“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Helen Keller
We feel best helping those people who help themselves. Both as team members and leaders of change, we are inspired by people who rise above their lot in life through hard work, determination and perseverance and we long to find ways to support their success. Conversely, we harden ourselves to the endless complaints of people who blame everyone else for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for their own mess and do something about it.
The explosion of social innovation speaks to this desire to help people who want to help themselves. Kiva is a good example. Kiva is a micro-finance organization that matches thousands of individual lenders with entrepreneurs opportunities around the world. For as little as $25, the KIVA network loans money to people who want nothing more than a chance to work hard, create a better life for themselves and pay back the money loaned to them. Since its inception in 2005, Kiva has led to over $192 million in loans in 210 countries with a 98.92% repayment rate.
So what can KIVA’s model teach us about creating a groundswell of support and driving change in your organization?
Every great cause starts with a great story. Spend time putting a name and a face to both the impact of the problems you face as well as your efforts to find a solution. Every loan at Kiva starts with a compelling story about a person and their passion to create a positive difference.
Supporting your activities should be simple and easy. If you want others to support your efforts, make supporting you easy. The easier it is, the more likely you are to get it.
Provide regular feedback on your progress. The secret to getting meaningful support is providing relevant and personal feedback on your progress. Use more than one media channel to spread your message and create a rhythm to your updates.
Inspire people to support you again. If you have followed the previous lessons, you are well on your way to enlisting support for your future endeavors. Success breeds success and people love to align their support with people who have demonstrated the capacity to translate action and accountability into positive outcomes.
The moral here is that if you want to create a groundswell of support for your initiatives, quit whining about what you can’t change and identify those things you can. Prioritize your issues based on shared pain, carve out a few hours throughout your week and improve those things you can impact now. Once you begin to take action, aggressively share your activities with others. Demonstrate the positive impact of the change in your area and make a visible statement that you refuse to complain, but will aggressively tackle anything in your control. If you follow these steps, you will “pull” support from other team members and inspire those in a position of authority to help you achieve more than you thought possible.