Social Enterprise is Hard
Last year I was bone tired, and honestly, pretty pissed off.
Scaling, or just sustaining, a social enterprise is hard. I often say it’s doubly hard — because you have to focus on revenue AND impact, but that I believe in the process it can be more than doubly rewarding. Not monetarily, believe you me, but in the connections and community of care we build through the impact we make.
But, being a relatively unrecognised and unsupported industry means you have to explain what it is constantly. The normal support structures that general enterprise enjoy are less resourced, and if profit isn’t your motive you often have less money. Not only are you paid less, but this often means you have less time to do other things outside of work and home life.
It’s tiring. And stressful. And frustrating. We’re often so focussed on our work, we don’t prioritise our wellbeing, or taking time to simply connect and support others in our community (outside of the priorities of our work).
When I read this Harvard Business Review article on Why Social Entrepreneurs are So Burned Out, I honestly cried.
They found “stress is a significant problem for social entrepreneurs. When trying to achieve commercial goals and give back to the community at the same time, these entrepreneurs are likely to overload themselves … and, consequently, deplete their personal resources.”
But it made me clearer on a few fronts, and helped me fuel my anger into actions:
- We need to pay our teams and ourselves better. It doesn’t need to be the competitive market rates (because in some ways that is counter to the inequalities we are trying to fix), but we do need to value our time and our people well. At PledgeMe we’re committed to paying more than the living wage, and to providing other ways to value our team. Like flexibility on where and (within reason) when we work, equity in the company, additional leave (including a long service leave package), and an annual profit share.
- We need to ask for what we need more clearly — from our friends, community, and the organisations that are set up to support us. This is something I’m trying to get better at. We can’t silently bob out at sea waiting for someone to save us, we need to be more vocal with our needs.
- We need to be clear, more work doesn’t mean more impact or more money. We need to get clearer that more time behind a computer, in meetings, or running on a hamster wheel, doesn’t always equate to what we think it does. It doesn’t mean we’re more effective, or being more productive, or even making a bigger impact. This is an area where I need to work on, but according to Anne Helen Peterson’s article on How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, I’m not the only one. Not only is our generation doing more work for less pay and opportunities than our parents’ generation, but now we are always tethered to our work through our phones.
- We need to work more with our community of founders, doers and supporters — because unlike companies where profit is the only motive, if we solve the problems of our time, we all win. Not only can sharing what we know help each other grow, but it’s more fun that way too, right?
I’m going to write more about the points above in separate posts, but the last point is why we’re running our upcoming Social Enterprise Unconference in February.
We believe that together we can grow what we’re doing (and who we are as individuals) better. This isn’t rocket science, or new. We’re not going to police what you think “Social Enterprise” or “Community Enterprise” is.
We want to get 100 folk that are making positive impact happen in a sustainable way together to have the space and time to learn and share. We’ve already had over 100 registrations of interest, but we have a bit more room for, well, you.
Check out the details below if you’re interested:
Social Enterprise Unconference (15–17 Feb 2019) — let’s grow together
From 15–17 February 2019 the PledgeMe team, Thankyou Payroll and supporters are gathering a group of committed social entrepreneurs and supporters at Matau Marae in Levin for a Social Enterprise Unconference. Unlike traditional conferences, unconferences set a collaborative tone from the outset by not having featured speakers or presentations; instead, participants build their own agenda on the first night based on who is in the room. Everyone who attends will have something to share and learn, and be actively working in or with social enterprises. If we’re trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, shouldn’t we learn from each other to make it happen?
Thoughts, comments, questions, concerns? Feel free to comment below.