It is rare that one person possesses all the qualities needed to catalyze innovation as a force of good. What’s important to find yourself in the right path towards creating social change, is to understand your fears. Social Innovation Academy asked 8 social innovators representing some the most dynamic social innovation initiatives to describe their fears at the beginning, how they confronted them and moved their projects forward.
Any new start means an investment of time and dedication. In my case it also meant that I was pulling in others to join me in the investment, so I did feel responsible. If the project did not ‘succeed’, a lot of time of the whole team would be wasted. So we did not jump blindly; instead, we did a pilot and then continued step by step. Each confirmation gives you a little more courage. And then, suddenly, you reach the point of no return, which is actually scarier than the beginning. I think the whole team took on KOBI as a great opportunity to grow. We define success ourselves. And the potential for failure is simply part of the game. There is no point being afraid. Estimate your risks and live with them. A friend of mine once said, ‘Worrying is like fantasising, just in the wrong direction’.
The greatest fear/concern was funding the business and finding the necessary sources of income/funds until it reached the stage where it could be self-sustaining. We are not there yet but we continue to grow on both the Progoti and the wholesale side of the company, which is encouraging.
How did I, and do I, overcome my fears? Rather than being driven by all the past tells me that I am, and am not, I wake up each morning pulled towards the compelling vision that I and my team are creating. The vision of millions of people and organisations sharing their stories of how they are making a positive difference in the world. The vision of being the spark to flip society from “me, me, me” to “we, we, we” and “how can I help you?” The vision of those people ultimately coming together through WokenUp to take the action needed to successfully attain the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Like any project beginning, our main concern was the economic sustainability and the balanced budget. In fact, one of our main challenges was to be independent of any public support and that the project could live “on the market” using its main resources. For that reason, we had to study the market well, make contests, start slowly in such a way as to allow the structure to take off at best.
Questioning the way we relate to money doesn’t come easy. We tend to underestimate to which extent everything monetary is deeply entrenched in our culture. Suggesting we could measure value creation differently and create new, more constructive tools in this field remains deeply subversive, even among progressives. I admit I was a bit afraid to be deemed a daydreamer. Eventually, I understood that there isn’t much to gain from such fear, and that the deep changes that are required in our societies need to be conveyed via visions and utopias to have a chance of being tested in reality.
The scale of the task. Whilst creating the badges themselves is fairly simple, administering them does require some training and explanation. We were hoping that we’d be able to encourage peer to peer learning to be able to make the idea scale organically and to include as many local groups as possible. This is where we made the biggest mistake, essentially trying to develop the programme without any form of funding by being overly optimistic about the level of support that would be required.
We both have experience in business development. However, we were initially afraid of creating a company in Canada, as we are both originally from France, and we have only been living in Vancouver for around 2 years. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to have an amazing business coach from the Société de développement économique de la Colombie-Britannique (SDECB): an organization helping francophone entrepreneurs develop and achieve their professional project in British Columbia. We were also chosen to be part of a Business Plan Writing Circle, a program provided by DIVERSEcity for immigrant entrepreneurs. They provided us with a lot of helpful resources to go further in our business plan, pitch and offers.
Scientific validation gave me the security to show it. Because that’s the way it was, you were wondering if I was afraid. I think the natural stupidity, the pleasure and the passion, your concept of it will change as you grow older because society will condition you in certain things. When you’re a child, splashing in the mud has a brutal pleasure and you have a passion for doing those types of foolish things. There’s nothing wrong with still doing it, you just don’t do it today. That is, a child will walk perfectly well on the roof of a house because he’s not afraid, isn’t aware of the danger. You’re only afraid if you know the danger. And I was doing something no one else had done, so I had no comparison. There was nothing. I did not wish to be afraid of the unknown because I believed in what I was doing. I thought it made sense.
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