Are you your own worst enemy?
There is an unwritten rule in our world that when someone coin's a new phrase, it is cast
aside as jargon. Investment readiness for example. Much talked about in the last six
months and what is jargon to some, also happens to be one of our most effective services
for ambitious social enterprises that want to grow; do more, access new markets, develop
new services. This spring we were invited to deliver a masterclass as part of the social
enterprise programme at Bangor and Dublin universities. A masterclass is as much about
thought-provoking debate and reflection, as it is about training. We coined a phrase to
capture what we have learned over so many years working in the corporate, public,
social enterprise and charity sectors. We introduced the concept of being "strategically
independent". Jargon? The feedback suggests we hit a useful nerve.
"I had low expectations and actually I thought it was excellent"
Social enterprise leaders can be a tough crowd. Inspiring a "very thought provoking,
excellent, innovative and informative" learning opportunity is no mean feat. For just one
part of the session we focused therefore on realising a kind shock value that is achieved by
enabling professionals to step outside their own perspective and into the shoes of other
important stakeholders. This was designed around an empathy mapping exercise of
commissioners. Not only did each group come to similar conclusions, the pictures,
characters and behaviours were mainly negative. Believing you are doing business with
your worst nightmare is hardly the best foundation for building a well networked,
sustainable enterprise. Your perspective can be far from an accurate picture, but if you
think you are right then the myth can be just as influential as the genuine insight. In this
case you are your own worst enemy.
Of course we respect the professionals with whom we are working. Having worked with
professionals in many fields and sectors we are prepared to challenge them (jargon alert)
as a critical friend. In this case our group of social enterprise professionals believed they
are excellent and doing everything they can to improve, attending this event with low
expectations and not much love of workshops and toolkits. Without exception every
participant left the session having recognised at least one fundamental weakness and at
least one area about which they were going to do something different. This is not
something we gloat about, we just think it is important to reveal realities because self-
awareness never stops giving.
Two months later two participants came back to us. They had reflected and then
implemented what they had learned. Both noted that their relationship with commissioners
had shifted, become more open, more flexible and more about development and not just
about cost cutting. They were also much more aware of the commissioner's perspective
because of the different conversations they had started to have. This meant they were
more aware of many things actually they didn't even know they didn't know before. This
left them feeling in their own words, "empowered". Both are very clear about what
changes they need to put in place over the next few years.
We began during this session to convey the concept of being strategically independent and
the participants are now working out what that means in their reality. This included
becoming confident about where you are in the marketplace, an informed position about
competition and opportunities, rather than the privileged position many dream about and
lobby for. To know what being empowered actually feels like. Empowered you will have
the conviction to chart your own direction and engage people in this, rather than demand
that they clear the way for you.
Radical Capital is one of those social venture intermediaries you have started to hear
about. We are not offering funds and our valuable strategic advice is not always free. We
can advise and consult with you to facilitate conversations with investors, commissioners
and your team. We are here to enable ambitious social enterprises to lead the change
associated with becoming investment ready, improving governance and shaping the market
through which they work to achieve their impact. Contact Richard Catherall to start that