All the Things…

The Pep Talk You Need

We all need a pep talk sometimes. Like those times when you are having trouble forcing yourself to make a decision, get started, get unstuck, etc.

Here are some of the best pep talks I can think of:

Kid President

If you haven’t seen this yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Creative Pep Talk

Social entrepreneurs and innovators are creative. We are literally creating things, which makes us creative by definition. The problem with creativity is that it is not a permanent state. Sometimes you need a pep talk to give yourself the inspiration you need to get going.

For that, I prescribe this most excellent podcast by Andy J. Miller, called the Creative Pep Talk. Here’s a sample podcast:

I look forward to this podcast every week. It’s that good. Miller, who is an illustrator, made the podcast about how to make a living while making art, but the podcast is broadly applicable to all creative fields. Continue reading The Pep Talk You Need

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Non-profit, For-profit, or Hybrid?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been researching possible structures for social enterprises, and writing about how to pick the right one for your organization. The post grew and grew, so I’ve decided to turn it into a short ebook, which I’ll be releasing here soon!

In the meantime, here’s a quick preview:

For years, the delineation between non-profits and for-profits has been dissolving. Social enterprises are testimony to this societal transformation—they demonstrate how profit and mission need not be mutually exclusive.

But each social entrepreneur is faced with a critical decision point along their journey: to be (or not to be) legally designated as a non-profit, a for-profit, or potentially a hybrid of the two.

How do you decide?

An organization’s legal structure refers to its governance, legal form, and ownership. It influences how an organization can make money, the kinds of activities it can undertake, and how the government will tax the organization. The wrong structure can put the organization at financial and legal risk, so it should be considered and chosen carefully to fit the organization’s needs.

The chart above provides some basic guidance on the advantages and challenges of for-profit and non-profit structures. More information on each, as well as guidance on a third option—a hybrid between the two—are included in the ebook that will be coming soon!

How to Pick the Right Problem

In the first post about how to undertake social innovation (“Start Here.“), I wrote about the importance of starting with a problem, as opposed to jumping right in with a solution. Why is this the case?

Many projects intended to help people have failed in spectacular ways. Click here to learn more about failed aid projects (there are many). These initiatives frequently fail because they rest on assumptions about the people they’re supposedly helping. Even if the project is carried out as intended, if the base assumptions are wrong, then the project can have major unintended consequences.

To avoid these kinds of blunders, it’s best to be conscientious about selecting the right problems to address. But with so many worthwhile problems to address in the world, how do you pick one?

While a great deal of the guidance out there will tell you what to do once you know the issue that you’ll be addressing, there’s not a whole lot out there that explains how to narrow down the field of options to a problem that’s really worth your time. This may seem like an obvious selection to some of you out there (“Just pick one!” you might say), but here’s a little known secret: the problem you focus on will ultimately determine your level of success.

A well-defined problem often contains its own solution within it and the innovators who are truly taking things to the next level are the ones who are identifying those well-defined problems. The following resources will help you to be one of those innovators.

The Success Quadrant from Tools for Social Innovators

The chart above can help you prioritize issue areas by those that have high social and financial impacts (you want to make a difference and be able to financially sustain your efforts) and that also play to your strengths. For example, if I’m interested in addressing climate change on some level, I should start brainstorming ways in which I can use my unique skills and strengths to make a difference. It would be harder for me to go back to school to become a scientist, but maybe I could help in a communications or policy role. Of course, if I really want to become a scientist, that’s allowed—you can always build upon your skills and strengths. Brainstorming in this way can be helpful for identifying issue areas that make sense to pursue further.

Asking the right questions can also help to lead to the right problems. Here are some questions that can help the process of problem selection:

  • What specific problem are you interested in addressing?
  • Why is the problem important to you?
  • What stakeholders are affected by the problem or might be affected by its solution?
  • Who are your intended beneficiaries?
  • What has been done to address the problem already? Are there gaps?
  • What would the ideal world be in the absence of the problem?

When you’re looking into problems, you’ll most likely want to better understand the root cause of the problem, as opposed to focusing on symptoms of the problem. To get to root causes of problems, Toyota famously created the “Five Why’s” technique in the chart below for their Six Sigma process improvement program. You can use as many why’s as you need to get to the source problem, so don’t feel limited to five.

Five Whys Template

Once you have an idea of the field you want to go into, then utilizing the design thinking process is a great next step. I’ll talk more about the design thinking process in the next innovation post, but, overall, it has five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. Within that first step of Empathize, you’ll embed yourself in the world of the problem to discover key insights from those who are affected by the problem. These stages will help you further refine the problem, ask the right questions, develop more ideas, and select the best solutions.

 

Passion Mapping

Hi there. So, I recently attended a conference for social innovators where the following exercise for goal prioritization was introduced. I found it truly helpful for sorting out my passions and priorities, so I thought I’d create a couple charts to illustrate the exercise and share them here with you all.

THE PASSION MAP

passionmap-toolsforsocialinnovators

This chart helps you break down your life goals into shorter time scales so that you can see how to start tackling them. This exercise works best if you have an accountability partner! Let someone close to you know your goals for the next three months and schedule a call or meeting with them after three months to check in on your progress.

THE PASSION PLAN

passionplan-toolsforsocialinnovators

Once you have some goals identified from the passion mapping exercise, you can use the Passion Plan to chart out what you think you’ll need to go after those goals. I’ve divided the chart into People, Mind, Health, and Groundwork, but you may want to add other sections. If you bring over the deadline from the passion map for the specific goal you’re investigating, in addition to writing it in your calendar, it works all the better.

Feel free to use and share these charts. Please leave a comment below if you have other methods that you find helpful for sorting out your priorities and tackling big goals.

Start Here.

Okay, so you’re ready to get started. You’re excited about the prospect of catalyzing a uniquely awesome career of tackling big effing problems (re: saving the world) like the hero you always secretly (or not so secretly ) knew you were. There’s just one issue: where do you start?

The Stanford Center for Social Innovation made the video above on this very topic (this is a marketing video for their program, but there are plenty of ways to get started without a fancy degree).

The world is chock-full of issues worth addressing. To start thinking about issues you could address, consider the issues that have popped up in your own life. What problems have gotten you really riled up? Also, step out into your community. Is there someone, or maybe a group of people, who have a problem you think you could help solve?

So we started at the personal level, then moved up to the community level. But what about the global scale?

Luckily for us, the United Nations has come up with a list of priority issues that it calls Sustainable Development Goals. Here they are:

unsdgs

These goals come from the internationally agreed upon 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by Heads of State and Governments in September 2015. The 2030 Agenda is a new plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets at its core. I highly recommend you look into each of these goals on their website.

Okay, so now you’ve thought about the world of concerns that you could potentially delve into if you so desired. Now let’s take a moment to consider how you could start problem-solving.

Here’s a great resource from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society about problem-solving that I highly recommend: “Problem Solving, Human-Centered Design, and Strategic Processes” by Paul Brest, Nadia Roumani, and Jason Bade. This essay sets out a framework for integrating conventional problem solving and strategic planning techniques with Human-Centered Design (HCD) to help organizations improve their understanding of the problems they are trying to solve and increase their creativity in developing solutions.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments regarding your process for getting started on social innovation, for problem identification and selection!

 

Mind Tools for Creating a Business & Life that You Love.

There are so many ideas floating around about how to become the best you can be. Ideas about what makes a good entrepreneur, a good leader, a good person, etc. Well, I hope I’m not the first to tell you that entrepreneurs, leaders, and people (surprise!) come in all shapes and sizes. This should come as a relief – I mean, how terrible would it be if we all had to shove ourselves in the same small box?

So, when thinking about where to start with regard to resources for strengthening your mind, I decided to share some of my personal favorite go-tos. I’ll come back to meditation (work in progress) and “being in the moment” later.

Right now, I’d like to share one of my absolute favorite YouTube channels:

Marie TV

Marie is like that best friend/sister who always has quality advice and a keen sense of humor no matter what kind of pickle you find yourself in. She also interviews some of the world’s great innovators, bringing them right to your screen, for free! While I find all of her episodes entertaining and useful, here are some more videos of hers that I highly recommend:

I’d love to hear from you about your favorite resources for getting your mind right! Go ahead and leave a comment below!

 

Free Online Courses & Videos on Entrepreneurship

I, for one, love free learning opportunities. Especially when conventional arenas for learning about entrepreneurship, such as MBA programs, can be prohibitively expensive. Here are some free online courses and content on entrepreneurship that I found especially helpful:

Philanthropy University

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Novo Ed education, an education technology company, have come together to build Philanthropy University, which provides a free online education on social entrepreneurship and innovation to anyone in the world.

The program offers participants the opportunity to earn a certificate in social sector leadership from Berkeley-Haas. So far, over 100,000 students from all over the world have signed up for the courses. You can find more information and sign up for Philanthropy University online classes here. Continue reading Free Online Courses & Videos on Entrepreneurship