The recent Ashoka Change Week saw two hot topics being debated: social enterprise and how to create a “triple bottom line.”
The emerging movement of social enterprise around the world has compelled a growing number of businesses to consider their social impact. Both traditional businesses and citizen sector organisations are increasingly taking on the mantra of making money while making the world a better place.
The creation of the “triple-bottom line” – that of people, planet and profit – is becoming more and more part of the traditional business model. Central to understanding the triple bottom line is the desire to create impact. But how do social enterprises ensure impact? Here are our top five ways:
1. Communicate clearly You influence your contacts through the stories you tell. “It’s all about the snowball effect,” says Navroze Mehta, Ashoka Support Network Member. “Be clear about what you do, how you do it, and what you want. Repeat it over and over, so you don’t even have to think about it.”
By being confident in your own story, it lets others experience your impact for themselves. So don’t be vague about your vision. Engage listeners by using vivid examples to activate as many senses as you can. Show and tell people about your journey and invite them to join.
2. Stay on target As entrepreneurs, what you start with and what you end with are rarely the same. Throw out the notion of complex business plans and five-year budget projections. Stay focused on your vision and the impact you want to create, even as your business model changes. Have clear goals and work together with your mentors and advisors to constantly make them a reality.
3. Create a shared vision with your partners “It’s a two-way street. If there’s a disconnect, the magic doesn’t happen,” says Kovin Naidoo, Ashoka Fellow. What ever you are working on, you will be working with other people. Especially in social enterprise, collaboration is key. Create your vision with your partners and mentors not in spite of them. You are all partners together in creating impact.
4. Rewire the empathetic feelings If you want to make an impact, keep empathy at the forefront of your mind. The real people you are working for are not investors but beneficiaries. Never forget why you started and who you are helping. Empathy is the fuel that will keep you and your team motivated in the hard times.
5. Stop doing everything, start doing something Don’t fall into the trap of being a superhero and trying to do everything yourself. This will ultimately results in you being mediocre at everything. Use your supporters and team to help you focus on the big picture. Stop working in the business and start working on the business.
Words by Jonah Brotman