Log 02: Feeling like a #SocEnt

February 2, 2015

Log [n.]: Personal reflection

Returning from #TheBigSocial in London I found myself facing a deadline for one of the rare funding opportunities I had come across. Working on a venture like this one without being a PhD student or academic and without business model means that funding opportunities are scarce. I had jumped at the opportunity.

Energized by an exciting week in London I arrived back in Cork at 7 p.m. on a Friday night and set myself up at the kitchen table ready to face my first proper funding application. And suddenly I felt the way a social entrepreneurs must feel when they apply to one of the programs I have worked for. The questions really forced me to put my plans into writing.

1. A clear detailed description of the Project, including particular outputs or products the Project will generate, any arguments and ideas the Project will put forth, and the need for the Project

I knew what I wanted but once I tried putting it into tangible, actual words – I was stuttering. Here’s the thing: Once you write it down, it means that you are committing to doing it. I was suddenly intimidated by the grandeur of my vision.

2. An explanation of how the Project builds on existing efforts or charts new terrain

Having just spent a week with support organizations for social entrepreneurs I nailed this one. That week had been a great source of positive feedback that left no doubt that what I was doing was worthwhile and much needed in the sector.

3. A description of the Project’s expected impact and how you might measure it.

I have been teaching social impact assessment, and knew that it was going to be a long time until we could actually speak of impacts. But I was confident in my ability to track some of the outputs of Social Venturers and set myself goals that I would use anyway to track my process. If you have read my earlier Log 01: LH426 you know I am a geek when it comes to goal setting and process evaluations, no problem.

4. A detailed account of how you will achieve your goals, including a communications and/or outreach strategy. Please describe the specific audiences you hope to reach, your reasons for focusing on them, and how you intend to influence them.

Now this was one big question. I was starting to repeat myself in parts. You don’t know how many Theory of Change models I have seen in my career and still – sitting down and writing your own can be intimidating. That said it was probably the most useful process I went through in terms of getting my ideas straight about what I wanted to achieve in what order. I decided on specific outputs such as guidelines and toolkits, a book summarizing my experiences. And the humble mission to create dialogue, exchange and maybe even collaboration among Social Venturers across the world.

Theory of change

Social Venturers’ Theory of Change (SVSO: Social Venture Support Organizations)

5. The reasons you are especially suited to carry out this Project.

Passion, experience, skills, character, time and devotion to run this project. Next.

6. A description of how you expect the Project to fit into your career trajectory and future work.

This is my career. I want to turn Social Venturers into source of exchange and information for all the professionals working in the sector of social enterprise support. I am Social Venturers. I found more eloquent ways of stating the obvious. But here it is.

7. A Project timeline.

Again, the project management geek I am, no problem. It was too ambitious, no doubt, but receiving full-fledged support and not having to work part-time I could have pulled off a more aggressive and stringent timeline.

8. An explanation of how you might engage with our organization while resident in our office(s). Please specify how these interactions could add value both to us and to your Project.

Where there are social entrepreneurs, there are support structures in place. The organization I applied with has a great number of offices around the world. They would make great starting points, in conflict zones in particular. Open your doors!

9. Estimated fellowship expenses (in US Dollars) including travel and hotels, research assistance, conference fees, health insurance, etc.

Time for dreaming. All the conferences I could finally attend, the trips I could take (and sleep in a what… hotel?! Oh the luxury…) and, most importantly, no more worries about how to pay my bills. Being able to focus on nothing BUT Social Venturers. I wanted this SO much!

After 48 hours of working on this application with my much-appreciated (native speaker!) editor-at-large, I sent it off. You cannot imagine the relief and pride of hitting send. I had given birth.

Update May 20

It has been north of three months since that glorious moment. I still haven’t heard from them except for one email in early April “We are still reviewing applications but hope to start informing at least some applicants of their status within the next few weeks.” That was six weeks ago.

I have worked with enough institutions that run searches and selection cycles, I know how intense these times can be, and how important professional communication is. I hope that means they got a number of great applicants and have some world-changers among them. Even though I did not get into the program, this application forced me to nail down this project and write a blueprint for what I was setting out to do. Intimidating but incredibly helpful in getting serious and starting to hold myself accountable.

If any of you dear readers come across potential funding sources, do let me know. I am doing most of the things that I set out to do on a shoestring budget and I’m proud of it. Yet, many countries are on my wishlist and can’t be conquered without proper funding.