Avoid Band-Aids – 10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

So last week, we asked Social Entrepreneurs to Dig Deeper and to make sure that they had all the information they needed to start their venture. Our next commandment,

Thou Shalt Avoid Using Band-Aids

So you have a great idea, and now (since you dug a little deeper) you know that you have all the background information to really understand your issue. Now it is time to develop your plan of attack. Your approach should be innovative and truly add to the methods of addressing these issues. Sometimes this means that you will need more time to acquire the adequate resources, partners and funds to implement this strategy. It may also mean that though this problem is serious, you cannot accomplish anything for quite some time.

Avoid being pulled into the enthusiasm of just starting and addressing surface issues. You want, as much as possible, to address root causes. Does this mean that you don’t feed the person who is hungry today because you haven’t figured out a way to permanently eradicate his hunger?

If something is diseased don’t put a band-aid on it and expect it to go away

No, but it may mean that you look to partners on the ground that are already addressing daily hunger issues and see if they can use additional resources to feed more people, rather than just feeding everyone you meet. The realistic outcome of that strategy is that the same person will be hungry tomorrow, unless a long term strategy is developed.

Those of us doing good work and developing initiatives for good need to think like those in any other field. A doctor would never find out that you have chest pain and other symptoms of a heart attack, and just give you something for the pain. A teacher would not see a student that cannot read and just fill out the homework so they don’t fail for that day. Similarly, we can not see an issue or concern and just take the path of least resistance or address only what seems to be the most pressing problem. Instead, we need to take the time to create and implement strategies that will stop the problem all together. In the short term, we should learn from and work with the partners already addressing surface needs, to increase their effectiveness, until we find a better long-term solution.

You may be asking, what about those of us already attempting to address a surface problem  or if we are unable to find any organization working on the surface issue? You can’t partner with organizations addressing surface issues if nothing is being done on your issue in your target area. Though I find it hard to believe that NOTHING is being done. Often, ( especially when we are outsiders coming in to address a social problem) efforts for change, may just not look like we expect or exist within traditional organizations. I will once again state that individuals need to dig deeper and save a deeper discussion of this issue for a future post…

Not having a home has a root cause, but without day shelters and over night shelter facilities, many homeless individuals would never have a chance to get out of their current situation. However, most shelters offer individuals additional services and support (e.g. job placement, substance abuse counseling, child care, job training) to address the long-term problem. If you are working to address a surface issue it is important to develop strong partners (which we will cover next week). Sustainable impacts are only realistically met through partnership and collaboration.

Even if you decide that addressing a surface issue is absolutely required at this point, look for opportunities to raise awareness, partner with innovators and for other strategies working towards long term-solutions. To truly do “good” you should be working daily to put yourself out of a job, not settling in forever.


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