“The most innovative and radical thing you can do sometimes is throw a damn good party.” Those wise words come from DeAmon Harges, aka “The Roving Listener,” an Indianapolis community organizer who has spent some quality time in Savannah working with groups like Mixed Greens and Emergent Savannah building on the idea of what innovative community mapping looks like.
I can already feel the collective salivation of a few locals wondering if throwing a party is a key to solving problems in Savannah. The answer is not technically, but what a party does is it connects people. It’s a low-key, intimate way of cultivating social entrepreneurship and social capital.
Social Entrepreneurship sounds like a $5 phrase, but it’s similar to a business-minded entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur builds strong and sustainable organizations, has the courage to innovate and overcome traditional means of doing things and focuses on social change through a product, service or organization. The difference? Social Entrepreneurship is about connecting and amplifying for the social better — not just for ease. Bill Gates is a social entrepreneur, but so was Maria Montessori and chances are, you know a local social entrepreneur, even if it feels like you don’t.
“I always find myself Googling the definition,” says Amanda Hollowell, communications director of Georgia’s Win List, education specialist at LifeLink Foundation and an all around Savannah-do-gooder. “Not that I do not know what it is, but the question that I think of is more so, am I? I am not like traditional social entrepreneurs whose business model is say buy one, donate one. I am thinking beyond the revenue and looking at the network — that is another aspect of social entrepreneurship — where you can create these cross cultures or business models of help and support.”
It’s an idea that Robert Putnam has talked about in The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life — that if we want prosperity, we have to restore the fabric of community. This is where savvy social entrepreneurs come in and have to be especially good at cultivating social capital, i.e., networks of relationships among people who live and work in a community and strategically enabling them to thrive.
“Social capital, to me, is the value of our social connections,” says Kevin Lawver, chief technologist of Planted, Refresh Savannah guru and another all around Savannah-do-gooder. “It’s the ability to be connected to the resources you need and the ease with which you can identify and solve problems you encounter. It’s everything from knowing who’s hiring, getting that introduction to a person you need to know, or having the trust in and of your community so we can all come together and solve problems.”
In laymen’s terms, you might call this networking, though I think like the majority of people, that word sends a corporate chill up my spine. Kathy Caprino of Forbes tends to agree and quotes that plenty of folks find “networking and meet-and-greet events intimidating and inauthentic.” Networking it seems, turns people into business cards, whereas connection is well, about people being people.
“Social Capital is the pooling of resources to create a value. A connection with the right person will allow a venture, project, or idea to progress forward,” says Russell Cannady, president of Urban Savannah Chamber of Commerce and owner of Indulge Coffee.
“Ultimately, without social capital, there’s no trust, no progress, and no solutions,” Lawver emphasizes.
Maybe now is a convenient time to drop that the Creative Coast is looking to create a whole room full of social capital by throwing our own little party, something you might have heard of called the #MadeinSAV kickoff. The event isn’t to toot our own horn, but instead to celebrate the many different innovators, small business owners, nonprofits, foodies, creators, hustlers and tech wizards who have said yes to rooting down in Savannah and growing their dream. And not only celebrate, but to connect folks who might not know one another and embody the “all of it” interconnectedness we recently talked about.
Want to see what this community looks like? Eat some killer food? Be in a room full of unusual suspects? Consider this your official invite. Join us on Thursday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Bull Street Labs (you can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s time to #getconnectedyall.
Coco Papy is the community manager at Bull Street Labs and The Creative Coast. Connect with Coco at email@example.com.