Lets give it a name; this epoch of impact. This shift towards a more socially conscious way of creating and managing businesses. Lets call it a revolution. Its instigators are people like Aaran Hurst author of The Purpose Economy; Raj Sisodia and John Mackey, authors of Conscious Capitalism and Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler, who, in his TED talk said that if businesses just take less they can save time and energy on ‘giving back’. What they’re calling for is less self-serving goals and less rapaciousness and more purpose, social impact and the awareness that we are all part of the one socio-economic system so we need to be aware that each movement, each action causes a reaction and has a ripple effect in this system.
I have joined the revolution. And I’m not the only one at home. All of us gathered at the last Startup Salon: Ideas with Impact, in Dogpatch Labs on 7th July, joined this fight against greed and short – sighted, socially and environmentally damaging goals. And the chief revolutionaries on the night were Derek F. Butler, Michelle O’Donnell Keating, Eamon Sayers, Orla McCallion and Matt McCann. Revolution may seem like a strong word but the strength required to take on the various battles that need to be fought to achieve the kind of monumental impact that creates real social change requires revolutionary kind of force; the kind the founders of startups typically have!
But it’s not easy. The emotional fuel necessary to stoke the fire of revolution is often what burns people out. Even the other day I bumped into a very prominent member of the revolution at home, a social entrepreneur of high rank, who said during our brief conversation about social entrepreneurship, that resilience was particularly important for social entrepreneurs who’ve an even higher rate of burn out because of the level of emotional investment in the endeavour.
So how is this resilience achieved? This was a question I put to the last panel of Startup Salon:Ideas with Impact.
Surround yourself with great people; people who you can depend on and whose advice you trust, was one piece of advice. Pretty much all the panelists attested to this one.
“Let it go” is another, specifically, when faced with situations that are out of your control. This was Eamon Sayers’ offering. He spoke about how you do what you can to control things (the thing in his case was the launch of World Sports Team). You persist right until the end. You don’t give up; not until you’re right the point of go, then, whatever happens, well, happens. And you let it happen with grace. You submit to those uncontrollable forces without beating yourself up.
Another important piece of advice was from Michelle O’Donnell Keating, consultant at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, who said: ‘Celebrate the Milestones’. I’d like to spend some time on this as I feel it’s not one we allow ourselves to indulge.
Since February I’ve been planning #HackAccessDublin, which is a hackathon that seeks to enhance the quality of life of people with mobility problems. It has been a journey already; complete with challenging vicissitudes, some of which have taken some huffing and puffing to get through and it has taken a great deal of focus and optimism to stay the course during the low points. The biggest milestone was securing our number 1 venue, which is Google, the second was securing the sponsor, which is Nissan. I wouldn’t say I celebrated them – there was no popping of a champagne cork – but I did certainly feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. That I allowed myself to feel this way by pausing to take a step back from the melee of hackathon management, is key. Making something like a social impact hackathon happen is a series of wins and successes, that override and diminish in significance the losses and defeats, leading to the main event. It is important that we acknowledge each win to restore our emotional energy and maintain our focus and commitment to the rest of the journey. After the main event I will probably pop a champagne cork….or two!
The biggest takeaway from Startup Salon:Ideas with Impact is that it doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in; there are always ways to make an impact and any business not concerned with impact is a dinosaur.
So as well as Social Entrepreneurship we’ve got Social Impact, which isn’t about businesses giving back. It’s about creating businesses that don’t take so much in the first place and build into their business models purpose and impact as well as profit.
Perhaps social entrepreneurship and social impact are precursors to social capitalism? Perhaps someday the words ‘social and capitalism won’t seem so entirely incongruous and the term wont’ seem so fantastically idealistic.
I know one thing. The future depends on it.