Impact Models - Drafting Your Recipe For Change
At the heart of your business is a recipe for change.
You believe that if you start with the right ingredients and perform a sequence of actions, you’ll end up with a finished product that solves a problem.
e.g. If I take flour, eggs and milk, mix them together and pour them into a hot pan, I’ll eventually end up with a stack of pancakes and a lovely Saturday morning.
You may not know why pancakes create such an emotional response, but you’ve know that if someone else was to properly follow your recipe, they too can end up with a lovely Saturday morning.
Recipes aren’t particularly interesting, but that changes when you start thinking about solving important social problems.
If you look at issues like food insecurity, global warming, discrimination, access to sanitation etc, you’ll probably hear two debates come up:
1. The need to take action, and
2. Choosing which recipe will get the best results.
These debates get heated quite quickly, because we’re playing in areas where we don’t have the right to be wrong.
If I ruin my pancake mix, I can always cook bacon and eggs, have some cereal or go to the Drive Thru.
When we play in the realm of human rights, education and the environment, the consequences of getting it wrong can be disastrous.
We’re going to look at these two components in more detail – the cause that drives you, and your recipe for change.
Identifying Your Cause
By the time I meet a social entrepreneur, they’re usually pretty confident that they know the cause they want to address.
That’s not to say they know how they’ll address it, but very few people are torn between a range of issues.
A great place to start is with this question:
What makes you angry?
Anger and dissatisfaction are a great source of fuel, because they are so constant.
Optimism fades, inspiration is temporary, but anger lasts.
This dissatisfaction is what’s driven all of the changemakers who have come before you, who were so unhappy with the status quo that they took an unpopular action.
I say unpopular because most popular changes happen on their own.
Your job is to take something that people aren’t doing, and make it seem appealing and obvious
A Deep Understanding Of The Problem
All of this has to begin with a deep understanding of the problem, or else you’ll design a useless solution.
Pamela Hartigan called us to “Apprentice with the problem” to really understand it for yourself.
This might mean the best thing you can do is work in the industry before starting a venture, physically placing yourself in the community you seek to serve, or understanding the current solutions in finer detail.
There’s an instant aversion to this, the thought that “No, I already know better than…”
I encourage you to look at where this is coming from; usually this stems from ego, cleverly disguised as inventive altruism.
Fighting this initial urge is one of the most valuable decisions you can make.
Vision, Context and Mission
There are three components to our high level approach.
The first is a picture of a better future, the second is a synopsis of the current reality, and the third is a plan of turning the future into a reality.
Let’s look at them in more detail.
Vision – We Believe In A World Where…
The first step is to describe what you want to see in the future.
It’s very difficult to create a clear picture by describing what you’re not going to do, especially since you’re going to need other people to willingly change their behaviour.
What does it look like when it works?
Brene Browne calls this “Paint Done…”, where you describe what something will look like once it’s finished.
Context – The Reality Right Now…
The second step is to describe the situation today, since 99% of the population won’t have your sophisticated understanding of the problem.
What does the situation look like today?
What might surprise people?
How big is the gap between today and the future you’re hoping to see?
Keep in mind you probably have two audiences; those in your industry and those outside of your industry, so you probably want to create different explanations to suit each group.
Mission – So we will…
The third step is to describe the actions you’ll take to turn the present into a better future.
This is probably the most variable element, since there may be six different ways of achieving one particular
This is where I come back to my core philosophies of “Good ideas survive competition” and “don’t fall in love with your first idea”.
We want to look at a range of models, then choose the approach we think is best.
Your mission might be obvious, or a little abstract.
Perhaps you directly address a problem (creating a recyclable coffee cup), or indirectly address the problem (petitioning the government to outlaw single use cups).
There are lots of different groups you can work with, e.g. customers, retailers, government departments, businesses, NGOs, universities, and each of these have pros and cons.
You get to choose the idea you think is most effective at turning the future into reality.
Eight word mission statements
This now gives us a simple formula that sums up the impact model.
We want to describe a group, a verb and a result.
e.g. “Restore sight to people with cataracts in Tanzania”
or “Raising literacy rates for children in Bangladesh”
This can sound a little basic, but it’s important to create an elegant summary of what you’re actually doing.
For the time being, this is your simple impact model.
I hope you like it, but aren’t too in love with it, because next we’re going to improve it…