A bit of chaos marked the beginning of the 2015 Social Enterprise Cohort’s second session as Mother Nature showed up with what could have been a huge obstacle to stellar attendance. The commute was horrific. However, our Cohort team members are so committed to the Social Enterprise Exchange process that no one was thwarted by the weather and we met with extra enthusiasm and purpose.
During our check-in, folks who attended the social enterprise field trip raved about the experience and the insights they gained at both Bayaud Enterprises and Café Options. One of the greatest collective take-aways from the tours came from David Henninger, Bayaud’s executive director. He told the group not to be afraid to take risks; that Bayaud has tried numerous ideas and not every idea worked. When ideas don’t work, they learn from the experience, but it doesn’t prevent them from continuing to take risks moving forward.
After check-ins, we moved on to the focus of Cohort session two – thinking differently. This month, we weren’t discerning feasibility of ideas, but generating ideas, as many as possible, using the collective brainpower of everyone on the team. Teams were encouraged to get clear on their Assets, Competencies and Market Trends or Needs as they began generating ideas. Inside of the framework of their knowledge, expertise, property, people, what they have, what they know, what they’re good at, networks and relationships built on reputation, the teams came up with hundreds of ideas knowing that they will eventually narrow it down to one that yields excitement and enthusiastic buy-in from everyone on their team and their board.
Dwayne Smith, Brenda Roush and Jeff Su, all participants in the first Cohort group, formed a panel in the afternoon. They shared their experiences participating in the cohort in general, as well as the process of generating ideas and their selection criteria for the specific social enterprise their nonprofit committed to. They discussed the challenges of aligning their teams, top executives and board members, feasibility studies, execution of their business plans, and how overwhelmed they were at times with the magnitude of the process.
Despite all of the challenges faced, the panel agreed that, without question, it was worth every minute and every challenge because they created something that will fuel their mission and purpose in a deeper and more impactful way than they were able to deliver previously. The panel made this process very real to the 2015 Cohort participants; it’s going to be one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, but in the end, the reward will also be one of the greatest they’ve ever received.
– Allison O’Brien