Examining Negative Space
Imagine a world in which you don’t need to exist
I recently wrote a story about vision, mission, strategy, and objectives, only to realize that we at DACA Time have yet to share our own. Throughout our inception, we’ve all been pretty well aligned on where we’re headed, why we exist, and how we’re going to get there, but some advice from SEA Change made us rethink some things.
The First Iteration
As with all things new, we started with a first version of our vision, mission, and strategy:
Vision: Empower immigrants to prosper in the United States unfettered by complex and costly processes.
Mission: Make DACA applications easier, faster, and cheaper.
Strategy: Provide access to a low cost, simple, and secure DACA application platform and a conduit to reasonably-priced legal services.
Not bad for a first pass, right? We envision a world in which the only barrier to immigration is an applicant’s eligibility rather than their ability to navigate complicated forms and to pay high legal fees — a world in which paperwork is the lowest barrier to success for immigrants rather than the highest — and we exist to lower those barriers for DACA applicants by leveraging technology.
It’s a cohesive and compelling narrative, but it turns out we could do better.
One of the SEA Change facilitators had this piece of advice while the cohort was discussing our respective ventures’ visions, missions and strategies:
Imagine a world in which your social enterprise doesn’t need to exist. What does the world look like when the problem you’re trying to solve has been solved?
That’s your vision.
That might seem obvious to some folks, but it’s sort of mind-blowing in its simplicity.
You see, for social enterprises (and nonprofits especially, though not exclusively), the vision really is a changed world. Five years from now, it doesn’t really matter if DACA Time has gross revenue of $5 million or $500. What matters is that the cost and complexity of the DACA application process itself doesn’t represent a barrier to DACA-eligible individuals being successful in their communities and their lives.
Consider, for instance, a scenario in which DACA is replaced by more comprehensive legislation that provides simpler immediate protections and a clear path to citizenship.
Well, mission accomplished. Vision fulfilled. DACA Time revenue tanked. And that’d be just fine by us.
We also recognized through discussion that our very broad vision was a noble one and does reflect our core values, but we need to ensure that we’re focused on the chunk of the problem we’ve chosen to tackle: Making the DACA process easier for Dreamers.
Thus, our Vision v2 was born. What does the world like when it doesn’t need us anymore? Where are nudging the needle of social impact toward? Put simply:
DACA Time’s vision is that all DACA-eligible individuals receive the benefits and protections of DACA, regardless of income.
It’s still a lofty goal, but it’s a vision perhaps a bit more achievable than tackling all of immigration for now.
Breaking It Down
How does this iteration of our vision affect our mission and strategy? Well, it’s still true that we exist to make DACA applications easier, faster, and cheaper, but we don’t want to lose a sense for why that matters and how fulfilling our mission contributes to our vision.
So, we plagiarized ourselves and incorporated our original vision statement into our mission statement, reflecting the focus we acknowledged we need to maintain:
DACA Time’s mission is to make DACA applications easier, faster, and cheaper to empower DACA-eligible individuals to prosper in the United States unfettered by complex and costly processes.
Now, this is where iterating over vision, mission, and strategy becomes interesting. Does our strategy still support the way we’ve framed things?
In our case, it does, so we didn’t worry about any wordsmithing there:
DACA Time’s strategy is to provide access to a low cost, simple, and secure DACA application platform and a conduit to reasonably-priced legal services.
It’s good to know we don’t have to pivot just yet.
How will we know we’re successful?
Now that we’ve revised our vision and mission statements and in the process reaffirmed our strategy, what are our objectives?
We asked ourselves this a while ago in the form of individual impact: How many people do we need to help in order to consider ourselves successful?
Our answer? One.
That may seem ludicrous — how can any self-respecting social enterprise be satisfied with helping only one person? Well, the beauty of objectives is that they change as the landscape changes.
We’re pre-launch, and so, today, the number of people we’ve helped is, quite frankly, zero. If we can help one person, positively impact one life as a part of what we done…well…that’ll be a success for us given where we’re at today.
And then our objectives will change. Maybe we won’t be satisfied until we’ve helped two more people (or more!), but we’re not focused on that right now. Right now, everything we do is for that one, first DACA applicant whom we help through the process.
Have feedback about our vision, mission, strategy, or objective? Does the advice we received resonate with you? We’d love to talk!
Leave us a comment here or reach out to us on Facebook!