Staying on the Impact Track: PEP IT4Change

The Changer want to bring some light into the field of social startup scene by sharing own experience. Be also aware of the IT4Change competitions.

This article was originally published in July 2014.

To apply for the current round of IT4Change, go checkout PEP on Facebook.

It’s official, becoming social entrepreneurs is literally the BEST thing we have ever done. You not only get to do something meaningful with the hours and hours and hours we humans spend cooped up at the office every week, we also get to spend that time with people who are super cool, motivated, smart, daring and fun to be around. Thinkers outside of the boxes. And it can be pretty rewarding. But it can also feel a bit frustrating, particularly when you look over the fence at the “standard” (who wants to be standard?) startup world, which seems to be full of opportunities for networking, exchange, learning and a good deal more money. It can sometimes feel like the kind of funding opportunities social entrepreneurs have available are what an investor would sneeze at a for-profit venture before they had even pitched.

Which is why we were so very happy to be able to join 18 other young social entrepreneurs at the Ashoka PEP IT4Change Wirkungsschmiede last weekend in Heidelberg. PEP (Programme Engagement mit Perspektive) is designed to fill the gap between having a job or being a student (whilst trying to run a social project in your spare time) and running your own wildly successful social enterprise. It is a resource, learning and support network for young social entrepreneurs (usually under 27 but for some people and programmes, hmmhmm, they make exceptions). It equips you with financial support (though not always), practical tools, coaching, consultancy and a peer-network to ensure that you are aiming for the right goals in terms of your potential impact, and that what you are doing is actually going to get you there. Goodbye frustration, hello new friends, new ideas and new motivation.

Being forced to step away from our computers for a whole 3 days threw us into a flurry of panic for a moment but, once over the withdrawal symptoms and having met the rest of the crew, we knew that it would be worth every minute. And it was: during the course of the workshop, we did a crash course in Design Thinking at SAP, were challenged by PEP to hammer out our Theory of Change and then by Leon from Impact Hub to determine what assumptions we were making and how we could test them to make sure we were heading the right way. And above all, we were able to learn with and from other smart, engaged and (at times) very amusing social entrepreneurs, all of whose social businesses we would encourage you to check out:

Irrepressible Voices
Serlo
Happy Belly
Band Master Flash
Youvo
Talent Invest
ARYA App
Kaputt.de
2aid.org
Coader
Digital Helpers
Jourvie
nearBees

Whilst some one-time workshops can leave you high and dry, after this one we were given a framework to stay in touch with our peer network and use them to work on concrete tasks in our business - making the whole thing much more sustainable.

Lessons Learned:

Before you start out, design a Theory of Change or Wirkungskette  - and keep revisiting it every 3 months to check that you are still on the right track. This will help you focus and really nail down your strategy.

Take any opportunity you get to go to events, workshops and courses to meet your peers and learn from those with more experience. Especially if it is a PEP workshop.

In general, just talk to as many people as possible about what you are planning - you never know where their thoughts will lead you.

Don’t let yourself get disillusioned - Doing Good can feel like an uphill struggle at times but being inspired by ideas and people who share your passion for social impact will keep you going through the tough times and even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned, you will have learnt a ton and met some awesome people on the way.

Learn more about IT4Change.