Archives mensuelles : octobre 2008

What’s the logic of our wecena idea?

[This post is the 4th part of my preparatory work before applying to the Echoing Green (EG) fellowship program. You can help me earn 60.000 US dollars for the take-off of wecena by commenting this post with suggestions about how to best make my case to Echoing Green (EG).]

EG suggests I analyse and explain how our work will move from the problem to the stated goal. Here are 3 questions they ask and my attempt at answering them. Please enhance and/or challenge my answers by posting comments.

Their 1st question, about the root cause :

Does your intervention match up well with the specific problem or is it addressing some other issue ?

My answer :

We are responding to the non-profits inability to market IT pro bono services donations as a significant source of value for the IT services industry. We do this by selling French IT services firm a skills donation solution that allows them to rise their corporate social responsibility profile at no cost. This is made possible thanks to unique and under-exploited opportunities offered by the French law and thanks to an efficient online donation management tool. We compensate the non-profits lack of IT project management skills by offering them our training and consulting assistance.

Their 2nd question, about our intervention :

Is your intervention detailed enough to explain the exact way clients will benefit from your programs ?

My answer :

The wecena opportunity is advertised via a website and blog conversations. French top social innovators with strong potential IT needs are identified and contacted. Their projects are selected on the basis of their leadership capacity to manage donated skills with our assistance. A direct B2B sales effort then let’s us recruit medium-sized donor firms from the French IT services industry on their behalf : we « sell » these donors the rising importance of corporate social responsibility for their banking and industrial customers and for recruiting and retaining the best talents ; and we emphasize the fact that they can compensate 100% of the cost induced by these donations both with the fact that their « on-the-bench » consultants keep receiving their salary anyway (because of the French labor law) and with the significant tax savings offered to corporate donors by the French tax law. Non-profit recipients accept that consultants leave their project team as soon as they are assigned to a new commercial mission by their employer. This induces a high rate of project staff turnover. Combining online knowledge management tools, « open source development » and « agile development » methodologies, our training and consulting services allows the project leadership team to cope with this turnover rate. Our online donation management tool allows skills needs to be published and updated by non-profit leaders. Consultants from the donor firms volunteer for the projects that best match their motivation and experience. Our tool also automates the emission of monthly tax receipts which let donors compensate their effort with tax savings. We thus limit the administrative overhead for both the non-profit and the philanthropist.

3rd EG question :

Will your intervention logically produce the specific outcomes you desire ?

The French labor law and tax law enable sustainable and win-win relationships between innovative non-profit organizations and IT services firms. Our assistance allows non-profit teams to cope with the high rate of project consultants turnover induced by the wecena donation mechanism. As a consequence, a constant flow of skilled and motivated consultants feed the non-profit project team on their work time. As a follow-up to their individual donated intervention, a portion of them keeps on intervening as volunteers on their free time. Professional IT support communities can be built. Innovative and ambitious IT projects can be led at low cost. This allows non-profits of all fields to extend the reach of their social programs, accelerate them and produce impactful social change with modern tools.

Note : I am not sure I am satisfied by this piece of my preparatory work. I feel like this is not fluid enough and I may loose the reader by providing too much (or too blurry?) detail. I don’t know… What do you think ?

What will the wecena community look like when we’ve solved the problem?

[This post is the 3rd part of my draft application process to the Echoing Green (EG) fellowship program. You can help me earn 60.000 US dollars for the take-off of wecena by commenting this post with suggestions about how to best make my case to Echoing Green.]

Once the problem of giving innovative non-profit access to professional IT skills and services at no cost is solved, what will the wecena community look like ? This is the question EG suggests I answer before submitting my application to their fellowship program (see page 8 of their applicant coaching guide). Coach me by commenting my answering attempts below.

EG suggests I start by answering this 1st sub-question :

If your work succeeds, what will the headline in the newspaper say ?

Let’s try such a headline for 01 Informatique or ZDNet :

 » Pro bono IT services a critical enabler for major social innovations from education to environment via poverty reduction.  »

Or this one for the French non-profit press (Reporters d’Espoirs anyone ?) :

 » An army of computing experts and corporations join the fight for free access to education in villages of the South. French non-profits at the front.  »


 » Information technology for social good no more a dream. Low budgets no more an excuse from non-profit boards.  »

For the global press, possibly headlines such as :

 » Who’s the best in IT? Exxon Mobil or Greenpeace? Wecena the secret IT weapon for environmental innovations.  »

 » U.S. Congress to pass a France-inspired law in favour of pro bono service donations.  »

And ultimately (just for kidding ?) :

 » Price of IT pro bono services on the rise at Wall Street. IT shops on the race for CSR awards.  »

2nd sub-question from EG:

If your work succeeds initially and then your organization ceases operations what will the impact on society be ?

My answer :

Wecena’s business model is designed for generating enough profits so that competitors gain an incentive at emerging and replicating our model. Our earlier successes, financial transparency and benefits sharing will prove there is a profitable market for IT pro bono services delivery channels. Several organizations are already well positioned to contribute to such a market: sustainable development consultancies, consulting agencies dedicated to non-profits, philanthropy consultancies, non-profit technology assistance programs. In the end, this will give the most innovative non-profits access to a reliable and cost-efficient source of corporate IT pro bono services.

3rd sub-question for setting goals :

How will you measure the volume of your work? And what goals do you have for each in the short and long-terms?

OK. I’m a bit bad on this one. I can think of indicators of success. But I yet have to specify expected levels of success for these indicators. Too high and I am too optimistic as it would probably exceed our capacity to fund and manage growth. Too low and it would not show the passion there is for this project. Here are the reasonable indicators I am thinking of :

  • number of full-time equivalents (FTE) donated annually by IT corporations to wecena customers (non-profits) as of pro bono service deliveries : 4 FTE in the end of 2009, 10 FTE in the end of 2010, total available market of several hundreds of FTE in France only (woo hoo !)

Next sub-question, probably harder :

How will you measure if your work is making a difference? And what goals do you have for each measure?

My best guess at the moment :

  • median duration of relationships with non-profits (customer retention) : the more they keep accepting donations, the more useful they probably think these donations are : goal = after 2 years of operation (starting from our first operation), expected median duration of at least 6 months for non-profits having accepted first donation more than 1 year ago.
  • volunteer recruitment rate : percentage of IT engineers led to volunteering for « their » non-profit after a pro bono realization with us (rate of volunteering after the end of a wecena mission) => let’s say I’d be very happy if 10% of the wecena engineers kept on contributing at least once two weeks after the end of their individual intervention
  • increased understanding and knowledge of social challenges and innovations by IT employees and managers : => 50% more correct answers to online quizzes proposed by non-profit recipients at the start and at the end of any individual interventions
  • increased understanding and knowledge of IT uses and managements by non-profit members : => 50% more correct answers to online yearly quizzes proposed by us + IT donors.
  • profits (supposed to come with sucess in order to prove there is a market) : at least 5% after 2 years from the start of the 1st operation ?

There would be other indicators to monitor but I am not sure how to collect such data and how to process it so that we isolate our specific contribution :

  • evolution of the percentage of IT service companies donating pro bono services (market donors rate)
  • % of IT pro bono services in non-profit budgets (the more, the merrier)
  • evolution in the perception of technology by non-profit social innovators : we can survey this but I am not sure how to best setup such a survey so that it is reliable, comparable and relevant year after year
  • Cost, outreach and impact depth of social programs powered by our IT pro bono services compared to similar programs not relying on our services => this would be the real evidence of success but I don’t think we can acquire and process such data ; ideally, technology wecena gives access to would make multiply the impact and/or reach of a social innovation by a factor of 10 : ten times more people accessing open education programs, ten times more people with disabilities turning to computers as a daily tool, ten times less effort for homeless people to find a job, etc.
  • Qualitatively, I would like to hear from non-profit boards that recognized social innovators set themselves new social goals because of the technologies wecena can give them access to.

Hey, what to do you think ?

What is the underlying cause of the problem wecena is trying to solve ?

[This post is part of my draft application process to the Echoing Green (EG) fellowship program. You can help me earn 60.000 US dollars for the take-off of wecena.]

EG 2nd pre-application question: Root Cause Analysis: What is the underlying cause of the problem you’re trying to solve ? see page 7 of the applicant coaching guide.

1st sub question :

What are the obvious symptoms / apparent effects of the problem ?

My answer :

There are 2 apparent symptoms or effects of our problem:

  1. there is a lack of technology-based social innovations compared to both existing social challenges and to existing non-social innovations
  2. most non-profit organizations under-exploit the capacity technology can bring them when trying to transform society, organizations and markets

2nd sub-question from EG :

Why is it so ?

My answer :

The cost of IT professionals is much too high for non-profit budgets. IT man-days are too expensive on free markets.

3rd sub-question from EG, trying to get deeper to the root cause of our problem

OK. But why ?

My answer :

IT service companies sell expensive services and donate very limited amounts of pro bono services. They usually ask for payment, even when pro bono services would bring them more indirect value at no cost. These donations could indeed be of no cost for donors in France because of an extremely favorable legal framework.

4th EG sub-question on this, getting even deeper to the root cause :

Why is it so ?

My answer :

Non-profit organizations do not offer IT service companies opportunities to donate pro bono services at low (or no) cost and with the promise of a high social impact that will also bring real value back to the donor in the form of reputation, talent retention and better recruitments of fresh engineers.

5th step suggesteed by EG :

Based on this, what’s the root cause of your problem ?

My answer :

Non-profit organizations don’t have appropriate skills and knowledge for creating, marketing and managing an offering to IT service companies that would present pro bono service donations as a compelling solution for addressing the need these companies have to prove their « corporate social responsability » at low cost. Moreover, most non-profit organizations lack the IT management skills that would allow them to collect, deliver and exploit such pro bono donations at a sustainable cost.

We’ve got our root cause (I think). But EG wants to asks a last :

Why ?

My answer :

Legal frameworks encouraging and facilitating IT pro bono services are nowhere as favorable to donors as in France. But some of these laws were passed recently (2003, updated in 2008) and are still under-used and unknown by many potential donors and recipients. Moreover donor-to-recipient intermediation costs for the delivery of pro bono services are high. And such deliveries are complex to adapt to the business constraints of both corporate donors and non-profit recipients : IT service companies want their engineers and consultant to commit to profit-making long-term missions and can’t afford to miss commercial opportunities because of commitments toward non-profit projects. Competition is fierce and consultant profiles are too often seen as « replaceable » with one another. And because of low budgets, non-profits rarely attain a critical mass of IT needs that would let them justify launching such innovative partnerships.

So what ? EG suggests we end with deriving …

What are the implications for your work ?

My answer :

Wecena proposes an integrated IT pro bono services donation channel that exploits the French labor and tax laws at their best and for the highest benefit of public good. By only focusing on the non-profit needs for IT services and skills, we accumulate experience and efficiency both in how to market our donation proposal to the IT industry and in how to let non-profits exploit such donations at their best, despite their lack of IT management skills. This focus is also critical to maintaining relatively low intermediation costs.

More precisely, IT donors aren’t asked to commit individual consultants to a given project but to commit to a certain amount of service donation to non-profits. This can generate extremely high staff turnover (individual consultants leave projects as soon as they are assigned to a new commercial mission). But this allows projects to benefit from a continuous flow of skilled professionals to be then turned into online volunteers. As a consequence of this, projects have to be carefully selected on the basis of how resilient they can be to extreme staff turnover. And corresponding project management tools and methods must be offered to non-profit leaders.

Participez au wecena

Si vous pensez que les entrepreneurs sociaux, les associations d’intérêt général les plus innovantes et la recherche scientifique publique devraient disposer d’une « armée » d’ingénieurs et consultants volontaires pour les aider à rendre le monde meilleur, alors vous pouvez m’aider en participant au wecena :

  • Dites-moi ce que vous pensez du wecena, via un commentaire sur mon blog perso ou sur votre propre blog qui sera repris sur planète wecena : dites-moi que vous aimez ce que je fais et que vous m’encouragez, que vous détestez ce que je fais, que vous ne comprenez pas le wecena, que vous aimez les films de gladiateurs… dites-le.
  • Aidez-moi à lever 60 000 dollars pour faire décoller le wecena, financer des embauches et accélérer le développement: je suis candidat à un concours de projets organisé par une association américaine et j’ai besoin que vous relisiez et commentez les éléments de ma candidature, en anglais, pour l’améliorer (avant le 1er décembre 2008 !)
  • Mettez-moi en relation avec d’autres porteurs de projets informatiques d’intérêt général : j’ai publié un appel à projet, vous pouvez le faire connaître en le transmettant à vos amis informaticiens ou responsables d’associations ayant des besoins informatiques, vous pouvez me contacter pour me signaler tout projet qui mériterait de recevoir des équipes gratuites d’ingénieurs en wecena
  • Mettez-moi en relation avec d’autres dirigeants de société de services en informatique (SSII) : je leur présenterai tous les avantages que représente le wecena pour leur société et leur expliquerai pourquoi cette forme innovante de mécénat est le meilleur moyen pour booster leurs efforts de recrutement et de fidélisation des ingénieurs, pour créer de la cohésion interne autour d’un développement durable « de terrain ». Je leur expliquerai pourquoi le wecena ne leur coûtera pas un seul euro (ce qui ne les empêchera pas de donner plus encore, si ils le souhaitent) je vous rendrai des comptes sur l’avancement de ces contacts.

Help me earn 60.000 USD for wecena

Wecena services are my new social venture. The US-based Echoing Green non-profit organization helps social entrepreneurs with a 2 years fellowship program and seed grants including 60 000 USD for the take-off of high-social impact projects. You can think of them as a social venture fund. I’d like to apply to this project competition so that the wecena concept succeeds at bringing corporate-grade information technology to the hands of the most innovative non-profits in France and all around the world. The deadline for this year applications is December 1st, 2008.

Readers, I need your help.

You can help by reviewing the next posts on my blog (I will use the « echoinggreen » tag, you can use this links for follow-up posts). I will post pieces of my draft application to the Echoing Green fellowship program. You can help if you are an English speaker (possibly native…) : I need you to correct my English language and style. You can help if you feel concerned with the importance of information technology and the Internet for serving the public with high-impact and broad-reach social innovations : I need you to help me making the case to Echoing Green. You can help if you like my project and would like to contribute one way or another : just tell me you support this whole stuff and share any comment or thought. If you have a couple of hours available for helping, you can even start by reading Echoing Green’s applicant coaching guide.

You can contribute in English (preferred) or in French (ça ira tout aussi bien). In case you are reading this from the website, note that your comments have to be posted on my personal blog (link below).

Let’s start with the 1st pre-application question

Let’s start with Echoing Green (EG) ‘s pre-application tools. EG suggests applicants (me) should use their questions to prepare their application. Let’s try with the 1st question (page 6 of the coaching guide) and throw an answer…

Problem Definition, What specific problems are you focused on and can you realistically solve it?

Their 1st sub-question :

What specific injustice in the world have you seen that compels you to start a new social change organization ?

My answer:

Non-profit social innovators lack access to corporate-grade Information Technology (IT) skills and services. This is a form of digital divide between non-profit and for-profit innovators. Why would information technology be primarily made to buy more stuff or spread more advertisement ? Why isn’t it more importantly made and used for fighting poverty, overcoming disabilities, sharing education or enhancing public health ?

2nd sub-question from EG :

Who, specifically, is hurt or affected by this injustice and how does the injustice manifest itself ?

My answer:

Beneficiaries of all fields of social innovations suffer from the lack of technology-powered social innovations and from the under-exploitation of technology by non-profits. Had non-profit innovators been given resources to better use technology, the reach of their programs would have been extended, their ability to transform organizations, markets and society would have been increased. More beneficiaries would have been helped better and earlier. Unseen social innovations would have been launched and developped.

EG 3rd question for defining the problem:

Is it realistic that a single organization could address this injustice ? if not, define the problem more narrowly ?

No. We only focus on the access by French non-profits to significant amounts of IT skills and services. Accessing software or hardware is out of our scope. We also only focus on IT needs that represent at least one full-time equivalent of services and skills. Smaller needs and projects won’t be supported (at least not immediately). Direct help to foreign non-profits is not in our immediate scope but we are considering partnerships with foreign non-profits in the need of free IT skills and services when it can increase the social efficiency of our effort by supporting higher impact global social innovations.

That’s it. What do you think ?

Le wecena remporte le 1er prix du concours Antropia de l’ESSEC

Le wecena a remporté le premier prix du concours d’entrepreneuriat social d’Antropia, l’incubateur d’entreprises de la chaire d’entrepreneuriat social de l’ESSEC et de la Caisse d’Epargne. C’était vendredi dernier (10 octobre 2008), à l’occasion de la journée de l’entrepreneuriat social organisée à Paris par le réseau associatif Ashoka. Antropia, en tant que contributeur a cet évènement avait invité les porteurs de projets d’entrepreneuriat social à présenter leurs idées à l’aide d’un petit questionnaire : quel problème de société le projet vise-t-il à résoudre ? de quelle manière ? comment en assurer la viabilité économique ?

C’est donc mon concept du wecena qui l’a remporté. Le wecena est une forme innovante de mécénat de compétences en informatique pour mettre gratuitement les ingénieurs en informatique au service des meilleurs projets d’intérêt général portés par le monde associatif. Le prix remporté ? Une journée gratuite d’expertise par les enseignants et experts de l’ESSEC pour m’aider à faire décoller ce projet.

Mécénat open source

[J’ai la flemme de faire un nouveau billet alors je remets celui-ci à jour, en gras.] Ce lundi 13 octobre [puis, après report, ce lundi 20 octobre], Nicolas Sarkozy devrait rendre public le rapport « Plan Numérique 2012 » d’Eric Besson, le secrétaire d’Etat français en charge du développement de l’économie numérique. [Finalement, c’est Eric Besson qui a fait la présentation car M. Sarkozy était occupé par l’actualité de la crise financière]. L‘une des mesures phares consisterait [aurait pu consister] à faire bénéficier du régime fiscal du mécénat toute contribution aux logiciels libres. Cette recommandation reprendrait alors [aurait alors repris] celle formulée par Jacques Attali dans son rapport sur les freins de la croissance.

[Finalement, le gouvernement a préféré éliminé du rapport toute proposition relative aux logiciels libres, ce que je regrette, comme l’April.]

Si cette [une] recommandation [de ce type] est un jour traduite dans la loi (et il faut [on aurait pu] l’espérer), cela signifierait que toute entreprise distribuant sous licence libre les résultats de certains de ses travaux pourrait bénéficier d’une réduction d’impôt nette de 26,67% de la valeur de ces travaux (60% moins le surplus d’impôt sur les sociétés qu’il faudra alors payer sur la valeur de ce don) et un peu plus encore dans le cas des très petites entreprises (car l’impôt sur les sociétés y est plus bas). La valeur des contributions est habituellement égale à leur coût de revient (rémunération et charges sociales des développeurs, au prorata temporis), dans la limite de 5 pour mille du chiffre d’affaires de la société contributrice. Cette économie d’impôts est reportable sur 5 ans en cas de dépassement du plafond ou de résultats négatifs.

Qu’est-ce qu’on attend pour faire la fête ?

Le mécénat open source serait, à mon avis, une excellente nouvelle pour les communautés du libre puisque cela inciterait les sociétés utilisatrices et les sociétés de service à porter encore plus d’attention à l’importance de leur engagement open source et les encouragerait à partager davantage de leurs travaux. Mais ce serait aussi un bel espoir pour l’industrie française des services informatiques qui pourrait ainsi s’afficher en première place mondiale des pays soutenant le plus l’informatique libre. On pourrait même espérer que le dispositif soit étendu aux contenus libres, au cinéma open source, à la science libre, à l’architecture libre… Bref, ce serait une belle évolution de l’économie de la propriété intellectuelle.

Cependant, les SSII et certaines communautés du libre ignorent sans doute qu’elles peuvent dores et déjà se lancer dans le mécénat open source, sans attendre de nouvelle loi. En effet, la loi actuelle sur le mécénat impose « seulement », comme condition supplémentaire, que le projet open source soutenu par un mécène soit d’intérêt général. Un projet est d’intérêt général lorsqu’il est non lucratif (non commercial, à nette utilité sociale), à vocation philanthropique, humanitaire, éducative, scientifique, sociale, culturelle ou environnementale (etc.) et lorsqu’il est piloté par une organisation (par exemple une association) dont les véritables dirigeants ne sont pas rémunérés (gestion désintéressée) ou bien encore lorsqu’il s’agit d’un projet de recherche se traduisant par une thèse de doctorat.

C’est pourquoi j’ai créé une entreprise dont la vocation est de faire avancer les projets informatiques d’associations d’intérêt général en leur donnant accès au mécénat de sociétés de services informatiques.

L’important, à mes yeux et à ceux des SSII que je mobilise comme mécènes de ces associations, est que le projet soutenu ait un véritable impact social: qu’il change la vie de personnes en difficulté, qu’il rende efficacement le monde meilleur, bref que ce ne soit pas qu’un projet cool du point de vue technologique mais aussi du point de vue social, environnemental ou culturel. La loi actuelle sur le mécénat favorise déjà cela avec le mécanisme fiscal décrit plus haut. Et de plus en plus d’associations d’intérêt général appuient toute leur stratégie de croissance sur les technologies du libre, en tant que créatrices/contributrices du libre ou en tant que simples utilisatrices.

Bref, sans attendre le plan numérique 2012, communautés du libre et sociétés de services soucieuses de leur responsabilité sociale (développement durable) peuvent déjà se lancer dans l’aventure du mécénat informatique. Pour cela, elles peuvent s’appuyer sur l’effort fiscal consenti par l’Etat à travers la loi de 2003 sur le mécénat et… sur moi !