" who can help us improve and grow our projects. For example, someone with an "Advisor" role on The Softalk Apple Project may be a member of our official STAP project Advisory Board, but it is far more likely that we've invited him or her onto our Project Team to help us through the #Play2Learn-specific interactive process of setting some goals and moving our projects forward as participants in this Changemakers Challenge.
So, What's In It for You?
Obviously this approach has hoped-for advantages for our projects; our temporary Team members will help within the activity related to the #Play2Learn challenge, and if we are lucky, that participation will grow into deeper and long-lasting friendships and collaboration.
But there is actually a much more important idea in play here, and that is, we hope our invitation to join our project teams will give our friends and colleagues a "serious fun" introduction to Ashoka and the Changemakers.com community. We're hoping for an effect similar to what happens when folks do their first crowdfunding activity.
If you are like us, you may already be an active "backer" (crowdfunder) at sites like www.Kickstarter.com, www.IndieGoGo.com, or www.GoFundMe.com. In most cases, you found your way there at the request of someone you knew who asked for your support, or you saw some info about a project that "just spoke to me." After you sign up and make your first backer-pledge, you very likely have started what will become a regular and super-fun good habit – spending small amounts of cash helping creative folks do their most passionate projects.
The "backer transaction" at a crowdfunding site is more specific than the more open-ended invitation at Changemakers.com, but the idea is very similar. Rather than contribute a bit from your wallet, Changemakers.com invites you to give a little of yourself; your insights, your encouragement, your networking contacts, lots of little things that may not seem like much in light of the scope of some of the projects you will learn about at Changemakers.com. But these little things add up, especially in a world where funding for everything is a target for belt-tightening and policy-based agendas have a way of being "here today, gone tomorrow."
So What's Next? – Depends on Who You Are...
While this section's headline can be taken at a deeper more personal level, what's next in the social context of our invitation depends on what brought you here.
If you are someone we have approached by email, tweet, or blog post or comment, we hope you have found what you need to know in order to respond to the essential "Yes or No" question we put to you about sending a "Project Team Invitation" email to be sent on our behalf from the Changemakers.com website. That email will have a (long) link which, when clicked, will take you to your newly stubbed-in User Account. By completing the minimal information needed to confirm your account, your role in one or both of our Projects will be associated with your new Changemakers.com User account. At this point, you will have done all that is required for now.
As the #Play2Learn Challenge unfolds over the Summer months ahead, you will hear about additional opportunities to help with our project... we might need your opinion on a decision we're facing, or there may be a contact or resource you can point us to, or you might join in helping us achieve a Challenge-specific goal we'll set... the "serious fun" will unfold over the weeks ahead. Even better, you'll find the other projects that you learn about by being a member of the Changemakers community. We'd like our projects to be the first step toward you becoming a "repeat Changemaker." :-) :-)
If you are fellow "player" in the #Play2Learn Challenge, we hope this post will give you food for thought. Maybe your project could benefit from using #Play2Learn to engage prospective collaborators by inviting them to join your Project Team. If you do, ping us to let us know how it goes. And, if you "hit a goldmine" technique that just locks it for you, please share.
Like the invitation to join the #Play2Learn Challenge said, "...everyone is a winner" – especially if we borrow one of Jean-Luc Picard's Star Trek directives to "Make it so!"
P.S. This article is cross-posted on The Softalk Apple Project.