Fail quickly

It’s been a hectic week with a lot of unfinished posts in the pipeline (watch this space) but I was fortunate enough to head down to Wellington over the weekend for Festival for the Future – which was a great but extremely exhausting way to end the week, having left home at 4:30am on Saturday morning to catch my flight down and arriving back home at 30 minutes past midnight on Sunday evening.

I always head into these conferences with a bit of skepticism, because there is often a lot of optimism and enthusiasm but not much in the form of action, as a consequence and follow through of that energy. With a few projects already in mind in the social entrepreneurship space, I gained a lot in terms of general ‘take away’ messages from the festival – some of which I already knew, but needed them to be hammered back into my head again.

Here are five thoughts about social entrepreneurship:

ONE: Be unreasonable – this one is from Alex Hannant from an organisation called Hikurangi, which I think is a nice touchstone of the aspirations and passion behind social enterprises.

TWO: Fail quickly – often the best way to do something isn’t immediately obvious from the outset; where change or a ‘pivot’ is needed, respond quickly.

THREE: Tackle the problem – this applies equally to social enterprises as it does to commercial ones: too many people look to scale their project before validating their market. What’s also important with social entrepreneurship is to get down to the structural roots of the problem and to see what is causing it at the structural level. Sometimes it’s not good enough to just ‘band aid’ the problem; actually look to fix the cause.

FOUR: Mobilise action – having a lot of information about what you do, why you do it and how awesome it is… is not enough. The hardest thing is going beyond education and to actually influence behaviour, and so culture matters. Tap into the things that are meaningful to people to make them care and to market in a way that is effective: don’t think “build it, and then they will come”.

FIVE: 4 million cups of coffee – talk to people and have discussions, not only to network with cool individuals and groups but to make sure that you’re not reinventing the wheel.

And to wrap things up, my two favourite phrases from the weekend:

I think that it is important the motivation behind why social entrepreneurs do things is not the satisfaction of saying: “that was MY doing”, but rather, that “this is the CHANGE that was created”:

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it… does it make a sound?

If you do great things and can’t tell anyone… does it matter?

And from Amelia Earhart:

The most effective way to do it, is to do it.


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