Top 5 Tips to Stay Relevant in a Changing World
By Devin Hibbard
I was honored to present at the Sankalp Africa Forum about how organizations can stay relevant in this rapidly changing world of #GlobalDevelopment, #PovertyEradication and #SocialEnterprise.
1. It is hard to think about becoming irrelevant when things are great. But that is, in fact, when it is most critical. Think about how to stay relevant NOW. TODAY.
For most organizations, when you are at the top of your game, it may seem like a time to take a breath and enjoy. Wrong. I can tell you from hard experience, that when you are the best of the best, it is more critical than ever to innovate. Why? Because people will copy you.
Twelve years ago we were the only organization selling beaded jewelry made of recycled paper. Today there are more than 150 worldwide. We were too slow to adapt and it cost us.
2. The world will tell you when you start to drift towards irrelevance. Listen, even when it is hard to hear. Irrelevance almost never happens overnight so use the feedback to adapt.
We finally listened, and although we adapted more slowly in diversifying our bead sales strategies, I’m happy to say that in Uganda, we looked deeply at what we felt we had to offer the world. We realized that we would never be the biggest, richest, or best-known organization. But we knew that our entrepreneurial training for women living in poverty was second to none.
3. Think about WHY you exist, rather than WHAT you do.
When we did this, we realized we exist to help women lift themselves out of poverty. Beads were WHAT we did to accomplish that goal, not the goal in and of themselves. This gave us a clear mission metric with which to consider our work. As a result, we took the business training we had created in our bead making program and launched Street Business School – a 6 month entrepreneurial training program for women living in poverty, which is more efficient and has the capacity to reach exponentially more women than we ever will with beads.
Beads are still part of our name, and hopefully always a part of our earned income strategy, but we know that they will likely be a smaller part of our future. Once we affirmed that we were about poverty, not beads, it made all of our decisions simpler.
4. Be willing to walk away from things that had succeeded in the past.
Bead sales, and specifically, home parties or BeadforLife Marketplaces were a huge part of our early success and we are forever in debt to what they allowed us to do. But we are evolving with the times to stay relevant, and instead of clinging to how it used to be, are looking ahead to what is next.
We now see a clear pathway to help one million women lift their families out of poverty through the Global Expansion of our Street Business School training. This is born from our past success, but will, by necessity, look different. That’s what staying relevant means.
Our expansion will be through a social franchise model in which we train other organizations already deeply embedded in communities with high poverty levels to use our turn-key Street Business School program, and we are seeing huge interest and demand. The world is still giving us feedback.
Which brings me to my last tip:
5. You can’t always exactly define relevance in your sector. But I promise that you will know it – you will feel it – when you aren’t in the right place, and you will certainly know it when you are!
As we have turned towards Street Business School and our global expansion, the joy has returned. I can feel the ‘rightness’ of where we are as an organization and what we have to offer the world. So check your gut to make sure you are having fun and adding value.
After all, why do this work if it isn’t life-giving to all involved?