Wednesday, 5 March 2014

11 Things Every Change-Maker Must Know

There’s something about me that makes me attractive to the third sector. Or maybe it’s the other way round. I’ve given up trying to understand it, it is just the way it is... If I were to charge for all the free project management services I render to businesses in that sector, I would buy a Volkswagen Touareg every year.  True talk!

While I find the business of doing good and making the world a better place attractive and very fulfilling, visionaries of these businesses have a lot of growing up to do. Below I have captured 11 key areas change-makers must know. Some tough love but you know I mean well don’t you?

  1. There’s Nothing New Under The Sun: So you want to teach rural children how to read using games. Fantastic. Quite original. Or not. Someone else may have done that already. Maybe not exactly the way you intend to but trust me, it most likely has been done somewhere on this planet. I’m not trying to dampen your spirit, I’m trying to save you time and money. Before you think your idea is the best thing since Agege bread, do your research. Find people who have done what you want to do. Reach out, learn, share resources; collaborate. Enough of the silo interventions all trying to tackle the same problem. It’s ineffective and costly.

  1. Change Starts With You: While you advocate for total eradication of corruption in all arms of government, watch it. A 1 million naira cheque may be all it takes to get you to sing a different tune. The greatest obstacle to change you will face is you. Self-mastery is never fully achieved and that makes your humanity a perpetual problem. Do not put yourself on a pedestal that may become too uncomfortable to stand on. Clean house first, then tell everyone else how to do it. That is  how it should work.

  1. There’s No Free Lunch: Its okay that you’re chasing grants like Usain Bolt runs towards a finish line. But while you do that, try not to forget that someone somewhere is supplying the funds you never have to repay. Ensure your values align with the donor so you don’t have a project MKUltra situation on your hands in the future. Mistakes like that can be quite heavy on the conscience.

  1. Think Like A Businessman: What value does your idea add to the society? What problem does it solve? What makes it better than other products or services out there? Can your business survive without grants      and donations? Do you have the needed structure to support you? In other words, is your business model sustainable? I mean…will you still be around 10 years from now?

  1. The Government Is Not The Enemy: It’s okay if you believe the government is Illuminati and Freemason and driving a New World Order and as a result, must not be touched with a 50 ft. pole. It’s okay. But you see, the implication of your rigid posture is that you have inadvertently positioned yourself as anti-government. Unfortunately, change without the government is like building a house on quicksand. Without the buy-in of such a critical stakeholder, you will find it difficult to institutionalize change, even if you achieve it. Think the Egyptian and Arab springs. Think Syria… While there seem to be short-term gains, the long-term situation can be described in one word: Chaos.

  1. Prudence Is A Virtue: I find a lot of third sector organizations wasteful.  Budgets are poorly planned, poorly negotiated, vendors disregard work orders/contracts and these organizations rarely take any punitive measures to check the trend. I believe it’s because they run on grants and donations. It’s rare to find people who waste money they worked hard for.

  1. Leadership Is About The People, Not Advancing A Personal Cause: There are changemakers and there are changemakers. There are those who want change; just that. And then there are those who can’t see change happening without them. Change driven by someone else is never enough. Their idea of leadership is to be in front, telling everyone else what to do, driving everyone towards a goal they have set. If you’re like that, please don’t get it twisted; you’re just a manipulative choleric using people to drive a personal agenda no matter how noble. Leadership is Ghandi, Mandela. You get?

  1. Never Put Yourself On A Pedestal: When you make it seem like you have no vices and your very presence is a gift to humanity; you are setting yourself up. Big time. The world needs inspiration; people need role models and mentors and will easily idolize you if you give them the slightest opportunity. Don’t encourage them if you don’t have the strength of character to sustain it. Your actions are easily noticeable and amplified when standing on a pedestal than when standing in a crowd. No matter what you believe, you are not infallible. Remember that.

  1. Technology Will Make Your Life Easy, Use It: You know all those meetings with loose agendas that go on for six hours with two action points at the end of the day? Please make them stop. They are unnecessary and quite frankly a waste of everybody’s time. Use technology.  That is what all them gadgets and apps and software were created for. You don’t have to gather people in a room to agree on the colour of t-shirts to be used for your next campaign now do you?

  1.  You Chose To ‘Do Good’: I find the sense of entitlement of the average changemaker unbelievable. You chose to save the world by doing all the good stuff you are doing. Bravo! Really… It’s cool until you decide those who run for–profit businesses should render services to you free of charge. While your stance is understandable, the decision to do so should be made by the business owner without coercion, manipulation or emotional blackmail.  Fair enough?

  1. Cap In Hand Does Not Paint A Dignifying Picture: Like I said earlier, there is no free lunch. Someone somewhere will always pay for any free product or service you get to run your projects. But even with the abundance of people queuing up to do good, it will be nice to see you put your money where your mouth is. Paul worked while spreading the gospel so you have no excuse. Donors are moving from grants and donations to match funding and  impact investing. Make sure you do something that brings in money so if donations dry up, you can at least keep your head out of water. And while you’re at it, think about what you might give a donor in return other than the clich├ęd ‘increased brand equity,’ whatever that means.

©Naomi Lucas


hilary daudu said...

Lol! Naomi is pissed!!! I feel your pain. However, it's difficult for some folks to agree with you when they see "role models" who have supposedly become fabulously rich and famous doing the things you are complaining about. Folks that make it seem like hard work is a misplaced quality, a relic of an era when people were not sharp and relied on the simple concept of cause and effect!

Naomi Lucas said...

Hilary, I'm not pissed oh. Just saying. If they heed the advice my life will be easier ai :)

I totally agree with your comment about hardwork and process. It's the greatest deficiency evident in my generation but guess what, sooner or later, the bubble will burst.