We don’t have time.

Not in a the-world-is-going-to-implode-kind of way, but in a don’t-waste-your-days-doing-meaningless-things kind of way.

In the last four weeks, we have lost two of my icons in the world of social impact and ecosystem building – one arguably a little  more famous than the other; but both equally appreciated, celebrated and missed by those whose lives they touched. 

Amy Gannon is a member of the Startup Champions Network and helped host the most recent Summit in Madison, Wisconsin. She is also the founder of the Doyenne Group and an advocate for women entrepreneurs in her state. Amy and her 13-year old daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in Hawaii in late December. 

Amy Gannon

Leila Janah is the founder of Samasource, Samaschool and LXMI, a clean skin-care line. I followed her journey as a social entrepreneur creating training opportunities and employment for people in emerging economies. Less than a year ago, Leila was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, she shared her cancer diagnosis and her treatment journey publicly via social media. While I was shocked by her diagnosis, I also found myself inspired by her ferocity and determination to recover. Not once did it occur to me that she wouldn’t. Leila passed away on Friday, January 24th, due to complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma. She was 37. 

Leila Janah (copyright: Samasource)

While I didn’t know any of these women in person, I somewhat considered us camarades in the fight for a more just and equitable world: Each of us, in our own way, have dedicated our careers to opening up opportunity for minorities, helping create jobs and nurturing entrepreneurial minds.

Every time I remember that neither one is with us anymore to fight this fight, I hear Dan Nowack say “We aren’t creating change fast enough.” and a nagging sense of urgency stirs within my chest. At Social Venturers, we are not going to reverse global warming, solve the global migration crisis or find a cure for Corona virus. But we are a community of professionals who work tirelessly to create a better world by supporting entrepreneurs who build impact-driven businesses. As such, we instigate and amplify social impact in our communities and beyond. We each guard a little flame of passion to save the world and we work daily to create sparks in others: We advise. We mentor. We train. We connect and introduce. Some of us invest. We help define national policy. We create space and we listen. 

Imagine that each of us creates one single spark for social change a day. Assuming we strictly work five days a week, for 50 weeks a year, each of us ignites 250 sparks annually. Accounting for 30 Social Venturers to-date, we total 7,500 opportunities per year to grow an idea, support a purpose-driven founder and move the needle a tiny little bit. 

Those 7,500 sparks are what we are here to highlight, celebrate and connect over. Because if we don’t, this Sisyphean task risks killing our fire altogether. If you’ve ever had days where you wondered what you’re doing all this for or whether you’re really making a difference – you have felt a cold brush of burnout. And this is the one thing we cannot let happen. I firmly believe we were all put on this planet to make a difference; our desire to do so shouldn’t cause us to be unwell.

Let the loss of two torch-bearers be a reminder that our time and dedication to make a difference are precious. Do something to fan your flame each day. Each interaction is another spark of impact, however small and insignificant it may feel in the moment. 

If you take nothing else away from this month’s logbook, let it be these three pieces of advice:

  1. Know your Why. In the words of Heraclitus: “The only thing that is constant is change.” Your Why is your anchor in times of fatigue, stress, fear and crisis. Your Why will keep you on course and help you correct it in times of turbulence. 
  2. Take good care of yourselves and each other. This work is tiring and at times thankless. If you feel drained, exhausted, uninspired and like you’re going through the motions, you MUST take your foot off the gas! Ask for help. Politely decline opportunities that don’t serve you (here is how you phrase it!). Slow down. You are not serving anyone if you’re dropping out of The Game entirely. 
  3. Surround yourself with the right people. Find your tribe, your community, your people who share your passion, who support you in whatever crazy ambitious endeavor you’ve set your mind to. Don’t know where to start? Join us! I mean it. We might be sprinkled around the globe but we find ways to hang out. We always have a spot for you at our table, come sit with us!

What’s next

Over the next month, I am hosting a total of three Fireside Chats: In curated groups of two to four experts, we discuss the power of storytelling and challenges in equipping social entrepreneurs in developing countries with tested and accessible resources. If you, too, would like to spend an hour going on a deep dive into some of the most vexing questions in our field, join us!

Thanks to some very generous introductions, I have secured interviews with some of the leading thinkers and doers at the intersection of social enterprise and ecosystem building. Eeeeek! If you know of an exceptional individual who shares our mission and that YOU think we should hear from, nominate her/him here!

We are gearing up for the first cohort of Masters of Impact – a four-months mastermind for social impact professionals. If you are working on a big idea this year or you’re simply looking for a group of minds who GET IT, sign up here!

I am preparing for a trip to Germany and will spend March 18th and 19th in Berlin to interview practitioners about the ecosystem for social entrepreneurs in Germany’s capital. Do you know of someone in Berlin who I MUST meet? Make an intro and I’ll take it from there!