There is one crucial thing I learned from running both a for-profit business and a social enterprise, and I think every so-called “social entrepreneur” should take a minute of introspection to contemplate on this.
Because in my humble opinion – and I’m sorry (not sorry) if this offends you in any way, but if you don’t apply this one principle as a social entrepreneur, you’re a poser. And you should probably re-assess what it is you’re looking to achieve in the ‘business’ of helping people.
Just the other day me and Zikry (my business partner) were discussing how we could get more exposure for our IndieGoGo campaign (we’re raising funds to donate solar lights to rural areas in Malaysia) and who we could reach out to, to get more exposure and more donations.
We were throwing around some names of people we know, and organizations we are partnered with – both locally and globally. And after coming up with a list of who we think would want to support this initiative I asked Zikry ‘hey, did you already reach out to ‘John’ from ‘Great Planet Fund’? (fyi – both ‘John’ and ‘Great Planet Fund’ are made up names for obvious reasons).
‘Yeah I did‘, Zikry replied. And so I asked him how they could get involved, and how they could help us help these underprivileged Malaysians living without electricity.
‘They can’t‘, he said. I asked why not?
‘Because it’s a conflict of interest‘, Zik replied.
A bit surprised and confused by his answer I chuckled, and just to make sure that he wasn’t messing with me I asked him ‘are you sure that’s what he said‘?
I even asked him to show me the Skype conversation he had had with John, because I just wouldn’t buy it.
A conflict of interest… What does that even mean?
What kind of interest? What are YOU getting from this? Is there something to gain to begin with, besides the fact that these people will have a better life?
Competition doesn’t (shouldn’t!) exist in the business of helping people
(And if you believe it does, you should probably find a new career path)
I could not believe what I was hearing. How can there possibly be a conflict of interest, when we’re both trying to help people?
If we apparently both share a passion for solving the same problem, then why on earth are we not collaborating yet?!? If we’d join forces we could expedite and amplify the impact we’re having significantly.
Many hands make light work, don’t they?
You see, John from Great Planet Fund is also running an amazing project that also provides rural communities with solar powered lights. From where I’m standing it only makes sense to work together one way or the other.
But apparently by trying to tackle the same problem we are considered competition :-S
Check yourself before you wreck someone else!
I like to call myself a social entrepreneur, but in reality I’m a rookie when it comes to entrepreneurship, let alone social work. So what do I know, right?
There could be something that I’m completely overlooking, something that I’ve missed. Maybe there are some things at play here that are beyond me. Could be…
But from the 4 years that I’ve been running Incitement I’ve learned very quickly that there is no such thing as competition in the business of helping people. And if you believe there is, you need to seriously re-asses yourself and the market you’re in. Because the only way we can create some serious change in this world is if we team up, collaborate, and share knowledge and resources.
It doesn’t matter who does it, as long as it gets done.
And if getting it done is in conflict with your interests, then screw your interests. Clearly you’ve got your priorities mixed up.
It is this kind of mindset that is slowing us down when it comes to tackling the world’s challenges.
It is these kinds of views that are the difference between having shelter or no shelter for the night, the difference between having food or no food for the day, and in our case the difference between having streetlights in your jungle village or living in the dark.
Do yourself and especially everyone else a favor, and if you’re running an NGO, a social enterprise, if you’re a social entrepreneur, or running any kind of impact initiative – please, PLEASE stop thinking about who you are competing with. You’re not competing with anyone!
Instead, think about the people and organizations who are doing the exact same thing as you as vehicles that can help you deliver more impact.
When it comes to solving social problems, it doesn’t matter who does it, it doesn’t even matter much how it’s done (as long as it’s a sustainable solution), the ONLY thing that matters is that it happens.
Because it’s not about you, nor your interests! It’s about the people that need your support. Don’t ever forget that.