Changemaker Institute (CI) is an accelerator program that helps Tulane students launch social ventures and build entrepreneurial skills through hands-on, experiential, and engaged learning. Through the course of the program, students will hone plans for their ventures and develop ideas through interaction with mentors and one another. CI will facilitate CI graduates’ engagement with and support by a community of CI alumni and an array of supporters working at the nexus of social change and innovation in the wider community. We expect students to graduate CI with the ability to create an effective roadmap to success for a social venture, and that the majority of the ventures honed in CI will be realized and sustained beyond the Changemaker Institute. CI is a gateway to other, more advanced opportunities in social entrepreneurship beyond campus.
This past week, Tulane University’s Changemaker Institute participated in a weeklong workshop with 52 Businesses. As an undergraduate college student, this experience was extremely informational as it provided me with a solid foundation of project management theory, PR outreach, and branding/messaging, none of which I’d had previous exposure to. What I found most helpful concerned project management- in particular, new strategies to organize and conceptualize projects. By categorizing projects into three clearly-defined tiers, it became much easier to focus on specific tasks and begin a prioritization process. I found it easiest to understand these tiers through an inverted triangle diagram, with the larger idea on the top and specific actions on the bottom. The largest level is the area of focus, which is a permanent project, such as product development or outreach to community partners. The middle tier can be referred to as a project, and can be any short term goal such as compiling a list of possible donors (which would fall under outreach to community partners). Finally, at the bottom of the triangle are actions. An example of an action would be calling a potential donor.
1) Area of focus (permanent)
2) Project (short term goal)
Outreach to community partners
Compile list of possible donors
Call a donor
By using this organizational structure, it is much easier to understand specific tasks and how they relate to an overall project or goal. Additionally, this organizational technique can be utilized to create a process of prioritization.
My name is Hannah and I work with Tulane University’s Changemaker Institute, an accelerator program that launches socially innovative student ventures and builds entrepreneurial skills. I’m a senior majoring in English and Sociology and am beginning a masters program in English this year. Based upon my areas of focus, maybe it’s not surprising that before working with 52businesses I had about 0 experience talking about business, participating in any kind of business meeting, or thinking about how best to develop, market, and launch a product.
An extremely useful and very basic thing I learned from Colin and Jason is simply not to be afraid to envision what you want your final product to look like. So often I think we are taught to think about baby steps. I’m not trying to say that baby steps aren’t an integral part of any process, but the experience of thinking big, of vocalizing and clarifying exactly what you want your end result to be, is surprisingly empowering and helpful. Once you find out what it is you’re working towards it is much easier to devise the baby steps, rather than the other way around.
This idea ties in well with how websites and programs can be utilized to inspire you to feel confident about achieving your ultimate goal. In our week with 52buisnesses we learned the ins and outs of Basecamp, a web-based product management tool. I started entering tasks under such headings as “To-do,” “To clarify,” “To send,” before learning that a much more effective way to motivate yourself to actually do these tasks is to state your end result. Start with a heading that lays your goal right on the table, such as “Convince X business to be a partner.” Then, in the subsequent tasks, write the things that you need to do to achieve this end goal. Importantly, make sure to include active, vibrant, and specific language to convince yourself that you not only want to do that task, but that the task is manageable. Rather than saying “Compile all of the information on our records,” break down the tasks into manageable chunks, such as “Discover who to ask about where records are kept,” “Dedicate an afternoon to taking notes on the records,” etc. This is a skill I plan to use in many areas of life, not just my professional one.