A couple of weeks ago I attended the Regional Finals of the Hult Global Case Challenge in Boston (one of four events taking place in different parts of the globe on the same day). It was an extraordinary experience. The concept is simple : three social causes pitch their biggest challenges and business students from all over the world pitch their solutions – with a purse of $1 million to make it happen.
What struck me was the amount of time and commitment each team had put into their ideas. But there was also something more. The very act of bringing everyone together created something really special. Other participants agreed. One came up with the analogy of sound waves layered on top of each other. The point was that bringing everyone together created a sort of energy in itself.
Which got me thinking.
What’s your problem?
There is a tendency amongst amongst charities and non profits to say we have the answers – “here is the problem – we have the solution – fund this”. It can be a little arrogant. Now a more engaging way is to say : “here is the problem – its a tough one, can you help?”
Think Encarta (here is one we built earlier) vs Wikapedia (let’s do something amazing together ). The former is a dinosaur – the latter is constantly evolving.
We are tackling some of the worlds greatest problems. It’s ok to say we don’t have all the answers! If you are a non-profit rooted in these issues your expertise is framing and defining the problem – which is always the key to finding the solution.
Non profits and charities should share the problems preventing them achieve their goal rather than just broadcast here is what we’ve done, or here is the solution.
It will make you ‘sticky’. For starters it gives people a sense of purpose – which is a major motivator (see Dan Pinks fantastic RSA Animate lecture below on what motivates people).
As well as motivating people in ways that will surprise you, it will automatically encourage collaboration. It will have to if you are trying to crack something you can’t solve on your own.
And it will lead to engagement with all sorts of people. Leading to all sorts of minds thinking how to solve your problems. These people could also become great advocates and amplifiers of your mission if you can harness that energy so they in turn engage others.
So set that big hairy audacious goal (BHAG). Then spell out the barriers for achieving that goal that you don’t have answers to, and tell everyone “We have a problem”, (or four), “can you help us?”.
Then you need facilitate others to help you overcome those problems together and achieve that goal (you know the one to make the world a better place). After all isn’t that what we are here for?