Introducing the OpenKollab Ecosystem Pooled Fund: a collaborative approach to funding early stage social ventures

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OpenKollab is developing infrastructure and processes to support its larger mission of Connecting Projects To Solve Massive Social Problems. In service of this larger end, we are developing the Ecosystem Pooled Fund initiative, the objective of which is to develop a model to provide financing to early stage social entrepreneurs (those that are developing projects that delivery both social value and financial return). As you likely know, there is a gap in the funding landscape that makes it very hard for social entrepreneurs to raise seed funds. The gap exists due to the fact that social ventures typically carry high risk but don't necessarily carry high enough financial return to offset this risk since they are not solely focused on financial return.

The strategy of the Ecosystem Pooled Fund is, therefore, to offset risk by bringing groups of early stage social ventures together collaboratively. This has the following benefits:

Reducing Investment Risk By Developing Collaborative Process Amongst Early Stage Social Ventures

* Scale: In grouping projects together, we create scale (more people, ideas, resources etc.).
* Modularity: In viewing ones enterprise as a part of a system of relations, one can direct ones activities in a way that is aligned with ones ecosystem partners.
* Social cohesion: we hope that some of what works in the Grameen Peer Lending model, works in this context as well. In support of this idea, we will be developing non-binding collaboration agreements that formalize the commitments between groups.
* Offsets technology risk: A constant challenge for investors is to be able to assess the value of technology and processes that have not already garnered market acceptance. In getting peers to use your technology, processes etc., (as ecosystem collaborators) the functional utility of the technology is validated by people that understand the technology.
* Increased Product Validation: in fitting your technology or process into a value chain of collaborators, you will solve problems and enhance the product thereby making it more market worthy.
* Increased Network/Channel Capacity: In working collaboratively with others, you will build networks and contacts that will open up other market opportunities.

More details on the model can be found in this paper.

Collaborative Projects That OpenKollab is Preparing Investment Cases For
OpenKollab organizes all its activity around the notion of an ecosystem; groups of projects that might be able to collaborate. We are currently developing a collaborative funding strategy for four projects in the Open Manufacturing Ecosystem and are in discussion with several projects in the Open Government Ecosystem. This process is being formalized through the creation of Collaboration Agreements that define the collaboration process and the commitments that the various groups are making to each other.

Information Modeling
Central to the OpenKollab strategy is the development of information models which are designed to collect specific data on projects within ecosystems that support driving collaborative activity between projects. The information we are currently collecting is:

* Mission and Goals: the objective is to see if collaboration possibilities arise if projects have aligned missions
* Collaborative Relationships: projects self identify other projects they believe they can collaborate with
* Project Summaries; specific information about business models, market strategies, unique differentiators etc.

Examples of the specific information being collected can be found in the various tabs in, for example, the Open Manufacturing Ecosystem spreadsheet.

Technology Infrastructure Strategy
An associated strategy that will, in time, be developed on top of the information models is a technology layer that supports the matching of projects. Details of the vision that underlies the technology strategy can be found in the following presentations:

* Open System Mobilization Platform: This describes a vision for a platform that matches projects to support mobilization of projects around large scale social problems.
* Ecosystem Mobilization Platform: This offers some thoughts on what the user interface paradigm for such a platform might look like.
* Project Matching: This describes how meta-data such as that being currently collected via our information models can be used to match projects and drive collaboration.

Our mission is, in part, to solve the systemic problem that impedes the flow of capital into social ventures because we believe that the development of an infrastructure that supports social ventures would be beneficial to humanity.

If possible, I would like to arrange a time for a quick chat just to introduce you to our work and to explore areas of potential collaboration.

If this is of interest, maybe we can connect on Skype. You can find me at sureshf


Suresh Fernando