Top three tips for social enterprises who want to create real change

Thousands of social entrepreneurs are involved in over 150 events across Australia this week as part of the first annual Changemakers Festival, coordinated by the Australian Centre for Social Innovation.

 

Ryan Hubbard, co-designer of the festival, told StartupSmart the Australian social enterprise space has exploded in the past five years.

 

“There is a lot of rigour and passion and energy in this area, and in the past five years the number of organisations that have started is mind-blowing,” Hubbard says.

 

He shared his top three tips for creating real change.

 

1. Focus on a real problem and understand the full context

 

Hubbard says the passion involved in social enterprise can sometimes obscure the founder’s vision from focusing on creating organisations and campaigns that understand the full context of the problem they’re trying to solve.

 

“We’re encouraging people at the festival to focus on solving a real need for real people. We’ve stolen that line by Steve Blank regarding tech start-ups about the need to get the hell out of the building and learn from real people.”

 

2. Go in with your eyes open and be ready to work harder than ever before

 

Hubbard says new social enterprise founders can be surprised by how relentless the workload can be when tackling complex problems.

 

“What makes this kind of work really exciting is that it’s such a tough challenge to work out how to create change. Business is about creating value and profit, and there are fun and hard problems there but the really gnarly and most challenging ones are in the social space,” Hubbard says. “So get ready to work hard. Really hard.”

 

3. Social change requires innovation so embrace being wrong

 

“The very first thing we would say is you are probably wrong. By definition in innovation, the current thought trends aren’t working. So your thoughts are probably wrong too,” Hubbard says.

 

He adds it’s easy to have big, shiny ideas, but the keys to success are buried in the detail of idea implementation, so social entrepreneurs need to test their assumptions and services as much as possible.

 

“The only way you get anything good is to get out there and test your assumptions and find out what will actually work,” Hubbard says. “Social enterprise testing is hard. It’s not like a vacuum cleaner where you smash at it till it breaks. You definitely can’t do that with people, but you can’t just launch something and hope it works.”

 

Hubbard says making tangible or actionable examples of your idea and running small pilot programs are fundamental to successful social start-ups.

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