Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SKG Sangha - Uses Award for Training and Education

The Sustainable Energy Futures on-line case study competition resulted in a $5000 cash prize to SKG SANGHA in India for their innovative program using agricultural waste for biomass and biogas production.

Mr. Sagar writes the following:
"If we use this money for our projects, your contribution will not be reflected anywhere. Whereas, you are giving us this money as a token of appreciation which we want to be in a memorable shape. Hence, we shall use the money as part finance for our proposed training centre planned to train our beneficiaries, staff, students etc. We shall write your name as part funders for this training centre by that the contribution given by you will be visible for the years to come.

As part of our work we have to train each and every beneficiary on the running, maintenance of our units provided to the beneficiaries. We also can use the same facility to train the students who are coming to us for training from various Indian and foreign Universities as part of their Engineering/agricultural/social work. We also can use this facility for training our staff as well as staff from Government or other Institutions. The estimation for the training centre is about $40000. Last year we received £10,000 as prize money from Ashden Awards, London.
We have kept aside this amount also for our training centre. Now we have some Engineering Students from France who have come for practical training as part of their engineering course. Tomorrow we are getting two more students for training from France who are studying Agricultural Engineering. This training centre will help students from many countries apart from India. So, far the major beneficiaries are students from France. I believe education is the major tool for achieving socio-economic growth and to instill peace all over the world. I appreciate your support to a great cause."

Thanks to Mr Sagar for pointing out the importance of training and education in creating successful social enterprises.
Our case study was a good exercise in determining whether an on-line process of voting works - based on this thoughtful letter - I would say the process yielded a true winner.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship Leadership Myth #1

Social entrepreneurs typically put up with personal economic hardship to launch their dream enterprise. Some work for a while, save money and live off of that or they have small grants, or personal assets, or working spouses or the new trend of limited prize money etc. This breeds a habit of thrift and economy. So far so good. This factor is really important when applying for grants from foundations or public funds. It is a critical personal and organisational leadership skill for running an NGO or other non-profit where one uses limited financial resources - since no new financial resources are being created there is no room for any financial risk-taking. So in my experience social entrepreneurs come to believe in a "how can I save money?" versus "how can I make money?" mindset.

This is where leading a social enterprise is strategically different from leading a non-profit. Corporate or social investors want to know when the organisation will be financially self-sustaining. strategically, a social enterprise looks more like a for-profit venture. Strategic leaders will answer the following questions:
1- how much time to first enterprise revenue dollar
2 - How much time to break even
3 - how much time to first profit dollar (social enterprises typically reinvest revenue)

A business plan that includes a well thought out financial risk (e.g. trying out or investing in a new technology) may be acceptable even if sustainability takes longer. The reason for having the "how can I make money" mindset is that :
1. It makes a more convincing argument that eventually the enterprise will be sustainable. In this mindset, fiscal responsibility is a given as good operations management and positions the entrepreneur as being strategic.
2. Additionally, investors are well versed with for-profit business plan evaluation and thus more likely to commit.

So my recommendation to social entrepreneurs: do put as much energy into your revenue streams as to fiscal operational responsibility when it comes to developing your leadership style.