I’m a fly SWOTTER: I SWOT on the fly.

Nick, the program coordinator from the recent India cohort, muses over the changes one can expect from a program with Social Starters. 

Above pic: the view from a temple in Hampi, an amazing UNESCO World Heritage site just a few hours south of Hyderabad.

I never really liked coffee. It was fine. It provided a purpose: a means to an end. But the one thing I hated was the hysteria surrounding coffee. ‘Oh this coffee is marvellous’, ‘Oh this coffee is crap’ etc etc. David Mitchell on the Graham Norton Show (anyone?) nicely ridicules this argument (HERE), asking ‘isn’t it all just….somewhat…coffee?’.

I had the same reservation with people who would go ON and ON about business ideas, that appeared to result from day-to-day epiphanies. If I’m walking down the street, the only vaguely intelligent thought that pops in my head is: ‘how best do I avoid death from vehicles’. I conclude that stopping is fairly important and I put that into practice. Another day, another dice with death.

So how has Social Starters changed me? Well, to the shock of my prior-self, I am now a changed man. Not only do I wax lyrical over the marginal benefits of coffee in one place over another, BUT I also can’t help but consider the plethora of possible business opportunities. Even when I do even the simplest of tasks or trips. Going to the shop to buy some milk results in an analysis of their profit margins; their marketing mix; wondering if the market was saturated or if there was room for a competitor: An innovative, new, environmentally friendly, sexy type of milk that would blow the milk market wide open. Milk. I’m having these thoughts about milk.

So I must confess: I am a Fly SWOTTER. I SWOT on the fly. For those that are unenlightened to my new canon, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a technique used to evaluate the pros and cons of a potential idea or business, and the term is (or should be) reserved for academics, start-up gurus, entrepreneurs, business schools, social enterprise programs, and finally, pretentious prats such as myself. And for some, inexplicable reason, I find myself carrying out SWOT analyses on a seemingly continual basis – whatever the activity. Consequently, I am now far worse at stopping for traffic.

But my reasons for both mindset changes are valid. Working in Hyderabad this last 6 weeks poses a challenge for anyone to find a decent cup of joe: it is a constant tangle of the lesser of two (or more) evils. More importantly the experience has made me realise just how many opportunities there are for social enterprises and for social entrepreneurs.

These opportunities are deeply rooted in social issues, issues that are so pervasive that they are impossible to ignore. Poverty, pollution, hygiene, social inequality to name a few. I challenge anyone to take a walk in Hyderabad and not have one of these issues present themselves in a direct and sometimes troubling manner. Our ability to recognise the problem unsurprisingly results in a chain-reaction of engrossing thoughts: what’s the underlying problem here, and how can we best deal with it.

However, my newfound SWOTTING hobby is becoming obsessive, far from issues that actually require some serious thought. I remember watching a video of musician, tech entrepreneur and nauseatingly ubiquitous bloke Will.I.Am explaining (HERE) he was incredibly excited by his visit to a tech show by what he ‘didn’t see’. Wise words Will. But maybe this is my next calling. I’ll quote my favourite book as ‘a blank notebook’, and I’ll constantly refer to something so disruptive it will change the way we think as my ‘imminent business ideation’. ‘Watch this space’ I’ll claim mysteriously.

For now, my affliction is manageable – and better yet, it is extremely enjoyable. Thinking about new business ideas and solutions isn’t something that I thought I would have enjoyed. As I say, my prior-self would have recoiled in horror. But working in social enterprise is about creating positive change, and it starts with having the right mindset. Working with likeminded consultants and clients in Hyderabad helped to develop that mindset, which is, as far as I can tell, irremediable. I’m excited to see if my fly SWOTTING can culminate in something tangible. Now, anyone know of any good coffee joints around here…

_SocialStarters still have places available for the following programmes in India, Sri Lanka, Brazil & Kenya. Don’t delay, places tend to fill 6 months in advance so enquire now if you’re interested: 

Sri Lanka – 4th July (6 weeks) || India – 22nd August (6 weeks) || Sri Lanka – 5th September (6 & 2 weeks) || India – 24th October (6 & 2 weeks) || Brazil – 31st October (6 & 2 weeks) || India – 31st January (6 & 2 weeks) || Sri Lanka – 13th February (6 & 2 Weeks) || Brazil – Feb/March TBC (6 & 2 weeks)With more dates soon to be published for April/May 2016 in Kenya & Sri Lanka. To apply, send your email with a cover note to info@socialstarters.org and clearly state in the subject heading which programme and what date you are applying for. If successful, you will invited to a Skype interview with one of the team! 

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