SOA’s Leapfrog

by John Ziniades

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete" - Buckminster Fuller

SOA’s Leapfrog platform is a unique combination of a Start-up Incubator and Social Entrepreneurship Academy with crowd-accelerated-innovation being provided by SOA’s collaborative network of thought-leaders. Leapfrog will be introduced at SOA 2012, move into beta testing with some hand-picked entrepreneurs during 2013, and will be formally launched at SOA 2013, showcasing the results and learnings of the beta phase, and introducing the first group of entrepreneurs to move into the Leapfrog Academy.

Disruptive change is accelerating our need to organise innovative responses to our social and environmental challenges. Limited resources and the unstable global financial system further complicate our ability to respond appropriately. The new kinds of businesses and organisations that will be able to tackle these challenges, are either in their infancy or do not yet exist. Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P foundation, proposes proposes a new approach to innovation:

Our current system is based on the belief of infinite growth and the endless availability of resources, despite the fact that we live on a finite planet. Let's call this "pseudo-abundance". The system also holds that innovations should be privatised and only available by permission or for a hefty price, making sharing of knowledge and culture a crime. Let's call this "enforced artificial scarcity". 
Peer production communities believe that knowledge is a commons, for all to share. Therefore, no innovation can be withheld from the human population as a whole. In fact, withholding a life-saving or world-saving innovation is seen as distinctly unethical. Peer production designs for distribution, inclusion and small-scale fabrication.
How do we integrate the sensibilities of these emergent peer-to-peer knowledge networks and crowd-sourced open innovation with robust, sustainable business models?

Innovation thought-leaders in Silicon Valley are developing new methodologies that may increase the success rate of start-ups (9 out of 10 currently fail) and accelerate the pace of innovation.

Professor Steve Blank from Stanford University and U.C Berkeley, catalysed this global trend about 8 years ago, with a methodology called Customer Development . A few years later, Eric Ries combined Customer Development with Agile Product Development and Lean manufacturing principles Lean manufacturing and coined the idea of the “Lean Startup”  . Alexander Osterwalder, developed the “Business Model Canvas”, an invaluable tool for a start-up to understand disruptive business models, and consciously design, test, rework and implement their own business models. All the methodologies above incorporate feedback, iteration, and high levels of agility, critical when exploring unknown territory.

Leapfrog’s intention is to apply this new thinking to innovation for social and environmental benefit. These methodologies are particularly important for social entrepreneurs, who operate in conditions of extreme uncertainty and often struggle to discover a scalable and sustainable business model for their organisation.

The Leapfrog Academy will support the SOA entrepreneurs in a 12-week intensive – to determine the readiness of their ideas, develop and test their business models, and develop prototypes to test with their “customers” and a strategy to move their idea forward into their “markets”. Throughout this process the entrepreneurs will be supported by a virtual board of appropriate advisors consisting of individuals from the broader SOA network, who will mentor and provide guidance.

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