My name is Daniel, and after having a chat with @nadia the other day about Edgeryders in general (I’m still discovering) and the OCI, I thought I could share some of my experience.
About me: I was part of co-creating the MakeSense hotspot in Berlin, which in turn helped shape the social innovation sector there, and recently I worked on the SwitchMed program, a (light) incubation program for green entrepreneurs across 8 countries in MENA, from Morocco to Lebanon, where I a) developed the content platform theswitchers.eu, b) started building community among Switchers and c) (re-)analyzing the ecosystems, the entrepreneurs’ needs, the other players and designing the next iteration of the program.
I checked the OCI website and read up on the thread, but starting in Sept’19, posts get less frequent, and I wonder what the current status is? The first pilot was launched by @zmorda and @Sohayeb, right? Is it running according to the schedule on the website, currently between Stage 4 (Deliverables) and 5 (Evaluation)?
I’d love to learn more about the current challenges to see how I could be useful more immediately. Are there any upcoming calls I could join?
Perhaps I can already share some questions and thoughts I had. I’m quite new here, so I might not understand all of the existing context and I apologize in advance if I step on any toes here.
First off, in regards to @zmorda’s question on mentors, what kind of mentoring should this be - e.g. questions like in-person/online, once a week/month/quarter meetings, paid/unpaid mentors, are they trained/untrained, what seniority level, industry access (can they open doors?)?
- The infrastructure needs depends on the type of mentoring you’d like. I don’t quite understand the P2P in this context - in what regard is the mentor a peer to the mentee?
I think there’s indeed merit in a mentor who isn’t way ahead (often, successful entrepreneurs with don’t really remember / romanticize what it was like to start out small) but only a few steps, however then you might need to provide the mentors more structure to make the sessions effective. This could even be a learning/growth opportunity for the mentors.
- The two key constraints in building your mentor network is: Who do you have easy/easiest access to? and What will bring the most impact to the mentees? Do you have a theory for the second question? My hypotheses are that:
- a) Outsider perspectives are useful (like in @hugi’s example), but the successful entrepreneurs in the region have often had help from local connections who can open up doors - to potential clients, to media outlets, to institutions. The “wasta” concept is still an important factor in a business’ success.
- b) What kinds of output or outcomes do you expect from the mentoring? If I understood @nadia correctly, there’s a very structured process for this, and I’m wondering where to learn more.
- c) I think the best mentors have some sort of skin in the game, that they really become a stakeholder in their mentees. I think there’s lots of innovation potential here.
- d) I understand that the target “beneficiary” has not created their social venture yet, but may or may not have an idea. I think that at this early stage, mentoring should happen alongside a more structured training process, and there’s lots of overlap in the early stages.
- Have you checked out other models to learn from or even partner with? I think Bridge4Billions’ online training tool is quite excellent (they’re not yet in the region, but might be interested), there’s also the Lebanon-based pitchworthy.co which is quite comprehensive in its ambition (not sure how the actual program addresses all of these aspects they describe) but I love that it’s a local initiative, and specifically for mentoring, mowgli has a mentoring training program they run in MENA.
Some more general thoughts:
- Social entrepreneurship is very trendy, and ESOs (entrepreneurship support orgs) seem to be what everyone wants to do - it often feels like there’s more ESOs than entrepreneurs! I think it’s useful to understand the context of things happening, how aware are you of other ESOs in the region, particularly those supporting social innovation? Just to name a few, there’s Enactus, Endeavour, Endeva, Ashoka, Yunus Social Business, INJAZ, Pitchworthy, SEED, Unreasonable Institute, SPARK, RIBH MENA, Flat6Labs (to some degree social), Enpact (mentoring focus) etc. - I think there’s a lot to learn from understanding their models, to either collaborate instead of reinventing the wheel, and/or fill missing gaps in the ecosystem. I think this could be key - this isn’t a blank canvas, and there’s lots of opportunities to support local developments rather than competing with them. I have more than a few thoughts on this, but at the moment those are better discussed than written out.
- When you say social innovation, is there an impact evaluation framework by which you would classify who you support and who not? How would you measure success of the program (e.g. number of entrepreneurs, revenue of their ventures, jobs created, social/ecological impact created, survival rate of ventures, share of female/rural/poor entrepreneurs, etc.)?
- Many programs focus on the urban centers, and often reach more privileged parts of society. Reaching the “poverty pockets”, often in rural parts, is something local orgs are increasingly trying, but there’s even more resources needed in this area. Again, coalition-building could be crucial here.
- My biggest learning is that creating progams at this scale across multiple countries, governance is critical - not only in who “owns” and “runs” the organization, but is the delivery of the program rather standardized (more rigid) or country-specific (more flexible), how can learnings be rolled out and implemented, what are the communication channels/routes, how can potential synergies be identified and used, how does documentation and (impact/performance) reporting happen, etc.
I’ll stop my first thoughts here for now - it’s already a long piece and I’d be very interested in your feedback.