A few years ago, a new river was discovered:  the Rio Hamza in South America.  It runs the entire length of the Amazon River, 13,000 feet below.  It moves more slowly but is significantly wider.  It has been there all along.

This is how we see the untapped talent in our communities.  It’s been there all along, hidden in plain sight. Here is our short new video about social innovation that illustrates the kind of grassroots community capacity we have been honored to work with and that has been the fountainhead of our creative breakthroughs.

Why hasn’t this resource been more broadly discovered?  Our experience is that it’s often the professional models and lenses that people have embraced to enhance their capacities to effect change that obscure their ability to see the other flavors of intelligence, wisdom and gifts sitting in the majority of community members.

We spoke with Clay Shirky (author of Cognitive Surplus) a few months ago.  Clay sees the world with an “abundance” instead of “scarcity” frame.  That makes him our kind of guy.  But when asked about how the power of digital connectivity could tap more of the general public across all socio-economic and education levels, he paused.  What was top of mind for Clay was the remark he’d heard that day from a colleague who works at Google who had just come came back from jury duty: “That’s the first time I’ve worked alongside people without a PhD.”

That’s why we loved our recent project with PayPal and eBay. In the pilot of the Small Business Challenge (see video here), engineers worked alongside micro-entrepreneurs and community members with very different backgrounds.  The learning was mutual, the benefits were tangible and the project is now expanding. Our twenty years of design-driven social experiments that have built our insights into how to create greater inclusion distill right down into four key principles for genuine transformation. For us, the most interesting innovation is blending the wisdom of place-based community engagement and marrying it to the power of technology.  We would love to hear about the projects where you see these different streams merge.