The power of positive change is so inspiring. Last week I had the pleasure to join 100+ young consultants from Accenture Netherlands during their team building day. They were not spending the day away from the office building boats or playing a survival game in rainy weather. Instead, they came to a central location to help three NGOs with their most pressing problems, to create change for a better world.
The sessions were well led by the 1%club, a global crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform that mobilizes society to realize smart ideas from and for people in developing countries. From their platform, they selected three projects to be supported with advice, brainstorming sessions and concrete offers for help. The HIV/AIDS orphanage for which I ran the Berlin marathon in September was very fortunate to be one of these. The other two were about street children in Colombia and children and families in Uganda.
Here are some of my observations from this inspiring session, which can easily be applied to any change process that requires support and buy-in from a large group:
The three NGOs each had one minute to present themselves. It was very clear that keeping the story simple was very important to generate interest and engagement for the creative sessions to come. Especially if people are coming in “cold” to a case, too much clutter and complexity scared them off. In this world of 140 character messages and blog-length attention spans, starting out simple is key.
In many situations, it is difficult to ask for help and be vulnerable. Through Facebook and career progression, we are mostly taught to be strong, to share accomplishments and happy messages. But often, you can’t do it alone and you need to engage others to join. All three case owners did this well, creating an environment of support and eagerness to help across this group of consultants. Need inspiration on being vulnerable? Enjoy this TEDtalk.
Creativity works at its best when people can contribute in various ways. For these sessions, the 1%club chose different formats – allowing people to choose their preferred way to contribute.
Once people were engaged, the NGOs repeated their cases and specific problems to their respective sub-groups. During this phase, the challenge was to really listen and understand what people were saying. The case owners were not allowed to write (to facilitate listening) and each appointed others to capture the ideas on flipcharts, mindmaps and post-its. It was hard not to say “we’ve tried that already”, or “that won’t work in Africa” and be open to all ideas. The crazier and seemingly useless ones really can progress the thinking to another level and lead to very useful ideas in the group. Each session generated a wealth of ideas for the specific cases and problems, and beyond.
Initially, the groups mostly came up with things to do, very action oriented. Continued teamwork added suggestions of a different order, provoking thoughts on (feasible) structure and incentives to ensure these NGOs can thrive with relatively limited support from a distance, to become self-supporting and sustainable.
The sessions did not allow time to narrow the long list down to a short list of the key activities that would yield the largest impact. We spent two hours afterwards going through all the learnings and ideas for the orphanage and making a first selection of the most useful ideas. There were too many good ones – and with a lack of bandwidth, it is better to select a few that are really going to make a difference and do them well, rather than doing more in a suboptimal way.
The 1%club provides a great platform to share the selected next steps and the progress. This is also the platform to ask for more help – in the form of money or tasks. This helps keep the 100+ contributors engaged and get others onboard as well. Sharing goals and the progress and challenges to reach them publicly also helps to keep projects on track and focused.
I look forward to hearing more about all three projects – including the Human Compassion Organizations for which I raised Euro 888 by running the Berlin marathon. Thanks for all my sponsors – and for the 1%club and Accenture for bringing together so many creative minds to share a little to change a lot!