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On Engaging The General Public To Support Your Cause

In any project, engaging the stakeholders is not a trivial task.

It is an even harder task for social entrepreneurs.

In the for-profit world, you are trying to sell a product or a service to a customer. Getting the customer involved is the most important thing.

In the social impact sector, while you are typically trying to impact a particular segment of the society, your stakeholders and supporters might be from a different part of society. To succeed you need to get your stakeholders and supporters to understand and support your interventions.

You know your stakeholders are engaged when a significant number are connected to your project in whatever capacity.

For example, let’s take Akshaya Patra.

Akshaya Patra is a midday meal program that provides food to over 1.4 million school children every day. Government subsidies for midday meals help cover 50% of the costs. The other 50% still needs to be raised from a whole bunch of people. By financially supporting the cause, people also get involved in spreading the message. This gets even more people involved and ultimately expands the impact of the program.

Getting broad-based support is very important, as it financially strengthens the organization by making it less dependent on one or two significant donors. It also creates a groundswell of support promoting the organization that in turn multiplies the impact.

Another example from the Sandbox is the Navodyami program.

The Navodyami program aims to help small business people become better entrepreneurs. Most of them don’t have a formal education, but are skilled at solving problems and making the most with very little. They could benefit greatly from a program like a MBA 101, which would give them some basic business skills.

In the Sandbox, we have several successful businesses with annual revenues of around 2 to 5 crore rupees. They may not be considered big businesses, but would make great mentors for the small business entrepreneurs that come to Navodyami.

When we engage these successful business people to help out the Navodyami micro-entrepreneurs, the impact is just amazing.

Everybody in society has something to give, even if they aren’t the most accomplished business people. They need to be just successful enough to help someone who was like them ten years ago.

This is good for two different reasons:

  • It leverages the manpower we have in society to help others
  • It brings joy, pride, and identity to those who participate in the mentoring and giving back

In the for-profit world, a typical entrepreneur raises money from family, friends, angels and VCs. These people take different levels of risk and help the entrepreneur in hopes that their own money will grow.

In the social impact sector, one needs a lot of resources to have meaningful impact. Entrepreneurs need to be more creative because they can’t get everything from one type of supporter. They need to be master storytellers to gain support and get resources from people who might have a connection to the social mission or the segment of society that the entrepreneur aims to serve.

In summary, the greater the public engagement, the better the chances of a large impact.

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