Help Me Design the Natural Enterprise Toolkit

ftss mockup
My first book, Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work will be published next month by Chelsea Green. The publisher is sponsoring a companion website/toolkit at that is currently under development. I’d love your help with the design.

Just as a reminder, the book has six chapters, as follows:

ftss chapters
The first chapter entails identifying your personal ‘sweet spot’, where your Gifts (what you do uniquely well), your Passions (what you love doing), and your Purpose (what is needed that you care about) intersect. It’s a personal exercise. The last two chapters are operational advice, mostly for once you’re up and running.

Chapters 2-4 are collaborative processes, and that’s where comes in. The site will offer a simple set of tools that will help you find business partners, research unmet needs, and collaborate to explore solutions to those needs. The diagram at the top of this article shows how it will be organized. Here’s a walk-through: will allow you to offer and receive advice about Natural Entrepreneurship, and it will have three parts to it:

  1. ASK A QUESTION: Will allow prospective entrepreneurs to pose questions about any facet of natural entrepreneurship, and others to offer suggestions in response to those questions.
  2. POSE A PROBLEM: Will allow prospective entrepreneurs to describe challenges they’re facing in the process of creating the work they were intended to do, and others to discuss these challenges and work towards resolution of them.
  3. TELL A STORY: Will allow anyone to tell a success story or a ‘war’ story (about failure) about their enterprise or journey towards entrepreneurship. will enable you to find partners for your Natural Enterprise, and it will have six parts to it:

  1. DESCRIBE YOUR PURPOSE: Will allow prospective entrepreneurs to ‘publish’ their identified Purpose — the need they’ve identified that they truly care about, and which they have some Gifts and Passions around. This is to enable other prospective entrepreneurs to browse and DISCOVER PEOPLE WHO SHARE YOUR PURPOSE, and connect with them (part 7).
  2. DESCRIBE YOUR GIFTS AND CAPACITIES: Will allow you, once you’ve identified your Passion, to list the Gifts (that are also your Passions) you have that are in the ‘sweet spot’ i.e. ‘on Purpose’, consistent with the Purpose you identified. It will also allow you to self-assess your Capacities, from a list of twelve essential Capacities that the partners of any Natural Enterprise must have between them. These are the things you bring to the prospective Natural Enterprise. The book (and website) explains how, to find your ‘natural’ partners, you need to find those whose Gifts and Capacities complement your own, collectively providing everything that the enterprise needs without a lot of overlap. This will allow other prospective entrepreneurs to BROWSE your GIFTS AND CAPACITIES to see whether they are a good fit for their proposed Natural Enterprise, and, if so, connect with you (part 8).
  3. DESCRIBE GIFTS AND CAPACITIES YOU LACK: Will allow you, once you’ve identified your Purpose, to list the Gifts and Capacities you don’t have, which are needed to complement your own in order to achieve your Purpose. This will allow other prospective entrepreneurs to BROWSE your list of NEEDED GIFTS AND CAPACITIES to see whether they are a good fit for your proposed Natural Enterprise, and, if so, connect with you (part 9). will enable you to collaborate with potential enterprise partners and others to research and innovate, and it will have three parts to it:

  1. EXPLORE A NEED OR PROBLEM: Will allow you to develop, together with others, a better understanding of a possible unmet need that is ‘on Purpose’ for your prospective Natural Enterprise.
  2. CANVASS THE CROWD: Will allow you to poll all readers of to gather ‘collective wisdom’ about the viability of an idea, about the future, about which of a set of alternative actions to pursue, about a subject you lack knowledge about, or about a market.
  3. RESEARCH A NEED: Will allow you to study a subject collaboratively, assign partners work to do, and collect the results of your research in one place for group discussion.

It seems fairly obvious to me that for 1-3 we will need some kind of discussion forum, for 4-9 we will need a database that anyone can add to or browse in different ways, for 10 we’ll need a wiki or similar tool, for 11 we’ll need a survey tool like Survey Monkey, and for 12 we’ll need some kind of project collaboration space/tool.

The question is, dear readers, how easily can we pull this together without the need for a lot of coding? Can we use existing open source forums (as Dick Richards did for his book Is Your Genius at Work?), and open source databases, wikis, survey tools and collaboration tools, and easily put them within the site ‘umbrella’ so users don’t get lost? If so, which specific apps should we use? If not, how much work wouldit be to pull this together?

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6 Responses to Help Me Design the Natural Enterprise Toolkit

  1. David Parkinson says:

    I wish I could help more with your technical questions. I’m not up on all that stuff, although I bet that someone reading your blog has plenty of experience with the open-source tools out there.That said, I’m really looking forward to the book. And I’m interested to see how powerful a set of networking and collaborating tools you can pull together around the project. It’ll be exciting to see if a community can grow around the idea and start producing real partnerships and enterprises.

  2. Greg says:

    This is an interesting problem. While there are lots of open source solutions for each of those components, you probably want something that’s integrated. I imagine you’d want people to be able to navigate the graph that connects people, gifts, collaborations, needs, etc. You’ll need at the very least, a common sense of identity across the site. Installing a separate forum and wiki application, for instance, wouldn’t automatically give you this.It might be heavy handed but using a web application framework is probably in order. I’m python-biased but it seems like Zope/Plone would give you the closest to what you want out of the box. There are components for everything you’re asking for (forums, wikis, database, etc.). All of them are probably clunkier and less feature-filled than standalone versions you could find (e.g., MoinMoin > zWiki), but they would share a common architecture that would make data exchange between components easier.

  3. the integrated package I recommend is Oc portal. I belive it has all you want. Shall we set up a test site? Its free! Or maybe a data model is a good place to start!

  4. Meryn Stol says:

    I’d go with Drupal. It’s by far the most comprehensive system, and gives you the best chance of finding developers for customization.Drop me a line if you want to discuss this.

  5. I agree with Greg. All the modules you’ve mentioned have to be tightly integrated to create user friendly environment. Just taking some kind of open source or commercial package usually will not do it – they are too generic and might not serve your specific purpose too well. I would say the system has to be very clean, well structured, and easy to use. This is a hell of project to complete in a short period of time. I would suggest starting with the basics that bring the most value to the user and satisfy significant aspects of the purpose (it would be you alpha release). It would allow you to attract and retain the initial group of users. Afterwards, as users learn the system, they will tell you what features they really need and you will only add what brings the real value rather than trying to predict (it would be your beta release at which the system might for some time). Hence the system will evolve in parallel with the users. Giving everything that you’ve mentioned, might only be appealing to sophisticated user or user who has time to learn and is will to adjust to the system, while it will be overwhelming to the rest of the crowd. Dave, I would suggest getting the ball rolling by defining a strong vision and purpose (probably already done in your book), giving something very simple in the beginning and then let the userbase take it where ever it should be. I believe this approach will help you build a strong community around your purpose, which can turn int a solid base for a Centre of Excellence for Entrepreneurship that you’ve mentioned to me after one of the roundtables where we’ve met.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    This is great advice…thank you all. I’ll be discussing your suggestions with the webmaster at Chelsea Green.

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