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Feb 08

Prove Your Worth – 10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

So if you have been following the series, you know that we are providing tips assisting would-be social entrepreneurs in the development of new ideas, programs and organizations. This next tip is something that is often developed after work has already occurred and when it is to late to make major organizational changes. So this week’s commandment is

Thou Shalt Prove Your Worth

So what does it mean to prove your worth? Does it mean to show the number of individuals that received your services? Does it mean to highlight the new building or center you developed? Does it mean that more people are aware of the issue than before you existed? These could be all part of the process of proving your value, but the real goal is to show how your efforts created long lasting change and that without your intervention, service, or idea, things would have continued to decline or had negative outcomes. In the language of the SISGI Group you should have created a Sustainable Impact: a positive and cohesive outcome from the work of a charitable organization, social innovation or venture that can be maintained, upheld and defended until no longer necessary.

Unfortunately, too often organizations and social entrepreneurs look at success through activity and bean counting. They raised a lot of money so that must mean people care. They provided food where there was no food before. They developed a program to help people and several people received necessary services. But what about next week? Will people care about this issue after your big campaign and continue to give or will they go on to care about something else new and shiny? Will that person you fed this week be hungry again next week and if so, do you have a plan to address their hunger long term? And did the necessary services you provided alleviate the problem or just solve it for the moment?

Evaluation and measurement should be something that should be included and occur before you have ever started your program. You need to fully understand the baseline scope of the problem, at the time when you are starting your intervention, in order to know that you have grown or improved circumstances. Too often, what looks like success or good work has minimal positive outcomes and a strategy may not be nearly as effective as it would seem.

Recently, there has been an increase in awareness building campaigns rather than an increase in change building. It is not enough to say that more people know about an issue if you are raising money to address a serious social problem. Newspapers, marketing companies and media organizations are in the business of informing and building awareness. Those working to address social problems and working in the social sector, should not just provide information to inform the public. Awareness should have a direct correlation to impact so that more people knowing about a problem directly leads to things like more funding or new methods towards change. These should lead to additional services, which should ultimately lead to the decrease of the social problem. A theory of change should be part of the plan, not just an after thought, and all social entrepreneurs should be able to prove they deserve to be on the playing field right from the start or go back to the bench and watch from the sidelines.

Thenera Bailey is the President of the SISGI Group a research and consulting organization dedicated to addressing global issues through sustainable impacts and strategic global iniatives. To learn more about the SISGI Group visit www.sisgigroup.org

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