Making a difference – Quick Tips for budding social entrepreneurs
Having a great idea for a social venture that can tackle real-world problems is just the first step in social entrepreneurship. Getting this off the ground and shaping it into an organisation takes resilience.
Over the last 12 years, we, at UnLtd India, have worked with 217 change makers — supporting them as they pilot their ideas and grow their organisations. In our experience, here are some of the things to keep in mind before you set out to make a difference.
- Ask yourself: What’s my ‘why’?
- Articulate and validate your assumptions
- Get to know the problem and simultaneously work on the solution
- Constantly prototype
- Network, observe, learn
Every social organisation is working towards solving a problem with their product or service. Most often, budding social entrepreneurs define the ‘what’ and craft their organisation’s narrative around it. With a ‘what’, you are largely looking at the solution from your perspective.
As you begin, first ask yourself ‘why’. Why are you doing it? Why should someone care about your work?. This answer isn’t rocket science if you are passionate about the social problem that you are looking to address. Answering the ‘why’ will help you position yourself and your organisation in a way that’s better and different from the rest. As an emerging leader setting out to make a change in the world, answering why you believe in something and communicating that can help draw people towards your idea and work towards it.
Unknowingly, we go down the road of bringing about a change without acknowledging the baggage of assumptions we carry along. It is essential that you are mindful of these assumptions —it may be about your strengths, the capacity and capability of your organisation, or even the solution you have designed. Some assumptions are good. However, weed out the others before it’s too late.
Keep an open mind, draw your roadmap using a Theory of Change and clearly articulate goals and assumptions. Strengthen your ideas with research-backed data or real-time experimentation.
In the beginning, you will have multiple ideas. Take a step back, understand the problem to know what you want to solve and draw out the solutions. You will see a problem-solution fit emerging. However, if you are married to the product, the solution is likely to fail as you will try to force fit the solution to the problem. If you want to solve an issue, you have to keep some wriggle room and evolve with the idea.
In the end, are you really attached to the solution or trying to solve a problem?
As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher once said: “The only thing constant in life is change. Be it an organisation or an individual, change is bound to happen. You need to constantly improve the model by prototyping and fostering change as a part of the organisation. Keeping your mind open to ideas and possibilities can help discover better and more efficient ways to deliver impact. Look for similar solutions that may be deployed in different geographies — learn from them. Prototype in an informed way by knowing the space you are diving into.
Meet new people. Look for people within or outside the sector and reach out to them. Listen to what they have to say. Take the best bits of advice and learning and see how you can build on it. Spend some time with your target audience. Observe their ways of life and talk to them. Interacting with them will help you understand their needs and perspectives.
Do they really need the solution you are giving them or are they looking for something else?
The article is by a team member of UnLtd India, which is a launchpad for early-stage social entrepreneurs to build high-impact sustainable organisations and grow as catalysts for social change. In 10 years, UnLtd India has worked with 220+ social entrepreneurs across sectors in India.