Social Entrepreneurs and SoCap ’09

Last year, after Pop!Tech where I was labeled a Social Entrepreneur Fellow, I wrote a post for them asking, “if every African entrepreneur is a social entrepreneur?” This questions stems from my lack of clarity on what defines a “social entrepreneur” in the first place.

SoCap 09I just pulled into San Francisco for the second annual Social Capital Markets conference (SoCap). Kevin Jones, the convener of the conference calls this, “The market at the intersection of money and meeting.” So here, Social Capital is supposedly about putting money behind social entrepreneurs.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Rob Salkowitz says, “Every entrepreneur who creates employment & opportunity where it’s needed is a social entrepreneur.” That’s broad, but so is the terminology we’re starting with.

Wikipedia defines it as, “A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.”

What’s your definition?

Oliver Sacks: Seeing with the Mind

I am stepping in to help liveblog TED for Ethan Zuckerman today. This post is part of a series from the TED 2009 conference held in Long Beach, California from February 4-8th. You can read other posts in the series here, and the TED site will release video from the talk in the coming weeks or months. Because I’m putting these posts together very quickly, I will get things wrong, will misspell names and bungle details. Please feel free to use the comments thread on this post to offer corrections. You may also want to follow the conference via Twitter or through other blogs tagged as on Technorati.

Oliver Sacks

We start this morning with Oliver Sacks, who since Awakenings first stormed the bestseller lists (and the silver screen), has become an unlikely household name, and single-handedly invented the genre of neurological anthropology.

We see with our eyes, but we also see with our minds. Hallucinations is what he will be talking to us about today.

Oliver tells a story of an old lady who was “seeing things”. Who ended up being a perfectly sane and lucid lady, who had been very startled because she had been, “seeing things”. She had been completely blind, through macular degeneration for 5 years, but now was starting to see people in Eastern dress, cats, dogs, and a man with large teeth on one side of his face. Sometimes, she might hallucinate black and pink squares on the floor that go up to the ceiling. In her words, “It’s like a movie, a very boring movie.”

She was confused, and thought she might be going mad. She wasn’t, she had Charles Bonnet Syndrome: an anarchic visualization stimulation release.

10% of visually impaired people get visual hallucinations.
10% of hearing impaired people get hearing hallucinations.

As the visual parts of the brain aren’t getting as much input, they start to become hyperactive. Oliver tells us amazing stories of people what people see. Of boys flying up to 100 feet, men splitting into 6 parts and cartoons come to life.

Functional Brain Imagery (FMRI), has been possible in the last couple years. He tells us how the different parts of the brain are being activated and which are overactive for certain types of hallucinations, and it’s different parts that see teeth and eyes, from buildings, landscapes or cartoons.

He reminds us that blind people all over the world, many times have cases of hallucinations, yet they probably don’t share those with people for fear of being seen as crazy.

TED 2009 and the New TED Fellows Program

TED 2009 starts this week, and I’m heading to California early as part of the new TED Fellows program. As expected, there is an amazing line-up of speakers, but what I’m really excited about is the other attendees and the other TED Fellows. (A quick warning as well, there will be an inordinate number of posts here this week during TED, then back to normal.)

TED Fellows 2009

Interestingly enough, this whole program started in Africa – with the fellows at TED Global 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania:

“Because TEDAfrica’s success in 2007 was due in no small part to the boundless energy and remarkable ideas of our fellows, we decided to create a permanent program to bring more amazing leaders into the TED Community. TED will help them communicate their ‘ideas worth spreading’ to a much larger audience,” said Tom Rielly, TED Community Director, who is responsible for the program.

This is true. Anyone who was there will agree that there was an electricity in the air that was palpable. Talks from Andrew Mwenda, Chris Abani and George Ayittey set the tone. Conversations were started, lasting relationships built and future leaders inspired. It helped remind us that Africa can be greater, and that we need look no further than ourselves to catalyze that change.

As testament to this, 4 of the 5 full-time members of Ushahidi were TED Fellows in Arusha: Henry Addo, Juliana Rotich, Ory Okolloh and myself.

The New TED Fellows Program

Each year TED plans to bring on 50 Fellows to attend TED and TED Global (this year there are more, as there will be another 100 Fellows at TED India). An international selection committee representing the target regions will then choose 20 Senior Fellows, who can take part in the next 3 years of TED conferences, at which point they become TED Alumni.

TED Fellows Program - flowchart

Thanks for Sending Ushahidi to NetSquared!

I need to write a big thank you post today. It was through you, the greater African community, that David and myself are heading to San Francisco today to present Ushahidi at the NetSquared Mashup Challenge that gives us a chance to win up to $20,000 for further development work. Your support helped us get the most votes going in, so now it’s up to us to win over the conference attendees (who are the final voters).

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we were sidetracked from our preparations a little bit this last week by an even more important event/crisis – the xenophobic attacks happening in South Africa. The Ushahidi engine is being used there now at UnitedforAfrica.co.za.

We’re also unveiling our new logo today, designed by David. Watch the flash presentation to see why we chose it.

New Ushahidi Logo

Ushahidi is now a registered non-profit in Florida, jumping all the hoops to become a 501c3, with Ory, myself, Juliana and David as part of the team. Get in touch if you’d like to be part of the growing Ushahidi community.