What would be the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social innovator, a member of the Social Innovation Academy, who has only two things at the moment: a big heart and a willingness to do something?

You have a fantastic idea and you strongly believe in its potential to change the world for the better. You have dreamt about it, you have made your own plans but you only have two things at the moment: a big heart and the willingness to move forward. So what do you do next? Do you follow your passion? We asked 8 successful social innovators from different fields, sectors and countries to share their advice on the secret to starting out. Let them inspire and guide us.

I would say two things. Ideals are not enough and resilience is everything. If you want to build a sustainable tomorrow, then make sure it is also sustainable for you in the long run. Don’t forget your own sustainability.

Maja Rijavec and Alenka Kreč Bricelj, Smetumet

Make the most of your own personal experience and knowledge but never forget to share your idea and to ask for suggestions, feedback, advice, even criticism, as that is the only way to start understanding if your project has solid legs to stand on. Create a strong team you trust and that can contribute with different inputs, knowledge and experience, no social project that lasted is a one-man show. And good luck!

Giulia Houston, Progetto Qiud

I think it’s very important to be open to learning and to be honest with yourself and your team. Social innovation is about testing and pivoting. We tested the materials, the products and the business model and we are still learning a lot. We are flexible and open because that is how you make progress.

Andreea Zaharescu, Upside Down

If they believe their idea is good enough, they have to persist and find a way to make it work. There is no one way to do it. We believe that each social innovator finds his or her own way. But we know that it is easier to work together or at least find like-minded people in your community and support each other.

Živa Lopatič, BUNA

Start something, talk to people in your community and who are looking at the same problems as you and you will be amazed at how far you can go!

Tiernan Kenny, Wayfindr

Avoid a very common mistake: if you think that by helping others you’ll find more social approval, visibility or opportunities for success, re-evaluate your motivations. Authenticity is a must characteristic for a mature social innovator, start where you are and keep creating your authentic self on the way. Additional critical recommendations: focus on being deliberately on purpose. Create your own definitions and remember that all the important words are processes (happiness, joy, impact, etc.). An important note for the social innovators that are following spiritual concepts such as the law of attraction: if you think about how good it would be to get a red and sweet apple, you ask for it to the universe, you keep your thoughts to manifest it… all good but… remember you have to go to the orchard, find the apple and pick it up. In other words, open your mind, your senses and decide to act upon your purpose and intentions.

Jose Antonio Morales, Lincoln Island Initiatives

The key to our success was having good co-workers and good relationships. Those definitely help, but my advice to an aspiring social innovator would be the following: When you feel something is right, just do it. Don’t delay just because it’s hard, everything worth doing is. The only question you have to solve is whether you will do the work and solve a problem people have, or will you let them wait until someone else solves it for them?

Željko Khermayer, Feelif

You have to believe in what you are doing. Our experience shows that you cannot enrich it. You have to believe in it because of its costs. We believe in Nefiks because we see that many people have better positions in the job market. Many who use our system are also more self-confident. Many young people are even happier because of it. If we didn’t believe in Nefiks, the project would not survive because it works with very low financial support. We also need to have other activities to financially and logistically support social innovation.

Alenka Blazinšek, Nefiks

Would you like to learn how inspiring social innovators answer other important questions such as how to capture and engage your audience or how to change systems and perceptions?

Check out the Social Innovation Academy – the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.  If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.

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