How to develop an impact strategy for your social enterprise
Impact strategies are necessary for the development and continued success of any social enterprise. Recently, at an event I spoke at for the Google Business Group, I explained how important it is to get to grips with your admin and processes before you start getting people onboard, using your product or your service.
As an example, I pointed out our Grow Everyday Accelerator program. We have a strong understanding of our ideal customer, we know our mission and we know the vision, so ideas that fit our business are not difficult to come by. In fact, it took about 10 minutes to think through what we want the GEA program to do and accomplish. It took another 3 days to work out then finalise the admin and processes behind the pilot.
We had to come up with a strategy that ensured that our customers would get the best experience possible, AND would be really easy for us to keep sustainable. That's the aim of the game. Keep it humble. Do only what you know you can do well, with very little interruption to the production of your impact.
There are a few steps to go through before you create an impact strategy and you should have accomplished those steps before you continue with this. The crux is, you need an impact focus.
You need to know
- Why you want to help
- Who you want to help
- What you want to help with
- How you want to help
If you've got an impact focus, that means you know the rules of the game. Congratulations. Now let's figure out which position suits you best.
You know who you want to help and you know the vision you have for their future. For example, you may want to create a world in which every child is given the chance to live a long healthy life. That's great.
So, how are you going to achieve that EXACTLY?
This is where things can get a little tricky and you'll find yourself in the same position as Toms shoes - not actually creating an impact. Let's avoid that by really awesome playbook.
Organise your thought process into these categories.
CATEGORY ONE: Know who your ideal service user is.
This is where my development research background becomes extremely helpful. I once evaluated a campaign for a UK based charity that wanted to promote the use of contraceptives in an African country. They figured they would create really easy to understand campaigns that would break down the benefits in 3 simple sentences.
They created a campaign, they posted flyers and billboard all over the country. A lot of money went into this campaign. It was huge, you couldn't go anywhere without seeing the posters. So, surely they had an impact and increased the use of contraceptives in the country. Right?
No. They didn't. The UK based charity, created a campaign that was entirely in English, yet the people most affected by the health issues that come from not using contraceptives were mainly illiterate (so they wouldn't attempt reading the campaign posters), or just didn't speak or read English, so even if they tried, they wouldn't understand what it meant.
You have to create an impact strategy that fits in with the community you are trying to help.
In Nigeria, Google can be translated into all of the major languages and into Pidgin. Its a very small move, but it does care to the people in the country that speak pidgin and may be interested in using Google. Its not a social impact move, its just an understanding your customer move.
On another note, the BBC has started a Pidgin network where they're doing reports that are interesting and informative specifically aimed at the demographic they're trying to reach. Their aim is inclusivity in Africa.
That's a social impact move from a social impact focused business. Google is making a small change, because why not, and the BBC is stepping into a clear gap to bring people into a conversation they have been previously excluded from in a language and tone they understand and appreciate.
Facebook did something similar and Youtube has followed suit. By introducing "lite" versions of their apps, investing in the digital economy and training thousands of people to use their digital products, they're ensuring their foot-hold in Africa, but they're also giving African people an opportunity to benefit from their products in a way that is much less costly and more useful to them.
There are many different ways to make a positive impact in African communities. You can make a small change to push the needle for inclusivity, you can create an entirely new product or service, or you can translate what you already do to suit their needs. Social impact does not happen unless the product or service you're providing actually suits the service user you're providing it for.
An easy way to start thinking in these terms is to create an ideal service user profile for your business.
Its your job to understand your potential service users completely. You need to know them like the back of your hand so that you can create an impact strategy that fits them.
CATEGORY TWO: Know what the root problem is.
One of the things I learned working at the London School of Economics is that no international development problem can be solved without the help of the community involved in and experiencing the problem.
That's why charities often have their service users on their advisory board. They need to know that the programs that they're developing and implementing are actually what their ideal service user needs. There's no point giving a lonely elderly person vouchers to community classes, if the reason they're lonely is because they're agoraphobic (have a fear of being outdoors).
Talking to the people that you want to help is a great way to get to the root cause of the issue. When you understand the root cause of the problem you're trying to solve, you can begin creating a program to solve it. The important thing to note when you start creating that program is "be humble."
You have to create something that resolves a clear barrier in the impact experience chain without putting yourself in a position that requires you to go above and beyond what your capacity is. Don't be the hero, be the team mate. the person that's coming alongside your service user and helping them along the journey.
We've created a worksheet that you can use to determine the root cause of the problem. Use it and keep it, that way you can use it to create the right impact goals for your business and hold at as a benchmark for your impact measurement as well.
That's all folks.
Thanks for reading,
PS. You need to do the work to get results. Creating an impact is a lot of admin and logistics work, not a lot of high flying and fast cars here. If you're up for it, we can help you make it work.