Is the entrepreneurial journey simply the search for the holy grail?

Interacting with social enterprises and entrepreneurs is always, always a worthwhile experience for us. In fact, it’s pivotal to our work in the empowering people. Network, because what we do is in our name. By regularly gauging the challenges this group of highly motivated individuals face, we can not only scale the degree of support we provide but also adapt it to the very different needs they have.

The last empowering people. Workshop took place in Berlin in October 2016. This was a special event as it included a new batch of epN intake: the winners of the latest empowering people. Award. These innovators from around the world gathered with us for a 2-day workshop to benefit from the experience and knowledge offered not only by us, but more critically other long-term members of the Network. Our workshop programme has evolved according to the feedback we receive in our contact with this group and this time, there were some interesting points on the docket and the lively response showed that these are the issues that many social enterprise struggle with on a daily basis. Has the entrepreneurial journey become such a challenge that we’re on the constant search for the holy grail of efficiency and if so, what is it?

Human Resources: It’s all about the people

Developing a organisational culture is a mighty task for social enterprises: With small budgets to work with and having to often juggle different jobs that are not necessarily part of an individual’s skillset is a big ask. But one that is demanded on an almost daily basis. Add to this mix the competing priorities that come up as well as the impossibility of long-term planning may not leave member of a team running to the proverbial hills, but certainly around in circles.

The million dollar question is: What can you do about it? Keynote speaker and founder of the consulting organisation das Resultat, Hanno Burmester, delivered a few interesting tips and much food for thought. Whilst confirming the paradox of social entrepreneurs running organisations that want to make the world a better place, they sometimes forget that the “world“ may also start within their own four walls. He states that purpose-driven organisations, such as the ones we work with, can be characterised by a somewhat unhealthy organisational culture with high staff fluctuation and a lack of loyalty. So what exactly does Hanno suggest? Well, first of all, he strips away the term “organisational culture” and replaces it with an easier term to handle: motivation. Now, staff motivation, he proposes, is something we can encourage to flourish. And you don’t have to spend too much money that you don’t have either. Here’s what Hanno suggests:

  1. Spend some time giving your team regular feedback: Whether positive or negative, it will ensure that your team member feels noticed and gives them a platform to discuss their ideas
  2. Stretch assignments: Everyone wants to learn and develop professionally: Instead of creating a feeling of having to juggle, think about organising tasks so people are given doable jobs that stretch them but not to the extent that they feel over-challenged.
  3. Give them the opportunity to initiate change. Decrease top-down management, but instead allow people to design and initiate change. This will encourage them to feel interwoven and intrinsic to the workplace.
Hanno Burmester, das Resultat, speaking about developing and retaining people in purpose-driven organizations.

Hanno Burmester, das Resultat, speaking about developing and retaining people in purpose-driven organizations.

A further aspect of our workshop was the examination of technology in the workplace. With the insurmountable amount of tools offered to increase efficiency, exchange of information and networking, we asked participants, what they used, what they would like to know more about and how they kept up with the developments that we all “have to keep up with”.

We asked:

Do tech tools: Help or hinder?

Our social entrepreneurs come from all around the world and by this I mean they come from areas with different bandwidth offerings and possibilities, with full or limited access to technology. In a lively brainstorming session, the group proposed that tools such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook were of importance to their work but also relied on services from Dropbox, We Transfer, Whatsapp and Slack.

Quite a lot, don’t you think? However, interestingly enough the discussion kept coming back to the value of working with people. The essence of the discussion being: don’t replace working with people by working with tools. Which was great because it just affirmed Hanno’s points from above: look up from your smartphone, from your laptop, from your tech. There’s something more important that helps you run your business, that makes it more efficient, more worthwhile to work in the space you work in. It’s the people you’ve hired. Help yourself to keep them there.

On 5.+6. October, 47 Social Entrepreneurs from more then 20 countries gathered to discuss and learn about Organizational Development.

On 5.+6. October, 47 Social Entrepreneurs from more then 20 countries gathered to discuss and learn about Organizational Development.

It was an amazing couple of days: Not only did our participants benefit but we did too. The issues we included showed that our engagement with social entrepreneurs is vital. We have to keep abreast of what moves them in their everyday activities in order to provide the right support in the right way. It showed them that they were on the right track. And that we were too. This is their entrepreneurial journey and we’re privileged enough to accompany them on their way.

Our workshop was crowned by the Award Ceremony for the empowering people. Award which sought simple low-tech innovations to help people in developing regions to access basic supply services. The top three winners were the BEMPU Hypothermia Alert Bracelet, the Garbage Clinical Insurance (GCI) project and the Barsha Pump – Hydro-powered Irrigation. We’re proud of all our winners and you can see why by taking a look at all 23 of them on our website.

This blogpost was initially published here – as a part of a series of blogposts on “Inclusive Business Development Services”:

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