From The Founders: Thinking Intentionally For Change

By Allie Gross

THINK

Photo Credit to Cuantofalta (Creative Commons)

Working in a start-up is exciting and challenging for the same reasons: the work you are doing daily is setting the president for the way all future employees will do work in the coming years.

Right now, we are developing materials to share with partners, recruiting schools and counselors, signing up girls, setting pricing, and determining various internal procedures for hiring, quality control, training, impact assessment – just to name a few!  Our small start up team is certainly stretched thin, from the full time employees to our part time volunteers.

In the short run it probably would be easier to throw things together, and make impulse decisions that will fulfill our immediate needs based on the realities that we are dealing with right now.  But we’ve learned that ultimately, that short cut today will lead to more time and effort in the future.  Each decision and communication we make must be intentional and deliberate, so they lay a foundation that we can work on for years to come.

Last summer was our first pilot of the program, and we didn’t have a long term plan worked out at all.  We were purely focsed on proving our concept would work, so that we could really see if this was something that made sense to bring forward in the future.

We had a short period of time, and had to work quickly to develop documents and processes as we went that would fulfill our immediate needs.  We  signed up as many girls at each school as we could and covered all the costs of running camps and then some in order to lower any barriers for getting owners on board quickly.

As a result, our core team spent most of the summer running around like crazy, putting out fires on a daily basis.  Ultimately we pull off a successful batch of 11 summer camps, and built a lot of support among the community and funders to take the program to the next level, however, with the decision to push forward and grow our pilot into an organization, we have had to take a huge step back to rework documents, policies, and procedures that previously were not forward thinking.

Now that we are thinking with the long term in mind, each decision that we have to make involves a larger discussion around how this will impact each of our goals and needs in the long term.

Decisions that used to be simple are now more complex, as we have to think through how this will impact our model in terms of staff capacity, financial restrictions, quality assurances, since partners are expecting uniformity in policy and procedures from year to year.

Something that is a small cost today when we are working with 60 schools and 3,000 girls, may not be feasible as we grow to 100,000 girls spanning across 2500 schools in various regions throughout India.  If the team does not think through every decision deliberately, we will constantly be in start-up zone, where each new factor requires a complete revamping of policies and procedures.

Instead, we have to think very intentionally about decisions big and small now, so they are hammered down, and we can move on with these strong precedents set and put our energy into pushing forward instead of fixing decisions from the past.

How has intentionality played a role in your current projects?

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