Choose Strength in Numbers for Social Start-ups
26 February 2014 at 8:46 am
Team building, networking and procuring the right talent is key to overcome a common problem in the social start-up space – having good ideas but struggling to implement them, writes RMIT Social Enterprise Group Officer Shaun Knott.
Ideas pop out of one’s head like popcorn crackling away in a saucepan. But a passion for building positive ideas can blind social entrepreneurs from seeing the bigger picture. They might talk about it 24/7, but still don’t have a clear road map to achieve their vision, creating an ideas-haze that makes it difficult to attract new team members, potential early stage investors and supporters.
While many stubbornly insist on flying solo, maybe it's time to get social, share the toys and see the value of building a team. Instead of chasing their own ideas-tail, investing time in building a team can accelerate the path to viability for social start-ups.
The support of the team catalyses the start-up process by:
- Providing a supportive environment to design and to rapidly test assumptions, which means the ability to make changes quicker based on real customer feedback.
- Inspiring others to join the team. First followers are any social entrepreneur’s greatest assets to help champion their work and create buy-in from their own networks.
- Creating a sense of momentum towards achieving a critical mass of people that can help build a movement. This can be through word of mouth and face-to-face engagement but also by harnessing the power of social media and the Internet to form a strong digital footprint.
- Promoting creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. A combination of expertise and diverse perspectives on a team can enable exploration of what’s possible and implementation of the plausible – the SMART way.
- Opening up opportunities to work on some cutting-edge projects, especially when the right level of passion, expertise and networks exist in your team.
- Providing strength in numbers, enabling the start-up to tackle larger and more interesting projects. This has the additional advantage of increasing the responsibilities to be taken on by the start-up’s leadership team, ultimately building confidence and fostering pathways to success.
- Providing opportunities to work with a diverse range of people. This enables the building of networks, development of potential mentors and the creation long-lasting relationships in the relevant space.
Teambuilding, however, is not just a matter of attracting any people. Focus on attracting the right people who believe in your cause, as patience in seeking the ‘right’ team members will be rewarded.
Start with people who share a common interest, are strategic thinkers and have a can-do attitude. They are a key type of individual start-ups should want to attract – they’ll be better able to keep sight of the big picture and use their insight and intuition, bringing focus and helping to generate a positive atmosphere to work in.
Service-minded people are also valuable. They are those that will support the cause every step of the way; are not constrained by hierarchy; and take a solutions based mindset to every challenge that arises.
Attending relevant events can build knowledge and provide opportunities to network with those who have like-minded aspirations. Social entrepreneurs can save a lot of time by pursuing their passions while utilising the expertise of the right people to get them where they want to be.
Opportunities do exist in the growing Australian social start-up space to meet prospective team members, mentors and supporters.
Consider the following examples as resources and networks to support connection with like-minded people:
- RMIT Changemaker Workshop Series
- Social Traders
- Fitzroy Academy of GSD Incubator Program
- Centre for Sustainability Leadership (CSL) Fellowship programs
- Social Startup 48 Weekend
- Co-working at Inspire 9 and Hub Australia
- Centre for Social Impact Graduate Certificate
- The Fetch – a what’s on guide for creative meet-ups and other inspiration.
Once start-ups have the beginnings of a team, it’s time to assess what’s possible and then assess capabilities. This is especially pertinent when working in unfamiliar territory.
Many successful ideas have great teams that work behind the scenes like clockwork. And, it’s the joint layered effort of a team and its networks that gets you the best results.
About the author: Shaun Knott is the Communications Officer at RMIT University Social Enterprise Group, housed in the College of Business. The group offers start up advice, workshops and forums for students and community. The Social Enterprise Group was established by the Vice Chancellor to encourage, inform and support students in their endeavours to create the change they want to see in the world.