The UK Social Entrepreneur Index ambassadors
A veritable feast of inspiring soundbites, we bring together advice from the UK Social Entrepreneur Index’s eight ambassadors for those days when you need inspiration or a comforting word or two.
The UK Social Entrepreneur Index is lucky to have eight highly experienced and inspiring ambassadors who have shared their stories with us, helped raise awareness of the index in its inaugural year, and selected the cream of the UK’s social entrepreneurs for inclusion in the index.
In their feature interviews for BQ, they each shared advice they would like to give to aspiring and new social entrepreneurs.
We’ve brought these pearls of wisdom together in one place and you can read each ambassador’s full interview by clicking the links provided.
Be absolutely clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and be able to articulate that very clearly. It’s usually the story of an injustice that will align everyone around you - your team, potential sources of funding, your business model, your entity set-up, structure… all of that should be formed on why you’re doing it.
How you do it is the bit that’s changing and evolving on a rapid basis. It’s really important to have flexibility because if you hire brilliant people then you need to give space and creativity to solve very difficult problems.
Do your research. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Collaboration is really critical. Not just for the sake of collaboration or ‘it sounds good’, but because you can make more of an impact on this earth.
And don’t quit. Because you will be tested. And you’ve got to find your why as well. If your why is strong enough then you’ll overcome countless knockbacks and rejections. Don’t give up because this world needs social entrepreneurs more than ever.
Have a look at what else is out there. There are some great examples of social enterprises and also lots of different support organisations.
See what difference you can make, then have a look at what your passions are and, if there’s a gap in the market, go from there.’
More of a philosophical point than advice, but there is no greater risk-to-reward ratio than social entrepreneurship. You get to personally develop a range of skills, your leadership and your quality of life, and should that translate into business and impact success you get the chance to impact the lives of tens, hundreds, even thousands of people.
Not only do you have to be comfortable with wearing several hats, but you also have to enjoy throwing yourself into different aspects of what you do.
Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses so that you can find supporters who complement your own skill set, because I think that way you can move much further and faster.
You need to bring people with you on the journey. Often people are giving of themselves for little or no financial return and you've got to be prepared to wear your heart on your sleeve. Your passion has to underpin everything that you do because that is the fuel that will carry you the distance.
Keep your peripheral vision open. Often you'll be driving towards achieving or delivering something over here and then over there at a different corner in a different situation the treasure will be revealed.
I would encourage anybody to test things out on a smaller scale while spending as little as you can. It doesn't have to cost very much money.
Listen very hard to what potential customers are telling you. I think there’s a real temptation to fall in love with your idea, when as Ann Mei Chang says actually what you should do is fall in love with the problem that you're interested in solving.
I think you need to be prepared to jump out of the plane without a parachute and recognise that if it doesn't work then it doesn't work, and you need to go back and do whatever you were doing before. It can be really hard to do these sorts of things just on the side because they are so all-consuming. It's really tough, but you have to do as little as possible to keep the lights on because otherwise you'll never get going.
It depends what it is, but I would say persevere, be motivated, work really hard and just believe in yourself.
Try something small, do it really well and showcase yourself. The main thing is to do it to the highest quality, to do it genuinely and to really believe in it and know it is something that you’re really committed to doing and eventually people will believe in you.
First, you should thoroughly understand the social challenge you want to address. I’m always very keen that people drill down and really try to understand the issue that you’re trying to tackle.
Second, what is your theory of change? How are you actually going to make the world different? How are you actually going to resource that?
So, the final and crucial element is what is the business model to make that work? Is that being able to directly trade to tackle your social purpose? You need to work through what is the best model for what you want to do.
The UK Social Entrepreneur Index, sponsored by UBS, is a celebration of social entrepreneurship across the UK.
Open to social entrepreneurs tackling a social or environmental issue at any scale, entrants will act as beacons of inspiration for others to encompass positive social impact.
For more info visit www.socialentsindex.co.uk.
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