10 Tips From 10 Years of Social Good: The Most Important Things I’ve Learned on My Journey as a Social Entrepreneur

As we begin 2018 with a smile, I have spent some time reflecting on the fact that I’ve now been in the ‘social good’ space for ten years!

Journey as a Social Entrepreneur_startup

 

As we begin 2018 with a smile, I have spent some time reflecting on the fact that I’ve now been in the ‘social good’ space for ten years! It makes me feel extremely old (I’m only 28!), but I am so happy that my life choices have led me down this path. Today, there is so much more conversation about social good and living ethically – buying sustainable products, reducing plastic use, giving back in meaningful ways and supporting groups/business/organisations that empower people, communities, the environment and the world. It’s so good to see the increasing number of people who are living and working in a more conscious and collective way – it gives me so much hope for the future.

 

Now at the ten-year mark, it’s really interesting to think about what I’ve learned – good and bad – and I want to share that with you. Especially to those thinking about doing their own startup or have their own idea that’s ready for the world.

 

This list comes from my own work and the lessons I’ve learned from other social entrepreneurs and change-makers across the world including in Australia, Costa Rica, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Iraq, Honduras, El Salvador & USA.

 

 

1) Focus

 

Make sure you are very clear about what you want to do. Sometimes it’s overwhelming when you think about how much needs to be changed on earth to make our impact lighter. Set a clear aim, have targeted goals over a set time and make sure you market what you’re doing around those things unwaveringly.

 

2) Be precise and have a structured plan

 

Planning, structure & organisation are critical to any organisation or business. Great ideas will only flourish if there is organisation and efficiency surrounding them.

 

3) Be unafraid

 

Often, there are risks involved with doing your own startup or moving away from the ‘norm’ (why does that old term still exist, seriously). Do not be afraid of failure. Unfortunately even sometimes the people closest to you may not understand your vision. That’s okay! It’s your life, not theirs. Keep yourself together, be your own backbone and make it happen.

 

4) Be smart about what you’re doing

 

Refer to points 1 & 2.

 

5) Give your all

 

We’re talking late nights, travel, commitment, meetings, budgets, ideas galore, team management, things not going to plan, short notice .. all in the same week. Things will get busy so make sure you’re prepared for this. Your efforts and hard work do pay off in the long run though and it’s the full-hearted commitment that leads to success. Bus Stop Films is one of my favourite examples of this.

 

6) Stay positive & results-oriented

 

Things don’t always go to plan! That’s okay as well, don’t get disheartened. Stay flexible and focus on outcomes. Ask yourself: What can we fix? What is in our control? How can we overcome this? How can we go about reaching our goals in a different way? Brainstorming, communication and teamwork help here.

 

7) Take opportunities as they arise  

 

Sometimes you will get an opportunity that seems bigger than you can chew. Take it! Your strength and capacity will ensure you succeed. I love this quote from Richard Branson: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”.

 

8) It’s okay if things don’t happen immediately  

 

In a world that is increasingly used to immediacy and ‘viral’ trends, we sometimes forget that things can take time. It’s okay if your social pages don’t have 10K followers in the first week. It’s okay if things are a little slower than expected. Stay focused and keep your mind on your ultimate goals and be realistic. It will happen, don’t worry. If you’re still stressed, refer back to #6.

 

9) Change is okay

 

Flexibility is important. Even for you personally. Is your heart in it? Are you still happy with what you’re doing? Are you creating happiness for others? How are you measuring success? Are you looking after yourself too? What needs to change/stay the same to ensure these things happen?

 

10) Self-care is critical!

 

Following all of the above steps can leave you with little time for yourself. I cannot stress this enough: you cannot be effective in your work if you are totally burnt out. Set clear times for when you work and when you don’t. Technology-free time is okay. A night off is important. Seeing your friends and family is important to your mental health and well-being. Eat properly! If you are scattered and run-down, chances are you won’t be able to work to your full capacity and reach outcomes anyway, so make sure that you are good to yourself too.

 

Good luck!

 

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Sarah Cowley

Sarah Cowley

From courage to communication, it's all about keeping the balance. Sarah is Director of Armed with the Arts Inc. a grassroots NGO that uses art to engage children in peace education. She has her MA from the UN University for Peace and is focused on creating social change through education and awareness building. Sarah is currently based in Cambodia but has previously lived and worked in Nepal, India, Costa Rica and Australia.
Sarah Cowley

Written by Sarah Cowley

Sarah Cowley

From courage to communication, it's all about keeping the balance. Sarah is Director of Armed with the Arts Inc. a grassroots NGO that uses art to engage children in peace education. She has her MA from the UN University for Peace and is focused on creating social change through education and awareness building. Sarah is currently based in Cambodia but has previously lived and worked in Nepal, India, Costa Rica and Australia.

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