Jargon-mania: A Social-Enterprise Lexicon

Jargon Cloud

There's nothing like a conference to breed and spread fresh jargon. At the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship, they've included "impact," "accountability," "social business," that old standby "best practices," and of course "social entrepreneurship." Paul Farmer, of Mountains Beyond Mountains and Partners in Health fame observed wryly in his panel discussion that "metrics is the second-most fetishized word here after scale."

Over the three days of the Skoll Forum, I've collected new (to me) and noxious terms that popped up in the panel discussions I attended. I'll be clear: It's not the concepts that offend me so much as the gobbledygookishness of these phrases, which somehow is directly proportional to the likelihood they'll enter wider industry use.

I've added more terms culled from #swf09 tweets as well as other delegates' keen ears. Consider this a public service announcement: Beware these terms. (Definitions provided where possible.) Thanks to @jessicashortall for her assiduous hunting as well. And if you've got more, please comment!

Disconnected ambiguity

Empowerment coefficient

Humanity scouts - people who go ant-like ahead of others and show the way forward. Syn.: pioneer.

Humanizing capitalism – as in, capitalism that humanizes.

Interconnected prosperity - "Hope, joy, empathy, community." Kumbaya!

Justice entrepreneur - I do not have a clue what this means. Someone who makes money from justice? Sells justice? Makes money from getting justice for others?

Participative capital

Spinternet – Spin + internet.

Spontaneous community - Syn.: slum.

Strategic apex - Not to be confused with the nonstrategic kind.

Toxic accountability - "The problem is not a lack of accountability, but too much of the wrong kind."

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  • Jessica Shortall

    Hey Jeff
    Love this. I kept my own list (although I wasn't there Friday and am sure I missed some doozies) at http://jessicashortall.blogspo.... My favorites (aka least favorites):
    - Ethonomics
    - "Primary Constituents" (to replace clients, beneficiaries)
    - Change agents

    But there was one I truly did love, and that made me smile in the way creative use of language is meant to - in the panel on social enterprise in the Arab world, the founder of Beirut's first farmer's market described his goal as a "gastropolitical awakening". Lovely...