I’ve been siffing through a number of emails I’ve ‘starred’ in the recent past. Some of them are related to literature that I need to read up on, but most of them are on potential (suggested?) blog posts for myself. It is during this browsing-spree, if I may, that I changed upon this post.
I don’t even remember when I came across the post about The 100 Social Enterprise Truths. I don’t remember when I came across it online, I mean.
Now that I’ve gone through it again, I see why I’d starred it. There’re a lot of interesting points here. And now that I’m on the brink (or almost!) of taking baby steps into (social) entrepreneurship, I have a few things on these points. The reason I keep ‘social’ in brackets is because I’m still trying to figure out if I can officially term what I want to do with Aham Asti in that category.
I’m sure some of my comments below might change over time, especially once I actually start with the venture. But for now, this is it. =)
So without further ado, here’s the list of 100 Social Enterprise Truths. And incase you didn’t catch it earlier on, you can find the original post here.
1. Measuring social impact is about improving what you do, not just proving how well it works
2. Choose legal structure after getting clarity on mission, activities, financing, governance
3. It’s not the size of the profit, it’s what you do with it that counts
My comment: I absolutely agree here. Although…hmmm…the word ‘profit’ does make me a bit wary.
4. More-than-profit is better than not-for-profit (profit’s not a dirty word)
My comment: THERE IT IS! Ha! Those are my dad’s words. Exactly! Last time I spoke to him in depth about Aham Asti, he said to me, “Beta, why does it seem to me that you’re feeling guilty about making money?” My response was a mix of ummms and errrs. *shrugs*
5. Successful social entrepreneurs build trusted, authentic relationships
6. Social entrepreneurs aren’t individual heroes; they build teams, create networks, mobilise movements
My comment: Absolut-o-mundo! Not that I would ever want to catergorize myself as one or the other, but I do want to make a change. I’m not sure about a ‘movement’, but a change, yes.
7. Social entrepreneurs can work at community, local, national and international levels
My comment: I think it’s almost vital for that to happen. Growth invariably equals more number of people being reached. Reach out and think big!
8. If a pound was donated each time a social entrepreneur quoted Gandhi, no-one would need to fundraise
9. Teach too many men to fish and you screw up the entire marine ecosystem and deplete the fish stocks
10. Scale of impact is more important than scale of organisation (or scale of ego)
My comment: Bulls-eye. Get the self-interest out of the picture, and you’ll do fine. But I s’pose it’s important to keep in mind that you’ve gotta feed yourself and handles finances, keeping daddy dearest’s words in mine.
11. A particular legal structure doesn’t guarantee an organisation won’t be rubbish (or that it will be brilliant)
12. You don’t need an MBA to be a social entrepreneur; you need a JFDI
My comment: Well, I’m getting my MBA and I’m hoping in some way it helps me. Also, I’m just fucking doing it. So yeah, best of both? =)
13. Successful social enterprises have a ‘network mindset’ not an organisational one: focus on the mission
14. All money comes with strings attached; that’s fine as long as you know what they are
15. Social enterprise isn’t a panacea; but it can provide a treatment for some social ills, and help prevent others
16. Social entrepreneurs’ work has a ripple effect: mobilising and inspiring others to get involved
My comment: And I do hope I get that going once I get where I want. During the initial stages of me conceptualizing Aham Asti, my mom said to me, “Don’t talk to everybody about your business idea – they might steal it!” I responded to her by saying, “If they steal my idea, I’d’ve won. If more people do what I want to, I’ve achieved what I sought out to do.”
17. There is nothing more tedious than a social enterprise definition debate (apart from two of them…)
18. Not everyone is a changemaker (FAO Bill Drayton)
19. The thing that connects most organisations that have successfully scaled is length of time
My comment: Hang in there – it’ll happen!
20. Social enterprises overestimate what they can achieve in the short-term, and underestimate it in the long-term
21. Organisations are powered by people, and they should be trained, supported and invested in
22. Networking is important for social entrepreneurs: be generous and genuine, and it will be reciprocated
23. Even if you call them a client, an end-user or beneficiary, the customer is still king
24. Social enterprise leaders need to look after themselves; if they burn out, often so does the organisation
My comment: I suppose this is where partners come into the picture. People who’ll be by your side and work with you and help you share the workload. These people, to be honest, have to be people who share your vision (if I may). Else, it’ll just spell disaster.
25. Populate the organisation with radiators not drains
26. Before you get the right people in the right seats, be sure you’re driving the right bus
27. Enjoy it: it’s not called “earnest-and-worthy-and-dull” enterprise; humour is allowed (& often necessary)
My comments: I completely agree! Humor’s the flavor of life! Enjoy it while you still can. =)
28. All organisations live or die by the quality of what they deliver (at the price they do it)
29. Buy from other social enterprises, and get them in your supply chain: but only if they deliver
My comment: Absolutely. Make the change…but also help others make a change. That’s always a refreshing feeling. =)
30. Underpromise and overdeliver: all too rare in social enterprise
31. A crisis might be a terrible thing to waste; it’s also a terrible thing to cause (#bigsociety)
32. There are more holy grails in social enterprise than in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
33. When talking about asset transfer and finite resources, don’t forget the most important assets + resources are human
34. For ‘niche in the market’, read ‘need in the community’ (and vice versa)
35. Addressing market failure probably won’t have a commercial rate of return
36. Learn by doing, learn from others, learn from failures, keep learning
My comment: The day you stop learning, you stop growing. Period.
37. A 3-year government contract is no more sustainable than a 3-year grant
38. Sustainable financing comes through not being over-reliant on any one source of money
My comment: Yes! Diversify your income channels. For instance, write a book. =)
39. Optimistic pragmatists and realistic opportunists flourish
40. There a lot of good social enterprise business plans, not many good businesses
My comment: Deliver what you plan. Deliver what you promise. Deliver deliver deliver. That’s what it’s all about.
41. If the motivation isn’t really there at the start, it certainly won’t be when times get hard
My comment: Yes, believe in what you’ve set out to do. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will.
42. Charm and ‘being nice to people’ are enormously underrated
43. Edison was right (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration)
44. The “Facebook for social entrepreneurs” is Facebook
45. Newsflash: your social network for a niche community won’t fund itself by advertising
My comment: Yes, but it sure will help you identify people who’re worth associating yourself with. Know how to work various channels.
46. Honesty builds trust builds credibility builds support: ‘calculated candour’ is the way forward
47. Diversifying too early usually means doing lots of things averagely rather than one thing well
My comment: I believe that. Jack of all traits isn’t the best thing to start with. Aim for being the king of one, at the beginning at least.
48. Don’t scale up before the model’s proven, however much noise & encouragement there is
49. There’s more truth spoken over drinks and meals at a conference than on the stage
My comment: Couldn’t have said it better myself!
50. BigSociety, Social Enterprise, Civil Society, Third Sector: it’s more important what we do than what we call it
51. Believing your own hype is the start of the downward spiral
52. The biggest challenge for spin-outs is not technical but cultural
53. The UK is a pioneer in the field; but first mover advantage also means first mover mistakes
54. If the government created an investment fund for construction, it would be called BuilderBuilders
55. Measuring social impact is where financial reporting was 200 years ago (so don’t beat yourself up)
56. Too many people confuse innovation with novelty; an idea is easier than continuous improvement
57. It is possible to go to a social enterprise conference or seminar every working day of the year
58. There is a difference between having great contacts and actually making use of them
59. Work is needed on better exit strategies for social entrepreneurs (no more ‘life president’ stuff)
60. More than 146,000 new species have been discovered since the first Social Investment Task Force began
61. UK social enterprise debate is too internally-focused: huge amount to learn from international models
62. Mission isn’t about a nice statement: it’s for decision-making, communication & planning
63. Beware the ‘self-styled’ social entrepreneur; normally means it’s more about ‘self’ and ‘style’ [see Melody on the Apprentice]
64. Empowerment means giving power to and equipping with skills, not ‘asking a few questions’
65. You can’t really solve or change much from your desktop #slacktivism
66. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, an attitude, a set of behaviours (so is social entrepreneurship)
67. You can’t teach entrepreneurship, but you can learn it; learn it by doing and from others
68. Look back after you leap, and work out how you might leap differently next time
69. There are many social impact measurement tools, with more in common than they care to admit
70. Social entrepreneurs are often ‘biographical’: powered by a personal injustice or experience
71. The word ‘synergy’ should be outlawed from daily use
72. Risk literacy and risk awareness are where we need to get to (not just risk vs risk aversion)
73. The best CaféDirect coffee is the Machu Picchu: not too strong, but smooth + robust
74. (Social) entrepreneurs are a little bit born and a lot made
75. A group of social entrepreneurs always ultimately revert to gossip
76. Bad partnerships mean muddied thinking, a multitude of meetings, & compromised delivery
77. There are a spectrum of replication options: it’s not ‘open source’ vs ‘command and control’
78. Social enterprise blends outlooks and approaches; so a blended return makes sense
79. Understanding the problem is part of the solution (tackle the causes, not the symptoms)
80. Imperfect action is almost always better than perfect inaction
81. BigSociety is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (apols to Churchill)
82. Financial management matters; you need to know your way round a P&L and cashflow
My comment: *sigh* My biggest fear! Maybe this is where my MBA will help!
83. Investors and social entrepreneurs don’t speak different languages, they speak different dialects
84. There are as many social enterprise support agencies & networks as actual social enterprises
85. “Build it + they will come” only works if you build it right (& listen to the people you’re building it for)
My comment: I was chatting with a friend of mine recently and he said something that really stood out. While talking about a venture he’s created recently, he said to me, “Go out there and do it. Commerce will happen. Commerce always happens.” Do it well, is all I’ll add, and the money will definitely flow.
86. Social enterprise isn’t an easy option; starting a business never is
87. Finding a good social enterprise web designer is like finding a needle in a haystack
My comment: I’ve already started my research on finding web designers and website creatorthingamajigs. Wish me luck, especially since I’m a total doofus in that area.
88. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’: with fewer ‘deep’ quotes and more doing
89. If London-Edinburgh trainline was a social enterprise, it would stop outside Newcastle when it ran out of funding
90. Most investors, funders, policymakers to do with this space are in London (it’s not an anti-Northern conspiracy)
91. The dark Divine Chocolate is a bit full on: go for the (lovely) milk / mint / orange / hot chocolate
92. Sectors are diverse + contain multitudes; don’t talk about the public or private sectors (or social enterprise sector) as if they are uniform
93. Survival rate is meant to refer to the business, not the social entrepreneur
94. There is an over-supply of loan finance already, with not enough organisations fit, able or willing to take it
95. Social entrepreneurship isn’t a career, it’s a calling (do something before you take the label)
96. Secretly, most social enterprises are still pursuing the “hope for a sugar daddy or mommy” business model
97. The first social entrepreneur was a Sumerian who started the first library / tax system in 1500 BC
98. Enterprise support agencies are often amongst the most un-enterprising organisations around
99. Despite the cynicism + in-fighting, there are great orgs, great people, real change happening
My comment: I can see that too. And lots of people out there who’re not only trying to do something, but who’re actually bringing people together from across the globe to help each other. If you don’t know them already, you must check out the guys at Make Sense.
100. Don’t believe anyone spouting supposed social enterprise truths at you; they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about ;0)
I do hope one day I can say “I knew what I was talking about!”.
I’ve been meaning to blog about what Aham Asti is and what I want to do with it, but haven’t had the time. But I will get down to it soon enough. And when I do, I’ll add a link here for those of you who might be interested.
For now though, I’d just like to say that I’m going to start my MBA in e-commerce in the next month and once I’m done, I hope to jump right into Aham Asti. During this next year though I plan to implement what I learn.
Here’s hoping things fall into place.