A note on starting the things that bring you closer to your dreams… 

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 13.28.38

It takes time. It takes intention. It takes iteration after iteration. It takes pushing at the limits of what you know to discover what you don’t. It turns you inside to confront your inner demons and blindspots. It offers moments of grace, descending like gifts from another place. There are moments of exhaustion. There are moments of exhilaration. You question pretty much everything- who am I to do this, why me, why now, will it ever work, I love this, I can’t stand this, this is amazing, this is rubbish, oh, a breakthrough, this is brilliant, let’s keep going….

This is learning and creativity on full force.

This week, I hit it all, full on. Now, to keep going, I have realised this: 

To keep going is a daily practice and a choice

To keep going is to keep your vision high, your gaze directed, your heart open and your focus near

To keep going is to breath deep and listen for the openings

To keep going is to to ask for support

To keep going is to pause, review, invoke, and learn, again and again and again

To keep going its to trust that the learning will bring it’s own strength, making it better next time.

To keep going is to keep the future close and friends dear

To keep going is to find the thresholds, the ones that beckon like invitations, and to take a graceful step across them, onwards.

………

Want to stay in touch with news, updates, stories and resources? Sign up over here for happenings. 

……….


Wondering if Thrive School is for you?

Tomorrow (Monday 6th March) is the final day to apply for the next Thrive School Dublin programme, and I want to share a few updates and offer a little nudge!

ts west cork -14I’ve just finished up the West Cork Thrive School programme, and have really seen such brilliant results from the participants- who have all take huge strides in their ideas, confidence and skill set.

Yesterday was pitch day, where the participants had a chance to pitch their new ideas, products and services while practice giving presentations. We had an artist who has got her website up and running and is launching her first public teaching workshops; a participant who decided to train as a celebrant and pitched her new business offerings; a designer who has developed a new service to help young people make sense of their career choices; a furniture maker who is now ready to launch an outdoor furniture rental business, and a yoga teacher who has transformed how she is structuring her classes  (and is now booked out) and is planning new yoga products and educational videos.

Needless to say we were all so so proud of each other. There were also a few tears, as for many yesterday represented a new marker in their lives. This is transformational learning.

So maybe you are wondering if Thrive School is for you or you are sitting on the fence a little. I’ve made a new video to explain more about the 3 types of people who really benefit from the programme and answering some of the questions which are coming in.

And if you have additional questions feel free to email me – clare@claremulvany.ie

The application deadline is tomorrow Monday 6th March at 9pm.

Find out more and apply online over at:

http://www.claremulvany.ie/thrive-school-core/

Thanks all

Clare x


Transforming the comparison trap into the compassion trap…

Shankill Castle Feb 2015-89

I want to let you in on a secret folks. They don’t. Trust me. They don’t.

Who don’t? What don’t they? I hear you say.

Have it all figured out. I add. And ‘they’? Well they are all of us. 

Ah, a sigh of relief.

More and more, this is what I see: people trying, people struggling, people fearing and so many people thinking they have to have it all figured out and worrying that they don’t.

In the world of fast paced social media it is so easy to look around at other people and think they have it all sorted. We can look at their websites, glam shots, followers, comments, media coverage, products, services, sexy lives, sexy bodies, sexy friends, sexy everything and think… they have it all. In doing so we can feel so far removed that we think we can never ‘get there’, and so we don’t bother, or we stop believing, or we feel like hiding under the bed covers and never coming out.

I am not fully sure where ‘there’ is, but one thing I am sure of is that it is not a fixed place, or number, or a bank balance. Ask any one of those people is they think they have it all sorted, or figured out and I am pretty sure that they’ll say no. How could they?

And why do I know this? Because by virtue of the fact that life is a creative act and art, living it is a creative process, and, at best, the creative process is messy. In many ways, the messier the better. The mess is so much part of the process that it is the process. It is by navigating the mess that new ideas and connections can emerge. The mess offers us a chance to explore and make non-direct linkages, which leads to new pathways. The mess is not negative, but necessary. 

But I also suspect this: that behind the scenes of every glam shot, or every instagram tally, or every six-figure business owner, is a person desperately willing themselves on to navigate this messy and complex and beautiful thing called life. Behind the scenes, in fluctuating waves, there is also doubt, uncertainly, fear, courage, love, trust, pain, resistance, self love, self loathing, persistence, frustration, joy, anger and hope. Those feelings are there because they are intertwined in the human condition; they are all part of the natural emotional and cyclical journey of life.

When we start to look over our shoulders it is all to easy to fall into the comparison trap. And it is exactly that- a trap. It snares us and stops us from making progress and building traction. It keeps us looking over our shoulder, forgetting to look within and making the next move which is only ours to make.

Sure we can be inspired by others and learn from others, but let’s not assume they have it all figured out. It’s not fair on us, and it’s not fair on them.

So, here’s another little secret from behind my own scenes: I am writing these words today because I needed to hear them myself. I so needed to hear them. All morning that comparison trap had its jaws wide open and was leaning in to pounce. Much as I hate to admit it, I found myself flipping through instagram, on websites, making judgements. Beyond the judgements, at a deeper level, I was criticising myself which went something like this: ‘you should be doing more, you should have it sorted, you’ll never get there, ‘X’ can do it, why can’t you…’  Pretty soon there were tears, pretty soon I wanted to give up on it all, and pretty soon I was in a darker state of affairs….

WOAH. WOAH. Slow down there woman, steady up” Another saner part of my brain chimed in.  I suppose I could see what was happening.

So, what to do? Well today, knowing that a break of scene was required, this is what I did:

I turned off my phone.

I went for a walk to the post box and then delivered the post to the elderly man who lives beside me. We had a chat about daffodils and chaffinches.

I had a very hot shower.

I lit the fire. Then a candle. Then some incense.

I made some tea and sipped it slowly looking out at the rain.

I cuddled my dog. And then again.

I took a deep breath and I realised I need some reminders of the progress I have been making, and so I got out a bunch of journals and read back. Then I took out my computer, opened a blank document and started writing, as a reminder that I am just trying to figure it out, one step at a time. We all are.

So let’s give ourselves some slack and wiggle room, and see if we can transform that comparison trap into a compassion trap. For us. For them. For each other.


Learning for transformation

vision day jan 2017-40

 

Now that cycle two of Thrive School is coming to a close, I like to take a step back and capture some of the learnings so as to build upon them for the next phase. Here are a few reflections on the learning required for transformation, and at the end of each one, I offer a question to you about how you may apply it to your own learning and visioning as you evolve your own ideas and being.

Deep, transformative learning and change is accelerated through clusters. 

There is power in the pack. When that pack becomes a nurturing, listening, open and supportive space, even more so. When we think of entrepreneurship we often think of the solo/ individual action and hierarchy: the lone warrior, the lone wolf heading out to hunt its prize. But look at nature- it doesn’t flourish that way. Wolves operate in packs and their ecology is deeply connected not only to  their own place in their family, but also, as the poet Mary Oliver describes it, ’in their family of things (This video, how wolves change rivers never ceases to amaze me). We see ‘bunches’ of flowers, murmurations of starlings, and even trees- which we often think of in the singular- as collective, connected, communicative systems. The wellbeing of every individual within the pack is intimately woven into the wellbeing of the eco system into which they grow.

As Thrive School evolves, so too will the emphasis on ‘pack’ learning– using the space of connection, listening and support to create eco-systems or clusters from which growth can emerge.  So much of education, and business operates from the old paradigm of competition, but flip that and we have the opportunity to evolve new ways of collaborative learning, and business.

While on a small scale currently, what I have seen in Thrive School is glimpse of this new paradigm. By cultivating safe, supportive, nurturing environments, when people have the chance to tease out ideas, test assumptions and feed back to the group without fear, we can also cultivate a field which brings out the best in all of us and builds upon the best ideas, projects and visions.

**Can you create your own creative cluster? Who around you is craving this kind of support and would be willing to cluster around you too? ** 

 Practice makes progress

dublin-flea-market--dec-2011-1038_6537068837_oCultivating the place of inner knowing is critical to sustaining our entrepreneurial journey. It is both an art and a practice. Life is chaotic, but when we have some form of daily practice in which we tune into our inner knowing, we learn to navigate the chaos with greater fluidity and skill. We have a place to bring our challenges before they overwhelm us. Our practice becomes a way to listen to our inner guidance, and then use this guidance to carry us forward.
We can cultivate this inner place in many ways by creating and safeguarding pockets of stillness and listening into our daily life. For some this is meditation, for some yoga, for some walking in nature, or painting. Whatever it is, when it allows us to drop into a deeper sense of being, and connect with our bodies and breath, this listening space is a  beautifully ripe ground for asking questions to your inner self: what are my next steps, what am I not seeing, who should I connect with, how can I evolve my current offerings. Through this we can develop our vision and tune into our gut instincts, thereby creating a deeper sense of trust in our own decisions and next steps, our own sense of progress. On days when life feels even more chaotic and when we feel we don;t have the time, that’s when we need it the most.

**What daily practice draws you? And how can you safeguard this precious time each day? 

The magic is in the space between us – the power of connected listening. 

Deep down I think we all know our answers. There is guidance available to us and our bodies can tell when we have tapped into it. And yet it is hard to hear or to distinguish the ‘knowing’ voice from the inner voice of criticism and judgement. So creating safe listening spaces, where we can talk out our ideas with another person and learn to distinguish between these voices is so important. The listening is a craft which can be honed. We can learn to listen for the tone, energy and the message behind the words, and we can learn to ask clarifying questions so that new insights can emerge and blind spots be revealed. When we approach the space between us with sacredness and our conversation as a sanctuary, it hold a special magic and momentum. So, it’s in the space between us- the interaction- where a clink of clarity, understanding and insight can emerge.

**Who can you buddy up with to have a regular listening conversation with? How do you think you can improve your listening skills? **

 

vision day jan 2017-13

Invite fear to the table. 

Ask anyone why they aren’t pursuing their big dream, their highest potential and what is really calling them, and it’s likely that ‘fear’ will feature very highly on their list of reasons. There is almost a sense of shame around naming fear for what it is. ‘I’m afraid’ sounds week, almost childish. We were afraid of the dark, or afraid of ghosts- but that was back then, so why does fear rule the roost now too? And so because it seems childish we tend to hide it and feel isolated in our fear, thinking we are the only ones who experience it. But when we think on evolutionary terms, fear is a natural biological response mechanism to protect us from harm, danger and risk. It protected us in the wild, in the dark, and it continues to protect us from physical danger. So when it comes to building our own business, or following though on something which is pushing at the margins of our experience and learning, putting us in a vulnerable position, it is natural that fear will kick in too. And so, rather than ignoring it, or denying it, we need to learn to invite fear to be at the table and have frank, honest and open conversations with it. We can journal about, talk about it with a friend or mentor, we can give it a place without it having to run the show. When we learn to observe the fear, see what impact it is having on us, name it, we can then ask for it to release it grip and allow hope, possibility and love to be the currents which carry us onwards.

** Here’s a little practice -spend 5 minutes journalling your response to the following questions: 

In what ways is fear holding me back? 

What one thing can I do to today that can help me to befriend my fear? 

Structure = Flow.

Boundaries, discipline, even timetabling, often viewed as restrictive, are tools to help us create and maintain flow. In Thrive School we have been referring to them like the banks of a river. Without the banks we get floods, deltas, and at times, chaos. The banks help to direct the course. And yet the banks are being constantly eroded and re-deposited; they are not rigid walls but flexible, malleable and adaptive. Creating a weekly structure which is firm enough to create focus while adaptive and flexible enough to respond to opportunities is the key.  Our ultimate freedom comes when we understand and embrace the structures which work best for us. What boundaries do we need to have around how we plan our time, for instance; or what parameters do we need have around our spending and savings for financial flow. It’s the boundaries that give rise to the freedoms that we choose

Where do your own ‘banks’ need to be strengthened for you to create more flow? 

Think Big, Start Close, Act elegantly… 

There can be such amazing power in having a big compelling vision and to be really clear on your ‘why’. This is what attracts people, carries momentum and can keep you motivated on even the hardest of days, but we also need to learn to hold the future in the present, and not let our distance from our future possibility distract from the beauty of today, of who is around us now, the gift of the current challenge and what opportunity is emerging just ahead of us, for the future begins in our very next moment. So, as the poet David Whyte says, ‘start close in’ with the step that is next to take. In Thrive School we talk about finding your ‘elegant’ next step- it may be strategic, it may be tactical, but can also be graceful, easy, accessible. Step by elegant next step we build momentum and gain traction.

What is your elegant next step? 

 

….

Thrive School Dublin starts on March 11th. Apply online by March 3rd. Find out more over here. 


The value of values // Plus a 7 step creative exercise for you to know yours..

vision day jan 2017-17

 

I’m not a fan of cheesy clip art. But for the sake of illustrative purposes, this one does the job!

Vector-BoatIf our goals are like the sails on a sailing boat, then the keel is like our values. The keel is the central axis which helps to keep the ship afloat and provide ballast. In choppy waters, it’s the keel which will help to bring the boat back to upright (note addition of choppy waters in said illustration!) Same too with our values- they act as weights and axes around which we can centre and steady ourselves, and keep ourselves true to our intention and truth.

However like the keel, our values are below the surface, which is why they are often hard to identify and to appreciate the role that they play in our decisions, actions, and outcomes. And yet, deep down, it’s our values which help us sense if we are on the right path and feel aligned or congruent with our sense of self- which is why making a conscious effort to identify them is so important.

Getting clear on our values helps us to design our lives, businesses, interactions and projects with more clarity and intention. They help us have better relationships- personally and professionally. When it comes to business they can help us to design customer or client interactions. And importantly, when we hit choppy waters, they help to keep us resurface and stay afloat.

Trust. Integrity. Honesty. Quality. Joy. Play. Freedom. Leadership. Creativity. Adventure. Responsibility. Kindness. Compassion. Authenticity. You’ll have a set of values unique to you, some more prominent or stronger than others.

vision day jan 2017-4

How can you identify them?

Well interestingly we often sense them most clearly them when they have been breached. If trust is a really strong value for you, and someone breaches your trust, you may feel the reaction at a very deep, visceral level. If professionalism is a value and you attend an event which is so poorly run, you may feel a personal affront and anger at the low quality of service. Or if kindness is a value and you witness someone being unkind to another it can alter how you view and in turn value that person. We can also identify them by recalling times in our lives in which we felt a consistent happiness, aliveness or sense of pride. It is likely that your values were being honoured and amplified during these times.

Our values shape the quality of our collaborations too. For instance, understanding where values overlap and where values differ is critical to successful collaborations and so learning to have open conversations with our partners and collaborators is vital to thriving interactions.

We often assume that we hold similar values to those around us, but it’s surprising how much variance there actually is, especially when we see how people individually prioritise those values. If one business partner has a top value priority as ‘freedom’, for example, and another has ‘safety’, then there is a potential clash zone. Maybe the ‘freedom’ person is more likely to take risks in the project and wants take big leaps than the safety person, who values gradual iteration and growth. If you are thinking of going into partnership with someone, doing the values identification exercise below is a great way to tease out potential synergies, challenges or even clashes in advance.

vision day jan 2017-3Plus, when we get explicit about our values it can help us to figure out what to do when we are stuck in a rut or facing a challenging decision. Let’s say you have listed ‘integrity’ as a value, then, when you need some inner direction, you can ask yourself (or your team), ‘What would integrity do now?’ Or if creativity is a value, ‘What is the best use of creativity here, or what is the best creative solution for now?

So, you can see, not only do are values act as stabilisers, they act as propellors too!

(Herein ends the cheezy boat/ ship/ sailing/ choppy waters analogy. RIP clipart)

 

 

……………………………………….


How to identify and prioritise your values: 7 Step Process

Below is a 7 step value identification exercise, developed as part of the Thrive School curriculum. This exercise can be done alone, however it works best where there are at least 3 other people in the room working on it, as it gives you a chance to compare notes and learn together in conversation towards the end.

Time: Initially 45-60 mins. With a 5 review one week later.

Needs: Sticky notes. Blank wall space. Pens.

 

The Process:

Step one: The big list

Write out as many values as you think you have, each one on a separate sticky note. Give yourself about 10 minutes.

A good way to accessing your values is to think about times in your life when you were most happy, and most proud. It is likely that your core values were being honoured during these times.

Or maybe you can recall a time when one was breached? You’ll know if you felt it at a really deep level and it may have been hard to let go of the experience or build trust again.

Step two: Viewing platform

Place all the sticky notes on the wall- take a step back and view. Are there ones that should not belong there? Are there any missing?

Step three: Identify patterns and clusters.

Start placing values which you think belong together in clusters. For example you may think that ‘ integrity’ and honesty should be side by side, or ‘fun’ and ‘play. You may find a clusters of values coming together. Review your clusters. Are there any patterns you see in your values?

Step Four: Prioritising values

vision day jan 2017-9Select your top value from each cluster and place them all together. Depending on how many clusters you had you’ll have a set of values. From these, can you keep removing or adding one until you have 5 values in this group.

Again take a step back. Are these your top five? Sometimes the arrangement of how you place your sticky notes on the wall can tell you something about your priorities. For example: you may have placed them all in a row and have given them all equal value; one may be in the centre and the others radiating from it like spokes on a wheels; or one may be above another. Look at the shape and the form which you choose to place the sticky notes in. Spot any patterns or does the formation give you any clues?

 

Step five (if you are doing this with a group of people)

Bring your top 5 values together as a group. Invite others to view them and ask you questions about your set. Why did you choose this one over that one? How does this one relate to that one? Why not this one? Spend a bit of time teasing out your choices in conversation with others. After the conversation review your set again. Are you happy with this selection?

Step Six

For the following week keep your list of top 5 values visible to you (post them on your bedroom door or beside the bathroom mirror to remind yourself). For the duration of the week track to see how you represent your values in day to day life. In what ways are they honoured? In what ways have they been breached? How have they helped you make decisions during the week?

Step Seven

After a week of tracking your top values take a few minutes to review them. Are you satisfied with your selection? Do you want to swap in one for another? Write out your values in a journal to come back to when you need a reminder.

Thrive School Support Image 2The exercise above is one of many clarifying exercises as part of the Thrive School curriculum.
Thrive School Dublin is soon to start on March 11th – a four month process which leads people through a process of value and vision clarification, into idea forming, through creative blocks and into action.
Applications are now open. You can find more over here. Application deadline is March 3rd.

Want to stay up to date? Sign up to my mailing list for more resources, updates and happenings. Sign up here


In hope I trust…

Shankill Castle Feb 2015-138

I am sitting here looking at a blank screen, cursor flashing. I’ve been sitting here for at least 30 minutes. I’ve written lines, and deleted them again. I’ve made two cups of tea. I’ve checked on the fire, numerous times. I’ve written some more words, and deleted them again. Ahead of me is a blank document. All that white space. It’s terrifying. It’s daunting. It’s confusing. It’s exhilarating.

You see it seems like there have been so many words over these last few weeks, some of which have been sending the world into topspin. There have been unsavoury words which have led to unsavoury action. There have been words of spite, anger, shock, uncertainly and fear. But then, in consequence, written on the streets through the feet of millions and held up high on placards there have been words of hope, solidarity, compassion, justice, inspiration, power and beauty.

Watching global events unfold it strikes me that we are facing a collective blank page. The cursor is flashing. Unfolding before us are two narratives- internally and externally: the narrative of fear and the narrative of hope. We get to write how the story continues. We are part of the unfolding. The ancients and our ancestors have been through this before, of course.

 

The evil. The good. The fear. The hope. The one that wins is the one that feeds.  Right now it can seem that hope is hungry and fear is full; but only if we choose for it to be so, and that choice, I think, requires connection.

As we plug our own lives into the grand narrative of global affairs, our own individual actions can seem, well, insignificant.  ‘But I’m only a _______’ .  A blank. That maybe so, but whatever your ‘blank’, that blank has it’s own soul, energy, skill, talent, breath, movement, texture and form. That blank has power. Then, put lots of blanks together and you get a whole new tapestry of possibility.
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
+_____________ +_____________ +_____________ +
Those blanks make units, and those units make patterns, and those patterns have weaves and those weaves are strength. Together those blanks make families, communities, neighbourhoods. friendships, even movements. The narrative of hope is a narrative of action, and connection.

I write these words to myself as a reminder. To reach out. To listen to the other. To pay attention to what hunger I am feeding. To connect.  And as I write them I am also aware that there is a simplicity to them which could be called idealism or even naivety. I’m OK with both, because ultimately it all boils down to this: we all live on the same planet, we are are all the one species, we breath the same air and need the same fundamental things. We have so much more in common than any ideology would lead us to believe. We are all one. It’s really that simple. Whether I agree with you our not, we are still one. You are my sister or brother on this planet. That air we breathe, that sun we share, that gravity that holds us, holds us all, together. That’s the natural law. Now it’s up to us to keep it so.

And so, feeding the hope is not to deny the fear, it’s just not giving into it. It’s not to deny the history of what we have been through, nor to turn away from what is happening, but instead to turn towards what the earth already knows, intrinsically. Hope then is not passive acceptance, but an active appraisal; an earthly honouring. It can be a push, a shout, a scream. It can be saying no. It can be standing up. It can be reaching out. It’s the warrior within rising up, for the narrative of hope gets written through action.

Ahead is the blank page, awaiting attention. It’s still pretty terrifying, and daunting and confusing and exhilarating, but by reminding myself what hunger to feed, it seems just a bit less so. Especially the terrifying bit.

And so to the ancients, I bow; to this mother of earth, I bow; and to you, I bow, whoever you are, wherever you are. It’s in hope that I trust.

Now, let’s keep this hope on the road.


Welcoming 2017

trailblaze-goes-to-cork-0732_7487625576_o

 

Dear Friends,

As 2016 shifts into 2017, and the old turns into the new, may I take this moment to send out some greetings and thanks. Thank you for your support, your participation and your openness. Thank you for your comments, feedback and community. I’m grateful, so grateful for it all.

Like so many of you I love this time of year for the space to retract a bit from the pace of things and tune into what is calling me onwards. 2016 was a full on year for us all. The political has touched the personal and the personal has impacted the professional. At times it has all felt a bit overwhelming. There have been moments that the overwhelm got the better of me- at times it burst my energy and shifted me away from my intention, and particularly on a political level, it rattled my hope.

Hope is such a precious thing, often fragile, and yet I think it is hope that is calling us and hope that must be protected.

Hope, I am learning more and more, is an active and alive thing. It is kindled by small acts and it is amplified when it is met with the hope in others. It’s when you meet a friend, for instance, and you share a dream or vision; a belief that things can change for the better. It is when you see the beauty in the ordinary, knowing it too is extraordinary. It’s when you meet kindness in a stranger or when you are fully and truly listened to. It’s when you deeply connect with your own spirit and creativity, and it’s when you choose to take a step of courage or faith. Each act of hope, no matter how small, matters. And to this belief I feel we must cling, steadfastly.

Over the last few days, the image of a lighthouse keeps popping with for me. Lighthouse are not afraid of their light- their very function is to shine through the darkness. They are beacons, they are steady, they are grounded. And they are most effective when they work together. A single lighthouse may guide a ship to shore, but when that shoreline is studded with lighthouses, the whole coast becomes a marker to harbour- a necklace of light.

As I sense into what 2017, and beyond, is calling, it is for each of us to stand firm and allow our light to shine. All of us. It’s calling on us too to get really clear on our intention, on what is really calling us to create or serve and to focus in on that. The time is precious, and our light is precious too. I’m hopeful that we can, especially when we convert hope into action.

nov 16 morning-7

And so my own intention is to kindle my hope with daily action towards my vision and by reaching out to others for collaboration, support and connection. My professional focus in 2017 will be on growing and developing Thrive School- developing even better content, learning programmes, products and curriculum, and on a personal level it’s on my health and fitness. In order to do that, I need to stay really clear with what I seek to create and say no to a lot of distraction. I stay clear with regular yoga practice, exercise, journalling, reading less online news, walking my dog. I keep the vision alive though conversations with other people who ‘get’ it, with a vision board (I use a private Pinterest board for this) and by continually breaking big projects and plans down into small, tangible action steps.

And you? What’s your intention? What is it that is really calling you? 

If those questions are too hard to answer right now or feel too overwhelming, please don’t worry. Instead, let the silence in. Find a quite spot. Sit still for a while. And listen. Or if sitting isn’t your thing, take a walk in nature, in a wild spot, and bring the questions with you. Let them stir you and inspire you. Do what you can to keep the questions alive in you. Don’t be afraid of them. Ask for the big dream. Ask for a vision, and let the silence and the wildness guide you. I have no doubt there you will find some clues… then follow them and see how the question has evolved within you. It’s all waiting for you – for your light, and  therefore hope, is already inside you.

Next week I’ll be sending another message with Thrive School dates for 2017, news of new one day workshops in Dublin, and other ways we can work one to one together. But for now, as we cross over from one year to the next, let’s collectively bow to the year gone by for its gifts of insights and challenges and let’s open the door to the new, knowing we can be a lighthouse to ourselves and to each other- grounded, rooted, clear, beaming. It’s time.

Onwards, with love and gratitude,

Clare.

 

obenhaus-april-2014-3024_14101423943_oaran-islands-yoga-6992_7995550412_o

Kyle Zimmer – Firstbook

Kyle Zimmer

 

The One Wild Life +10 series continues- these are follow up interviews with the amazing, diverse and passionate social entrepreneurs who I met on my travels 10 years ago and whose stories were chronicled in my book, ‘One Wild Life’

We are heading to the Washington DC next with First Book’s founder, Kyle Zimmer.

FirstBook’s premise is a simple one; that books change lives. It was this deeply rooted belief that led Kyle Zimmer to forgo a successful law career to run an organisation that has since gone on to distribute over 100 millions books to children from low income families and communities.

First Book impressed me 10 years ago not just for its mission, but the way it designed strategic funding and systems to drive their growth and sustainability. Many organisations start out with brilliant and bold intentions but don’t always have the foresight and skills to put the time and resources into developing the systems needed to scale their models. But that’s exactly what First Book has done: sticking to their original vision and using data and clever funding streams to build a robust and brilliant organisation…

Over to Kyle to tell us more and share some of her learning along the way…

Photo of Kyle Zimmer from GWU

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise I co-founded with two friends in 1992 to tackle the lack of affordable, relevant books for children growing up at the base of the economic pyramid.  Even here, in a wealthy country like the U.S., 32 million U.S. children – 44% of U.S. kids! – are growing up in low-income families, where the cost of books keeps them out of the hands of those who could use them the most. A recent study by a prominent researcher found one book for every 830 kids in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood – a neighborhood not too far from my office. Without access to books, there is also no culture of reading — stifling learning and failing to provide opportunity for millions of children. We established First Book with the goal of developing a systemic, market-driven solution to this enormous social issue.

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

First Book’s model has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Nearly 20 years ago, we started the First Book National Book Bank, becoming the first national clearinghouse for publishers to donate excess inventory to classrooms and programs serving children in need.  The National Book Bank has grown into a major success story over the years, providing approximately 15 million books annually at present — free books to children in need.  While the First Book National Book Bank is extraordinary, over the last 9 years we’ve built a brand new, self-sustaining model that has become a jet engine for our efforts.

In recent years we have focused on aggregating the voice and purchasing power of formal and informal educators serving children in need.  By the end of this year, our online network will include 300,000 teachers and caregivers.  The First Book Network is growing fast – more than 7,000 members are joining every month. We are already the largest and fast growing network of educators serving children in need in North America and our goal is to reach 1 million educators and programs in the next five years.  

Photo of child with bookBy harnessing the power of our Network, we created the First Book Marketplace, an e-commerce site that provides brand new high quality books and educational resources for children in need ages 0 to 18 – all for free or at the lowest prices possible.  This is an unprecedented model that collaboratively disrupts both the publishing industry and the retail industry – to serve the children at the base of the economic pyramid for the first time.  

Instead of relying on donated inventory, the inventory available through the First Book Marketplace is driven by the very educators serving children in need, enabling First Book to purchase in bulk the exact titles and types of resources most needed to support curriculum, fuel learning and help inspire reading. The First Book Marketplace now carries more than 6,000 new books and resources.  And in response to educators’ requests, we’ve expanded the First Book Marketplace to also carry resources uniquely needed to serve children who show up to school cold, hungry and suffering from chronic stress.  We now carry winter coats, socks and underwear; nonperishable snacks, backpacks and school supplies, and essential needs items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.  All of our products are specifically designed to eliminate barriers to equal education.

We’re also using the First Book Marketplace to help make recent educational expertise and resources more actionable and accessible to educators serving children in need, providing research updates, tipsheets for educators and parents, and curated collections of books that support such issues as social and emotional learning and mental health.

There have been a lot of changes over the past 10 years.  For example, we’ve shifted away from our earlier volunteer model – which was expensive to support and was difficult to scale.  In its place we have built a volunteer platform called ‘Team First Book’ that better reflects the volunteer interests of the next generation.

In more recent years, we have also begun to scale our efforts globally with pilot initiatives through local NGO and corporate partners in more than 30 countries.

And finally, we’ve been able to use market-based levers to request new content from publishers, instead of being a reactive and captive market. In this way we have been able to begin to elevate diversity in children’s literature.  It’s been an amazing 10 years; I am sure I could not have predicted many of these developments when we spoke 10 years ago.

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

One of the highlights is the skill level we’ve built within the organization.  Don’t get me wrong:  we’ve always been hugely fortunate to have incredibly dedicated, compassionate, smart and wonderful people here at First Book. But ten years ago, there were fewer people and we had to multi-task in areas that weren’t always our strengths.  As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to hire the skill sets we need – on staff and through outside support.

We’ve also benefitted from some incredible partnerships – including corporate and foundation funders, amazing business and community leaders and social sector supporters who have believed in us and helped us grow.

Nearly 5 years ago, we celebrated our 20th anniversary by distributing our 100 millionth book – two major milestones.  We held our celebration at the same D.C. soup kitchen where I volunteered 20 years ago, and where I first learned that so many of our children are growing up without books.

Photo of two kids readingAnother highlight for me has been the launch of our Stories for All Project, the first market-driven initiative tackling the lack of diversity in children’s books. Since 2013, First Book has distributed millions of diverse, inclusive books. In fact, educators can now access a wide range of diverse titles from First Book, with books featuring different cultures, races and ethnicities, as well as different religions, family structures, sexual orientation, individual abilities, experiences and neighborhoods.  In addition, the Stories for All Project is serving as a catalyst for bringing culturally relevant books to the retail market, so that all children have access to more diverse books. We see how necessary that is every day – not just to turn non-readers into readers, but to better understand our commonalities and our differences and to build a path forward with empathy and understanding.

But the real highlights for all of us at First Book are hearing from educators and children about the difference that First Book is making:  in classrooms, in afterschool programs, in homeless shelters, in libraries and museums, and in the lives of children and families across the country every day.

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently? 

One of the challenges has been getting to self-sufficiency.  Through our models, we are closing in on 50% self-sufficiency.  It’s been a fist fight to get there – as we challenge ourselves to reinvent our models to be as efficient as possible and to harness the aggregated power of those serving children in need to become a market driver.

But I should note that the fact that we are nearing 50% self-sufficiency is amazing in the field of social enterprise.  We are very hopeful about getting to complete self sufficiency in the next few years, given that our network of educators has grown by 500% over recent years.  Few companies – even in the private sector — experience that type of growth trajectory – so just managing that growth in itself has also been a challenge.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

I would be less worried and more bold in the steps that we take.  I think when you’re running a smaller organization that is more fragile, you can waste a lot of time and energy being too cautious about taking the next step.  I always believe in doing your homework – writing a full business plan – and then LEAP!

For example, I had us pilot our online First Book Marketplace for several years so we could test it, work the kinks out, and see how to make it work best for educators.  It was a completely new approach for us and for the world.  It necessitated that we change our strategy, how we were staffed, and how we saw ourselves. We were really testing out the idea of becoming a market builder.  Knowing what I know now, I wish I had launched the First Book Marketplace years earlier.  My advice:  stop waiting – do your homework and then — just do it.

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

Photo of Kyle and a studentMulti-culturalism is in peril.  Fear is driving a lot of political actions, social agendas and military actions.  We have to know each other better than we do.  For First Book, those same challenges also present us with an enormous opportunity. We know that education is a key to furthering understanding, to creating a better life for ourselves and our families, for building more just and peaceful communities.  We also know that developing empathy in children elevates the likelihood of their success in school and in life.

In 2009, First Book Canada began operations; in 2013 we launched the First Book Global Marketplace; and we have been piloting new efforts with book distributions and in-country discussions with publishers and authors from India to South and Central America.

We know there are opportunities to continue to build partnerships in countries across the globe that can help us reach more children and educators with the very resources needed to unlock the future.  First Book is experimenting with ideas that will enable us to unify the terrific organizations working in countries around the world.  Stay tuned!!

Over the last 10 years, the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

There are so many very pressing issues that need to be addressed, and we have to be nimble, and be willing to question everything; to innovate and try new approaches.  As the field of social entrepreneurship has gotten bigger, there is a tendency to slide back into old models.  It is a natural tendency – but we have to fight it.  We need to continue to develop new models and strive for self-sufficiency.

That means identifying models that have helped address another issue and think about how those models can be applied in new ways.  It also means applying modern business practices and approaches to rethink the social sector. First Book is using predictive analytics and big data to help make new strides in our work:  from understanding the resources that educators need most, to determining which educators are more likely to utilize First Book’s resources.  We want to fuel learning and educational equality as fast as we can, with approaches that help us reach as many children and teachers as possible, as quickly as we can.

Another social sector initiative that I am championing is that we have more dialogue around how we are failing. In fact, that we make it an expectation and place value on the discussion of failure. I’m working with a partner organization to host a series of moderated panel discussions on just this topic.  We want to create a new norm, where funders regularly request – and expect – to hear about failure and that we share those failures willingly because we know that what didn’t work is just as important as what did work to move the needle on what we can try next.  I believe this is critical if we want to further the field.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

I continue to do this work because I know this is a solvable problem.  Educated people make sure their children are educated.  That is the simple and powerful truth.  So when you educate a generation, they will make sure their kids are educated as well.  This is especially true when we invest in educating women.  And it is true in countries all over the world. This means that if we put our minds to it – we could solve this problem in one generation.

While we have a long way to go to reach every child and to solve the issue, as we approach our 25th anniversary, I’m more hopeful than I’ve ever been.  We’ve had a lot of success.  We’ve piloted a lot of things that have worked.  Now we need to amplify and build up our systems – and be part of a grand new era – where teachers have everything they need to fuel equal education for all children.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

My advice would be this:

  • You don’t need to know everything. 
  • Instead, make a list of the 10 smartest people you can think of.  You don’t have to know them.  Then call them; ask them questions.  Tell them about your challenges and ask if they’ll help you think of solutions.  My experience is that 9 out of 10 people are happy to help and flattered that you asked them.  
  • Celebrate your milestones!  And then set the next ones even higher.
  • Do not fear failure. Remember:  You can fail without ever succeeding – but you cannot succeed without ever failing. 
  • Understand this:  the social sector needs experimentation and people who are willing to try.  Look at the failure rate of new businesses.  If we’re not doubling that rate to address social issues, then shame on us. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this wild ride of the last 10 years.  As our world becomes smaller and more intertwined, as poverty, climate change and other issues reach critical stages, the role of social entrepreneurs has never been more important.  We are the mediators, facilitators, and change agents, unbeholden to political parties, military regimes or institutional priorities.  It is our collective actions, our self-sustaining models and our ability to galvanize public willpower that help achieve the social change needed to provide opportunities for a more peaceful and prosperous world. 

 

Thank you so much Kyle of long-term dedication and tenacity to keep going. It is so inspiring to read of your growth and continued commitment to the transformative power of education.

..

Want to stay in touch? Hope on over here to sign up for news, happening and resources.

………………….


To keep the flame alive…

shankill-castle--74_15135915357_o

There she was, this young child, covered in a layer of dust, blood in her hair and a blank face. All around her, screams and chaos and the harrowing chills and howls of a tragic war. This little child, sitting on a trolly, whose face was broadcast on the news. And here I am, sitting in a beautiful home, warm, safe, well fed, crying. I actually reached on to the screen and tried to wipe the dust away, tried to hold her hand, tried to offer my comfort. I wanted to put my arms around her, hold her, protect her. But there are so many things in the way- the screen, the miles, the war, the politics, the bitter twisted broken policies of regimes, and the annals of an angry history. She seems so far away and yet her pain has reached into my heart and tears it apart. I can’t get her traumatised face out of my mind.

There is her, of course, and then there are all the others, the thousands of others. There are the ones in the war zone, the ones on the boats, the ones waiting in camps, the ones who have gone missing, the ones who are seeking refuge, the ones who have not made it. Was she in fact the same little one I saw in Gaza? Or somewhere in Afghanistan? Or on another night, on another channel? It’s unbearable. I force myself not to look way as my tears risk blurring out the view. I wipe my tears.

It doesn’t seem enough, to sit and cry. It doesn’t seem enough to offer my care, or broken heart, or what I deem humanity. It seems desperate sitting here, so far away, so privileged. And yet, here I am. But this I am sure of too: as there are many like her, there are also many like me. Maybe it’s you, sitting at home, feeling desperate with your heart breaking open. It’s tragic, I know.

belgrade-7866_5925323513_o

So what do we do?

Honestly, I don’t know. I wish I knew. I wish there was a step by step guide, but there isn’t. We can give money, yes- where it goes, and how effective, and how it gets mixed up in the politics of aid is complex. But we can give, knowing it’s not going to perfect.  And we can write letters and show up at protests and voice our concern. Yes, we can do that, knowing that too is not perfect, but it is something. Yes, these are important.

And then there something broader which I think we can offer, something critical, and it’s right at the core of us, deep within us, something which is vital and beating. It’s our hearts, no matter how broken. And aren’t our hearts the birthplace of our humanity? And isn’t our world so desperate for our humanity- so desperate right now. Yes, we can individually keep our hearts open and our humanity alive- can’t we?

As I am sitting writing this, I almost let the fire go out, literally. There were just a few remaining embers in the grate. And so, quick action was required- a balled up sheet of newspaper to catch the flame quickly, then another, a fire lighter and then the solid wood- the stuff that will last longer, and give out more heat. Now the fire is burning bright again and the room is warming. It gets me thinking about the nature of how things catch. In an emergency situation, sometimes short term, quick action is essential. Bring on the fire lighters. Get the thing going again, use what you have, add some spark and air. Then, build and tend, build and tend, stay focused, build and tend.

What I saw tonight on the news is emergency. Something urgent and swift is required. That action needs quick fuel, support and air. Then there is the build and tend- the long haul fire tending work.

Friends, as so many of us can sense and not deny, something is not boding well out there. 2016 was a pretty harrowing year; a year where fear has festered and the polarising of us and them has accelerated. As image after image of other little ones on trollies appear on our screens, and yet more images of the desperate and destitute arrive on our shores, it can be all to easy to block not only our borders but also our hearts. Keep the flame alive, then build and tend. I wonder, can we each allow our hearts to be harbours too- to the other- the other within us, and the other outside of us? Can we build a place for the ‘other’ and tend to it as it it was our own?

homestay-supafast-dinner-19-july-0225_7623823836_o

I keep thinking too of this word ‘humanity’. HUMAN-ity. That little girl on the trolly? Well, she is you, and me too. The perpetrator and the victim? They are you and me. The one who pulls the trigger and the one who survives- all part of our human race. But is it our humanity which sets us apart from our humanness, and is our humanity our ability to rise above our differences and see each other as equal, as another being on this finite planet, each with our own struggle, story, pain and promise.

That pain on the news today, I’ve seen the pain before. Or at least the remnants of the pain. I’ve sat with survivors of rape and torture and listened their stories. My camera has captured the faces of those stories from Bosnia to Cambodia, and caught glimpses of the lives and scars of hundreds of people in poverty- victims of a human plight. And yet when we sit down and face each other, eye to eye, heart to heart, story to story, our humanity faces each other too. We breathe, we touch, we love, we fear, we cry, we laugh, we are being human in all its frailties and beauty. We share this common bond call human, and in recognising that bond we have the beginnings of a shared humanity.

And yes, it’s unbearable. And yes, it’s the most beautiful thing. Recognising humanity is not an intellectual endeavour. Its nativity is also its grace. You are you and I am I, but together we are on this one little planet that we have to find a way to share, and tend.

So, what to do? Build and tend, I tell myself, build and tend. And what does that look like? Well, in simple terms, can it start when I meet a stranger on the street and see myself in them? When I met an ‘other’, can I also meet my friend? And even deeper still, when I meet the stranger within me- those parts of myself I’d rather deny or hide, can I embrace my own imperfections rather than fear them, and move on, together. It’s the fear we need to be careful of, you see, not the other.

The little girl’s dusty face is still on my mind. I desperately want to reach out, wipe the dust from her face, and hold her close. I wish I could take her into my arms, care for her, give her a home as long as she needs one. But right now, from where I sit, all I can do is give her my heart, however broken it is. It’s not enough, I know, but she has broken it open further, bringing me closer my tender humanity which is searching for the work to build and tend, build and tend, and keep the flame alive. This heart knows more when ever that there is a fire to keep, alive.

homestay-supafast-dinner-19-july-0362_7623805368_o

Nick Moon

nick moon 1

 

It’s time to hop back across to Africa, this time to Kenya for the next in the One Wild Life +10 interview series. Next up is Nick Moon.

I first met Nick in Nairobi in 2006 when I interviewed him for the original book. He was one of the first interviews of my trip and I remember clearly his warmth, generosity and deep interest and expertise in development. We talked for hours. I liked his irreverence and humour too, underpinned by a willingness to tear up the imaginary rulebook combined with his approach to giving things a go and experimenting with new methods. This attitude has continued over the years.

Back in 2006, Nick, alongside his co-founder Martin Fisher was running kickstart.org, a social entreprise which was developing low cost farming equipment or ‘appropriate technologies’ to kickstart rural development. They had developed an oil press, a building block press and a manual water irrigation pump- marketed as ‘The Money Maker’! That organisation is still running, now focused solely on water pumps and has gone on to support 200,000 families to create successful farming businesses and help over a million people out of poverty. (More impressive stats and information can be found on their website here)

But five years ago, Nick felt it was time to move on, support others, share his expertise and expand the range of his projects. He became grandfather too, and a new father! Never one rest on laurels, I’ll let Nick tell you more …

2016 Skoll World Forum

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

Has it been 10 years? Blimey. Some 5 years ago I thought that it was time to do something new. I felt that Kickstart was well and truly on its way and didn’t really need me any more, and in any case  I was getting stale. Starting something from scratch and building it up is one thing; managing a large established organization is something else. So I reckoned it was time to make a move. KickStart was and is in very good hands under co-founder Martin Fisher.

In 2011 my eldest daughter Marion Atieno Moon, who had graduated with a business degree in 2006 and had been working for big corporates, had just decided to start a brand-new for-profit social enterprise, Wanda Organic, here in Kenya. Wanda finds and brings the latest breakthrough soil health and fertility solutions to smallholder farmers. We agreed that my experience with KickStart would be very helpful in developing this new organization, so that’s what triggered a new chapter.

I am now the executive chairman of Wanda, and heavily invested financially (I sold the house) and emotionally in its growth. I am currently busy helping her set up the local production of bio-organic fertilizers in Kenya and innovating distribution and marketing strategies to develop awareness and build and serve demand.

Working with my own daughter has its challenges of course, and she is the founder, the boss, so I have to be sensitive to that. Accordingly I don’t work full time at Wanda and keep busy in other ways.

I had accepted an invitation in 2010 to mentor a young visionary Kenyan, Eddy Gicheru Oketch, as he built up an organization he had started in 2008 – in the wake of the horrifying period of “Post Election Violence” in Kenya – which sought to help Kenyan youth understand and overcome the twin pressures of poverty and the cynical manipulations of self-serving politicians who were pitting them against each other by inciting violence across tribal/ethnic lines. My advice to Eddy was that it is near impossible to love thy neighbour if you are hungry and jobless, so there can be no lasting peace and reconciliation without a certain measure of prosperity. In 2012 he asked me to help in developing and restructuring his organization to assist youth to identify economic opportunities and set up group enterprises which create employment and social value. I did what I could. The organization is now known as Ongoza (means ‘to lead’ in Swahili) and doing pretty well. We recruited a great CEO and built the team, developed the program, and are expanding outreach. I am the Chairman of its Board.

I have always had an interest in social and cultural, as well as economic, development and so am also busy – again at Board level – with The Theatre Company of Kenya, which is all about promoting skills and professionalism in the Performing Arts. We train actors – loadsa raw creative talent here – and nurture the creation and production of local performance. One notable high point for us was when our troop performed a Swahili adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Wanawake wa Heri wa Winsa) at the Globe Theatre in London.

greenhouse marion wanda 036
Nick’s daughter, Marion

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

See above – there is never a dull moment!

I suppose the big thing was taking the step out and away from KickStart  five years ago – although once a founder always a founder, and I remain on the Board there too, and ready to expound our Theory of Change to anyone who will listen! This has meant attendance as a delegate or speaker or moderator at different high level conferences addressing economic or agricultural development in Africa – World Economic Forum meetings, Skoll World Forums, Global Entrepreneurship Summits, African Green Revolution conferences. Trips to USA, UK, France, Switzerland, China, India, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, Uganda and other places. These have been interesting and useful (sometimes) in terms of high level policy formulation, but can also be described in some ways as “low lights” given that such a lot of time and money is spent on talking and intellectualizing, propounding and debating, passing lofty resolutions and the like. But a lot of this waffle does not get turned into practical action, or at least not as quickly or effectively as it should or could. Even so it has been a great privilege and pleasure to meet all manner of truly remarkable people at these events. One thing I have realized here is that a lot of truly good work is done by people who do not seek to aggrandize themselves, who steer clear of the limelight and just get on with stuff.

Talking of modest people getting on with stuff and not making a fuss, another highlight for me at a direct personal level has been to watch the development and growth of the 30 or so “OVC” (orphaned and vulnerable children) – almost all girls –  whom my wife supports and raises at her children’s home in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. These are girls who were once victims, and/or at serious risk, of sexual abuse, violence and other forms of exploitation. One (actually a boy – well, a young man now) will graduate in clinical medicine in December. Another has a degree in actuarial science. Another is studying economics and statistics at the University of Nairobi. It is wonderful to see them grow up and go out there into the big bad world, confident and capable, after starting off at such severe disadvanatage.  www.vumilia.org

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years?

Challenges? One is that there are so many things to do and so it can be tricky to decide what to focus on. Another big challenge in this part of the world is the high levels of corruption in government, although maybe this is just a perception based on the blatant almost unashamed nature of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, greed and so on here; I have a feeling that you will come across this everywhere, only in other parts of the world it is better disguised. Related to this, one also comes across negative people, negative attitudes rather too often – people who seem intent on why an idea or plan cannot work, rather than how it can be made to work. Overcoming or bypassing negativity takes time and energy which might otherwise be used more productively

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

Don’t get yer knickers in such a twist. 

Kenzo Nov 16 (1)

(with Kenzo Shane)

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

The grim and grumbly things include:

  • Climate Change denial and how the Fossil Fools are so resistant to renewables. Fracking about, horizontal drilling, tar sands and shale gas and so on, whereas there are proven preferable energy alternatives which can now be implemented at similar financial/economic cost and very much lower environmental and social costs. That’s a big one.
  • The pharisaical sanctimonious self-regard of the banking industry.
  • Industrial-chemical agriculture’s dominance in food supply and distribution. Bad for biodiversity and good food.
  • Global corporate capitalism’s unwillingness to really recognize or accept any other value beyond shareholder value, (mealy-mouthed lip service not enough)
  • The growing gap between rich and poor – among nations and people within nations
  • Religious extremism and everything that follows on from it
  • Mendacious rabble-rousing media
  • Governments serving the interests of big industries not people
  • A growing shortage of empathy and compassion among the comfortable and prosperous

Reasons not to give up in the face of all this?.

  • Science and technology continually advancing, with new solutions/innovations in energy, health, agriculture, industry and even finance, coming along thicker and faster than ever before
  • The growing understanding, especially among young people, that we can change things for  the better if we really want to, and work at it.
  • The nascent movement toward a post-capitalist era where values go beyond the simply material or monetary to include social and environmental values
  • Immigration and transmigration of people generally – stirs things up in a good way, prevents atrophy and stagnation
  • Communications technologies and social media enabling people to be informed and get organized better, faster.
  • Plenty of courageous changemakers and status-quo challengers emerging in all spheres of life and everywhere
  • Empathy and compassion alive and well and growing among so-called ordinary people
  • Human ingenuity, adaptability, resilience, creativity, innovativeness, invention alive and well despite threats and opposition from the dinosaurs.

Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

As implied above Social Enterprise seeks to upset equilibria, complacency, stases. It has evolved over the last 20-30 years for sure and done a great job in developing new (or rediscovered?) perceptions of value, and an approach that demonstrates how social and environmental benefits can be offered by a commercial entity for whom monetary profit and economic gain are not ends in themselves, but rather the means by which the other values can be sustainably delivered.

Even so, while a growing number of people and markets are learning and adjusting to these new paradigms, no cigar yet. There is need and room for a lot more social enterprise. I would hope that the theory of a ‘million little pieces’ will prevail, the realization that loads and loads of relatively small, local community-facing, social enterprises can have an aggregate impact for the better. And move away from the obsession with growing monolithic, monopolistic enterprises of any kind. Or we will fall into the ‘Too Big To Fail’ mindset/trap again where sheer size is taken as an indicator of worth. Boo to that.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

What else is there to do? And besides, its fun. How do I sustain myself? Largely by avoiding the question, and expecting that things will turn out OK. Avoid gloom and pessimism. Glass is ¾ empty? No mate, its ¼ full.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

Just get on and do it. Don’t worry about the risks and costs. “Nothing ventured  ..” and all that. Just as long as your prime motivation is not money, nor fame. They might come, or not.  But if you don’t enjoy it any more, stop it, and do something else.  And don’t get too full of yourself.

 

Thank you so much Nick. So brilliant to hear your updates. Thank you for your continued work and optimism. It spreads.  

Clare x 

……

STAY IN TOUCH. 

Sign up here for extra resources, news and happenings…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..