To launch Launchpad Work, Ākina’s accelerator for social enterprises, we asked the eight participating ventures to go through an intensive two day workshop where they got to know each other, themselves, and decide what they wanted to achieve throughout the six month program. We’re extremely pleased to say that 18 hours, 67 people, and 52 cups of coffee later, Launchpad Work is officially underway, and the ventures are already finding value in some surprising places.

We designed the days with two key goals in mind:

  1. Goal setting: This was the start of a six month long acceleration program. We need the teams to come out of this with a strong and ambitious direction for what they want to achieve over the coming months.
  2. Cohort bonding: We wanted the cohort to get to know each other really well, creating mutual respect and accountability between each other.

But it led to a lot more than that too, with the teams finding some of their primary takeaways in places we did not expect, but places that all businesses can find if they just allow the time.

1) People have more skills than they let on

The first of these was the value you can find in just talking to other people in this sector. Not only about their venture, but also about their life and experiences. Back when they were kids, none of the Launchpad participants said “when I grow up, I want to run an employment oriented social enterprise”. They all had very different dreams, which led them down very different paths, and taught them all very different skills. Despite this, each of those paths has now led them to the social enterprise space, and even into the same room for two days. It didn’t take long for the ventures to realise that this variety of skills acquired in previous careers was both interesting and helpful, and gave them access to expertise they hadn’t had before.  

By having two days together, the participants had time to pause, step back, and ask questions beyond ‘what’s your day job’. In doing so they found new things in common, new areas of expertise, and much more value than they ever expected.

2) Talent follows the brave

Social enterprise isn’t easy. Especially when starting one involves leaving an often much more comfortable job to embark on something completely new. Thankfully, day one of Kickoff closed with a reminder of the sheer volume of extremely experienced people who want to support this sector. This was through our mentor ‘matchmaking’ session, where we had over 30 experienced professionals come to meet the ventures and get an idea of who they would like to mentor throughout the program. After a long day energy was starting to wain before this session, but the enthusiasm from both the ventures and mentors to learn more about each other and build relationships really finished day one on a high.

If you are brave, and challenge yourself for the good of those around you, there is a very high chance there are extremely talented people nearby who are willing to help you. Launchpad participants luckily had 30 vying for their attention, but there is nothing to stop other organisations making a phone call, arranging a coffee, and simply asking for help.

3) You can see better from a distance.

The other key takeaway from Kickoff was one we all are familiar with, but seem to forget far too often. Participating in Kickoff for two days meant the ventures were given the time to step back from the operational running of their startup social enterprise. We forced them to take the blinders off, and look all around them to make sure they hadn’t veered off course at all.

From this removed perspective, the ventures asked themselves ‘what are we doing?’, ‘what do we want to be doing?’, and ‘how are we going to get there?’. Not only did this allow them to take stock of what they have achieved up until now, but it also enabled them to plan into the future with the time and focus this requires. Consequently, they were able to think about their venture a lot more clearly, creating goals that really aligned with their overarching purpose and mission, rather than any immediate priority.

Finding the time to step back is often really difficult, but the clarity doing so brings your business comfortably outweighs any inconvenience, and is a process the teams really appreciated.

Throughout Launchpad Work we’ll be pausing to check in on things pretty regularly, and we know this time will be much needed in between the constant coaching and support they will be receiving throughout the program. While this won’t be to the extent we did at Kickoff, we will still be taking stock to ensure the direction all of the teams are accelerating in is the direction the participants founded the company to go in. Watch this space to keep an eye on how they get there.