What if you could create something with the power to stimulate a developing local economy, catalyze societal change, strengthen families, and spark spiritual transformation? That would be something, wouldn’t it? Enter the triple bottom line.
That’s exactly what social entrepreneurs are doing. When these entrepreneurs start socially conscious businesses they are after more than just profit. They’re after a triple, or even quadruple, bottom line – including economic, environmental, social, and spiritual measures of success. At Agora, we’re about helping entrepreneurs transform their communities in these ways and more.
But here’s the catch: Achieving a true integration of all three (or four) elements into one “success story” is extremely challenging for most social entrepreneurs.
So, how does one do it? How does one successfully integrate the goals of financial profit, social impact, and spiritual transformation, and possibly even environmental benefit?
Here are five important tips for social entrepreneurs to remember as they seek to transform their communities through business:
Clarify Your Values and Purpose
Before you can strategize a plan for social and spiritual impact, you must be clear on what your values are. Who are you going to be as an organization? Why do you exist? What principles and values will you stand on? What are the problems you are seeking to solve? What evidences of transformation will measure the effectiveness of your organization at work?
If you don’t know why you’re doing what you are doing and who you are as an organization, you won’t successfully achieve an integrated triple bottom line (TBL). Start by dreaming and clarifying these elements.
Action Point: Set up 4 columns on a piece of paper. Label them “Vision,” “Values/Principles,” “Problems,” and “Objectives”. Answer the following questions and write them in the correlating columns:
- Who are we?
- What values/principles will shape our organization?
- What problems are we seeking to solve?
- What tangible transformation objectives do we wish to accomplish?
Simplify Your Central Message
Now boil these things down into one central message. This is the one thing that sums everything you wrote down before. The central message is the heartbeat of your organization, the thing you keep waking up day after day for. Keep your central message as simple yet focused as you can.
Recently we changed our tagline statement from “Changing the World through Business” to “Entrepreneurs Transforming Communities.” That 3-word statement sums up our central message – to help entrepreneurs transform their communities. There are lots of other “whys” for us – to reduce poverty, to create jobs, to help humans flourish, etc. But this statement encapsulates our unique identity and approach. Everything we do directly ties back to that statement. If it doesn’t, we know we have veered off course and need to realign.
Once you have established this central message, remain obsessively disciplined to it. It will shape everything else.
Action Point: Write your central message down. No more than 10 words!
Identify Your People & Place
You know who you are as an organization, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what the central message of your organization is. But where are you doing this? Who are you seeking to impact?
Defining your people and place helps keep you on track as you seek to integrate your triple bottom line. Make them as specific and inclusive as is helpful for you.
Action Point: Answer the questions “who are we seeking to impact/work with?” and “where do we want to see our vision come to life?”
Develop Two Intentional Plans
A coaching client, Lee, started a consultancy in Azerbaijan that focused on land development among other sectors. He sought coaching from my consulting group. We suggested he develop two plans – a business plan and a SSO plan (Social & Spiritual Objectives plan). He readily agreed.
His business plan was a typical business plan modeled after other plans from his past business experiences. He now developed an SSO plan. This plan identified how lives would be changed and how the community would grow due to increased number of jobs and environmental impact.
Having two plans like these create a level of intentionality and accountability. They help put meat and feet to your vision and objectives, moving them from the realm of dreams to implementable plans and measurable goals.
Unify Your Team
To achieve success you must employ a team of people with diversified strengths. But you also need a team that is unified around your central vision and the values and principles that define your organization.
Having a diverse startup team requires consistent effort to remain unified around the shared vision. Don’t let your team stray even a degree away from those central definers you have established. As you operate with diverse strengths, experiences, and backgrounds, keep unifying your team around these things.
Action Point: Have a vision gathering for your team where you can realign everyone around the share identity, values, vision, message, and objectives of your business. Do this regularly!
As you implement these things, you will be well on your way in the integration process. Social entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to solve economic, social, environmental, and/or spiritual problems. Business is merely their chosen mechanism. When these entrepreneurs figure out how to make the desired impact within a profitable and sustainable business model, they can change the world!
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