Over at SocialStory, we’ve launched a series to discover social enterprise failures and lessons learned. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
Every organization experiences failure. It’s inevitable.
Failure means something different to everyone, and it can be as small as a mismanaged project or as a large as shutting down your organization.
The goal is not to hide the failures, but to learn from them. What lessons can be drawn from the mistakes or circumstances that led to the failure? What preventive measures or changes can be implemented to avoid similar future failures? Learning from failures upon reflection and investigation is how organizations improve and innovate. As this article points out, we can even learn a lot from near-misses. It’s important to not only learn from your own failure, but to also learn from the failures of others. As Jean Case argues, “if everyone commits to sharing lessons from failure, the society as a whole will be stronger and more prepared to attack the next challenge.”
Social enterprise is a difficult sector, with high-rates of failure due to a range of issues including lack of funding, poor management, and the complex nature of social change work. At SocialStory, we believe that there are countless lessons to learn from the social innovators around the world who have taken risks on social change initiatives, and likely failed at one point or another.
Social enterprises tend to hide their failures. Perhaps you are scared that your funders will hear about your failures or don’t want them shared publically, or that you will lose potential donors; that your failures were too personally embarrassing, or that you don’t have time to reflect upon your failures and lessons learned. But today, donors and customers value transparency. And as Seth Godin and others have argued, innovation and risk-taking are needed most in the non-profit and social change sector, but that means becoming more comfortable with the high chance for failure and sharing them with others.
In order to share stories of failures in social enterprise, SocialStory is launching a Failure Series. This is a positive series that will cover the stories of failures and near-misses, and more importantly, the lessons-learned, experienced by social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.
There are multiple ways to participate that will allow you to feel comfortable in sharing your story.
Live Interview – We will conduct a phone or in-person interview with you, and write your story.
E-mail Interview – We will ask you interview questions via email and share your written responses.
Write – Write your own failure story and lessons and we will publish the article under your name.
This isn’t a venue to judge your failures, but to learn from them so that in the future your organization, and other organizations, won’t have to make the same mistakes. In addition, we hope that by hearing about the calculated risk-taking of other social sector organizations and entrepreneurs, you will be more willing to take risks in your work.
It may turn out that this failure series will be a failure itself, and that not enough organizations or individuals will be willing to share their stories. But that is a risk we are willing to take. Will you join us?
If you are interested in sharing your story please e-mail email@example.com.