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Social Innovation StartUp Camp Day Two

8 May 2011 3,794 views 4 Comments

As I was on my way to day two of the Social Innovation Bootcamp I was feeling inspired by yesterday’s work and spoke to a friend, Charlie, to get some advice on next steps for Work in Thailand. Charlie is part of the committee for the Great Adventure Challenge. It’s an incredibly successful project, a great cause, and knowing Charlie a little bit a very inspiring story about how to make projects like this work. So the day started well… . And when I arrived there was good energy in the room, I think everyone was pretty pumped from how good the program had been so far.

The morning session had been about developing elevator pitches, I think it was Kate who took everyone through the theory of what to include and how to structure the pitch. The suggested structure was:

  • Introduce yourself and the project
  • Explain the problem that exists
  • Explain the current solutions and why they don’t work
  • Explain about how your solution is different and why it will work
  • Outline the call to action

Over lunch, more pizza but outside this time, we chatted about our pitches and more about our projects. I was a bit concerned about doing my pitch given I hadn’t been in the morning session but I’d have to deal with that…

We buddied up and, how’d you like this, actually got in the elevator to do our pitches. I think we were all surprised at how quickly the lift was moving, it was a very swift 30 seconds! We all struggled with our first attempts. Mickey, who I was partnered with and who has an idea to develop a photography course for disadvantaged children, barely got through his opening statement and the doors opened. Our second and third attempts were much better and I think eventually everyone got their pitches out. Like yesterday it was really interesting seeing how quickly we were adapting and reacting to the given tasks. And again interesting to see how the projects & ideas morphed in the context of a new exercise and a new point of view. When put under pressure, it’s amazing how you can select the most pertinent details and how once-essential information gets dropped.

Following the pitches – and the accompanying drama about lifts and public speaking – we had a session led by Grant Young from Zumio. I wasn’t familiar with Grant’s work but he seems to have headed up a number of start up businesses both enterprise and social. He shared insights on project management in this sector. Here are the key takeaways that I got from Grant’s session:

  • Fred Wilson outlined the three tasks of a CEO and they apply to social entrepreneurs too: Define and articulate the vision, build a team of the right people to support the vision, and make sure there’s enough cash in the bank
  • Build a team around you: make sure you have people who can support your project, share the load, share the vision, have a comparable level of commitment but, if possible, different skills, experience & networks.
  • Build a support network: an extended network that can provide a variety of inputs including different experiences, perspective, pressures, and consider working with an advisory panel or mentor.
  • Cash flow is king: learn how to manage finances and keep it top of mind, don’t let it be something you put off.
  • You’re in it for the long haul: enterprise start ups tend to fold, be bought or grow into bigger, different beasts. Social start ups go through a different lifecycle and are likely to demand longer term commitment from their founders.
  • Look after yourself: passion and energy are important for the success of your project but don’t over commit or compromise yourself.
  • Just do it: things will only happen if you do them so sometimes you just need to get on, get out and do the work.

Grant shared a lot of anecdotes and personal experiences to illustrate his points which I liked, and then there were a lot of questions about different challenges people were facing in their projects and management. Kate shared the ‘hedgehog’ model with us which is about identifying where project success lies. Apparently it’s here: at the intersection of what you’re best at, what you’re passionate about, and what will make you money. As we talked about sometimes you have to be really honest with yourself about what those things are because it’s not always the answers you want to hear.
Some of the tactical takeaways from Grant’s session were around the value of 360 appraisals, the importance of contracts with any project stakeholders including your friends and the value of well-chosen lawyers & accountants. So, a massive session with heaps of information and tips. It was time for coffee…

For the last session we sat back outside, which was nice, and had a talk from Raul Caceres. Raul is with the Australian Social Innovation Exchange, an organisation that helps early-stage change-makers. Through discussion it also became clear that Raul is in fact with a number of projects, he seems to have been everywhere, helping all manner of causes, effecting change and racking up acronyms of organisations that he’s worked for & with. He has a charming, understated manner and really it’s humbling listening to the number of projects he’s worked on.

Raul talked about project management in this space, which for him means deriving value from his desire to do good, and his technology skills. His advice was:

  • Know what you want to do but be flexible in the approach
  • Be open to using other people’s skills but also learn things if they will be really valuable to the project
  • Regularly remind yourself of what it is that brought you to the project in the first place and have fun :)

Given the range of countries and projects that Raul has worked in I was really glad that he then moved on to share his thoughts about working with different cultures. Across both days we had discussed projects that targeted a wide variety of demographics and so I think this topic was really relevant. Raul’s main points here were:

  • Keep in mind that online communication with other cultures can be a quick way to misunderstandings, especially if English is not their first language
  • Learn about the culture you’re working with before doing your first communication with them
  • Project managing arguments can be productive: identify what is driving the different parties and what value you can derive
  • Personal connection is important in many cultures so remember the personal touch as well as working hard on the project and progressing it

We all talked through these points further and shared various stories and examples between us. Kim asked Raul what he finds most fulfilling about the work that he does and his reply, for me, was a nice summary of all the intention, energy and commitment in the room, he said, “every time I realise just how much impact I can have b spending a little bit of time helping other people, it’s very fulfilling.” Nice. And that resonated a lot with me personally and resonated with some of the language I have used to share my Work in Thailand ambitions too.

Following this there was a wrap up session. The general consensus was around the success of the weekend and the volume of takeaways and valuable insights that had been shared. I found it really interesting to reflect on how some of the projects had changed shape and direction, and while that element hasn’t affected Work in Thailand it does validate the process that I’ve been through already. There was no doubt about the value of the connections made over the weekend, the information that was shared and the very real possibility of many of these projects making a difference in the near future. I look forward to staying in touch and working with many people again.

Good luck everyone! xLucy


  • Inspired and delighted with people’s willingness to work for positive change #sibsyd said:

    […] a nice round-up of Startup Camp from @lucyjjames on her blog: day 1 and day 2; and a some feedback from the participants on Social Innovation Sydney. Tweet Related […]

  • Anf said:

    With the pitch I would also add another point – qualify and quantify the target market. eg. Did you know that there are 20,000 people affected by ABC in North Sydney alone?

    I should try that pitch in the elevator exercise sometime, sounds like a riot! Also a valuable experience. I love public speaking and helping people with their fears around presentations.

    Once again, well documented Lucy. I’m glad you connected with the social innovation movement in Sydney! Looking forward to jumping in one day :)

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    great tip about the pitch Anf, thank you. hope i have the chance to see/ hear a session from you some time.

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