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5 things I learnt by starting a social venture

Considering that even Forbes has started publishing listicles, it appears appropriate that I break down my learning in this form. While there are multiple things I learn each day in managing VideosForKnowldge, there are 5 things that I feel are most pertinent and applicable across various social ventures.

1. Be Flexible: In a social venture, you are dependent on multiple things. Funds. Interest from stakeholders. The weather (Bad weather causes unscheduled holidays). Even the best laid plans don’t materialize in this context. At VFK, we have learned to be agile to respond to unforeseen circumstances. At times, your programme might look different in two different contexts and that’s okay.

2. Lean is good: In this era, there is no dearth of talent willing to work pro-bono, especially in the non-profit space. At VFK, we started as a 2 member team. Within a span of 6 months, that number had gone up to 20. Each member had a clear set of tasks and responsibilities. Certainly, there was enough work to be done. In an ideal world, we should have become 10 times more productive with a 10x increase in the team size. In reality, it was a disaster. Follow-up took longer than the task itself. As Co-Founders, we lacked the experience of leading and motivating large teams. Two years later, we are a team of just 7. Each individual owns his role and takes initiative based on his/her own judgement. Follow-ups are rarely required.

3. Work on your interests and strengths: Every individual you approach will give you new ideas about where to take your venture. Industry trends might point in a different direction. Your stakeholders might tell you about what they would like. Eventually, the decision about where you want to take your organization depends on you and your team. At VFK, we have been through the whole gamut, from academic content to general knowledge content. Eventually, the interest of our team to improve general awareness levels and our strength to create minimalist videos decided the direction we wanted to take.

4. Celebrate small wins: By their very nature, social ventures aim big. They want to fundamentally change the status quo. While having this kind of vision drives you, it also demotivates you when you fall short, which is often. When we started off, we created content at a breakneck pace. While we had a 100 videos in place, we were unsure if people were actually using them. Gradually, we started hearing from teachers who had used all our videos and how it had impacted their classroom positively. To be honest, these teachers were in the minority. However, celebrating these little victories gave us the motivation to move forward. We also used these teachers as bright spots to understand what was clicking for them and then tried to replicate that for other teachers.

5. Take a break: When you are working continuously, its easy to get busy answering email, having meetings and analysing data. There is no scope for creativity or new ideas. VFK started on a lazy Sunday afternoon when we had nothing better to do but create a video on the Pyramids of Egypt. Take breaks often to rejuvenate your brain. This helps you get fresh ideas and stay motivated for what you believe in.

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