It’s a good day to be thinking about rainforests, as flash floods happen in Northwest Georgia, and the rain beats steadily on the roof.

Rainforest Startup CommunityThe “Rainforest” has been on my mind a lot lately.  I’ve read a great book by that name, written by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt.   The two men are international experts on entrepreneurship, and their book outlines key elements to creating successful, innovative communities.

Community is a key word in the work.  In order to have a thriving entrepreneurial environment, in their words,

“The biggest invisible bottleneck in innovation….frequently boils down to the social distance between two vastly different parties.  What we strive for in a Rainforest is a system that yields immense impact, is low-cost, and generates internal sustainability.  The only possible way to achieve these  goals is to build a community of innovators where transaction costs [the emotional and personal “costs” of exchange between individuals of ideas/tasks etc.]  have been reduced through the creation of trust, social norms, connectivity and diversity.”  

As part of my job in the new Makervillage nonprofit, I get to work on community.  It’s awesome; I’m totally inspired by the idea and the many partners that have already been involved.

I’m very aware, though, that creating great community takes bravery.  It means putting aside, for a moment, your personal issues, or your focus on your own needs, and really listening to others.  It means being willing to stretch yourself to help another person, even if you might never gain something directly from it. It means bravely creating the company or the craft that only you can, and taking the risk of entrepreneurship in any of its forms. It means rejoicing in other people’s successes and their failures, admiring the efforts and benefits in either situation.  

Hwang and Horowitt created a social contract to help guide people in creating this kind of community.  Here’s their version:

  1. I am joining a global community of people who share a common faith in the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am open to meeting anyone in this community.
  2. I understand that I will receive valuable help from others for free or at a very low cost.
  3. I agree to “pay forward” whatever positive benefits I receive. For every introduction I get, I will provide an introduction to another person. For every hour of advice I receive, I will give an hour of advice to someone else. For every risk someone takes with me, I will take a risk with a different person.
  4. I will give trust to others before expecting to receive trust in return. I will treat everyone fairly. I will take advantage of no one.
  5. I will bring people together, as none of us is as smart as all of us.
  6. I will dream, experiment, iterate, and persist. I understand that mistakes and failure are acceptable ways of testing new ideas.
  7. I will open myself to learning from others. I will help nurture learning in others.
  8. Each person is a role model for everyone else. I will live these ideals as a member of the Rainforest community.

I think we can create this vibrant, innovative climate in Northwest Georgia.  What it means, though, is that if you’re reading this, you must challenge yourself.  What can you do to inspire and support innovation?  Do you need to

If so, check out the new Makervillage.  We want you to be part of the vision.  Talk with us on Facebook, Twitter or check on website updates for specific events, or reach out to me with your ideas.  In order for us to make a rainforest happen, we need as many people as possible contributing in ways that energize them and the community.

I’ve spent most of my life actively working to create community.  Some of you reading this blog will know me from my local work in peace activism, and how peace is distinctly related to food, shelter, safety and well being, which I clearly see linked to our economic well being as individuals and collectively.  I’m awed that I’ve got a chance to help manifest the kind of dynamic, innovative community that Northwest Georgia is capable of- whatever the weather.