I like birthday parties, but I don’t like the old tradition of buying something to bring with me. It’s not that I am stingy. But I never know what to get, and I often find myself racing around at the last minute desperately searching for that “special” thing. The result? Never as inspiring as it should be. And not a lot of fun either.
So I really like an idea that two friends are trying (one is a done deal, the other about to happen) at their parties. They tell people in advance - ” Please don’t bring gifts! But do bring cash that will be gifted to a designated cause.” One friend designated a local orphanage and raised over 1,000€. Another is designating Siisi Saetalu’s Ugandan cafe project.
Very cool for at least two reasons. First, these causes need the money but often don’t have very much fund raising capacity. So you can provide immediate and much needed help. Second, connecting your friends to a cause spreads a great story in your community. It energizes us. That, btw, gives people running causes a great incentive to try more stuff and reach out more to tell more stories. A virtuous circle. Those are always nice!
This is not a new idea and a quick Google search brings up some great stories (like Miley Cyrus’s 20th birthday party) and platforms promoting the idea. Cool stuff. But this is a storyline that we can just do ourselves, for our own friends and causes.
Quickthink is following the great adventure that young Siisi Saietalu is leading in Kampala, Uganda. She is leading the charge to start up a cafe that would be run by physically challenged Ugandans. Here is a link back to our start up coverage. Here is the second installment.
The latest - Siisi is close to finding a location for her “Pop Up” cafe. Here is her latest video
And here is a link to her blog - where we find out that she may be close to getting a signed lease on the property. Wow!
You might recall that Siisi Saetalu had a crazy idea. She waned to go to Uganda to start up a cafe run by persons with special needs. I told her that the idea was totally crazy, which is its beauty.
Well, guess what? Siisi is now in Uganda and she has an idea about cafe planning that she would like to share with you. Yes! You! You can see it on this video that she did from Kampala (turn on the captions if you need them by using the caption tool on the bottom right of the video screen. It appears after you start the video)
She has a good point. Internet access is something we take for granted. And if we had trouble affording it, we would lose out on a lot. So if the cafe can offer free wireless access? It can and it will if you help out.
I am preparing a one day course on using communication to build engagement that my client Dimela will offer in March for a group of veterinarians. As I assembled the materials, I realized that there is quite a lot to talk about. Two quick questions give a sense of the topic.
First, what is engagement? It is not the same as happiness or love. And it has a dynamic quality - from the idea of “flow”. To get a sense of this, you might check out Dwight Garner’s review of a new book by Sonia Faleiro called “Beautiful Thing”. The main character dances in a Mumbai sex bar, but in fact, she makes her clients dance for her. She is fully engaged in a gritty battle — not just to survive — but to prevail over poverty and abuse.
Second, how do we share engagement? It is one thing to experience it. It is quite another thing to build groups that are committed to learning from it over time. To institutionalize it. VC Fred Wilson writes about the excitement he feels when he visits college campuses. Why?
… this is talent development. We want to see more students choosing a career in entrepreneurship, more bright people working in startups, and more bright people working in our portfolio. This year already, I’ve talked at Columbia twice, Brooklyn Poly once, and now this back to back to back Ivy League week. And more is coming. Talent development is that important to our business and our portfolio.
Fred is pretty good at sharing engagement. And you can think of his firm’s startup portfolio as an engaged group dedicated to learning.
BTW, last night, Siisi Saetalu spoke at Wilde about her Uganda cafe project. In case you missed it, it was a fun event. Sure Siisi is going to learn a lot about starting up a cafe and working with handicapped people. She will learn a lot more about sharing engagement.
Part of the challenge in institutionalizing engagement is to speed up learning cycles. Fred Wilson made the point a while ago that the speed of these cycles hinges on cost benefit expectations in new product design and roll out. Smart phones are cheaper than laptops and people buy new phones more frequently. So the learning cycles are faster. And we are starting to see how smart phones are pulling forward innovation in those more sluggish markets. Just a few years ago, there was no synergy between these markets. Now a pattern for shared learning is starting to emerge with leaders and followers. The synergy that emerges is the end result of a new type of business model that builds shared learning capacity. I have called this the OI Game.
Seth Godin has a great post today that argues for attempting the impossible instead of just defending what’s perfect. And of course, in terms of story telling, he is right. Just because a business model works perfectly for those lucky enough to benefit from it, doesn’t mean that it is perfect for the rest of us. And anyway, let’s face it. Once something is already perfect it becomes boring. It is no longer part of a story that is going anywhere. BTW, that is precisely George Bernard Shaw’s comic appraisal of what happens in heaven (from Man and Superman)
On the other hand, dreaming the impossible starts off an irresistible storyline. An adventure. And thanks to the internet, we can connect with these adventures more easily than ever before.
Case in point, check out my earlier post about helping to starting up a cafe in Kampala, Uganda that will be run by handicapped persons. The video in my post tells the story so far. For non-Estonian speakers, there are subtitles in the video and to see them, after you start up the video, click on the “cc” at the lower right hand side of the YouTube clip.
Impossible? You bet! And one hell of a great story that is jut getting underway. Care to join in?
Hmm … would that be Kampala, Uganda? How could anyone want me in Kampala? It is, after all, rather far away. And I don’t know anyone there. Well, as a preliminary matter, one might dispute how far away Uganda is these days. In case you missed it, internet kills distance. And as for knowing someone … that may be about to change.
But before we head off to Uganda, allow me to present a rather sad truth. While the internet is amazing in how it can destroy distance, it does not pull us into great, real life adventures. Instead, we still need to connect to these the old fashioned way - by being bold, reaching out when the opportunity comes, and connecting with great people doing great stuff. Too bad. … Or maybe it’s not so bad after all …
Here is my pitch — what if we could connect with a great adventure via internet without even having to put down our coffee mugs? Not only that, what if this adventure would achieve something unique and worthwhile? And the topper - what if it would lay the foundation for repeating the experiment, learning from the experience and over time help to change the world? This is starting to sound really cool.
So back to our story. That is why we are wanted in Kampala, Uganda. Not to go there or to watch a movie or look at travel photos about it. A real world and rather special adventure is about to start up there and we are being invited to be part of it. It’s time to be bold, reach out and connect. And the good news is that we don’t need to leave home to do it.
A short intermezzo
In this fantastic scene from the movie, The 13th Warrior, Antonio Banderas suddenly finds a viking adventure knocking at his door. It ends with Omar Sharif delivering the great line “… the 13th warrior is you.” Check it out.
Back to our story. Here are the details. A nice, intrepid Estonian young lady Siisi Saetalu, is about to travel to Kampala in order to set up a cafe to be run by local handicapped persons. You might ask “What’s the big deal? It is just a cafe.” But this will not just be a cafe. It is a chance for people who usually are rudely pushed aside to take the stage and control of their lives. To connect with people by offering value and forming a community. That is really cool. But it gets better. If we can kickstart this project, we share great community building skills. We learn how to connect with real people who need us. That is starting to sound interesting.
So, if you are with us, here is the latest news. Siisi already has manged to get the funding to travel to Kampala and run this project for nine months. Good job! She already has assembled a group of mentors from the business community to help her make the cafe a success. BTW, I love how people here are responding to meet the challenge! She already is in intensive training to be ready for her challenge. And now she is reaching out to you for a bit of help. The 13th warrior … is you.
Here she is in this short video.
Will you be bold and take the opportunity to join her? Think about it. Think about how even a small contribution would have such a big and long lasting effect. Better yet, think about how you can be part of a new community. You just need to reach out and take the opportunity. Watch the video to find out how.
BTW, I first posted about this adventure a while back. Here is the link. You can follow the adventure via Facebook. You can also follow it from this blog.
And last but not least, thank you for giving your attention, even if just for a moment.
I love the Mission Impossible storyline. Start with a very important problem that seems impossible to solve. Add an intrepid group of people whose blend of skills enables them to come up with a wild strategy to get the job done. Then sit back and experience a mind blowing good time.
But what if we could be part of real life “missions impossible”? Wouldn’t that be fantastic? To connect with really cool and brave people who are trying to tackle important and outrageous problems? To be part of that team? Hmmm … but isn’t this type of stuff risky? Sure there is risk. The project might fail. But unlike the mission impossible films where failure leads to shoot outs and that kind of stuff, project failure in the real world means — we get a learning experience. Should that be a reason to hold back? I don’t think so.
Ok, fasten your seatbelt, here is an example. A while ago a nice young lady paid me a visit at my cafe. Her name is Siisi Saetalu. Siisi asked my opinion about a project. “Ho hum” I thought. But then I heard her story. The project was for her to go to Kampala, Uganda in order to start up a cafe that would be run by local handicapped persons. It seemed like an impossible challenge. But wouldn’t it be great if it actually worked?
After Siisi left, I found myself thinking a lot about her idea. I found myself hoping that somehow she could pull it off. It is a mission impossible. Then Siisi sent me an email with a Youtube video link. Here it is.
So here is my pitch. Perhaps this is just way too crazy to do. But maybe that is its appeal. What do you think?