Let’s bring Patient and Resilient Leadership to Bear on the "5 Giants of Our Time".

At the recent GoodDeals + Beyond Good Business event on Social Finance organised by Hatch and Fable Bureau, once again we heard the confirmation that social entrepreneurs needed patient capital more than anything to grow their ventures.

Study Hall Education Foundation Students

Why is patient capital hard to get? Banks are still risk averse and show a lack of understanding of social propositions, with business models deemed too dependent on varying public policy; it is still hard to make the case for propositions that account for social value alongside monetary value; traditional banks’ rigidity around their bottom line leaves little margin for social entrepreneurs; and then social finance providers, philanthropic lenders, who do take the risks but are more expensive than their counterpart with debt finance.

Dirk Bischof from Hatch wrote a short post on this need for patient capital. And David Floyd writes extensively about it in his powerful Beanbags and Bullsh*t blog.  

But social entrepreneurs also need to demonstrate patient and resilient leadership as they build a system that will support their economic growth and their pursuit of social outcomes.

Patient leadership is the capacity to forge trusted relationships overtime, observe – whilst delivering – the outcomes (as small and unexpected) of each intervention, take the time to analyse results and not rush into conclusions. It’s about weaving expertise and allocating it appropriately in the right places for powerful interventions. You can’t parachute expert or consultants (even local) in places that have faced complex systemic issues over time.

During the GoodDeals event, I joined a panel where I was asked how we could cope with the adverse political climate. Was it about infrastructure building, communities building, government lobbying, creating movements and cause rebellions? I argued these couldn’t be used individually, separately. I want to see them emerge jointly. As the RSA research pointed out, all our efforts should indeed be directed ultimately to fight the 5 giants of our time:

Intolerance, Inequality, Climate crisis, Isolation, Disempowerment

And you need as much infrastructure as community building, strong campaigning and robust lobbying, to fight these giants. The challenges are local, they are global, they are recurrent. No social business can do this on their own. No leader can wave a magic card against this. It involves collaboration at higher level.

It specifically involves resilience and humility from leaders. Patient, collaborative and resilient leadership ultimately make business models work better, make investment work better. Because patient, collaborative and resilient leadership feeds on lessons learnt, human-centred, future-proof, systemic service design.

When a community has to collectively rise up to local challenges, because of economic downfalls, environmental calamities or resurgence of crime or all these things put together, they have to get to know each other and collectively build trust and join up expertise. Read Collaborative Resilience: Moving Through Crisis to Opportunity, a series of global case-studies edited by Bruce Evan Goldstein. This opus examines “a range of efforts to enhance resilience through collaboration, describing communities that have survived and even thrived by building trust and interdependence”.

Ajaita Shah, CEO Frontier Markets

Our friend Ajaita Shah, previously a micro-finance specialist and is for almost 10 years now, the CEO of Frontier Markets. Ajaita runs a sales and marketing distribution company that makes quality, affordable clean energy products and goods available to rural and sometimes extremely poor households in India. “Our end customers sit on an energy spectrum. As you go beyond the 30km radius of our centres, there is less and less grid connectivity. So our market varies from partial electrification to totally off-grid”. Frontier Markets customers access quality clean energy solutions through a network of digitized rural entrepreneurs, with women at the centre of the value chain. The women will come with various needs, abilities, contexts, desires and expectations. The product she distributes need to be good, reliable, secure, repairable. Ajaita’s patient and resilient leadership enabled her to define the complexity of her supply chain, the profile of her customers who also act as intermediaries and change agent, and the subtlety of the large territory she is covering. Frontier Markets also integrates UNDP's SDGs into its approach and development plans, and they are able to communicate their systemic impact this way.

Emphasise Autonomy, Mastery and Focus for all

Ajaita is a great example of how you can build resilient and patient leadership as a CEO, understanding how to instill a mindset of co-creation, circular learning, in a team. Needless to say that to do so, you also need to reserve a significant budget and capacity for networking, partnerships buildings, capabilities growing.

From a personal point of view, and this is a steep learning curve for some, as a leader, you also need to find, and delegate to, strong deputies who can deal will the day to day matters while you go and forge collaborations, within your close and wider networks.

Follow up steps:

  • Beyond your deputy, you will have shaped a strong organisational culture which emphasises autonomy, mastery and focus for all and from all.
  • If you are a new leader, consider whether your organisation has these things in place - if not, how can you grow them?
  • If your business is failing – could that be you’ve overlooked this capability? Is this the reason why your model and practice don’t add up?
  • A leadership development support programme could help you co-design the best roadmap and playbook to achieve more patience and resilience. Talk to me!

In addition, scout for opportunities such as this one in the UK: The National Lottery Community Fund’s Partnerships programme awards grants over £10,000 to charities, voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, schools and town/parish councils who share responsibility and influence with others, who have a shared set of goals and values, and achieve their mission by starting with the bigger picture rather than just what their organisation can do on its own.

Grants are awarded for up to five years and can be used to fund project activities, operating costs, organisational development and capital costs. Funding can support many different types of partnership, including:

  • cross-sector partnerships
  • local place-based collaboration
  • local and national organisations working together around a particular theme.

We have gathered stories of patient and resilient leaders all over the world, and we are still looking for success stories but also humble accounts of lessons learnt, stories where a collaborative system and service design has contributed to achievements in the 5 giants axes: intolerance, inequality, climate crisis, isolation disempowerment.

So tell me, what worked well, what didn’t?

How have you prepared your team, your leadership to embrace and implement true collaboration?

And if it is still not working, come and talk to us.

Over to you.

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