You have the drive, you have the compassion to help the world — so how do you turn that energy into a successful for-profit or nonprofit enterprise? Here are five steps for transforming your vision into reality:
Identify a social problem that you’re passionate about and feel a sense of urgency for.
What excites you, ticks you off, makes your conversation animated and vehement? Only a true and deep passion can sustain you and your enterprise over the long haul. Choosing your area of focus shouldn’t be a matter of intellectual calculation — it should come from your heart, from what stirs your emotions.
Develop a plan for solving the problem you’ve identified.
Your initial plan will be rough and preliminary, sure, but you have to start somewhere. As you prepare this plan, you may want to consult with one or more people who share your passion. The idea is to put something on paper that is sufficient to show potential collaborators in an initial meeting. As you craft it, keep in mind that you’ll be selling your plan to others whose assistance you may need, to family and friends whose opinion of your project you value, and last, but not least, to yourself.
Decide whether to try to solve this problem alone or with the help of some other people.
If you’re going to need help, think hard about who might want to help you. Who shares your passion and sense of urgency about the problem? Do they have time to commit to helping you solve it? Will they bring some critical expertise (ideally of a type that you lack)? Are they likely to be team players? Do they work well with others? Or is the issue something that you alone care about, and you’re willing to work as a one-person outfit until you can convince others to join your organization? If you go the latter route, still seek the advice of others as you work through the startup phases — even if other people aren’t as passionate about the issue as you are, they can offer useful advice along the way.
Call one or more meetings to discuss your preliminary plan.
Your goal is to come to some sort of agreement on a more final plan among those who want be involved in (or merely advise) your evolving social enterprise. In other words, your draft plan, conceived in Step 2, is your starting point — now it needs to be fleshed out. Bear in mind that your plan will change, and it’s possible that not everyone will like it. Some people who seemed interested may drop out because the project isn’t turning out to be what they thought it was going to be. It’s up to you to judge how to balance the evolution of your plan against the diverging interests of potential partners. You have to come to an agreement on a draft of the plan among those who stick around. This step may take a series of meetings, so give yourself time.
Execute your plan.
With your plan in hand, you’ve either developed a road map for yourself to follow that includes input from several other perspectives, or you have a significant consensus among a group of people ready to work with you on setting up a social enterprise. Now it’s time to put your plan into action! But be adaptable. Be agile. As you execute your plans, remember that the map is only that and never the territory.