... after I realized that the connection people felt to the periodical was similar to the connection folks feel with other people -- and readers started approaching us asking to be introduced to other readers (I didn't know about the latter at the time). The basic idea behind the readers network was that people who resonated with the key themes of the magazine -- innovation and change -- should know other business leaders who connected with the same concepts in their home towns.
If you insist on some stats, since 1997, almost 45,000 people have joined the Company of Friends, which in 2005 comprised about 200 local chapters and online special interest groups. The Company of Friends at the time, and probably still now, was the only multi-industry and -practice professional association connected to a magazine in the world.
That's how we met. Heath's official title was Social Capitalist. What does a Social Capitalist do? I reached out to Heath last night to find out. Here's what he said (emphasis mine):
I chose the title Social Capitalist for several reasons.
One, I was inspired with the body of work surrounding social capital -- the value of personal relationships in the workplace.
I was also inspired by purpose-led community organizing such as that exemplified by the Quakers, Robert Putnam (in his book Bowling Alone), and network-based creative endeavors such as mail art, tape trading, and punk rock.
Thirdly, I've long been interested in left-leaning politics, and the idea that society could be organized around a capital that was more than monetary was appealing.
1. She makes sure that the right people meet each other at the right time to create the most value collectively.
2. She does all of her work tapping into her personal network in order to benefit from the group mind, collective skills, and shared knowledge available to her.
3. She does so in such a way that shares a model and set of practices that other people can learn from and use to do the same themselves.
As we hear more and more about bloggers on the corporate side, I wonder if organizations realize that these individuals do hold a lot more than just the responsibility to the dialogue with customers (and employees). Social media tools actually enhance this intrinsic value of personal relationships across the organization and outside its walls.
These relationships have the power to inspire meaning and purpose that goes beyond messaging to the organization of work through the creation of community. Some companies are beginning to think about harnessing the creative juice that is generated in the exchanges made by the communities. Which in turn can become experiences worth having by employees and customers that feed back into the purpose of the community.
I've often asserted that relationships cannot be "managed", instead we can build upon them. Heath articulated the skills you want in such a person - a connector is also a social capitalist.
Are you a social capitalist? Is there one in your network?