Social entrepreneurs are change agents, innovators, and dreamers. Ever wondered how they accomplish the hard work of turning plans into action and action into results?
The MiracleFeet team works daily to solve problems in a creative and sustainable way. Here are some of their best tips for executing those big, world-changing ideas.
What exactly is a social entrepreneur? We like this definition from the Schwab Foundation.
1. Incorporate creative thinking into your routine
You might think that making time for creativity is frivolous when there’s so much to be done, but our administrative staff encourages you to think otherwise.
For Administrative Coordinator Karyn Miller, the trick is scheduling the time to change gears. “All too often, my role lets me slide into analytic rather than creative thinking,” she says, “but I try to force myself to zoom out every week or two to give myself some perspective. Removing myself from the details and getting a view of the bigger picture helps me think more creatively about what’s happening.”
Meredith Driscoll, MiracleFeet’s Director of Finance and Operations, takes a slightly different approach by always looking for new solutions. “I try to stay on top of industry trends so that I’m constantly thinking about how to make MF better and more efficient.”
Find the approach the resonates most with you, your work style, and your time constraints, but don’t ignore your creative side. You never know what problem you might solve next if you commit to flexing your creative muscle regularly!
2. Prepare yourself for failure
Sometimes a great idea can meet a roadblock because of something we can’t control. For example, despite meticulous planning, political instability or natural disasters can sideline a project.
Christie Pettitt-Scheiber, Research, Evaluation, and Operations Manager, reminds us that we may not always get our desired outcome for another reason. “Things don’t work the same everywhere. What works in one place may not work in another,” she cautions. For example, a program to bring a much-needed drug to a Latin American country may work, but the same program in Southeast Asia may fail because tariffs on the drug are cost-prohibitive.
The best way to work? “Identify potential issues or obstacles before [a plan] is implemented full scale and it’s much more difficult to go back!” says Latin America Program Manager Marie France Roux.
Christie agrees. “Create local solutions with local partners.”
3. Always involve the community
Make sure the solution you have proposed is something your community needs and wants. “A new idea needs people to be motivated to get involved, invested in its success, knowledgeable about it, and empowered by it,” says Karyn.
Once you have established that your idea is something the local community can become invested in, make sure to involve the key players from day one. Now is not the time to be shy! “Involve everyone from the start,” says Christie. “You may think you’re bothering someone, but then it turns out they have the exact info you need. Be inclusive, not exclusive.”
4. Dare to do things differently.
Grants Manager Shriya Soora emphasizes the importance of challenging the status quo. “Don’t settle for the norm just because it’s convenient,” she says.
Sometimes, doing things differently might just mean keeping it simple, rolling up your sleeves, and going about the daily grind of executing a plan.
And don’t forget that how you do things can be just as important as what you do. “Be respectful of the culture and social environment during this process,” Marie France reminds us.
5. Be open to receiving feedback
Those who are open to constructive critiques of their ideas will be able to continue refining them. Being willing to listen to the input of colleagues and stakeholders and make adjustments when necessary is a critical part of social entrepreneurship. Creative solutions require constant refinement and a big part of innovation is trial and error.
Most social entrepreneurs will tell you that the learning never stops. Christie’s advice? “If you think you don’t need feedback, that’s the time to say, ‘I should get some more feedback.'”
Does one of these areas stand out to you? Pick one and focus on refining your skills in that area during this week.