Want to be a successful social entrepreneur? Focus on building community
A few weeks ago, I attended Ignition 2013, a four-day invitation-only event celebrating Millennials who have launched social-change organizations. Ignite Good—a project of the Heartfelt Foundation that provided funding to 15 young global leaders to tackle pressing social issues—and the Huffington Post brought together leaders from around the world to talk about what it takes to create lasting change.
While we know there are several factors that affect our ability to make a difference, the big takeaway was the importance of building community.
Of course, building community is easier said than done. Below are a few takeaways from the conference on what it takes to connect with others and create change.
1. Be humble. Many of us feel compelled to launch organizations because we are moved by the severity of the issues we’re trying to tackle. Yet instead of assuming we have the answers, we should first seek to listen to the people we seek to serve.
Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, emphasized this point on a panel with Bill Drayton, Founder and CEO of Ashoka and Arianna Huffington, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post:
“I thought that I knew stuff. I wanted to go impart my wisdom at the great age of 25. I learned very quickly that nobody wanted it, for good reason. And I think the big lesson from that was to gain the humility to listen first before I started trying to make things happen.”
Watch the entire conversation here.
2. Be open. Change can’t happen in a vacuum. What’s your plan to keep the conversation going between all of the stakeholders involved in your work? How is feedback embedded in your organization beyond the occasional survey?
For example, nonprofits like Watsi — which connects donors to patients in need of medical treatment — practice radical transparency in a deceptively simple way: all information (confirmation of treatments, statement of finances, and more) is uploaded to a Google Doc.
3. Be personal. While we are in an age of big data, people don’t just want to know what happened; they want to understand what happened. They want the stories behind the numbers and the reason you feel compelled to do this work. The question that emerged regularly — among panelists and attendees — was “What are your stepping stones?” What are the moments that brought you to where you are today? These moments not only make up your story but also form a collective story of those of us who want to dedicate our work to creating change.
These are just a few highlights from the event. If you want to learn more about Ignite Good, visit their website.
How else can we focus on building community?
Disclaimer: I was hired to support marketing and coverage of the event, including this blog post. However, all opinions are mine.