Example 2 – Deeply Social Enterprise (CPSSN)

The second example is a hypothetical community-based problem-solving services network. In fact, that is its name, abbreviated (CPSSN). It is a thoroughly dot-com kind of company, based on Web 2.0 and other ICT from top to bottom. The business is based on the idea that people, through their knowledge and their relationships, constitute an intrinsic form of value that is often not fully recognized or appropriately rewarded. The stated purpose of CPSSN is to make social relationships and capabilities manifest in a way that captures and monetizes them. CPSSN harnesses social networks in support of any kind of problem-solving mission, where “problem” is broadly defined as any deviation between the current situation and some desired state. The communities may be contained within existing organizations (project teams within corporations, or collaborative learning design and practice within a consortium of higher education institutions). Communities join the network and stand up a value-recognizing structure of simple contracts that creates a motivational and monetizing environment for services practitioners operating as inductees to communities where they can contribute. Problems can range from a large effort to remediate an environmental problem to the creative performance of a technologically saturated artistic event.

Salient Business Architecture

In CPSSN’s business architecture there is minimal emphasis on formal organization structures. CPSSN itself is a Limited Liability Company (LLC), so the partnership model is pretty simple. There are basic corporate functions, but they are mostly outsourced, inside or outside the community network. Similarly, procedural processes are not a main focus, aside from things mostly outsourced. There is a procedural protocol associated with the community functions of induction and managing assets, and there is deep process in the core competency of sweeping and calculating community value.
On the other hand, the architectural viewpoint of “practices” is the focal point for CPSSN. The company exists in order to support communities of practice, so an emerging knowledge base about practices is key to future success. Networks within networks comprise the basic structure of the communities of practice, so there is a need for strong support of social networks and role and accountability structures

There is a complex institutional architecture for CPSSN. As mentioned, it is an LLC with aspects of a franchise model. There is an emphasis on intellectual property and contracts, and many property issues come into play (title, equity, investment). CPSSN actually creates a market and supports transactions and payments. All forms of evaluation (ratings, peer review, reputation) are integral to CPSSN’s business architecture. Practice analytics form a necessary set of research protocols. And there is a strong emphasis on aesthetics in branding and creation of collaborative working environments. Brand architecture is key, since success of individuals and communities within the network consists of projecting self and the ability to form relationships within and across networks.

Salient Sociable Technology Architecture

CPSSN clearly needs lots of persistence support, for managing large amounts of content for problem-solving communities. This includes database storage and retrieval, as well as file service and document sharing. All types of content need to be supported, including textual, graphical, and audio, and behavioral as well as still images. Textual affordances such as search, tagging, ontologies, and text analytics are key to the ability for CPSSN to manage vast amounts of community-generated content, as well as the ability to find and match problem-solvers to problems. Versioning is also important in a heavily collaborative environment.

CPSSN plays across the spaces of intranet, extranet and the Internet. It is a heavily user of access control in support of groups and individuals. Those groups provide significant linkage to their members and associates. There is not much need for true broadcast to the public at large, but CPSSN narrowcast, pointcast, and publish and subscribe methods of content access. There is talk of going peer-to-peer, and even possibly grid processing, but there is also hesitancy based on difficulties of managing IP issues in this mode.

Some of the commerce-oriented affordances, such as advertising and purchases, enabled by more basic functions like hits, click-throughs and cookies, is being repurposed by CPSSN for use in a services marketplace. Basic business functions, such as calendaring and project management are provided to communities from 3rd-party suppliers via app sharing.

A key affordance for CPSSN is support for both real-time and asynchronous threaded collaboration, often with multiple participants across a community. A significant part of CPSSN’s business model is based on the reputation management capability that repurposes vendor reputation systems like eBay’s for a service network of individuals working through communities. This is based on the supporting functions of opinion, rating, ranking, and rewards.

Along with heavy use of web-based visual design, CPSSN is a leader in the serious use of virtual worlds (VW) technology. There are several ways that problem-solving communities can collaborate, but one of the most popular modes is in virtual “studios” where community members are represented by avatars that interact with each other and share applications for cooperative manipulation of intellectual content.

CPSSN’s ICT architecture is based on openness to integration. Many of the affordances mentioned above are provided by 3rd parties in a mashup mode.  In actuality, CPSSN has developed a secondary marketplace (to complement its market in the form of network of problem-solving communities) for ICT providers who support community collaboration and other business functions. This is a complex form of wikinomics, where CPSSN has developed a standard business protocol around which a community of developers has assembled, who in turn use the community structure to support their own operations.

Structural Coupling

It is clear from this hypothetical example that emerging businesses based on enterprising sociality can push the envelope on integrating supporting technologies. In this case, a strong need for societally relevant problem solving is being served, as well as a desire for new wealth-creating opportunities for communities of service providers. New forms of ICT are being created as a result of this community desire.  Communities are adopting the new ICT and creating innovative new social practices as a result. These in turn spawn new technical innovations, in a virtuous cycle of coevolution.