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money and meaning, good money

I’ll admit. I think about money a lot. After high school, I worked with AmeriCorps, a national service organization. My rite of passage into adulthood was when the government gave me food stamps to supplement my AmeriCorps volunteer stipend. On my way to get groceries in my AmeriCorps asssigned community, I remember walking past tin houses where first generation immigrants from Laos lived and past children who were chubby but malnourished because there was lack of access to affordable, nutritious food. So when I handed my food stamps over to a cashier for my groceries down the street, I thought about money a lot.

Recently I was introduced to Laurie Kauffman whose life is dedicated to helping companies understand the meaning behind a transaction. What did this experience do for the customer? Did it feel “right,” or did it leave the customer feeling empty?

Laurie Kauffman leads Net Worth Consulting, a Washington D.C. agency dedicated to making the axiom give back more than you take a profitable part of a business. Kauffman says that when companies “touch money, they should also address the point of what a customer wants to get done.” This means to Kauffman making sure that every touch point with the customer delivers an experience that feels worth it. “I’m fighting cognitive dissonance!” says Kauffman. “It’s like when someone uses a product, it makes them feel good. But they aren’t really sure if it feels right.”

As a young adult, Kauffman started to see the worlds of money and meaning collide. She watched her friends struggling to start nonprofits and for-benefit businesses. The nonprofits pitched individuals with money so that they could make something meaningful, while the for-benefit businesses couldn’t figure out how to break past the noise of how consumers connected their money with meaning.

Kauffman went on to receive a Master’s in Finance to begin consulting companies about offering what feels right to the customer. Her journey took her to of all things, improv. Fully Invested, Kauffman’s book published in 2011, talks about how principles of improv are signposts to delivering something meaningful to a stakeholder. A focus on creating trust, thinking about the “we” instead of “me,” and an approach to interacting with others based on “yes.. and?” instead of “yes… but?” are key. This kind of emphasis on a participatory philosophy between the company and a stakeholder can dissolve the dissonance felt by a stakeholder. For the company and its stakeholders, these guidelines of improv creating something meaningful, and it drives profit too.

How did I make meaning from money out of high school when I thought a lot about money (and poverty)? I took into consideration others’ point of view and said “yes… and?” when I marched home with my food stamps from the grocery store knowing that my experience, what felt right, was more important than money.

To learn more about Laurie Kauffman and her book, Fully Invested, go here. To see her Forbes contributions as The Improv Lady, go here.

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This post is part of a series about Korea and the recent transition in Korea to discovering new meaning in money through a rapidly growing capitalist culture. I was inspired to write about Korea after visiting Seoul this summer with my sister. Korea is kimchi-tastic.

My sister, Kara, wrote the following in the last post of my blog series about Korea.

Recently I had the experience of going to South Korea with my sister. Being adopted, this trip offered up an opportunity that no amount of reading prepared me for. And believe me, I have done plenty of reading about Korea.

What struck me most was the sheer amount of consumerism. There were areas where you could find everything and also nothing that you wanted. Blocks and blocks of shoes were shoved in ever nook and cranny of a dark alley. It was extremely hard to process as I walked past mountains of books and rows of ribbon. Where did all of this stuff come from? Where does it end?

Not only were there numerous shopping districts, there were underground districts (this is something that I have definitely never seen before). I found them to be extremely depressing as it was an underground mall or a subway stop filled with shops instead of a rail system. Despite the overload of product around me, an even more overwhelming experience was the number of people standing out of the shops yelling in a microphones, coaxing people to come and buy the best new thing.

It’s no surprise really that with such a great amount of competition, you rely on tactics that are more aggressive. What is going to set you apart from the other 15 nail salons that your store shares a block with? How will people know that your skin care products are more effective than the other 3 stores which all look the same? After exploring them all, it really seems that they all sell the same thing and around the same price.

But what I had the hardest time grasping was the lack of individuality that I experienced while I was there. Clothing stores all sold the same clothes. Everyone wore the same kind of shoes. Coming from a country that has such a diverse nature which originates at our very core as Americans, it was hard for me to come to terms with the idea that no matter which shirt, shoe, or scarf I bought, I was going to see a handful of people wearing the same thing the very next day.

The upside? Coming back to the US, I didn’t have to worry about wearing something that everyone else wears. There is nothing better than the opportunity to say, “Oh this? I got it in Korea.”

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Korea is Gangnam Style

This post is part of a series about Korea and the recent transition in Korea to discovering new meaning in money through a rapidly growing capitalist culture. I was inspired to write about Korea after visiting Seoul this summer with my sister. Korea is kimchi-tastic.

It must be good timing on my part to visit Seoul this August with my sister. Apparantly the Korean Wave has hit America and I’m on its tail. If you haven’t already seen its biggest icon, you’ll want to see the following video from South Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” It’s reached 220 million YouTube views and counting.

What’s behind the face of Korean pop culture is also a deeper probing into Korea’s economy and society and their identity in a global culture.

Gangnam is the most affluent neighborhood in Seoul. It gained quick economic status during the 2000’s when the price of high rises in Seoul skyrocketed and those who owned this piece of Seoul rang in money. It’s a trendy place now, with night clubs and affluence pervading Seoul’s trending cafe culture.

I heard while I was in Korea that this has been followed by an equally generous amount of plastic surgery- an embodiment beyond PSY of changes in Korea’s culture.

Plastic surgery accompanies wealth and privilege, and so I wasn’t completely surprised to learn about its growth.  One of the most popular surgeries is to make Korean’s eyes appear larger and rounder. The other is double-jaw surgery where the roundness of someone’s jaw is broken to appear smaller and more square. The Confucian emphasis on the family and the body, the vessel that connects us to our biology, contrasts with the wave of plastic surgery that makes what your parents gave you transformable.

While the face of Korea might by PSY for now, the embodiment of culture takes on a different shape when emphasis is on the body itself. As PSY said in an interview on the Today show, “I’m not handsome, I’m not tall, I’m not muscular, I’m not skinny. But I’m sitting here.” PSY puts Korea on the global cultural economy map through “soul” he says, even if Korea isn’t the tallest, the most muscular, and the skinniest culture in the world.

From Gangnam style:

I’m a guy

A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

This post is part of a blog series about Korea and its recent, rapid shift to a capitalist culture.

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This post is part of a series about Korea and the recent transition in Korea to discovering new meaning in money through a rapidly growing capitalist culture. I was inspired to write about Korea after visiting Seoul this summer with my sister. Korea is kimchi-tastic.

My recent trip to Seoul, Korea was exactly what I needed. I got to step back from my everyday life and take apart perceptions that I have about life and how the world works. This can be useful when you forget that one way of seeing the world isn’t always the way that the world works.

The streets are where I saw Korea’s recent and rapid transformation into a capitalist economy. My sister and I walked down Seoul’s streets every night when we were there. I saw couples holding hands, strolling down streets lined with Western coffee shops, such as Starbucks and The Coffee Bean. These cafes are so popular now that it was hard to find a seat, especially at night, which is where Koreans throw out my Western assumption that coffee is a part of a culture’s morning routines.

It was only in 1987 that South Korea transitioned from out of military dictatorship to a more free capitalist country. With this change came the blending of older Confucian values that emphasizes harmony, family, and a certain social order to things with the choices, wealth, and excess that accompany a capitalist culture.

There has been a lot of attention lately on Korea and its contributions to the tech industry as a part of Korea’s introduction to the world’s global stage and economy. The recent lawsuit by Apple against Samsung, which is headquartered in Seoul, for patent infringements has given Korea this spotlight.

Being at the center of tech is a good thing, but what about Korea’s intellectual movement? I wanted to learn more about it, so while we sat at a bar near one of Seoul’s universities with a friend who is teaching English, I asked about Korea’s intellectual movements. Who is asking the essential questions about Korea’s transformation into a capitalist economy that will help drive Korean identity? What are Korea’s cultural exports that contribute to this conversation about Korea’s new role?

He said that Korean intellectualism wasn’t quite on the center stage of Korea today. While Korea knows that capitalism won’t tear it away from its rich Confucian history and love of kimchi, Korea is still trying to figure out its identity. I saw this reflected in an article in Korea IT Times. Professor Emanuel Pastreich, professor of Humanitas College at Kyung Hee University in Seoul and director of the Asia Institute, says, “The truth is that most intellectuals in the United States, Europe or even Japan cannot name any Korean writers, have not read the essays of Korea’s major intellectuals, and have little sense of the depth of Korea’s history.” Professor Pastreich goes on to say, “The highest priority is for us to introduce Korea’s cultural past. There is an incredible wealth of writings by Koreans on Buddhism, Confucianism, self, and society produced over the last two millennia that has barely been touched.”

While Seoul might not have translated all of its intellectual history into terms that we English speakers can understand, Korea sits at the beginning of a long learning process about who it is as a country based on the economic reform that has taken on Korea so rapidly. Shifting through the meaning of culture and its connection to its economy is like my travels to Seoul. But if the rest of the world is interested in Samsung and the girls in the coffee shops are most interested in their mocha lattes, I think I’m more interested in Korea’s intellectual economy and what’s to come.

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When I first saw Greg Hartle’s website, “$10 and a Laptop,” it reminded me of the idea of making something with nothing.  Well, okay, maybe Greg @greghartle had something when he started couch surfing across the U.S. to learn more about American entrepreneurs, like $10 in his pocket and a laptop. But he didn’t have much more.

Greg is someone who is creatively using social media to communicate a message about being an entrepreneur in America. He is traveling all fifty states to see how entrepreneurs are starting projects in the current economy. In the process, he is finding ways to make money as an entrepreneur, exploring the world of making something with nothing and opening up to America the struggles, dreams, and lessons of what it means to be an entrepreneur in America today.

Here Greg talks about some of the highlights of his journey so far to create business opportunities that not only make money but create social value as well.

When I discovered your project through the Twittersphere, I thought it was interesting that both of us are using social media to catalog a journey of discovery in areas where we want to situate our work, so that the journey itself is a part of the learning process. How have your most compelling insights about American entrepreneurs influenced your perspective of social media trends?

Eric Hoffer said it best when he said, “In times of change the learners inherit the earth. While the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” This is exactly where the majority of Americans are right now. We are in the midst of a major trend. One as large as the Industrial Revolution. The challenge with trends is that we don’t recognize them until we have enough data points. Once we do, it’s often too late to adapt to the trend. Those who are out in front will do well and are doing well. Those who aren’t, will struggle.

That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed with entrepreneurs as I’ve traveled around the country. The way in which we transact business in the second decade of the 21st century is completely different than the way in which we did business in the last century and even the last 10 years. Social networks are only a part of this change. Technology and the internet in general have changed the game dramatically. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans (and entrepreneurs) are still doing old things. I consistently remind people to stop trying to do the same old things better and start doing better things.

What do you see so far as the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face, and how have you seen ways that entrepreneurs are overcoming them?

It’s never been easier to start a business in America than it is today. It’s also never been harder to succeed. Early-stage entrepreneurs are quickly learning that just because the barriers to entry have been lowered doesn’t mean that success is inevitable. The marketplace is over-saturated with options in every industry. Consumers have to sift through more “noise” than ever before. You combine that with the scarcity of the dollar bill in today’s economic conditions and you have a recipe for entrepreneurial struggle.

The entrepreneurs that are overcoming this challenge are doing three things: 1) They are building Meaning into their business model. When every dollar spent is critical, a consumer is more likely to spend it in a meaningful way not necessarily just in a cheaper way. That’s why companies like TOMS Shoes and Zappos are doing so well.  2) They are allowing their customers to have a vested interest in the company. When a customer is invested in the outcome they are more likely to do what they can to see it succeed including sharing it with others they know (especially through social media).

That’s why companies like Threadless are doing so well. The clothing with the highest votes gets made. That’s a win for the consumer because they will buy what they voted for. That’s also a HUGE win for Threadless because they will only produce clothing they know will be purchased rather than guessing at what the consumer will want. 3) They are executing the fundamentals of business starting with managing cash flow and reserves all the way through marketing, sales, operations, customer service, etc. 85% of every business operates the same. Most businesses fail because they cannot execute, not because of bad ideas or a bad economy.

What have you learned so far about how social media is creating or diminishing opportunities for entrepreneurs to build businesses that have financial and social value?

Early business was about being “high touch”. Then we moved to “high tech”. Social media has provided the opportunity to be both high tech and high touch. It has also shifted the execution of certain aspects of business. For example, customer service can be executed so much better with the use of social media and the best way to increase sales is not marketing, it’s through WOW customer service. Ironically, social media has also created the opportunity for consumers to now tell a company and their friends what they “like” without actually having a conversation with either party. Word-of-mouth is always your best marketing. Now word-of-mouth can spread further, faster and without an actual word being spoken. That’s a game-changer.

Is there any part of your journey that has lead to a big-picture shift of perspective about America and entrepreneurship? 

The biggest shift in the world right now is the recognition that 20th century capitalism is on it’s last leg. We can no longer have an energy industry that destroys the atmosphere, banks that deplete the financial sphere, a food industry that sparks an epidemic of obesity, an apparel industry that produces dreary working conditions, and athletic shoes that don’t make people more fit.

21st century capitalism is about building organizations that are living networks creating a meaningful profit through co-creation of ideas, products, and services that make the world smarter, fitter, healthier, happier, and more connected. Whether you are a bootstrapping solopreneur or a startup with seed capital, you should be asking, are we making a real economic (not just financial, but also natural, social, and human) difference? Are people smarter, fitter, healthier, or more connected as a result of interacting with our business? Outcomes that make a difference to well-being are what make our work meaningful and our societies stable and thriving.

Today´s best companies get it. From Zappos to Whole Foods, the Container Store to Google: they´re generating every form of value that matters: emotional, social, and financial. And they´re doing it for all their stakeholders. Not because it´s “politically correct;” because it´s the ultimate path to long-term competitive advantage.

Follow Greg @greghartle or http://www.facebook.com/GregHartle.TenLap.

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This blog post is featured on Social Media Club Chicago’s website as a post by a first time attendee of SMC Chicago. The event follows my last post about Millennial women mentorship (which was integrated into Shape What’s to Come Twitter streams!) and in the social media community in general.

As a recent graduate of a public relations and advertising program who has a heck of a time choosing which shoes to wear in the morning, I can relate to SOBCon (Successful Online Business Conference) co-founder Terry Starbucker’s latest blog postWhat Was Your Fork In The Road, And Did You Take It?, which I read before I attended my first SMC Chicago event.

Sitting in a Michigan Avenue café on a rainy day with my laptop, Starbucker’s tale of a time when he was faced with a crucial decision resonated with me. He had realized the importance of “doing something” at the fork in the road rather than “doing nothing.” He quotes Yogi Berra, who said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”

The post reminded me why I was heading to SMC in the first place… I had to grab the reins of inertia not long ago and choose which master’s program to enter after working in membership development marketing in the nonprofit sector. I chose public relations and advertising because I wanted to incorporate social media into my marketing mix. To me, and I’m sure to many people working with social media, it’s exciting to see those forks in the road, because they aren’t always easy to identify as social media continues to evolve.

I came away from my first SMC event feeling pretty darn inspired. Folks were extremely friendly and forthcoming, sharing with me their experiences navigating forks in the road here in Chicago. I talked to people working in both corporate and non-profit marketing, bloggers, and those who had recently started their own public relations business. With each person I met, I got the sense that this group of people was a supportive bunch, continuously encouraging one another to make the leap from a panic-stricken “I can’t do this” moment to a “I’m going to do something” affirmation.

It’s these kinds of connections that help move me beyond the nitty-gritty feeling of doing nothing in my job search to doing something. And this is why my first time at SMC will not be my last. When I grab a cup coffee with some of the people whom I met at SMC, I might falter between deciding on a latte or an americano, but it’s conversations like the ones which I have in SMC which help move us forward.

Click here to learn more about how fabulous this group is nationally and (call me biased) here in Chicago!

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I’ve already confessed my newfound love for Levi’s jeans to my friends. And now I’m confessing my crush on their new (well, relatively new) interactive, social media campaign that started in the fall of 2010.

Scene 1: Let’s start with the tag line. “Shape what’s to come. For you. For your community. For your world.”

Why do I love thee? And why do I put thee on my blog? Because these words ignite in us a desire to make something better, to dedicate ourselves to a larger social cause. As one of my favorite feminist poets Audre Lorde said about her power, and the power of what I see as Millennial women redefining their purpose in the context of social good, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Scene 2: How does the campaign develop around this theme, and why do I care?

I’ll admit. Sometimes I drag my feet. There are definitely expectations which I get from society that say I should be getting close to being married; I should be having kids soon; and I should already have dedicated my 30 or so years to a long-term career path that I’ll be doin’ forever. At the same time, I’ve got another track playing in the background of my life. It is promoting my strength as a young woman who carves her own path.

Shape What’s to Come research sheds light on how women around my age are changing the meanings of womanhood which our mothers grew up in and we still internalize to an extent. What the research says is that Millennial women prioritize independence and shaping their own futures as independent women more than they prioritize marriage, being mothers, or having a long-term career plan early on in their careers. But like our mother’s generation, who began to challenge limited ideas of womanhood, Millennial women need mentors to help them be who they are and want to be. Essentially, we need mentors to help us challenge these internal voices that impose limiting expectations on us.

Lindsey Pollak, a lead collaborator on the Levi’s® Shaping a New Future study, says in a press release announcing the launch of the campaign that the traditional paradigm is being replaced with “a web of opportunities that Millennials sample throughout their twenties, representing a different approach from previous generations. These women are challenging long-held beliefs about success as they navigate a complex world.”

And so it’s not necessarily about us looking up to women older than us for mentorship. It’s about us reaching out to each other globally and locally regardless of age and location that helps us realize who we are in a world that provides with a sometimes overwhelming amount of choices.

Scene 3: The video…

The following video is so good that when I first saw it, I thought it was simply a creative collaboration of Millennial women. It tapped into ideas of who I am and what I want so well that I had no idea it was a commercial.

Here is the video that first lead me to this advertising campaign.

The video rides the successful bandwagon of “movement marketing.” It positions the Levi’s brand as the centerpiece (and at the same time “not in the center”) of a demographic’s thoughts, beliefs, and visions. The campaign is like Dove’s Campaign for Beauty, which I was very proud to be a part of when I worked with girls doing programming about self-esteem with Dove’s cause marketing partner, the Girl Scouts.

In other words, movement marketing is a social movement of sorts. And in this case it’s Millennial women reshaping how they envision and contribute to the world.

Scene 4I am a story. You are story.

“I am a story. You are a story.,” painted on one of the women’s hands, weaves together everyone’s vision of the future and their place in it. They push the envelope and find a creative spark within. In the video you can see how the “higher benefit” of a Levi’s product is like any good advertising copy. It inspires Millennial women to know and contribute to the world.

MENTORING + MOVEMENT MARKETING = ONLINE INTERACTIVE CAMPAIGN

The campaign’s website content, online community, events (like the launch event this past October in London in the above photo), and videos are driven by Millennial women redefining who they and expressing this to each other. Millennial women who are leaders in music, art, fashion, and social change serve as mentors and help guide conversations between Millennial women in the online community. These women range from celebrities like Zooey Deschanel to Millennial leaders like youth advocate Ashley Rhodes-Courter.

The conversations range from the simple, “What is your favorite photography website?” to more complex issues, like conversations about a video on the site about one of Levi’s cause marketing initiatives with WAGES (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security, a nonprofit that empowers women to own their own green businesses).

Curtain Call: The following video is from the first Women’s TED conference which got quite a bit of buzz in Washington D.C. this past December; TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a nonprofit which is dedicated to spreading ideas that push the envelope of how we envision society and the future.

Since Millennial women are like TED in that they are envisioning new ways which they contribute to the world, Levi’s created a strategic relationship with TED.  The video has more than 150,000 hits so far. It helps wrap up this blog post with final scene and curtain call.

This blog post is featured as a guest blog post at See3 Communications, a Chicago online marketing firm that works with social causes. It is also a guest post at Millennial Mafia, a project from Ragan Communications.

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