Evolution Path

The standard planning approach is to focus on where the endeavour is expected to go. People tend to think in a straight line so this usually follows a linear path to whatever outcome is envisaged by the planner, with the more sensible types going as far as to build in contingency for failure. Personally I think this approach has major flaws. Reality is almost never linear and rarely follows any set plan.

A better way to imagine the future is to consider three basic possibilities

  1. Project meets the expected goals

  2. Things fall apart

  3. Project achieves wild success
An endeavour is almost never going to meet its initially expected goals, in part because environmental pressures naturally evolve and in part because it is virtually impossible to visualise exactly what you want from the future from day one. In actuality it is going to end up somewhere in between the ‘falling apart’ in terms of being scaled down, or ‘wild success’ in terms of going further than expected. Projects that fail invariably define their end points early on and then stick to these uncompromisingly until it’s really all over.

So the smart approach probably involves three things
  1. Plan so that any ‘failure’ still has a win-win outcome

  2. Consider minimum, ideal and stretch targets for what you want to achieve

  3. Expect and plan for your goals to adapt and evolve as you go along
So far I’ve covered points 1 and 3 in previous posts. I’ve outlined broad goals but am fully prepared for the whole project to evolve and change as we learn more about what we’re dealing with, which covers point 3. With this blog focusing on voluntary community-based information and idea sharing, we’re creating a reusable knowledge base regardless of how far we get towards to the end goal, which means we really can’t lose and have covered both our minimum target and the win-win aspect. I’ve also outlined a basic vision of my hopeful outcomes for this project which covers the ideal target.

This finally leaves the matter of stretch targets and planning for wild success. The stretch target for me is a financially independent enterprise accruing revenue through advertising, brand merchandising and marketing to site members and beyond, with profits being fed back into inner-city youth projects; while also supporting fund raising for other local or global community projects. Planning for wild success takes us into thinking about scalability and what could happen in terms of expanding the offering to other regions or re-using the platform for other projects, and maybe handing over to an established social organisation to manage over the long-term.

In terms of project development then I see five levels of evolution, getting richer over time
  1. First steps – Learning, capturing information, planning, blogging and networking

  2. Technical development – Ideally open source and distributed, including information architecture, design, user experience, coding and testing of the basic feature set

  3. Interactivity – Membership with profiles and links to social networking sites, user articles and blogs, discussions, commenting, rating, questions and answers, and thank-you notes for volunteers

  4. Fully networked community – Voting for projects, fund raising, advertising, branding, and marketing

  5. Scaling – Expanding to other regions or countries, content in multiple languages, re-use of the platform for other projects, and being able to hand over to more rooted social organisations

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