Why Give a Damn:
As social entrepreneurs, we’re hardwired to stay focused on achieving impact at scale. But that’s a destination we may not achieve for years, if at all, and in the meantime, our happiness may depend on forgetting about scale, even if only for a few moments every month.
The author of this post, Rajesh Anandan, SVP at UNICEF USA, has developed a $400 million partnership portfolio and recently launched UNICEF Ventures to accelerate high impact social innovations. As the Founder of ULTRA, Rajesh is building a network of high performance technology services employing teams of individuals with disabilities.
The idea – “disability” can be a source of competitive advantage.
The opportunity – 2 million Americans on the Autism Spectrum, 1/3 of whom are high functioning, 85% of whom are not employed, many with heightened abilities such as pattern recognition and attention to detail.
The business – a software testing company providing high quality software testing by employing teams of individuals on the Autism Spectrum. By many measures, the company was doing well. Angel round closed, break even achieved, market leaders retained as customers, team expanding steadily.
After a year, we’d reached less than 0.01% of the talent pool we set out to unlock.
But after a year, we’d reached less than 0.01% of the incredible talent pool we set out to unlock. And with a year’s worth of experience, it was becoming clear that even reaching 0.1% of that talent pool would take a few more years. I was frustrated and disappointed. Maybe it was naiveté, service businesses don’t scale quickly. Maybe it was arrogance, there are others working in this space.
Then I had the good fortune to speak with one of the software testers, Chris, who has been with the company since launch. I asked him how he was doing, and he said:
“I’m happy. I don’t remember the last time I was able to say that. I like the team, I’m doing interesting work, and I’ve earned more in the past 3 months than I did in the past three years”.
As social entrepreneurs, we’re all focused on solving big problems. And some of us need reminding that those big problems affect individual people, each with their own hopes and dreams.
Stop for a few hours next week, leave those dreams of scale at the door, and spend the time with a real human being whose life might improve if your efforts are successful. Repeat every month.
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