When I teach about social capital theory — thanks to Nan Lin –, I always talk about the action of social capital is what makes it real. Thousands of friends mean little until they are successfully called into action for some cause. I prefer good causes.

This past weekend, I got to see and to be a part of a successful social capital call when Carrboro neighbor, Ioana Sherman won the Intuit Small Business Grant Competition and received $25,000 to help start her music business.

Here’s what happened:

I stopped over at our local 3rd Place, The Weave, for a tweetup with pals @boraz and @mistersugar to welcome (and meet) @cogscilibrarian who had just moved to our area to become the librarian for the J-school. Already several layers of social networks and social capital situated there.

On my way to look for a table, I noticed a woman talking to people and handing out small flyers. She was explaining why people should go online (yes there is free wifi in this 3rd place) and vote for her friend. I heard someone say, “You don’t need these flyers; you just need to talk to Paul Jones.”

Like Satan, I appeared at the mention of my name.

The tale told is an international one, one best told by Ioana Sherman herself here in her not quite 4 minute video entry to the contest. Briefly, Ioaona was born in Romania and became an accomplished musician. She also has a gift for teaching. She started a small business teaching kids traveling to their homes. She needed an investment to convert her house, at least part of it, into a studio/classroom. She had a great plan, a good background, a proven market, a good startup success record, but no funds. She learned, not sure how, about the Intuit Small Business Grant contest. She made her inspiring video and was getting great feedback online.

While the judging counted for a lot in the contest, community ratings account for 40% of the judging criteria!

Her neighbors were out drumming up votes.

@mistersugar, @boraz and perhaps @cogscilibrarian and I all tweeted:

Ioana Sherman is running for an Intuit grant to start a music studio. Http://tinyurl.com/ioanavideo Please vote for her project & retweet.


Ioana Sherman needs your vote in the Intuit Contest Look here http://tinyurl.com/ioanavideo View, vote (all 3 buttons)

Our tweets are automatically repeated as our FaceBook status, our FriendFeed, on our blogs and so forth. Soon there were a lot more people viewing the video and casting votes for Ioana. She had already attracted a strong and dedicated following through her own social network (as the comments on the video show), but we did add some votes.

Ioana’s final count was: Inspiring (1422) Useful (1389) Funny (1363). By far the largest response among rated contestants.

Today I got this tweet from @intuit:

Intuit @SmallJones @PaulTimmers Your votes helped Ioana Sherman win $25K in Intuit’s Small Business United grant comntest http://bitly.com/SBUWin

BTW @intuit uses Tweetdeck

Was great to be a part of Ioana’s story and to see social capital in action.