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3 Things the Social Impact Sector Can Learn from the Olympic Games

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps, US competitive swimmer, most decorated Olympian of all-time

Michael Phelps at Summer Olympics 2016.

photo credit New York Times

 

Whether you have have been glued to your screen of choice watching every Olympic event possible or have caught highlights from posts on Facebook, there is little doubt that spirit of the 2700-year-old games have once again challenged our view of the possible, propelled us to deepen our focus, and maybe even inspired us to play our favorite sports again.

So, what can the social impact sector learn from the Olympic Games?  Here are 3 takeaways that have been on my mind.

 

3 Things the Social Impact Sector Can Learn from the Olympic Games

 

1. It takes time to build a tradition.

 

In looking at nearly 30 centuries since the Ancient Olympics which took place in 776 BC  or considering the 120 years since the launch of modern Olympic Games…it’s clear that it has taken a hot minute to build the global, pervasive tradition that is the Olympic Games.

 

We all might wish the social impact sector was growing more quickly, that resources to grow and scale social enterprises were more readily available now; however, we might do well to ask ourselves how we want this space to look in 100 years. These critical moments, somewhere past inception but before full maturation, are when we can inform, influence, and shape the sector and how people across time (and perhaps space) may engage with it ahead.

 

With the long game in mind, we afford ourselves the opportunity to think more broadly and hopefully more boldly about what we are creating and how we can impact this growing sector that we hope, in turn, will go on to positively impact many others.

 

2. To make it stick and mean something, you have to invite people to the table.

 

It was only during its resurrection in Athens in 1896, and with delegates competing from 34 countries, that the Olympic Games became truly global. Fast forward to the Rio De Janeiro Games in 2016, and we witness participants from 206 countries and a first-time team of 43 refugees in competition.

 

The Olympics did not achieve its je ne sais quoi from limiting participation and involvement, but rather, by opening up the opportunity to everyone while also raising the bar for who could qualify and how. As a result, it has become a global symbol of excellence, rather than exclusion.

 

Applying this sense of community and possibility, we have to remind ourselves that the greatest innovations in impact will likely not come from behind closed doors, but rather at open tables. From my experience of covering social impact through Innov8social for over five years, I have seen (or later heard about : ) many private, closed door events. Or others featuring prohibitive entry fees. Technology is enabling innovations such as livestreaming and virtual participation, but it still feels like as a sector we can do more to include, invite, and raise the bar for how individuals and entities participate.

3. Planned, live events let people plan, get excited for, and train to innovate to the next level.

 

With all of the concerns we have seen in recent years as to whether Olympic host cities will “pull through” and be prepared by Opening Day, it is tempting to wonder if there might be technology-enabled solutions that would allow for remote competition and likely save hundreds of millions of dollars for host countries. However, time and again we are shown that the magic happens in the midst of live, in-person interaction.

 

In May 2016, Innov8social hosted our first live event, “Impactathon”. After years of creating content and syndicating over digital channels, through blog posts, podcast episodes, online course, book, and other online content, the inaugural in-person event did wonders to show the power of having committed, mission-aligned individuals in the same room ideating together.

 

Extending this more broadly to the social impact sector, there already are growing ways and events to bring together individuals for a live, planned event. Whether through fellowship such as Starting Bloc, Echoing Green, Global Social Benefit Institute, Opportunity Collaboration, Hive Global Leaders, or others; or through events or through pitch competitions; these exist and are growing by the day. However, there is not an “Olympic” standard type of event as of yet–one that is marked by its openness and rigor and which somehow recognizes or furthers the profile and legacies of its participants.

 

To reach our olympic potential in social impact, the opportunity is ripe for action and innovation, and more reasons than ever to #goanddo.

 

Neetal Notes #3 : Finding Your Tribe — Why And How

Listen to Neetal Notes #3 – Finding Your Tribe — Why And How

 

 

Or, Watch it on YouTube

Show Notes

Here is a recap of a few posts mentioned in the podcast episode:

Follow Your Passion, Discover Your Purpose, Then Find Your Tribe

leaf changing color on pavement

Follow Your Passion

I remember watching an episode of Oprah, in which she interviewed successful film director, Tom Shadyac. He explained his story of owning a mansion and then, following a serious biking accident and by way of his own spiritual and personal realizations, downsizing to a 1,000 ft. space. He has given away most of his fortune and written extensively about the power and value of having less in his book, Life’s Operating Manual.

In his documentary, I Am, Shadyac explores concepts of happiness and fulfillment, and one of his key takeaways is that we must follow our passion. Following what we are passionate about, clarifies our path, enables compassion and collaboration, and creates fulfillment.

Discover Your Purpose

Taking passion one step further, we reach purpose. “The reason for” often helps define choices around our careers.

In the candid conversation between Shadyac and Oprah, Oprah repeated her famous phrase, “follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose.”  She has gone so far to suggest that it is our job to discover our purpose.

And this is a ‘job’ I have dedicated much of my efforts to over the past few years. Through blogging, jumping into startups, writing a book, podcasting, founding and then re-building Innov8social, and meeting amazing, inspiring people focused on innovative means of realizing social impact—I can say I have followed my passion and discovered a core purpose:

To help people reach their impact potential.

It is simple, and focused enough to be actionable. It means inviting people into the social impact space by demystifying jargon and decluttering options. It means creating actionable resources that are multi-disciplinary and ‘agnostic’ as to source. It means creating and sharing content and delivering it to people in ways that are easy to digest.

And this process of following my passion and discovering purpose has provided me my own “ah-ha” moment.

It is simply this: Yes, find your passion, discover your purpose….and then find your tribe.

Find Your Tribe

From my experience, passion and purpose alone can create deep fulfillment in our work and lives; however, it’s when we meet and engage with those best suited to make the most of what we are building, that our work takes flight.

With today’s automation tools and increasing social media echoes, it is completely possible to build and create without getting to really know who you are serving and who share your passion and purpose.

From my reflection, our next step, then, is to find the people who are ecstatic about and aligned with our work. And oftentimes, no one can do this for us—it’s up to us to find our tribe.

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea…A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

We each intrinsically lead our own tribe or tribes. These may be around our hobbies, families, or education. These may be large tribes, but more likely they are fairly intimate and engaged.

When we identify our passion and purpose, we cannot assume the tribe will find us—we have to find our tribe.

 

8 Things I Have Learned About Finding My Tribe

1. It can take some time and requires patience and perseverance.

2. It works best when you are authentic.

3. It may not always be comprised of people and organizations that you might have imagined.

4. Positive intent can help you be grateful v. grumpy about the tribe-finding process.

5. Today’s tribes operate with the law of two feet— members will come and go as the tribe relates to their growth and stage. That shuffle is good and will ensure evolution versus stagnation.

6. Tribes are about growing together.

7. We are each part of multiple tribes.

8. Tribes can accelerate your growth, bring you peace of mind, a sense of joy, and help you realize your visions.

 

What has been your experience with finding your tribe? What are your greatest takeaways?

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Neetal Notes #2 : The 411 on Innov8social and THIS Podcast

A Look Back and Move Forward

This second installment of “Neetal Notes”, part of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social, looks at the evolution of Innov8social and the blog. And, it introduces the new name for the podcast!

 

Listen to Neetal Notes #2 : The 411 on Innov8social and THIS Podcast

 

Or, Watch it on YouTube

Show Notes

Here is a recap of a few posts mentioned in the podcast episode:

2016, My Year of the Humble Warrior

If you have ever practiced yoga, there is a good chance you have done the warrior series.

The poses for Warrior 1-3, called the Virabhadrasana series, root us to the ground and extend our arms away from each other or the rest of our body. We are physically rooted and reaching in exact opposite directions. A kind of physical conflict, pronounced when holding the pose.

Stances of Strength

The warrior poses are stances of strength. For example glance up during Warrior II, and the room of yogis will look like a battalion ready for the front lines. Heads up, stoic stances look directly to oncoming danger, and muscles flaring in the legs and arms. It is truly an incredible stance, both challenging and empowering.

Our Internal Spiritual Warrior

However, in yoga, there is no jousting or scrimmage between yogis. We each face our own internal physical nemeses such as focus, flexibility, and stamina.  And, perhaps the interaction, the conflict, is a metaphor of the spiritual and emotional nemeses we face daily, such as rejection, self-doubt, and forgiveness.

Warrior to Ignorance

So why—in a practice meant to focus on mindfulness and the attention to breath—would there even be a warrior series?

One of my favorite interpretations is by Richard Rosen, an editor at Yoga Journal. “The yogi is really a warrior against his own ignorance,” Rosen says. “I speculate that Virabhadrasana I is about rising up out of your own limitations.”

We assume a warrior stance when we choose to battle our ignorance, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The Humble Warrior, Baddha Virabhadrasana

Finally, there is the pose poetically referred to as “humble warrior”. The legs remain in a stance of strength, while the torso leans forward, the head bows and the arms outstretch overhead, toward the floor.

With the head down it truly feels like an offering.

In this single, beautiful pose, there is both strength and surrender.

 

2016, A Year of Humble Offerings

And this is how I relate to this new year. Much of 2015 was spent building the tools and resources I envisioned would be the most helpful to social innovators and social entrepreneurs.

It saw the completion of the book, new podcast episodes, an online course, and brand new tools to help engage individuals engage meaningfully in the social impact space.

Now that these products are released, they are humbling offerings. And the role shifts to a humble warrior—determined and dogged in outreach, innovation, and connecting with audiences—while humble to learn, gather feedback, and stay steadfast in the face of response (or quiet).

I hope whichever stage (and yoga asana :) this finds you in, it is a fulfilling journey professionally and reflectively!

 

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Neetal Notes #1 : The Moment When Anything is Possible

A New Year, A Special New Podcast Series

Neetal ParekhWelcome to the new year! It has been an eventful few weeks, with the launch of the book and a number of happening onInnov8social.  There has been a lot of thought on ways to renew, refresh, and re-engage the podcast.

There are a few incredible interviews coming up, and you will hear them in force over the next few weeks; however, on this auspicious start—the first podcast of the new year we are trying something a little different.

In today’s episode, the guest is me :) I spend a few minutes recapping the past few months and reflecting. The inspiration behind the reflection is this idea of “the moment when anything is possible”

 

Listen to Neetal Notes #1 : The Moment When Anything is Possible

  

Or, Watch it on YouTube

Show Notes

Here is a recap of the book launch countdown posts mentioned in the podcast episode.

A Book Launch, A Story, A Countdown—From Me to You

“51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” Launches Today!

 

quote by Steve Maraboli
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5 Ways to Be Grateful: In Entrepreneurship and Beyond

November marks a special time of the year. Summer is now in the rear-view mirror (even here),  trees display their Fall brilliance, and all things pumpkin shift to all things mint and gingerbread.

It is also a time of gratitude. Thanksgiving ushers a nice reminder of our progress over the year and the things we can still achieve before the clock resets.

How can we cultivate gratitude along the path of entrepreneurship, with its many uncertainties, ups, and downs?  Here are a few ideas.

 

1. By being thankful for all of it

quote by Cicero

Yes, for all it. The time we nailed the pitch. The time we lost a big account. The time we shut down a startup after working really hard on it. The time we decided to launch something we believe in. The time social media was our friend, and the time it really wasn’t.

We can be grateful for finding a way to look at everything as a whole, an amalgam, and being thankful for all it. Because it has led us to where we are exactly right now. The awareness, the experience; and best of all, the ability to reflect and make changes ahead.

2. By being grateful for any of it

quote by Maya Angelou

Okay, if we’re being honest—it can be hard to be thankful for all of it. Some of it wasn’t (and isn’t) fun—emotionally, financially, and in a number of other ways. With the holidays ahead, there can be all kinds of stress and pressure to assess progress in the past year and make projections for the year ahead. In quiet moments, social entrepreneurs might be thinking about if their work is really making the impact they set out to create. And entrepreneurs of all kinds are likely thinking about how much runway they have and how they can build the next “point oh” of their products.

But, gratitude can start small. Even, infinitesimally so. Being thankful for our health, food on our plates, our favorite jeans, our ability to breathe, a pen that works. Gratitude can start from any point, without expectation. Even the most simple thoughts of gratitudes can take the mind space of other, potentially less positive thoughts, and attract more things to feel grateful for.

3. By letting someone know

quote by Bob Kerrey

When was the last time someone reached out and unexpectedly acknowledged you or your work. It happened just the other day for me when a friend at a co-working space, mentioned that he listens to the podcast, which has been newly added to iTunes, and left a great review. It was incredible and igniting to hear that something I have been working on created a positive experience for a listener. And when he told me himself, it also created an instant feeling of gratitude. It, in turn, made me think of the ways I can ‘pay it forward’ to acknowledge the positive impact something has had for me.

Just two days later, I had a chance. A specialist at a print shop went above and beyond to ensure delivery of my late-added print job. Her warmth, professionalism, and commitment impressed me and I had a chance to say thank you in person, and then by leaving a note with her employer.

The act of sharing our feeling of gratitude not only lets us cultivate the feeling of gratitude within ourselves but also pass it on to others.

4. By letting go

quote by Buddha

Ah, but not all relationships are in the state of flowing gratitude. Sometimes, the energy just may not be in the right place to resolve or solve in this moment. And sharing might just exacerbate. Gratitude here can be feeling thankful for the opportunity connect with the experience, relationship, and opportunity, learning more about ourselves in process—and then letting go, even if temporarily.

It can catalyze a mini fresh start. The act of letting go, can create space for what we seek to attract in our journey forward.

5. By giving the best we have

quote by Emerson

We have the ability to show up with our best—as a simple expression of gratitude. Show up extra prepared, early, bearing a gift, with a smile—whatever the best is that we have to offer. We don’t have to save it for that special occasion or special opportunity. By sharing our best, we not only can improve on it, but can also empower others to show up in their top form too.

Showing up with our personal best can shift the game, and the energy.

Thank YOU

I want to take a moment and express my gratitude. I know that in the past few months you have seen more posts over social media from me and from Innov8social—and I am grateful for your reception and engagement. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to create and work on something so aligned with what I believe to be my life’s purpose.

Giving you my best

As a token of gratitude, I want to give you (an extra dose of :) my best.

It is one of my joys to host the Innov8social Podcast. Those special moments involve my favorite things—connecting with people, listening and sharing stories, and hearing about peoples’ personal and professional commitments to creating positive impact.

This week, instead of the single podcast on Thursday, we will be sharing four amazing interviews with thinkers and doers in the social impact space.

Here’s who you can look forward to tuning into this week:

 

 

Why We Do

When we speak with social innovators or those creating impact a question always finds its way into the conversation. We want to know why. Why have they sought ways to innovate solutions for local and global issues? Why do they do?And with Innov8Social as well, over four years, some ask what drives this work. Why is it so important to share stories of social innovation and explore what is happening in the space?

Just last week this email came in from a reader.

Dear Ms. Parekh and Innov8social team,

I wanted to send a brief thank you from Scotland Co., NC. We are growingchange.org, a non profit start up ‘flipping’ closed prisons in NC into sustainable farms and educational centers to provide court diversions for youth, internships for veterans and programming for communities in one of the poorest areas of the US Southeast.

Your website has been invaluable and a real source of guidance for those of us who operate well outside of urban areas. I am looking forward to your newsletters as we prepare for our media push. Thank you for doing the good work.

Regards,
Noran Sanford, Founder growingchange.org

paper heart

This is why we do.

To empower, inform, and inspire individuals, social innovators, and those who supporting or learning about the space—to find actionable information related to their work—is why we do and look forward to continuing to do ahead.

Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur

As a follow-up to Innov8Social’s recent interview with Kate Michi Ettinger, I wanted to share a reflection on part of the conversation we had after the recording.

Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur

I have known Kate for over a year now, through our participation in Impact Law Forum and other social entrepreneurship events and conferences. It was a sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to learn more about her the breadth and depth of her work.

We chatted after her interview and she shared a sentiment that reframed my perspective on social entrepreneurship. As you may know, the recent months have brought on exciting projects such as the social innovation book project co-author Shivani Khanna and I are working on, and my role in curriculum and business development at entrepreneurship education startup (Thinktomi). These responsibilities, in addition to feeding the blog (admittedly, less frequently), can sometimes feel overwhelming.

In talking to Kate—who juggles multiple roles, each incredibly demanding and each with its own layers of complexity, she said one line that particularly resonated with me— “this is what it means to be a social entrepreneur.”

As self-identified social innovators we have to balance the sometimes-chaotic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, 24/7 ish demand by taking care of our health, seeking balance, and finding solace in what can feel like a perfect storm. In our efforts to do this, we set the stage to finding new ways to engage in the tasks, and work required to make social enterprise ideas into reality.

It was the perfect sentiment at the right moment–and helped reframe my own view from seeing these as challenges to ‘handle’ as invitations to redefine balance and innovate.

In reflecting on her observation this past week I feel that in the brevity of life, it is a sincere and humble honor to be able to dedicate my time and efforts to projects I believe in—even if the balancing act requires a little additional creativity and focus :)

 

notebook and pen

 

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#SOCAP-ping with the Best of Them

If there is ever a frenzy similar to Chicken Little proclaiming “the sky is falling” that is 1) constructive and 2) applied to the social innovation community—it is that in preparation of the annual Social Capital Markets gathering in San Francisco. Affectionately abbreviated as “SOCAP”, add “#” at the front and appropriate two-digit year at the end for digital perfection, the conference brings together thousands upon thousands of thought leaders, movers & shakers, investors, and companies squarely in the social innovation sector.

SOCAP, the Holy Grail

So, you might ask, this must be your premier event of the year? I.e. your little blog on social innovation must erupt in rainbow colors and neon lights when this conference comes along—and you must gingerly pick out an appropriate consumer-conscious wardrobe, arrange your specially-ordered greenstock Moo business cards, and otherwise prepare yourself for a tsunami of information. Absolutely and kind of.

Welcome to SOCAP11
#SOCAP11: Go Big or Go Home

In 2011 after I found out about the event just months after I began my blog (and left my full-time job), I made the huge decision to pay the nearly $1K to attend the event. And so I did meticulously select a wardrobe–which paid homage to both the color green as well as the dangers of greenwashing–, I made arrangements to stay with a close friend in SF, I mapped out the public transport routes. And, I tried to meet anyone and everyone I could at the event by exchanging cards, LinkedIn-ing with impressive turnaround times, and creating #bff-level twitter friendships.
The event did hold muster. I interviewed a number of fascinating, driven individuals for Innov8Social—enabling me to launch a YouTube channel, wrote handfuls of posts, and otherwise tried to absorb as much of the event as I could. Not only that, having paid full sticker price, I wanted to make sure I continued my learning outside of the event. I used the conference info app to continue connecting with people after the event—meeting over coffee, Skype, or rollover minutes.
It was energizing, electric (concept further explained here, kindly scroll down), and eye-opening. But, as you may know, as a social innovator with an appetite for the future that can sometimes exceed resources in the wallet—paying to play without a fiscal sponsor was not necessarily a scalable solution. A blog is a tricky thing and while it has lent to some incredible interviews and consulting opportunities, it requires a discipline that is at times more aligned with “lean”, “bootstrap”, and “survival” than anything more lofty or luxurious.
(for your perusing pleasure, Innov8Social’s coverage of #SOCAP11 including interviews, session recaps, and photo essay.)



#SOCAP12: The Lost Year

In 2012, the timing and resource flow weren’t aligned to purchase another ticket. I did apply for other avenues such as a press pass or volunteer role but was not a lucky grasshopper on either count. #SOCAP2012 will remain the “lost SOCAP” for me as my work and study schedule didn’t permit online participation and my resources (or combined ingenuity) didn’t pave the path for actual participation.(Link to official #SOCAP12 webcasts is here)

#SOCAP13: Go Big, at Home

As SOCAP2013 rolled around I was again determined. I entertain innovation regularly and laugh in the face of closed doors and one-line rejection emails. Surely, this time around there would be some way to connect with the Holy Grail of social innovation events in the SF Bay Area.  Thinking about how my readership has grown (200K visitors have wittingly and unwittingly happened upon the site and  40+ amazing people have shared their time for an interviews), I tossed my name in the hat for a press pass once more. And, what the heck, for a volunteer role too.
This time, though, there was yet another avenue. Like a natural gas-powered organic food truck emerging from the SF fog, there was a new, accessible, potentially promising path to earn a golden ticket and contribute to the curriculum. And it was called SOCAP Open. We could pitch ideas for a session, gather support and buy-in via social media, and await determination from the SOCAP illuminati. Considering that co-author Shivani and I were in the concluding stages of finalizing our social innovation book idea and crowdfunding it, we pitched an idea that was forming the backbone of our book.  Maybe it could be a win-win-win and win for all. We could participate, gain access to the event, share some great learnings from writing the book, and engage in a meaningful dialogue that could in turn impact our content.
A few things added hairs of complication to the plan. Namely 1) we are still in the outlining phase of the book; 2) despite our humble yet valiant social media efforts, our session idea was not one of the 23 selected (out of 124); and 3) my volunteer and press pass queries must have lost in the proverbial metadata haystack, as I did not receive a response to either.
The SOCAP organizing team was magnanimous in offering a considerable discount for those who submitted idea. I think I lost track of both time and common sense, and did not act on the offer.
But this year I was determined not fall in the abyss and completely miss out. So I did what any #socent worth her salt would do—I looked for a quick and easy solution that would get me closer to the action at a fraction of the cost. I rigged my iPhone to my TV using the appropriate tethering Apple dongle and I streamed the sessions live online.
“What do you want to make absurd in your lifetime?”
social innovators Premal Shah (Kiva), Robert Gomez (filmmaker),
Donna Morton (Principium), and Bill McKibben (350 org)
“Accelerating the Good Economy”
Opening session – #SOCAP13

In 2011 I always grimaced when I was late to a plenary session—I hate missing keynotes, especially when they include jokes and funny anecdotes. This time, my strategy worked with true atomic watch precision. I sat directly in the center of the couch with my laptop poised in start position on my lap, and an appropriate array of remotes to my left. I had readied myself with plethora of open tabs—including Twitter, the official #SOCAP13 schedule, Wikipedia for unfamiliar concepts, and Linkedin & Facebook to share update and consult bios of the upcoming speakers. And then, I waited.

As soon as the plenary sessions launched, so did I. I tweeted, I facebooked, I even took handwritten notes. I would have thrown my business cards at the screen in hopes of networking, but that seemed excessive. I did email speakers who shared their addresses with the audience in hopes of following up. Moreover, I learned and absorbed.
I could let my mind wander around and through the concepts—and I myself could do the same in the kitchen and patio—as I listened. It was a much different experience than #SOCAP11 but it was a determined one. I learned much and truly appreciated the conference organizers’ efforts to let us simple humans connect with the grandeur taking place at the Holy Grail.

(to be sure I was actually tuning in and not just clicking on sponsored posts on FB, here are 5 resources I learned about from tuning in to #SOCAP13)

#SOCAP14: ________ ?

Stay tuned for a few concrete learnings about #SOCAP13—the home edition. And, know that you don’t have to take my word for it—those videos that I partook in are still available. As we wait for even newer ways to potentially participate in #SOCAP14, we can prepare ourselves by staging a viewing marathon of SOCAPs of years past. I can just imagine the happy tweeting of updates from the plenary sessions—nevermind that they took place months (or years) ago—and the throwing our business cards at the screen in gleeful appreciation.