Social Entrepreneurship and Activism

September 10th, 2006   •   no comments   

The past month or so has been exhausting though thrilling for me, with the demands at work climbing to a feverish high and at the same time breaking new ground. I have seen many things happen which I would never have thought possible before, and I can sense that the entire public service is moving into a brand new direction that is more bold (perhaps) than anything it has ventured before.

All I can say at this moment is that we are now looking at giving voices, personalities, and empowerment to the tens of thousands of faceless civil servants who have been working hard behind the scenes to keep the Singapore machinery well-oiled and efficient. It will also be exploring a radical paradigm shift in the whole business of public communication.

I don’t know if you have read the book Cluetrain Manifesto by Doc Searls and a couple of other chaps. The idea behind it is that people are talking – in coffeeshops, in taxis, in bedrooms, in offices and everywhere else – and how crucially important it is for corporations (and I would add public sector organisations) to be plugged into the conversation. In other words, we need to play the same game, by their rules (and not ours), in order to truly understand what’s happening out there.

There is another concept which I am sure most of you are familiar with – Buzz Marketing – which is first popularised by the book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. The idea behind that is to look at how you can make all your customers – or in this case employees – advocates for your business. There will certainly be some who are connectors, ie the social butterflies who have wide networks of contacts and act as the hubs of human networks. There will be some who are mavens, ie the gurus and knowledgeable people who are trusted points of reference. There will also be salesmen, who are known for their charisma, negotiation power and ability to convince.

In a way, it is a kind of social entrepreneurialism in the public service. Whereas in the past, control has been held tightly at the core, the powers that be now recognise that there is a need to relinquish part of that. This may encourage more spontaneity, more activism, and more enthusiasm amongst public servants who want to make a difference and speak out for what they believe in. Every public employee can then be an entrepreneur, voicing out his or her views, championing a cause and a belief backed by his or her parent organisation, and spreading the word to his or her network of contacts.

What are your views of such an idea? Will it work? Where would be the loopholes?

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