Tag Archives: #socialimpact

Building a Bridge

Have you ever been a situation where
1. Let’s say you have had a bad experience with somebody – for example, you had to ask for directions and that somebody shouted at you for asking the directions. So, now you are afraid of asking directions. You use your previous interaction to frame your current interactions.
2. You have felt scared inside, but you put a brave face and went on about it. Can you think of one situation in your life when you were not sure of how things are done, but you went about it like you have done it a dozen times? For me, it was ordering my first subway sandwich – coming straight from India; it was an ordeal.
3. You have looked at somebody and assessed where they fit in the interaction models that pre-exist in your mind. For example, this person is reading a book – People who read books are friendly people so I can trust them.

I am sure most of you can say yes to all the three situations before. Now, what if I told you that the youth experiencing homelessness could also say yes to the above situations. Yes, our circumstances might be vastly different but we are experiencing the same feelings, emotions and we come from the same space.

For those of you who don’t know – Adam and I (along with a few other great people) have embarked on a journey to establish a social enterprise (Wild Tiger Tees) which employs youth experiencing homelessness to screen print t-shirt. Our ultimate goal is to get them out of homelessness entirely. We are taking one step at a time – build a relationship and a sustainable business model first – coach and mentor the youth for long-term success. We do not know if we will be successful or not but its a start of something for sure. Like anything new – this has been the foremost thought in my mind chatter in the recent days.

The first thing that struck me was that I was as afraid of approaching these youth as they were of me. And that led me to see other things that we have in common. Surprise! Surprise! We have a lot more in common than I ever imagined – at the end of the day we are all going through the same human predicament, and suffering is the one common thread we have.

What Wild Tiger Tees is trying to do is to fill in a gap that exists in our society – for reasons beyond our control we have youth experiencing homelessness in our society. And there is no structure in place currently that encourages, enables and empowers these youth to integrate back into the society – in some ways, it is like two different worlds, and there is no bridge across them. Before I got involved in this enterprise, I was not even aware of this other world except in passing.

In our society we have a set structure of how life works – you graduate, you have campus placements – interviews, and then you get a job. But there is nothing of this sort that exists for the youth we are working with – they are an untapped workforce that we have not figured out how to integrate into our current workforce.

What we are trying to do is to build the bridge across our two worlds which have more similarities than differences.

Magical – Teams

The Four Rules state:
Whoever come are the right people.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
When it’s over, it’s over.
and The Law of Two Feet states that:

“If during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their feet and go to some more productive place.”

If you are familiar with open space, then you know what I am talking about. If not, then open space is a way to run a conference/meetings/retreat. Now, if you are a control freak I am sure this sounds scary because this is all about trusting the process – BIG TIME.

Why am I talking about this? Last weekend we were at Give Back Hack(athon) in Cleveland. This is like a 48 hour startup weekend. Adam presented his idea on Friday, his idea made it to the top 10 out of the 50 ideas pitched. We were joined by 7 other people (self-selection) making us a team of 9 people. The idea was to employ homeless youth to screen print t-shirts and sell them. Screen printing suits the homeless youths flexibility, skill set.

Over the course of 40 hours, we did user validation, talked to people, built our business model with financials and social impact model. We also built our Minimal Viable Product called
Wild Tiger Tees managed to get 17 orders in 5 hours and pitched our final presentation and we won!!!

We started off as nine strangers who met on Friday night, and by Sunday night we were a high-performing team of screen printing experts. How cool is that? Most of the team members spoke to a few other groups and came back feeling very grateful for the team we have.

If you ask me what contributed to our success was the following
1. People: It is imperative the team be happy – happy people – great work. We had a fun champion who at every hour would make us do something or laugh. And by the end of it, we were all looking forward to jokes. And even now seems it’s going to become something of a tradition. We also had a closing down routine where we would all gather in a circle with our arms crossed and shout – Fired Up

2. Patience: When I started on Friday – I knew where I wanted us to go as a team. But if I had stated that on Friday evening – it would have been a flop. So I selfishly kept those ideas to myself and let the team plow through it. By Saturday afternoon I had two people come to me and state that it was getting a little confusing. That was my cue to get everybody into focus and move on.

3. The team takes priority: However great you think your idea is – unless you get the team to buy into it – success will elude you. Hence, it is essential to not get attached and trust the process. Sounds easier than done for sure. And it comes with lots of practice and experience. And as a control freak – I can tell you how painful the process is.

Experiences like this become memories and fill a space within our empty souls. I am very grateful to have been the medium for this to happen and also to experience this.

If you are so called by our cause – please place a pre-order at Wild Tiger Tees