Tools for the Future: Innovation, Efficiency, Compassion and Empathy

Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in grant writing, non profit organization, social entrepreneurship | 1 comment

If someone asked me to list some important things for new social entrepreneurs to know coming into the field I would say innovation and efficiency are two concepts that you should hold close as you evolve through your project or program. We are evolving as a society and our social problems are evolving as well. Being innovative is essential for the success of any entrepreneur, social or otherwise.

 Funding is also getting more competitive, with less money available, so efficiency is also vital for the success of an organization. Not-for-profits are still businesses and all successful businesses work to be as efficient as possible. These are both important and vital concepts that I took away from the social entrepreneurship program and experienced firsthand in the field.

Speaking on a different level, compassion and empathy are also concepts you should cultivate as you complete a program or begin an enterprise. If you choose to work out in the field, addressing social problems, your compassion and empathy may be testing as you struggle to understand why people seem to make poor decisions that keep them in a cycle of crime and poverty. Having compassion and empathy will TRULY ALLOW YOU TO UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE ARE LIVING THE WAY THEY DO. This is essential for all successful social entrepreneurs in my opinion.  I live in a small eco-village type community aspiring to address social problems in the worst part of my city. This crime plagued urban- Appalachian ghetto has been a perfect example for me when thinking about the Culture of Poverty concept. There is a distinct culture here that has developed as people migrated from the Appalachian Mountains into this dense urban area. Compassion and empathy lead to a lack of judgment and without judgment, I have been able to discover for myself the fascinating evolution of these people. I have been able to see why things are happening the way they do, and this is necessary if one wants to address the issues.

I encourage you to keep all of this in mind as you go forward with your studies or your project. I have seen NPOs struggle because they did not take these aspects of social entrepreneurism into account.

Kevin Wilson
 MLS Social Entrepreneurship

Read More

My introduction (Kevin Wilson)

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 0 comments

My name is Kevin and I am a graduate of Fort Hays State University.  I recently received my Masters of Liberal Arts with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship.  I also have a BA in Sociology from Fort Hays State University. Dr. Campbell was first my professor, then my advisor and ultimately my mentor as I completed my Master’s program. Currently I am working on my passion, which is the Food Sovereignty Movement of Indigenous People living on American Indian Reservations. My project is still in its infancy and going through all the natural growing pains any social enterprise will face. I plan to begin my PhD program in the fall in Non-profit Leadership and Management. I have been fortunate to be out in the field for the last several years putting my academic studies to work and I would like to be able to share my experience with the readers of this blog.

I am also a member of an aspiring eco-community in the poorest part of Columbus, Ohio known as the Franklinton Homestead. We do organic gardening, permaculture, cultivate a variety of medicinal plants and do community outreach through civic agriculture and other forms of social activism.  We are also involved with Franklinton Gardens, an impressive urban farm here in our neighborhood. I love helping others and here in Franklinton, my neighborhood, there are plenty of people that need help. The social ills of society are intensified in this urban-Appalachian ghetto due to years of flooding and a ban from the Army Corps of Engineers from building new residencies. This lead to rapid urban decay that now is home to slum lords, blatant drug dealing, prostitution and homelessness that would surprise most people even in my city! Once known as the “Bottoms” my neighborhood sits below the level of the major river which goes through downtown. Only after the floodwall was built has the area begun to see new life. In the future it is my hope to combine my work here with the work I would like to do supporting the food sovereignty movement for indigenous people living on reservations. The community I currently live in parallels the struggles of indigenous people in many ways.

I look forward to sharing and learning with you all.     – Kevin

Read More

I am pleased to introduce Kevin Wilson as an associate to this blog

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 1 comment

I have been posting ideas about social entrepreneurship on this blog site for three years, and I am very pleased to be receiving some assistance. Different people have somewhat different perspectives, and certainly as related to social entrepreneurship, there are many “angles” to be represented.

I have been working with Kevin Wilson for the last 3 years through our master’s degree program in social entrepreneurship, and Kevin has now graduated. But it is not because he has graduated that I invited him to join me. It is because I could see the energy and light in him early in my work with him. From notes to me he would send during his master’s degree training, I became aware of the drive and commitment he had to assist people in need. He was a star in our program.

Kevin posted on this site as a guest around a year ago because he was interested in a perspective I do not emphasize. My focus has been, and will continue to be, on social entrepreneurship within the nonprofit world. But Kevin had been in contact with me a few times about the great opportunity for social entrepreneurship work within for-profit companies. Because of his interest in this focus, which I strongly support, I asked him to write a guest blog post, which he did.

So now Kevin is returning. In addition to being another perspective, I have asked him to try to help generate comments from viewers. To be honest, I don’t really know how to manage this site to make it the best it can be, but generating more conversation in the comments section would be nice.

I will ask Kevin to write the posts in the next few weeks so we can get a feel for the types of ideas that most excite him. Maybe next week he can begin by introducing himself, and then later share some of his ideas.

I will be following his writing and be back with posts in a few weeks. Thanks very much, Kevin!

Best regards. – Keith

Read More

The Project Development Report – Steps 14 and 15

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 0 comments

Over the past few months, I have been interspersing general posts with coverage of the 15 steps involved in building our project idea on paper. This is like our “business plan” for our project. In this post, I will briefly discuss steps 14 and 15.

I have previously covered steps 1-13. Those are:

Step 1: Identify the people you seek to serve.
Step 2: List and describe the unmet primary needs of the people you seek to assist.  
Step 3: Identify the unmet needs your project will seek to address.
Step 4: Investigate and report on the extent to which existing agencies are responding to the needs your planned project will seek to address.  
Step 5: Explain how your plan to assist the category of people you have selected is different from services currently being delivered to these people.
Step 6: Identify strengths and weaknesses in your plan.
Step 7: Attempt to make improvements in your planned project based on identified weaknesses.  
Step 8: Construct one goal and a few objectives for the program you want to deliver.
Step 9: Identify all important tasks that must be performed in order to make the project a success.
Step 10: Identify staff to perform the important tasks identified above, and explain the division of responsibility. Distinguish between paid staff and volunteers.
Step 11: Determine the total cost of your planned program with detailed breakdowns of costs and documentation of those costs.
Step 12: Identify sources of income with expected amounts for each source (sales, donations, grants, fund raising, any other sources of income).
Step 13: Explain the details of how, once your program is operating, you will periodically document that your objectives are being attained – that your program is accomplishing what it is intended to accomplish.

I would now like to briefly discuss the last two steps, 14 and 15, which involve the Appendix and the Sources Cited sections. Both of these sections are extremely important because they allow us to document earlier parts of our report.

Step 14: The Appendix provides a space for us to share details of information that do not fit in the main body of our report. For example, we might provide we might state only the findings of a needs assessment survey in the main body of our report, but include more details in the Appendix. Also, letters of support from general community members, as well as local authorities could be placed in the Appendix, after referring to these important letters in the main body of the report.

Step 15: The Sources Cited section, of course, is a list of sources from which we obtained information, which allows a reader to locate these sources if desired. This is a type of important documentation different from the Appendix.

My previous blog posts have briefly discussed steps 1-13, and in this post, I mention the importance of these last two steps. By following the above 15 steps, you can build a strong platform from which to launch your social entrepreneurship project.

Please adapt these 15 steps in any way that fits your situation. My hope is that you find some useful suggestions in my outline of these steps.

Thank you for reading my small blog.

Best regards. – Keith

Read More

Grassroots doesn’t get any more grassroots than this

Posted by on Aug 9, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 1 comment

Youth

Poverty

Many single parent families

Time on their hands

When a Milwaukee youth was in police custody for breaking into a garage, Andre Ellis helped him be released. Andre then offered the youth $20 to work for one hour to pick up litter in the community. The boy showed up with five of his friends at the designated time and place, and each was paid after the work. (This information was provided by a National Public Radio (NPR) report on July 31, 2014.) So started a fascinating grassroots response to a community need.

Is paying kids to pick up litter solving the delinquency problem in this community? No.

Before starting, do we need to construct a full project that is devised to completely solve a problem? No

Is it ok to respond quickly when quick action is needed? Yes.

On this blog site, I have been encouraging people to build a “business plan” for your project idea, what I call the Project Development Report. This is a multi-step process involving details about the community to be helped, as well as details of the project idea.

Andre Ellis initiated action perhaps before he had any plan involving depth, and I applaud him. If we are a part of the community to be helped and we have a thorough understanding of the situation, if quick intervention is needed, we may choose to act quickly.

The project Mr. Ellis has started is a mentoring project much more than a litter cleanup project. Picking up litter is simply the selected activity through which mentoring will occur. I anticipate that other activities that allow mentoring will emerge, but Mr. Ellis chose to start with this simple task. Simplicity is often beautiful.

The radio broadcast in which I heard this story reported that on a recent litter pickup day, 50 youth showed up. That’s a $1,000 payout, and all the money was there because other adults from the community have stepped forward with money and words of encouragement for the youth. Adults are mentoring these youth at the meeting site where litter pickup begins.

I like the simplicity of this social entrepreneurship project. It seems to be an exciting start to eventually a more substantial initiative.

Thank you for reading my small blog.

Best regards. – Keith

Read More

Social entrepreneurship and the fragility of humans

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 0 comments

I would like to share some simple thoughts of mine that might relate to some of our interests in helping others in need.

I might be wrong, but I view all humans as fragile beings. What I mean is that we all have the potential of breaking , of slipping away from the roles we normally play (such as parent, brother, employee, star singer in the church choir). I believe we all have the very real potential to come crashing down.

Human society is based on most of us very rarely, and sometimes maybe some of us never, slipping away from the roles we are supposed to be performing. Most of us, most of the time, are very strong as we perform our life obligations and opportunities. This is good.

However, through the duration of a life fully lived, there is usually some tragedy, and some of these tragedies temporarily derail us. Some of life’s tragedies bring a storm within us that interferes with the “us” that we normally are. For example, the death of a person very close to us might take the breath out of us and require that we take some time to recover. At other times, other losses might have a similar impact on us.

Although some people seem to give the impression of being a “tough guy” (or gal), I speculate that they aren’t. I speculate that they are very much like the rest of us.

I think that I have faced the fact that I am fragile, and this has had impact on me. Since I know I am fragile, I sense a closeness between myself and those who are suffering. I see myself in those who are suffering, and I believe this is one factor that might encourage social entrepreneurship.

Experiencing difficulty in life is no fun, but how valuable it can be. Even the painful experiences bring something of value. In addition to general learning, difficulty often brings humility.

To those of you who are right now experiencing deep difficulties in life, I encourage you to realize that this situation will probably not continue. To those of you who are highly successful and on top of the world, I encourage you to realize that you will probably sometime experience great difficulty. The good times and the difficult times are equally important parts of life.

I am thankful for the many existing social entrepreneurship projects, and I am thankful for the projects to help others that will exist in the years ahead. People in need helping people in need. This is very special.

Thank you for reading my small blog.

Best regards. – Keith

Read More

How to innovate

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in social entrepreneurship | 0 comments

Social entrepreneurship involves the use of innovation to find new ways to help people in need. Sometimes, innovative ideas come easily, but often, they don’t. So if we know a category of people we want to assist, how do we get innovative ideas?

Some experts believe that people are either born curious and seek new ideas, or they are not. This perspective suggests that genetics determine whether a person is innovative or not. However, I disagree. I believe we can place ourselves in situations that encourage out-of-the-box thinking,

The situation in which one functions on a daily basis seems to have influence on creative ideas. An assembly line job that is not intellectually stimulating, and involves simple, repetitious actions for eight hours a day, is an example of a situation that will probably not encourage innovative thinking. In contrast, other jobs involve little repetition of behavior, and require continual intellectual challenges. I believe these situations, that require an active mind to survive in that kind of environment, encourage innovative thinking.

My point is that the situations in which we live can influence innovative thinking. Although genetics may be an important factor, situation is also important in encouraging or discouraging creative ideas.

If you want to be more innovative in your quest to become a social entrepreneur, here are my suggestions.

1. Learn all you can about the category of people you want to help. (This is extremely important, for it is the content to which innovation will be applied. Deep understanding of the people you seek to assist is crucial.)

2. Try to continually have these people in some level of your consciousness. You are seeking a new approach to assisting them.  Try to have them on your mind at least a part of every day.

3. When the opportunities present themselves, place yourself in unusual environments. Seek stimuli that you normally do not experience. The purpose is for you to “see” an association between ideas you previously have not seen – and that perhaps nobody else has ever seen.

Examples of placing ourselves in different situations include:

A. Take different routes to work and home. Watch the different surroundings closely. Think about the people and situations you observe.

B. If you listen to a certain type of music, listen to something different.  If you like rock music, listen to country western (and vice-versa). Carefully listen to the words and emotions being expressed.

C. If you listen to conservative talk radio or TV, listen to liberal talk radio or TV (and vice-versa). Absorb ideas represented. Try to feel what the people talking are feeling. Try not to be judgmental. Try to understand the ideas different from your ideas.

D. If you watch a certain type of movie, watch some that are different than you would normally watch.

These are just suggestions. Maybe the above ideas are too much of a sacrifice for you. If so, I understand. Our personal life is sometimes a refuge, and we don’t want to toy with what helps us recharge to be able to face the next day. But if you are willing to step away from your refuge, growth will likely occur.

When I am working on a project related to my work at my university, I have difficulty not thinking about it. It seems to always be on my mind, sometimes floating back in some deeper consciousness, but always not far from my primary focus. Two of my new ideas found in the last few years came when I was listening to shows to which I normally don’t expose myself.

One was a show on the operation of a motor, and the other was a cooking show. Separated by several months, I had “ah-ha” moments. All of a sudden, I saw an association between the operation of a motor and the issue I was struggling with associated with my project. In another situation, I had an idea about a project on which I was working that was stimulated by how ingredients came together to make a cake.

Having innovative ideas is not often easy. My suggestions above can be fun, and maybe they will be helpful. I hope so.

Thank you for reading my small blog.

Best regards. – Keith

Read More