Since 2012 Lincoln Island Initiatives offers training programs, event formats and experiences designed to connect people with opportunities, identify relatable role models, introduce social change and contribute to a conscious, responsible, tolerant, inclusive and enriching business environment. They currently focus on four initiatives: Aurora Coworking, Fear & Fail International, The Glue Role Models and Vision of Present.
Below you can read a very educational interview with Jose Antonio Morales. Jose Antonio Morales, Lincoln Island Initiatives’ founder, has been working with corporate teams, SMEs and young entrepreneurs for the past 20+ years. He is always bringing new perspectives, challenging the status quo and sparking innovation. His network of entrepreneurs covers Slovenia, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium and is growing fast all around Europe.
Intro question: What is the social innovation of Lincoln Island Initiatives about?
Lincoln Island Initiatives is an ever evolving platform focused on enabling more people to use entrepreneurship as a path for personal development, business and social impact.
Aurora Coworking is located in a Slovenian rural area. It enables local and international entrepreneurs to connect, develop their businesses and learn.
Fear & Fail Global started as a conference and grew as a multi-country regular event format aiming to uncover fear as a source of business failure. It’s transforming into a coaching, consulting & training organisation.
The Glue Role Models is a project in development. We identify European role models of entrepreneurship, interview them and present their stories in digital and printed formats.
Vision of Present is a tool and training program designed to transform visions of future in to realistic day to day actions. We are soon releasing a version for teams.
Why did you (or your partners) start this social innovation?
Because it was the next step in fulfilling my purpose: support people, including me, to grow free through entrepreneurship.
I started my professional life founding businesses connected to information technologies with the intention of enabling small businesses to use IT to increase competitiveness and access to the market. In 2012 I decided to make a change and expand my experience and circle of connections beyond the world of technology. That decision took me to learn and get inspired by other social entrepreneurs. Today, with my two partners, we are determined to produce positive effects in our communities and support others to do the same. It is always about empowerment, growth, freedom.
How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved?
The idea started when trying to answer the following question: What do you enjoy doing the most that could become business? The first answer was: I love traveling and always meeting new people.
The first business idea was Lincoln Island Networking Expeditions. I wanted to organise trips all around the world where entrepreneurs from multiple fields of expertise could join and be surprised throughout the experience. Visiting a varied list of businesses, meeting their founders and doing what entrepreneurs do: finding more inspiring ideas to grow. The hypothesis was: we bring together unrelated entrepreneurs together and they will find a way to relate and eventually cooperate. We proved it right but at least at that time, as a business it didn’t work. So started the transformation into what today is Lincoln Island Initiatives. I would say it was a collaborative effort.
What were you afraid of at the beginning and how (if at all) did you overcome your fear?
To me it was being in love, therefore I was ready to jump to the swimming pool with shallow water! No detected fear, I embraced the idea fully. The fears started showing up when meeting the first difficulties. Six years from then, I still discover fears on the way. But as you know one of the initiatives is called Fear & Fail, so I clearly know that fear is just a helpful reminder that there is an opportunity to learn.
What were the beginnings of the social innovation? (i.e. how did you build your initiative, business, NGO from zero?).
Initially my company was registered in the US, then I transferred the brands to my S.P. (sole proprietorship in Slovenia), then I opened an LLC and invited two partners. Soon after we registered that LLC as a Social Enterprise. Originally I did not know I was creating a social business, it is just that I was considering social aspects of it as part of my understanding of leadership and ethical business practices. As the time passed and I got more involved with the idea of Social Impact I adapted the ideas, initiatives and organisation.
How did you attract public attention to the issue you wanted to tackle and make others believe in your purpose and potential?
Initially I thought we could help others, we could make others believe, we could motivate people, etc. Soon after we found that is not possible. We found that we could only inspire others through example. So we did act as we found possible, organising events, meeting new people, traveling and reaching entrepreneurs one by one. Many times we were inconsistent, we started initiatives that didn’t work out, and we felt as we were losing too much energy. We decided to focus on what works, and amazingly that also helped with our communication. Our audience identified with what works, feel inspired and decide to act. We are far from perfection but that doesn’t stop us.
Nike’s “just do it” mantra doesn’t really work when doing means being busy trying. It only works when delivering value.
How did you make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?
I am a person that instinctively identifies trends and the problems of others, and I thought that was enough for me to design my business initiatives from. I was wrong.
Trial and error made us lose years of effort but at least paid off as valuable insight: Business is about attending an existing, recognised and pressing need, it is not about creating a need, it must be as selling beer! Even unemployed people drink a beer here and there, but few of them participate in free events that could help them find a job. Hope and imaginary solutions do not sell.
What we do now: we ask people what are the challenges they are experiencing, then we connect the dots and try to offer a solution.
How did you raise the money for your idea and what is your advice for others considering DYI fundraising?
Personal savings and a few grants. One of my findings was that nobody can give from lack; therefore the most important aspect is start by having enough to cover the basic monthly expenses. Is that a part time job? Maybe. Every team member should be empowered enough to recognise that “I am the first priority”.
How did you scale your social innovation and what tips for scaling could you share?
It will sound simple but is more cumbersome in practice: start contacting people and focus on developing relationships not on getting some money from the people you call. Those relationships will bring more information and opportunities in time.
That’s how I started scaling the Fear & Fail initiative, soon after we were organising events in Vienna. Then I signed-up to a program called Impact Hub Scaling Program and that supported me to travel to Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden.
How do you change the whole system?
The system you are talking about is an idea that became a belief, in other words enough people decided to agree that the idea of such a system exists. Challenging belief systems is the main force that drives every single entrepreneur.
Find the entrepreneur within, be true to yourself and clearly define what is your personal purpose. Live by the principles that support your purpose and you will find yourself inspiring others to wake up their own inner entrepreneur. We change everything by being authentic to ourselves.
For a system to work, all its main components need to be in synch, otherwise, the function of the system collapses. What I see all around is people trying to adapt old system to our present conditions, I think that is still resisting change. Let’s create new systems!
What it the one advice you can give to an aspiring social innovator, a member of the Social Innovation Academy, with only two things at the moment: a big heart and a willingness to do something?
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.
Interviewed by Maja Novak
Jose Antonio Morales is an entrepreneur interested in social impact, a business coach, mentor, speaker and expert generalist. According to Gallup’s assessment of strengths – Jose has a special capacity to connect the dots in unusual ways, bringing a unique and wide perspective often perceived as different and original. His additional strengths include being strategic and an activator. Jose is a member of Social Innovation Academy’s Global Advisory Board.
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