SoCap08: Is there a thread missing?

As I sort through the after math of SoCap08, I think that you might want to check out this post entitled, The Silver Lining in the Market Collapse: Social Capital.  It seems that the theme that Jonathan Salem Baskin & I were trying to highlight last week with our co-authored, co-posted piece entitled Looking for Leadership? Invest in your Networks? was resonating at the conference.

In short, this time of crisis in confidence is a time when business leaders are looking for answers.  It is a time of opportunity for advancing social capital thinking that so many of us are dedicated to.

I am picking up that most felt that the conference captured a gritty optimism, as signaled by the attendance of more than 600 to a first time event that was planning for 300.  While it is clear that Katherine Fulton’s presentation on the state of social capital markets was well received, I am wondering if the observation that social capital markets are at a very early stage of uncoordinated innovation was out of step with the enthusiasm of the conference?

In particular, I am wondering if there was sub-context at the conference about the forces driving a revolutionary rise in social capital that is breaking down the silos between value based management (i.e. the quest to manage sources of stable future earnings, over and above the cost of capital), social capital and social network analysis.

While there were discussions about breaking down silos, I am not picking up any thread extending Nan Lin’s network theory of social capital, that is so useful in connecting social capital to market thinking IMHO.  The money quote from Nan Lin … “social capital, as a concept, is rooted in social networks and social relations, and must be measured relative to its root . Therefore, social capital can be defined as resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilized in purposive actions .”  A merger between individuals, social networks and media has taken place.

In short, since broadband internet connections became more prevalent than dial up in 2004, the dominant media paradigm is shifting away from broadcast towards the Individual as Medium.  Increasingly perception and therefore stable future earnings emanate from IAM instead of broadcast or offline word of mouth networks.  Whereas time on broadcast networks can be easily rented with financial capital (i.e. the 30 second television or radio spot), access to social media networks will only be granted through social capital.

This means that managing these scaled up forms of social capital is at the heart of every enterprise right now.  Not two or three stages of maturity in social capital markets from now.

Were you at SoCap08?

Am I picking up on a missing thread to the conference?  Can you help me elaborate this?  This blog post is unfinished without the input of the organizers and attendees ….

UPDATE: Here is a great overview of the SoCap08 conference from

Here is the blog round up from Social Capital Markets Blog that I referred to:

12 Responses to “SoCap08: Is there a thread missing?”

  1. Nathaniel Whittemore Says:

    (cross-posted on
    Hi Michael, thanks for your thoughts. I *do think that the double entendre of “social capital” in the title was something that could have been explored more, but I think that in some ways, its more subtle even than the shift you’re talking about above.

    I think that the importance of social capital is that it dictates authenticity and engagement as fundamental factors of consumer relationships as well as social relationships. When the power dynamic shifts between producer and consumer and their dollars can be about more than getting the most adequate product or service, the currency of social capital is increased dramatically.

    I think that people recognize this but there’s a language waiting to emerge of social capital in the context of consumer relationships.

  2. Mark Beckford Says:

    It was hard to pick up what the “missing thread” was. Nan Lin’s link is broken. I think you are talking about the power of networking to bring together market-based thinking and social capital?

    If so, the biggest obstacle for this to happen, IMHO, is the wiring of a “social” brain vs. a “business” brain. It is clear to me, and reinforced by discussions with others, that the wiring that happens over 10+ years in the business or social side, bakes our brains in such a way that we subconsciously act, think and decide based on how we’ve been taught to act in our disparate systems. That was my point in pathological collaboration … that this partnership will require an imperfect marriage out of necessity. I’ve seen this partnership work. But it’s a realization that both sides need to work together, literally. (e.g. the social missionary needs to bring a business capitalist on board to grow their social enterprise.)

    I talked about this in depth in a blog posting called “Social enterprise is all in the mind” which I wrote before the conference:

  3. Michael G. Cayley Says:

    Thanks Nathaniel and Mark,

    I have also received a few emails back. Enough to convince me that I am on to something here that I should be more proactive about.

    Mark – I updated the blog with a quote from Nan Lin. Email me at michael at and I will send you the paper.

    I like your metaphor of the social and business brains.

    The cool thing that is happening is that there are are real artifacts of perception as social media maps against social networks. No metaphors, real, measurable artifacts.

    Nathaniel – I think that you are nailing an implication of the the shift from broadcast to social media networks.

  4. Kim Wilson Says:

    Your post brings up something that WAS alluded to at the conference, but more in passing than specifically delved into, and that is the dual meaning of “social capital.” The conference discussion focused more on the measurable positive impact on social and environmental issues – where “social” is synonymous with “individual welfare” (i.e. (education, healthcare, housing, etc.) – that entities, regardless of corporate structure, can have through the course of “doing business and investing.”

    The other definition of social capital – of individual resources gained in excess of expense on the relationships / networks / connections front – is a part of it as it relates to an individual’s value to society, and the value of social networks to same, as well as personal sense of well-being derived from enhanced social capital. This second definition was treated as one of the issue/affinity groups (along with health care, education, financial systems, etc.) by the group that mapped conference attendees. At the time I was confused as to why something that I saw as a tool – social networks – was lumped in with “issue” areas, but I think your post gets to exactly why that was….

    That said, at the end of the day, I suspect that most investors in this space are drawn to clear issue areas like poverty, education, health, where there is clear evidence of the problem and data-derived measures of success.

  5. Michael G. Cayley Says:

    Thanks for stepping into this conversation Kim.

    The questions that I have are:

    Is there a need and opportunity right now to make all corporations more intrinsically social capital driven?

    Isn’t this at the heart of the optimism around social capital?

    I believe that the shift to value network management methods by all corporations is the thread that ties corporate destiny to the “clear issue areas like poverty, education and health”.

    At the intersection of these corporate needs and the “clear evidence of the problem(s)” that you mention is where the greatest potential for “data-derived measures of success lay ahead.

    Turning on all corporations to social capital as a source of corporate stability can unleash far more investment than the Stage 1 efforts that Katherine highlighted, can’t it?

    Are these the same forces that are leading private sector funds into microfinance?

    Wasn’t HP’s B24B an early (maybe too early) step in this direction?

  6. kevin jones Says:

    Corporations respond to their investors. at least that’s the leverage point that makes sense to me. i have seen CSR do good things and become more serious. But a large individual corporation is usually a hive of power and money; lots of entry places. Myself, I prefer to build markets, hopefully get money to show up and make things happen.

  7. Michael G. Cayley Says:

    Kevin – thanks for this comment.

    “Corporations respond to their investors” … that is part of the rational behind Social Capital Value Add.

    One of the emails that I have received in response to this post is that we can’t “make” corporations do something. This observation is also part of the thesis.

    SCVA does not propose making a new market. The emerging dominant media form rides on social networks. Corporations are one the most resilient ideas that we have ever had, they are adapting to this shift.

    SCVA is just trying to catalyze the transition by speaking the established language of value based management in the boardroom.

    The exciting bit for the SoCap08 group, IMHO, is that this shift will open all kinds of new ways to collaborate with major corporations.

    As major corporations realize that we have moved beyond symbolic CSR gestures into an era where social capital stabilizes future earnings, the discussion changes. We move from a discussion where we are begging for thousands of dollars to one where we are talking about defending billions in corporate valuation.

    I think that is an important thread to pull at.

  8. maxpiut Says:

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  9. ignignade Says:

    I am here at a forum newcomer. Until I read and deal with the forum.
    Let’s learn!

  10. actiocafe Says:

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

  11. Michael G. Cayley Says:


    Okay it is past noon, so I am going to suggest that you drop in Facebook & Google Connect widgets into your website, join twitter and drop a widget to publish you posts to your website and then google SEO and read up on search engine optimization. Good luck!

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