Just before the holiday break I had the pleasure of catching up with the folks at Headshift (who I think are doing great work) and during the conversation we were considering how slippery the term “social” can be.
Along with others in the Dachis Group, Headshift use the term “social business” to describe their work, which they use as a term to describe to businesses that use “social technologies to improve business performance, communication and customer engagement”.
This is quite a different definition of “social business” than is used In the non-profit and social innovation space — i.e a business at has social outcomes as a core focus.
During the conversation I mentioned that at Zumio we work at the intersection of three different worlds, all of which include “social” as a key descriptor, but where that term means something different in each instance.
Social networks: here “social” refers to the social relations and peer connections between individuals, and how social technologies are enabling these connections.
Social design: as outlined in the presentation I gave at Enviro 2010 earlier in the year, this refers to including people (both internal and external) in the process of design, but also designing for social use — including consideration of behavioural norms and social interactions in our designs.
Social innovation: here “social” refers to positive social outcomes (and environmental benefits) from our activities, often borne of social needs and actions (e.g. communities creating their own solutions).
Each of these areas of focus has a significant history and background of practice — terminology, methods, framing/perspetives etc. — and each in itself has a depth that can take some time to explain and “unpack”. Which makes it all the more challenging to try and explain succinctly what it is that Zumio does ;) But combined, we think these focal areas can be a very powerful force for positive change. Hopefully, over time, they will become more widely known and accepted, making the story a little easier to tell.
And of course, if these ideas do become more “mainstream”, society will of course be reaping the benefits of each approach, which can only be a good thing.