If you had time to think, what would you think about?

Written by Erin Melnychuk, Business Development Manager at Momentum

Everyone has one; an idea that percolates on the back of your mind, that you can never quite get to. I’ve had a few, but there’s one that I haven’t been able to shake. As a Community Economic Development organization, Momentum is often referred to as a social enterprise. In fact, we have a long history of earning our own revenue. However, the knowledge of how to enterprise resides with only a handful of staff. If Momentum really is an enterprising organization, then how can we ensure this part of our identity is embedded in our DNA and expressed through all of our staff? This is the idea that lives on the back burner of my mind that I’ve decided to stop thinking about and begin to do something about.

So how do you actually go about developing an enterprising culture exactly? The answer is, I’m not entirely sure. The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook doesn’t have a chapter on this! The process we’re using consists of 3 functional elements; a staff committee to develop and oversee a work plan, formal learning events, and monthly design labs. The design labs are the secret sauce in this process.

The monthly design labs are a fun and innovative space. Its a few hours every month when staff have permission to drop what they are doing to come and create. It’s a safe space to bring ideas and to receive support from your peers in working up the ideas. There are more bad ideas than good ones and that’s the point.

We’re only a few months in and have learned a few things already. The first: We need to develop a compelling reason why we are pursuing this. We co-created our ‘why’ with staff and have decided that we would like to learn to see opportunities differently through an enterprising lens, build important skills that every staff person can use in their career, and earn a bit of money which will allow us to pursue more new & innovative activity. The second thing we learned is that our staff are really busy and favor the approach of maximizing existing assets by bringing those resources to new markets, rather than developing something from scratch.

Our design labs have already surfaced 7 ideas with potential that are in various stages of development. Four are currently being taken through feasibility testing. Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to launch something by spring!

The reason we all have these ideas that don’t get acted upon is because we generally don’t do work we don’t get paid for (which actually underscores the need for what I’m trying to pursue, but I digress!). Luckily, there’s support out there for groups to get paid to THINK! The opportunity I took advantage of was made possible through ATB’s Time to Think Grant. In my work I rarely have the luxury of ‘time to think’. Heck yeah, I’m applying for that grant! ATB makes this fabulous grant available to organizations, charities, social enterprises, and collectives to be strategic, innovative, and to strengthen their impact in Albertan communities.

Take Action:
• Check out ATB’s Time to Think grant to see if it’s a fit for your initiative
• Learn more about Momentum here
• Has your organization been through a similar process? Tell us about it! We’d love to learn what’s worked well and what’s been challenging. You can email me your story at erinm@momentum.org

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