Creating Social Impact from an Idea

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What do you do with an idea that you can’t get out of your head?

In your mind, there’s an idea that always comes back to you. You think of how awesome the idea could be. You see all its potential. Yet, you haven’t necessarily made as much progress on it as you imagined.

Granted. Ideas aren’t always the easiest to work out. Sure you have an idea, but there could be one or two missing pieces you haven’t figured out. It’s possible you don’t even know which pieces are missing.

So, what can you do?

It’s clear you were given this idea for a reason. Since you know you want to pursue this idea, you can start bringing the idea to life step by step. It’s true that ideas become reality when we focus on smaller versions of a larger achievement.

Now, you may be familiar with “small steps”, but you can keep reading to find out the when, what, where, why, who, and how for choosing your small steps.

Strategy vs Action

Almost as arguable as the “chicken or egg” debate, people will have their own opinion on strategy vs action. The mystery is which should come first and which is more important. You have one side that says to focus on action to get more done, even without a strategy. The other side says to get your strategy clear first so you take the best actions that get you closer to your goal. Honestly, both sides have a point.

If you take action too randomly, you may end up far away from your goal (or worse, going in circles).

If you stay on strategy too long, you may only do hesitant actions (or worse, convince yourself you’ll start “tomorrow”).

You need strategy and action, but in less intense versions than we’re promoted through typical social media. Strategy does not always mean a 3-month plan or a 20-item checklist. A strategy could be a few definite goals in a loose prediction. Whereas action doesn’t need to be the biggest commitment you can make. Action could be an obvious commitment you can make in the moment.

Example: A social entrepreneur wants to find a sustainable product to make during a youth art program.

Strategy: Make 2-3 different sustainable products to see which one is manageable.

Action: Research current sustainable products and write a brief list of options.

You know what’s missing from this? Details and a bit of clarity. Making it this far allowed us to see some parts we can change, and now we can make this idea more real.

Start Anywhere

Most people who achieve their goals and bring their ideas to life will tell you that it was not straightforward. A journey like that is rarely done in a “perfect” order. That could seem daunting for a minute: If there’s no exact order, how do you know where to start? The beauty is that there’s no exact order, so you can start anywhere.

People underestimate how much they can get done. They focus on feeling like they don’t know what to do. Instead, it’s more helpful to recognize all the things we are able to do already. Really. Your idea has at least a few tasks that you can do in this moment.

Example: A social entrepreneur wants to find a sustainable product to make during a youth art program. They already have a list of options.

Start Anywhere: Search for materials around home, work, or the art program’s organization that match the list of options.

As a result, your momentum starts going. When your momentum starts going, new resources, opportunities, questions, and solutions come your way.

Talk to People

Being able to talk with other people can give your idea leverage in the real world. After working on it for a little while, you know a few things better. You can talk about your idea and the progress you made so far (no matter how “small” you think it is). The people you talk to can most likely offer some ideas to keep you moving forward.

Speak with people who are directly or indirectly involved with the idea you hope to accomplish. Directly means the person is either a stakeholder in your idea, or they’re someone who accomplished an idea that is very similar to yours. Indirectly means this person has no relation to the idea, but understands part of your journey.

Example: A social entrepreneur wants to find a sustainable product to make during a youth art program. They found extra paper they can recycle into a new product, maybe a journal.

Talk to people (direct): Speak with a social entrepreneur who runs a youth employment program with a store. They know what it takes to build a business and employ youth.

Talk to people (indirect): Speak with a community organizer who runs an after-school program. They know about leading youth and getting youth to participate.

By talking to others, you gain insight as if you already had experience. You also gain contacts who are willing to share resources or refer you to another contact. On top of that, the idea you couldn’t get out of your head is now in the hearts and minds of others. You’re slowly building a support system.

(Life Lesson Disclaimer: Not every person you reach out to will be able to help or be able to understand your idea. Keep an open mind, and don’t get too discouraged when you hit a bump in the road.)

Find a Project Group

Your idea needs to meet reality if you plan to get it done. What many people don’t realize is that your idea can start as a rough draft. In social entrepreneurship, a rough draft of the idea that you can test in real-time is called a minimal viable product (MVP). Gather a small group of people so you can make an MVP of your idea.

Finding people can happen in a number of ways. You can tap into your network of contacts, especially the people you talked with about your idea. Other options can be social enterprise accelerators, like GiveBack Hack. The most important thing is to find a few committed people to get out a mock version of your idea.

Example: A social entrepreneur wants to find a sustainable product to make during a youth art program. They borrowed product materials and learned new tips about improving participation from people they spoke with.

Project Group: Invite anyone interested in a mini-workshop to make an MVP of the sustainable journal made from recycled paper.

Having a group to work with adds to your idea. More people can give their different perspectives on how the idea performs, and they can help refine the idea. In the middle of the task, working with others could also give you strength. You reflect on the feedback and conversations that you receive from the group project. From there, you continue to grow your idea.

Get Started on Your Idea

Your idea doesn’t need to stay stuck in your head. It needs to come out, no matter if the idea is something you thought about for a few months or a few years. What matters most is the new resolve you have to move forward.

People Helping People (and Wild Tiger Tees) is birthed from an idea like yours. For years, an idea has evolved. Steadily, the idea is growing more refined as the team finds new ways to reshape the idea.

You can hear about the origin story on the podcast from CEO and host Adam Morris. You get to hear how a vague idea came to be the Sustainable Innovation Lab:

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