How do we get more people involved in social innovation?
Tom Dawkins is the founder of StartSomeGood, the leading home of cause-driven crowdfunding, innovative partnerships, and social entrepreneur education. I first interviewed Tom nearly five years ago, on December 14, 2015. You can hear our previous interview at https://tonyloyd.com/018.
Tom keeps coming back to one fundamental question. How do we get more people involved?
“All of us are smarter than any of us,” he says. “It’s essential in a world that is evolving so rapidly. It’s never good enough to come up with a single good idea, a single solution, because things that were proven to work yesterday won’t work tomorrow.
“Those of us who care about the future, the planet, and the community, we need not just to find innovations, we need to build an innovation muscle. As a community, the best way to innovate is to ensure that every perspective is heard. Everyone has an opportunity to participate in that process of creating a better future.
“One of my foundational beliefs is that all the ideas are already out there. They’re often held by someone who has lived experience of a particular challenge.
“But so many people don’t know how to get their ideas out into the world. They don’t know how to turn it into a story that will resonate with people. They don’t know how to identify: Who is it for? What’s the value I create for them?
“They don’t have access to a network or impact investors or other types of supporters. So, we started with crowdfunding, but since then, we’re adding all these pieces that might help people make that leap as well.”
What Do Early-Stage Social Entrepreneurs Need?
When Tom and his cofounder started StartSomeGood, they mapped out three fundamental needs of early-stage changemakers.
“There are three key types of capital they need to underpin progress and impact.
“There’s intellectual capital, which is knowing how to do things or accessing the people who do.
“Financial capital is in some ways to fill the gaps of your intellectual capital – to pay for things that you can’t acquire in other ways. And to boost growth and reach.
“And then relational capital, which helps you not to burn out. It’s more than accessing people who know stuff. It’s people who care about you – people who understand the journey. “
As a startup, StartSomeGood couldn’t take on all three types of capital at once. They had to choose a place to get started.
“The logical place to get started felt like financial capital. It felt like the place where there was the most instrumental gap.”
Risk-Tolerant Capital for Social Innovation
When Tom launched StartSomeGood, he lived in San Francisco, where he could observe the power of risk-tolerant capital to support innovation.
In commercial capital markets, early capital is provided by angel investors and accelerators. At the time, the social sector had no equivalent programs to support social innovation.
“The social capital world was like all venture capitalists and no angels. Many people were investing other people’s money, trying to do the best that they can. They are doing fantastic work for very valid reasons. But there’s a certain conservatism around not wanting to waste resources.
“In the social sector, the question that often gets asked is, ‘Will it work?’ Tell me how it will work. Convince me.
“That’s important for evaluating what is working and scaling up things that are proven to work, but it’s no good at proving that new things work. For that, you need to put money in first to pay for the experiments and collect the data you can then take to the people who need data to make their decisions.
“That means there has to be a category of investors who are making decisions on something other than data – on optimism, hope, curiosity, on a sheer commitment to solving particular problems. Sometimes you have to be committed to an outcome and be willing to put resources into pursuing that.
“So, the question that underpins that, that is so important for innovation is, ‘What could happen?’ Not what will happen? Don’t convince me it will work. Describe for me what could happen if it works. And if that feels like a worthwhile outcome to pursue, let’s find out if it can work. Let’s run the experiment.”
Tom and his team ran the experiment of filling the angel funding gap. StartSomeGood worked and continues to work nine years on.
The Next Level of Evolution for StartSomeGood
“Another fundamental belief of ours is,” Tom explains, “you can’t just hand someone a set of tools and call them empowered. You have to build the capacity to use those tools successfully.
“From the very early days, we were an educational organization masquerading as a platform. Platforms are about operationalization and scale. For a platform to engage with individual people and individual stories is too inefficient to scale.
“But that’s not what we want to be. We want to build relationships. We want to support individuals and help them overcome this gap from idea to implementation and impact.
“Right from the start, we taught people how to crowdfund. Over the last five years, that’s become a more significant part of what we do. These days, the vast majority of our work and revenue is delivering education, capacity building, and acceleration services.
Today, StartSomeGood builds capacity for early-stage social innovators in several ways.
They run accelerators on behalf of corporate partners.
They have the Good Hustle, a ten-week social enterprise design course. And they offer other workshops.
They run live crowdfunding events called Pitch for Good.
They run inspirational events such as their annual Starting Good virtual summit.
They provide the Starting Good Network, an exclusive community for those committed to changing the world.
And they continue to innovate on their crowdfunding platform. StartSomeGood now offers a recurring crowdfunding model.
Learn More About Tom Dawkins and StartSomeGood:
- StartSomeGood: https://startsomegood.com
- Recurring Crowdfunding model: https://startsomegood.com/recurring
- Good Hustle: https://www.goodhustle.online
- Starting Good virtual summit: https://www.starting.gd
- Starting Good Network: https://startsomegood.com/starting-good
- Tom Dawkins on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomdawkins
- Tom Dawkins on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tomjd