The Last ‘Last Chance’ We Just Had

COP26 just wrapped up. The event had tremendous attention because by now we are well aware that without sweeping, urgent action, climate change will cause catastrophic disruption to our lives, and our world. Every such summit has failed before this one, to accomplish what needed to be done, which further added pressure. So, did we deliver this time? The simple answer is, no. 

Sure; throughout COP26, several initiatives addressing climate resilience were announced, to drive progress towards our shared goal of keeping 1.5ºC within reach. Unfortunately, details and requisite funding were missing. In fact, COP26 saw a great deal of climate pledges, with countries promising to end and reverse deforestation, phase out coal, and reduce methane emissions. Across the board however, policy, planning and funding fell short of these goals.

“Everyone was committed to saving the planet, but there were highly diverging views about how to do it. A welter of announcements on everything from coal to methane to forests dominated the opening days. Large numbers were discussed and ambitious targets were set”. Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

Certainly there were some worthy efforts. Last week, for instance, Edinburgh City joined over 30 cities in the Climate Champion’s Race to Resilience campaign. The UN-backed initiative also launched a metrics framework that allows cities, regions, businesses and investors to measure the progress of their work in building resilience to climate change. Over 2.3 billion people and 100 natural systems and over 100 countries are so far covered by the work being carried out by the Race to Resilience’s partner initiatives.

Private enterprises too, got further engaged. We too believe it is imperative that businesses lead by example. In fact, as a partner of the We Mean Business Coalition, PATHFINDER is one of the 800 businesses to sign the Open Letter to G20 leaders, with asks on 1.5ºC alignment, energy and finance. Building climate resilience is actually critical for small businesses to remain viable, but they often lack the time, funding, staffing and immediate incentives to take action. Large corporations are increasing decarbonization demands for SMEs in order to meet their own net-zero targets by tackling emissions in their supply chains. Corporates and governments must work together to support SMEs and incentivize the transition, ensuring no one is left behind. But even the private sector needs clear, ambitious policies to drive this objective further and faster. 

“The announcements from governments so far on climate action are heading in the right direction. There’s a ratcheting up of ambition but it’s not going far enough.” – Rasmus ValankoLeading systems transformation at We Mean Business.

Citizens, and youth in particular, were seen protesting in cities around the globe, demanding our leaders put aside special interests and do what is necessary to save the world. It is after all, ordinary citizens and youth especially, who must suffer the worst consequences of a heated planet. 

Canadian environmental youth activist, Ta’Kiya Blaney Chegajimixw, spoke of her frustration with this year’s summit, “I’ve been inside these spaces since I was eight. Back then, I ripped up the COP declaration, and I will rip up today’s. Nothing has changed inside this space; it is a performance; it’s an illusion; it’s for convincing the public that something is happening. The climate agreements are actually trade agreements. It’s a way of salvaging global economies based upon colonialism and the extraction of our territories without interrupting them.” – Ta’Kiya Blaney Chegajimixw, Tla’amin Nation Canada, Environmental Activist

It is indeed past time for all nations to demonstrate climate ambition that reduces the degradation of our environment, and (dare we say) reverses it. That we will see enduring damages is certain. How much damage exactly, is something we can still control. We have yet to plan exactly how we will respond to this damage. We do know however, that the solution is to work collectively. That includes our citizens, our enterprises, and our leaders. 

References:

COP26: Two worlds talked past each other — or never even met (theconversation.com)

COP26 delegates, activists, and event workers explain how they feel about the last two weeks of negotiations (businessinsider.fr)

We Mean Business Coalition

Catalysing Collaboration: Catalyst2030’s Report Out Now

PATHFINDER collaborated with Catalyst 2030 & Resonance, by working on solutions for development driven by people for themselves. We contributed to new research on how and why companies collaborate with social enterprises to advance CSR goals, and the SDGs.

The report, Catalysing Collaboration: How & Why Corporates & Social Enterprises Should Partner to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goalsincludes real-world partnership examples, collaboration models, and recommendations to scale impact. FIND IT HERE.

Catalysting Collaboration report cover

Check It: We’re Rebranded, Refreshed and Revitalized at PATHFINDER!

Hello friends, colleagues and supporters!

It’s been a while and we’ve missed you. As we begin (hope) to see light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, we want to check in.

If you haven’t caught it already, here’s our latest newsletter with all the details of what we’ve been up to over the past year, including PATHFINDER’s brand-new look!

Hope you’re all well and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Virtual learning opens doors to global industry experience

Given the current global challenges brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic, virtual learning has become the new norm (at least for the time being) in Universities globally.

Although PATHFINDER has always been involved in developing virtual learning programmes, we’ve seen an increase in the demand of theses types of programmes internationally. Including a recent work integrated learning programme we designed with RMIT Australia.

Collaborations such as this are now more important than ever. They’ve been key for students to gain practical business experience as well as a greater understanding of the role of social entrepreneurship in the international development sector.

Students from around the world had overwhelmingly positive feedback on their experience working with PATHFINDER, “I would recommend this kind of experience to other students. It’s a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself” said Qihui Wang, studying from China.

Andrew Crane, studying from Australia expressed his interest in, “working for an organisation that works concurrently with industry and academia. This project gave me a good insight into how small, independent organisations like Pathfinder can accomplish this task, especially within constantly evolving political and economic environments.”

Read more about their experience and details of the programme here.

We’d like to offer our help

We want to offer PATHFINDER’s support. Being small business owners ourselves, we are acutely aware of how difficult the current circumstances are. And indeed, we are in this together. So, we’ve decided to help by offering what we do best. 
 
What’s that?
We are offering free strategy, management and project consulting, and business advice, for up to three hours per organization, for the next few months. 
 
How does that work?
If you’d like to speak with a consultant about any strategy or management concerns you have, the co-founders of PATHFINDER will work through them with you, and offer high level recommendations. If you have business-related concerns or ideas that you’d like to run by a professional, we’ll be happy to discuss them, analyzing and concluding together, the best way forward. 
 
Who might this be useful for?
If you are a social entrepreneur, an academic, or a policy maker in the global development field, and you need to run your professional concerns by us, we’re here to help!
 
Who are we?
PATHFINDER is a Certified B Corp, that consults with Business, Academia and Policy for innovative solutions in Sustainable Development.
 
How do I take you up on this offer?

Simple: send us a note here and we’ll get in touch with you.

Let’s Get to Work!

Check out this full page ad in the New York Times about the B Corporations (BCorp) CEO Women’s Group “WeTheChange”.

New York Times We The Change

WeTheChange is a BCorp CEO Women-led group with the mission to address basic human needs through political advocacy, with a focus on economic justice through an inter-sectional lens around race, gender identity, sexuality and class. PATHFINDER is particularly involved in the economic mobility and the social impact measurement subgroups at the moment.

As members of this group, we are hopeful and excited that the movement is escalating! Here’s looking to great possibilities.

We’re Proud to Announce our Paper on Sustainable Development

When we came together to create PATHFINDER, one of our motivations was to build a system that perpetuates solutions that really, truly work. We were done accepting status quo because the status quo is very clearly not enough. Sure, we’re tiny voices speaking to a worldwide industry that is quite set in its ways. But tiny as we may be, we’re here to make a difference. 

This paper was our first endeavor and we’re so proud to publish it. What makes things even more exciting is that Canada’s Impact Investor extraordinaire himself, Joel Solomon, signed on to write a Foreword, having just published The Clean Money Revolution.

We believe our paper is the first of its kind. And so, we hope to inspire meaningful thought, conversation and with a little luck, even change. 

We contend that social entrepreneurship is a far better – and infinitely more promising – response to the calls for global sustainable development, than not-for-profit organizations. Here is why, in summary and in detail. 

We invite you to read and share this publication, and to let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!

With Regards,

Jess and Shivani

Announcement: PATHFINDER’s first White Paper

PATHFINDER’s first White Paper: “How to do Sustainable Development Right: The Case for the Social Enterprise”

Have you ever found yourself in a passionate discussion about what works in our global systems, and what doesn’t? Do you ever get frustrated with the state of the world, and wonder why we can’t do better? Do you ever wonder why not-for profit agencies seem slow to evolve with the times? These were some of the questions that would eventually lead to our first white paper. These are also the questions that would lead to PATHFINDER.

We’ve spoken often about how we began PATHFINDER to challenge the models of international development that don’t work, and replace them with those that do. First though, we needed to study. A lot. This paper is a byproduct of that study.

In this paper, we contend that social entrepreneurship is a far better — and infinitely more promising — response to the calls for global sustainable development. We lay out where not-for-profit organizations fall short, and how for-profit social enterprises deliver. And we make a bold call to action for the industry to change.

With this paper, we would love to start a meaningful discussion. We would love for this to inspire collaboration. And we look forward to any opportunities the publishing of our paper creates.

Releasing on May 7th, and introduced by Canada’s most influential impact investor and visionary, Joel Solomon, look out for “How to do Sustainable Development Right: The Case for the Social Enterprise.”

PATHFINDER Logo

PATHFINDER and CIYOTA

PATHFINDER is pleased to announce a new partnership with CIYOTA.

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“COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa’s (CIYOTA) mission is to improve the lives of young people through functional education, socially responsible leadership and social entrepreneurship activities. CIYOTA has established various programs within Kyangwali refugee settlement camp in Uganda to address critical challenges faced by the refugee community such as poverty, violence, disease and insufficient access to quality and functional education.”

CIYOTA focus on three main activities: delivering primary and secondary education to youth, university guidance and women’s empowerment, and community work and involvement.

Most recently, CIYOTA has expanded to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help educate children and youth, build communities, and enable entrepreneurs with relevant skills. DRC “is the big country with big problems but also big potential. For 134 years Congo has gone through slavery, assassination, dictatorship and decades of wars. This resulted into 6 million people killed in cold blood and hundreds of women raped. Congo never got a chance to build strong institutions.”

CIYOTA is the incredibly successful passion project of our friend, Bahati Kanyamaza, a former child soldier and refugee himself. We met Bahati a few years ago, and he told us about the story of refugees who grew up in the camps of central Africa, only to one day rescue others from a similar fate.

Bahati and his partners swore to change the world around them. And for so many children and youth, they have!

 

 

Why I paid it forward

PATHFINDER’s Shivani Singh recently spoke about her experience at Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock, and the importance of paying it forward.

Here’s what Hollyhock shared:

We’ve spoken often about how generous and collaborative the social enterprise community is. And indeed, we are a community. We help each other. – Shivani Singh, PATHFINDER

An incredible thing about Hollyhock is the community of people that are brought together by this place. It’s this community which has been the driving force in bringing even more social change leaders to our shore through financial support.

Shivani Singh is one of those people. A social entrepreneur and co-founder of PATHFINDER, she received financial assistance to attend our Social Venture Institute last year. Since then, she has been an active advocate, working to raise money for our Dana Bass Solomon Scholarship Fund in support of other extraordinary change makers, like herself.Shivani BW.jpg

“When PATHFINDER was just beginning, the pro-bono services and resources of others who had been there before us, helped us get off the ground. We learned so much, we built fast, and we grew tremendously.  And we did it all on minimum expense because of the generosity of perfect strangers, people who were connected to us only by a shared passion to help build a better world.

The opportunity to attend SVI at Hollyhock came about when we had no money.

Our earliest champion and new friend, Joel Solomon, really wanted us to attend, so he paid our way. While at SVI, we tried to pay him back, but of course, Joel was not interested in the money. He wanted us to meet him and other incredible people in that powerful setting. In this discussion, where we refused to just take this sizeable gift and Joel refused to have it back, we came up with an idea: Why not pass it on – the entire gift – so that others may have access to the amazing opportunities we did? Those before us were kind and generous, and we were enabled by their spirit. Why not participate in this most wonderful and powerful cycle of generosity, so that future social entrepreneurs may have a better shot at success too?

And so, here we are. Our first order of business, as soon as we had made some money, was to contribute our entire SVI Hollyhock gift amount to the Dana Bass Solomon Scholarship Fund. We made ourselves proud, sure; but more than that, we hope to have started something amazing.

We hope to have started a chain of good people doing more good for others like them. We hope to have inspired the SVI community to join us. We hope many more social entrepreneurs can now attend the fantastic Social Venture Institute.”

 

To scale or not to scale? A quick guide in scaling your social enterprise

By Jessica van Thiel

cook ethos team photo.JPG
http://www.cookethos.com

“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” -Former US President, Bill Clinton

In the past few decades, social entrepreneurship has gotten a lot of attention. From academia to business, people are recognizing the importance of social entrepreneurs and the invaluable work they do. Social enterprises are like any other business; they must have a strategy for growth and to scale once they are out of the startup stage.

Many business owners fall into the trap of wanting to scale before they are ready. They want their business to grow so they scale up their processes to inspire that growth. Unfortunately, this can actually result in stalling the development of a business. Scale too quickly or recklessly, and you’ll create a lot of organizational problems that will be hard to undo. Scaling before you’re ready may even cause your business to fail. Scale too slowly, however, and you may miss out on key opportunities that come with greater resources and revenue[1]. So how do you go about doing any of this? First, it’s crucial to know what you’re scaling to begin with.

Measuring impact?

While every business has to consider its customers, social enterprises have a particularly important task; they need to consider social impact and how to measure it. Measuring social impact is often one of the most difficult things to do as it’s not tangible. From education to gender equality and environmental impact, these issues often take years before one can see results and even then, how can an entrepreneur really know if they are using the right indicator or measurement? You’re not selling t-shirts after all, so how do you know you’ve done well?

The key might lie in the research. You need to really understand what your service is, and what your goals are. Once you’ve identified it all, and it may take months or even years to define, you can then start to look at what works and what doesn’t. By eliminating what doesn’t work you can adjust and refine the way you approach solving the issue.

Additionally, assigning appropriate measurements is critical. Although social in nature, you should find a way to measure your impact in numbers. If the goal is to provide access to education for children in India for example, then the first unit of measurement can be the number of children your social enterprise has put through the school system. The number enrolled, attended and completed. Why is it so important to be able to measure impact, almost from the start? Because, if you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know when it’s time for the next stage – i.e. time to scale.

Scaling can be a daunting task for any small business, let alone a social enterprise. With the objective of understanding the process further, PATHFINDER spoke with cook ethos, a startup social enterprise with the mission of connecting people through food, to learn about what strategies, if any, they had in scaling their enterprise. Cook ethos is “a fun and fresh approach to learn how to cook new dishes and gives you the chance to learn about cuisines and meet people from all corners of the globe – in the region of London” (think Airbnb meets cooking lesson). The startup was launched this year by three young female entrepreneurs.

While they are very much in the startup phase, they’re already considering how to scale their company. And for them, it needs to happen quickly if they want to make an impact in their community, be successful and eventually turn a profit. Although they have many ideas and potential business avenues they could explore, at the core, their service is to connect hosts and guests for a unique cooking experience. So the way they’ll measure impact is simple: it’s in the numbers. Guests provide testimonial for their experience, and with an overwhelming percentage of testimonials being positive, it is safe to say in their case, that the more people who book their service, the more impact they’ll have on the community. This, they explained, was a relatively easy question to answer. The next question, how to scale is more complicated.

Do they scale regionally or internationally? Do they expand their product to offer different services or do they focus on the bookings?

Charlotte Morrison, COO and Co-Founder of cook ethos explained,

In order to get things right, we’re now trying to focus on just one area to scale but in doing so, we don’t want to neglect the hosts in other areas because they are still very valuable to us. We don’t want to lose sight of them. So the question is how do we find a balance. That would probably be our biggest challenge regarding scaling at the moment.

These are the kinds of questions that every entrepreneur faces. How to keep the integrity and goals of the business intact while scaling? In the beginning you might not have the luxury of being selective. When you’re desperate for cash, it’s easy to cut corners, compromise your values and deliver a subpar product or service. But the businesses that manage to weather their growing pains and stick to their guns are the ones that last longest and shine brightest[2].

So what’s the solution if you want to scale successfully? In short, maintain your focus. As entrepreneurs, we tend to want to seize every opportunity that comes our way. And although it’s good to pursue some, it’s alright to keep your focus narrow in the beginning and expand once you’ve gotten it (whatever it may be) right.

Once you’ve achieved product-market fit and started scaling up based on that main offering, don’t go crazy trying to add features or related products. Make sure you can do one thing better than anyone before you start building new stuff” Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE points out.

Cook ethos is doing just that, keeping focused. And it’s working.

To scale or not to scale

Knowing when to scale is important. Knowing how to scale is essential. Because making money doesn’t always equate success, especially if you are a mission driven enterprise. Charlotte Morrison explains,

When it comes to scaling, one thing we anticipate that will be difficult, is keeping our integrity and respecting our mission. If we expand internationally, for example, different countries will almost certainly have their own way of doing and managing things. We operate like a family business and we don’t ever want to lose that, no matter how big we get”.

This is a tricky one. On the one hand as a startup, it’s difficult to turn down work, especially when clients aren’t exactly knocking on your door. On the other hand, without consistency of the product or service, an enterprise can quickly lose its brand integrity.

The trick is in the balance. When a company scales too quickly and doesn’t have the structure to support the growth, failure rates will increase[3]. You need to expand to operate and this should be a natural, cyclical process. Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE highlights the biggest mistakes a business can make when scaling is over hiring, over spending, and over building. She explains, “You need to stay lean during the scaling process. Don’t hire too many people (especially middle managers or specialists). These take away from your core competencies and leave you prone to trying to scale other areas too quickly” and “there’s a tendency for startups to get loose with their money once they’ve raised a lot during the fundraising stage. Keep all of your spending focused on growing the business”.

Balancing act

Balance is crucial here. Check back in with your values and mission regularly. Think quality not quantity. Eventually, if you do a good job, more work will come your way. And when it does, get it done. You don’t want to compromise the quality of the work; however, you don’t want to say no to new clients (especially if they’re the kind of clients you’ve been seeking). So even if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to complete the work or project, you make it happen anyway. It’s a tricky thing to get right, but in the beginning like all successful startups, you’ve got to work your butt off.

Cook ethos has considered this very scenario,

We’ve considered a situation where we might have more work than we can handle. Ultimately we would never say no to clients and we would just work it out. Although we don’t foresee this happening in the next year, if it were to happen before we had the infrastructure in place, we would adapt. We’d probably get all of friends and family on board. We’d do whatever it takes to make it happen!”

This is a good problem to have for any business. And the difference between a successful business and a non-successful one is all in the approach and attitude. In short: adapt to the research, know your product or service better than anyone, and check back in to find your balance.

[1] https://www.coxblue.com/5-important-tips-for-scaling-your-startup/

[2] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/299214

[3] – Jeanna McGinnisReResumeMe®

 

Love What You Do: PATHFINDER’s Leadership Journey

By Jessica van Thiel

This article was first published in Leader Stories

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My colleague Shivani and I founded PATHFINDER, in 2015, as an international social enterprise based in Canada and France. PATHFINDER consults with business, academia and policy for innovative solutions in the world of sustainable development. Our mission is to perpetuate solutions that protect and enable the world’s most vulnerable.

Everything about our organization is unique, from our business model to our daily operations. Living on different continents with different time zones has been an opportunity for us, instead of a challenge, and one that has driven much of our success. We love what we do.

Here’s a little more about our (and my) story.

Q: Why did you decide to go into the nonprofit/social purpose sector?

A: Well, first, it’s good old-fashioned passion. We’ve both dreamed of doing this work our whole lives.  We started PATHFINDER after casually discussing, over dinner, the major gaps and opportunities in the NGO/nonprofit sector. We wanted to create a social enterprise that addressed these industry challenges, instead of perpetuating them, and we wanted to implement a business model that strives to do good while doing well.

Q: What keeps you here?

A: The opportunity, flexibility and excitement this industry brings. It has been such an exciting journey so far, and we’re just getting started! We imagine a future with even more opportunity to do what we love. In the meantime, we’re just happy to be working in such a fast-paced and evolving field.

Above all, to us, this is a calling. There is no other plan but this one. It’s a feeling we each share, deep in our bones. It’s a certainty we know.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your work day?

A: The variety. Every day is different. A day can include meetings with partners, clients, media and researchers. It can include everything from writing research reports and articles for mainstream media outlets, to attending and presenting at conferences, and facilitating workshops. Our days are often unpredictable too.

Another very cool thing is that we are constantly inspired. We regularly connect with some really amazing people doing some really great things. We learn all the time. We collaborate with like-minded individuals. We create solutions to real problems. How many people get to feel these things in each work day? It’s a phenomenal experience.

Q: What impact or success are you most proud of?

A: In December 2016, we organized a humanitarian mission (our first) to some refugee camps along Syria’s border with Lebanon. Through generous donations, we were able to provide much-needed resources to over 500 children and their families.

Q: We all have our “failing forward” moments. Can you share a failure that in retrospect led to growth or learning?

A: Being a social entrepreneur and starting a business has been a huge learning process, both professionally and personally. We’ve had to re-evaluate our business model often, which is a difficult thing to do.

Also, one of the first big lessons we learned from failing at pitches was that not everyone will believe in our work or even in us. There is a lot of feedback out there, both positive and negative. We conscientiously decided to solicit and accept all feedback, to then review, choose and learn what we could while moving past any ignorance or negativity. We learned from everything while we learned not to be beaten down by anything. It took a lot of practice and now this process comes naturally to us.

Q: In a few words, what most gets in the way of your ability to be the leader you want to be?

A: Ourselves. There are no real obstacles, only excuses. For us, it has been juggling responsibilities like jobs, studies, families, etc., that perhaps if we didn’t have, we could focus all of our time on PATHFINDER. However life doesn’t work that way, nor should it. It’s healthy to have a balanced life, and the trick is being able to use the time you have in the smartest way possible.

We’re making progress and we’re getting closer to where we want to be. At the end of the day, the only limitations are our own.

Q: Tell me about a learning experience that supported your leadership development.

A: I participated in the American Express Leadership Academy in New York City in October 2017.

Among other things, it reinforced for me that a good leader is compassionate, empathetic and seeks opportunities to learn. A good leader always works to grow. These possibilities were made available to us at the Academy. We met people who introduced us to lives we were fortunate enough to never know, and we listened. We met experts and we learned. We grew a little, professionally and personally. These are all lessons that make us better people, and stronger leaders.

I also left with a fantastic network that I have committed to remain active in.

Q: What has been your biggest area of growth as a leader in the past year or two?

A: We’ve become stronger people. The more we’ve learned, the less we’ve accepted we know. We’ve also learned to never lose sight of what our goals are as entrepreneurs, while staying true to our values.

Q: Why is it important that today’s nonprofit and social purpose leaders get professional development supports?

A: Because, at the end of the day, you are an entrepreneur running a business. You need to have the skills and tools to be able to do that successfully. It’s great to have the passion and theory, but without the practical skills and professional development, you can only go so far.

Q: What is something that people don’t know about you from reading your resume? 

A: We are passionate about travel and learning about new cultures and people. We each come from international backgrounds and have travelled and lived all over the world. We actually met on the idyllic island of Mauritius where Jess was working with the United Nations Development Programme and reporting to Shivani’s friend, mentor, and then UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles.

We’re also big fans of good wine. Cheese isn’t bad either.

Q: Please share your greatest piece of leadership advice for your social sector peers across the world.

A: Believe in yourself. Believe in your purpose and others will want to follow. If you are unsure, it will be difficult to convince others. Passion is contagious and every good leader should have the ability to express it. Also, never stop learning. Ever.

Q: Three words: If you had to name three specific abilities, skills or mindsets that you think every 21st century nonprofit leader needs, what would they be?

A: Passion, Tenacity, Flexibility.

This is not the sort of thing you do without a deep belief in its value. You need to commit to success, no matter what it takes. And we can assure you, it takes a lot.