Designed to Grow Transferring ideas to People and Systems
A Report by:
Sanjana Janardhanan firstname.lastname@example.org
Supriya Sankaran email@example.com
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Transferring ideas to people and systems For leading social entrepreneurs, a key focus is not only ensuring that ideas translate into action but that these ideas withstand the test of time, and become part of a larger system of behaviour. With an eye on creating large-scale social impact and ensuring that the idea is not anchored only to them, entrepreneurs often think of letting go of their ideas so that they may outlive them and adapt to the changing world. At Ashoka, we have had the opportunity to observe the unique strategies that leading social entrepreneurs have used to create sustainable ideas and organizations. Some entrepreneurs may focus on ﬁnding a successor, while others may build ownership of the idea with a diverse group of stakeholders. Whatever they choose, the process is one that entails a signiﬁcant personal and professional transition. It requires the entrepreneur to navigate deep and intense social commitment, community linkages and relationships that are diﬃcult to transfer. To add further complexity, social entrepreneurs also have to disentangle the intricate relationship between their personal and the professional lives. Through this document, we will try to unravel some of these questions, and understand how social entrepreneurs within the Ashoka network have addressed them in diﬀerent ways. We have tried to capture diverse approaches in the hope that everyone might ﬁnd this useful.
Look Forward to
Building a time-line
Transferring the idea
Building a culture of leadership
New lives, new roles
When and why to let go?
Whom to empower?
Approaches and best practices
What comes next?
Building a time-line When and why to let go?
The thought of ‘exiting’ or planning for succession is seeded at diﬀerent points of time for each social entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs are conscious of the role they want to play as a leader from an early part of their entrepreneurial journey. They recognize the need to create ownership over ideas and solutions with their teams from the start and engage their teams and put in place structures for sustainability of the idea, from the inception of the organization itself. Others start thinking about their successors at a later date, mid-way in their journeys. Caught up in the frenzy of creating and implementing ideas and models, the question of ‘What next?’ might occur later in the entrepreneur’s trajectory. Entrepreneurs, who start
“Timing is difficult to determine, but when the team and the founder feel that the founder has outgrown the organisation, or is not having fun, that’s when you should leave.” - Ved Arya, Ashoka Fellow
planning their exits later on, focus on identifying and preparing second line leaders, and in strengthening the existing systems to outlast periods of transition. There are diﬀerent contexts and situations that might trigger the idea of ‘letting go’ for social entrepreneurs. Some emerge from the external eco-system, and some reﬂect personal visions, goals and new life choices.
Internal Factors Inner motivations, drivers, and energies play a big part in the decisions that social entrepreneurs make for themselves and for their organizations.
Founders Fatigue: Founders often give a large part of themselves to the cause or the issue through their work and their organizations. After spending several years working closely and intensely with the issue, they start feeling the need for balancing their personal and professional lives or moving on to other things.
Desire to be a ‘creator’ not a ‘manager’: Entrepreneurs love creating and innovating. As the creation process matures into administrative and managerial work, they feel distanced from the original passion/idea. Many have a strong desire to create new roles and discover themselves again.
The need for fresh ideas: At a point in the scaling and growth of the organization, some entrepreneurs recognize the need for new/fresh ideas. They see that they may become barriers to the organization growing and it would help to have new people take it forward.
New Dreams: A social entrepreneur in her journey comes to a stage where she ďŹ nds another dream or path to accomplish the larger vision.
External Factors In some cases, external stakeholders might catalyse the process to plan for the next line of leaders in the organization. Concerns for the life of the organization, and the scope of impact could emerge from funders, well-wishers, board members and advisors. This often raises questions on the next steps for the entrepreneur, and the organization. For example, a question from a potential donor prodded Shielu Srinivasan, the founder of Dignity Foundation, to work with her trustees in building a second line. Similarly, a SWOT Analysis undertaken by a well-wisher highlighted that SNEHA was overly dependent on Armida Fernandez, the founder. In response, she and her team started discussing steps towards planning for a strong organization which could function independent of her presence.
Practical questions to ask yourself as a leader An opportunity for self-reflection
Your effectiveness as a leader: How will this organization need to change over the next ﬁve
Your organization’s receptiveness to change:
years? Do you have the skills, energy and interest required to
How will your staﬀ and board react to your decision? Will they
lead those changes?
feel angry or even abandoned?
What level of excitement do you feel most mornings on your
Do your key staﬀ have the right skills to run the organization, or
way to work?
are they highly dependent on you?
Are you overloaded with work and decisions?
Does your management team need constant supervision to
Have you collaboratively developed shared values for your organization? Have you given your colleagues a license to lead by the shared values? Have you coached your latent leaders to develop their leadership potential?
run the organization? Do you have a strong board that can hold up the organization during transition? Does the organization depend on you to get support from funders and donors? Are there key relationships held only by you?
How have you developed and grown in the last few years? Are you eager to learn and improve your skills?
Your readiness to hand-over: Do you trust others in the organisation to lead? Are you in a ﬁnancially stable state? Will you have enough set aside to retire, or to work part-time? Are you overloaded with work and decisions? Is your identity and status so intricately linked to your current position that it will be diﬃcult to give it up?
Checklist adapted from 'Building Leaderful Organisations: Succession Planning for Non-proﬁts,' the Annie E. Casey Foundation, January 2008 http://www.aecf.org/resources/building-leaderful-organizations/
the idea 2 Transfering Whom to empower?
Experiences of entrepreneurs show that ‘succeeding’ is not always a linear process. While some transfer the core leadership to a person, others look beyond organizational constraints, to seed their ideas into other organizations, and other systems including the government.
Unleashing internal leaders Often, entrepreneurs might ﬁnd their successor from the internal talent pool that they have built over many years. They see the advantage of having a successor who already has an understanding of the work, and the beneﬁt of having worked with them for a period of time. Social entrepreneurs who look to identify successors from within often create models to both map competencies and to build capacity within the organization, before identifying the successor. Another excellent way to identify new leaders is by strengthening opportunities for volunteering within the organization. Volunteers who show great passion and drive usually buy into the idea to become future leaders of the organization. Social entrepreneurs like Svati Bhogle ( the current CEO at TIDE ) and Armida Fernandez ( founder of SNEHA ), have oﬀered opportunities for skilled volunteers, which led them to identifying and promoting people from within this pool as future CEOs of their organizations.
Rajendra Joshi, Founder of SAATH Rajendra Joshi, the founder of SAATH, shares that after twenty years of work, he started feeling stiﬂed and wasn’t bringing in the right kind of energy that the organization needed. Having decided to look within SAATH, to ensure continuity of culture and values, he worked with an external consultant to create a two-year process of mentorship for nine people identiﬁed from within
the organization as potential leaders. The potential leaders were accountable to the consultant and the board and not him. This helped ensure that they saw the organization as a professional space and not one driven by an individual. Over these two years, the potential leaders were given roles and responsibilities outside their comfort zone and normal roles. This helped Rajendra to observe their ability to handle challenges and take risks, which further helped him narrow down and identify the most suitable successor from the pool.
Recruiting lateral leaders While there might be highly skilled people within the organization, some social entrepreneurs have preferred to recruit leaders laterally. This might be out of a desire to avoid internal politics between staﬀ, as well as the need to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives, which the organization might need to grow and evolve.
Shielu Srinivasan, Founder - Dignity Foundation When Sheilu Srinivasan decided to focus on the advocacy and systems change aspect of her work, she felt that she needed someone from outside the sector
to help her scale her work. Towards this, she hired a COO who came with many years of experience in the space of industrial ﬁnance, but had also exhibited high levels of empathy and understanding for the cause and the requirements. Once she identiﬁed her successor, Sheilu took her through an extensive induction process, where she was shadowed by her successor for almost two years. Two years on, she is ready to be promoted to CEO, and Sheilu looks forward to moving on with her own goals.
Succeeded by a team Sometimes, a social entrepreneur may seek to be succeeded by a team of leaders rather than a single person. Emphasizing the importance of shared leadership over the work, this strategy can build checks and balances into the dynamics of the team, to ensure that the organization remains on path, and that integrity of the organization doesn’t get compromised.
Armida Fernandez, Founder of SNEHA Armida Fernandez, founder of SNEHA, decided to not just promote someone internally, but also hire someone external to maintain balance in the organization. Towards this, she promoted one of her program coordinators, identiﬁed
after a competency mapping of the organization, as the CEO of SNEHA. Additionally, she also hired an external COO, who came with years of experience in the corporate world, and an MBA degree. In this way, she attempted to marry the advantages of both strategies, and was able to place someone who was well versed with the programmatic and the medical aspects of the organization, as well as someone who could focus on addressing factors like scale and growth of the organization.
Influencing Governments and other External Stakeholders Some social entrepreneurs do not feel the need for the organization to last. Instead, their focus is on ensuring that the idea and the work goes on, whether there is an organization to back it, or not. Indeed, many social entrepreneurs focus on demonstrating the success of diﬀerent models, and then ﬁnding stakeholders who will take forward the model for them. A good example is when social entrepreneurs are able to get government to see value in their models and implement them at scale. Jeroo Bilimoria for instance, set up the children’s distress helpline 1098. Following the successful proof of concept, it has become the default children’s emergency helpline in the country, used by government, civil society and communities at large.
Vikram Parchure, Works with Caste-based potters in Andhra Pradesh Vikram Parchure worked with caste-based potters in Andhra Pradesh on revitalizing their craft. His sit-and-sell model, where potters placed studios by the highways and streets with high foot-traﬃc, to sell their wares on the
pavements, was highly successful. With increasing numbers of people approaching him for training, Vikram decided that the idea was growing beyond his capacity. He worked closely with the district collector of the area in which these potters were from to take it up as a program for that district. As the collector started receiving accolades, other collectors in the area grew curious, and decided to start implementing this in their districts too. Today, the sit-and-sell model is de-facto in southern districts of the country.
Transfer to another organization While it is rare, some social entrepreneurs have seen value in other organizations or stakeholders taking over a part of the work. For example, George Abraham who pioneered blind cricket in India sought to transfer the idea once a few tournaments had been played and the model was demonstrated. He identiﬁed an organization, Samarthanam, which was interested in taking this forward. It was a collective decision between George and his volunteer-driven team, and today Samarthanam continues to hold blind cricket tournaments in the country. George’s faith in this strategy was reinforced when the 2012 Blind Cricket World Cup was held, with no involvement from him in the process.
Nirmala Srinivasan, ACMI Nirmala Srinivasan found it important to take forward the core of her work at ACMI, which lay in advocacy to support family care of mentally-ill and vulnerable people. However, she was ﬁnding it very diﬃcult to ﬁnd a successor for ACMI. Nirmala then did a close analysis of her work, to see which aspects of the model needed to continue. In late 2013, she had set up a program called Families’ Alliance on Mental Illness (FACMI) within ACMI, with the goal to promote an inclusive family concept where diﬀerentiation between users/disabled and care-givers/abled members of the family are not highlighted. She positioned this as a collective decision making platform involving family care-givers from across India - where they collectively advocate for the goals and own them independent of Nirmala’s presence. Nirmala believes that it is easier to ﬁnd a successor if you give them a sense of ownership instead of sense of responsibility, involving potential successors in co-creating the vision and direction of the group. Today, FACMI has thirteen members running it, one of which is Ashoka Fellow Milesh Hamlai, who has agreed to take it forward eventually. Milesh’s own organization, The Altruist, will integrate this aspect into its own work. A ﬁrst step is to form a national
board of trustees, with each family having a member on this board. “Succession becomes easier if you make it an organic development rather than look at it as an implant,” says Nirmala. She energized community stakeholders, the families and caregivers, to take ownership over a critical piece of the work. In this way, creating a core group of invested stakeholders who believe in the same goals, can ensure that the idea continues without losing its vitality and value-base.
Social entrepreneurs are always exploring diﬀerent ways for ideas to grow. One possibility is that of community ownership over the organization and the model. Once the ideas have been demonstrated, and communities empowered to take them forward, it could be possible to hand over the organization or the model to the community. Indeed, this might be an optimal end-goal for diﬀerent organizations, showing deep commitment and ownership over the idea and the vision by the communities most aﬀected by the problems addressed.
a culture of leadership 3 Building Approaches and best practices
Once the social entrepreneur identiﬁes who they think should take ownership of the idea or the organization, it becomes time to build that person’s capacity to take on the vision, and drive momentum towards achieving the goal. A ﬁrst step is to build ownership over the goal and aligning them to the vision, allowing for the new leaders to add their own nuance to the idea. Entrepreneurs have oﬀered diﬀerent insights on what has worked best for them.
Co-Create Leading social entrepreneurs look for other leaders/entrepreneurs who can be visionaries and have strong management skills. However, it is diﬃcult to ﬁnd such leaders and entrepreneurs as they are usually living their own dreams. For many social entrepreneurs, the process of ‘co-creation’, especially from the beginning, helps achieve this. This ensures that everyone involved takes ownership of the vision and understand intimate workings of the organization. They engage and co-create ideas from the beginning with a few diﬀerent people and cultivate an organizational culture of “intrapreneurship” and teamwork. They have co-founders who challenge and engage with them as peers. This builds a culture where everyone takes ownership over the idea.
C.V. Madhukar, PRS Legislature C.V. Madhukar started PRS Legislature with his co-founder Madhavan, who grew instantly excited when Madhukar bounced the idea oﬀ him. While Madhavan had done similar work in his earlier corporate avatar, applying that to a new environment, where information was critically required, proved to be
highly attractive. Madhukar and Madhavan then worked together in building PRS Legislature. Madhavan, as co-founder, became a critical part of the organization, internalizing and owning the vision with Madhukar. When Madhukar realized that the creative process had run its course, he decided to move on, aided partly by the fact that Madhavan was keen to see PRS grow and continue its journey.
Don’t employ, engage Leaders often look for employees to join their team, and to do speciﬁc tasks leading up to the larger vision. However, employees often do not get opportunities to build their leadership skills or avenues for growth. Towards this, some social entrepreneurs have taken a new perspective towards internal talent. Instead of hiring employees, they looked at people joining them in solving problems together. By looking at each new face as a colleague and peer, instead of in hierarchies, it becomes easier to create growth pathways for team members. This not only helps in building a culture of ownership in the organization, but also helps to build leadership, from within the organization to succeed the founder.
Harish Hande, Founder of SELCO Harish Hande, founder of SELCO, strongly believes that enterprise is not about the end-users, but about colleagues. His focus is to ensure that the work of problem solving gets delegated to colleagues in his organization, irrespective of where they are in the hierarchy. It starts from how entrepreneurs look at hiring. “People say we hire local talent, I think that this needs to be reworded to ‘Local colleagues join us.’ The moment we start seeing everyone joining our organization as ‘peers,’ it becomes easy for us to delegate part of our organization to them.” Harish’s approach has long been one of providing equality of opportunity. Seeing each person at the organization as being capable of learning and growing, he focuses on non-English speaking staﬀ in the organization. An example is of his chauﬀer, Raghu. Two years after he came on board, Raghu’s keys were taken away, and he was asked to share 4-5 options of work he would like to be involved in. Today, Raghu works in administration at SELCO. There have been similar experiences across the organization. His current Head of Operations began his career as an oﬃce assistant in a rural Kumta oﬃce. A ﬁnal test for Harish is to examine if funders can call other leaders within SELCO, when they have questions of the organization? Harish emphasizes the transfer of important external relationships across diﬀerent people at the
organization. For instance, every funder must meet the team when he is not around, and spends a day at the oﬃce interacting and learning about the team. Out of SELCO’s seven funders, not a single one contacts Harish himself, instead reaching out to the teams who can best answer their questions. Entrepreneurs who are worried that team members will give up ‘contradictory information’ should turn their worry to internal issues, says Harish, as it shows a lack of conceptual clarity and ownership in the organization.
Let Go It requires immense mindset change for the social entrepreneur to pass on the organization to new leadership. Diﬀerent entrepreneurs have used diﬀerent approaches to address this, but a common thread is that of building trust, and demonstrating it regularly to the new leader, and the team. Thus, a founder cannot suddenly leave on a day, but instead gradually transitions out. A possible approach is to let go of control, one piece at a time. It is important to test the team to see if they really need the founder. Social entrepreneurs could stop attending a few critical meetings, with clients, donors etc. They could also take a few months oﬀ and see what happens, and begin passing on responsibilities and personal relationships to new leaders bit by bit. Additionally, a process of mentoring and a phased exit as described above also could prepare the team better.
Svati Bhogle, CEO of TIDE Svati Bhogle, the current CEO of TIDE, identiﬁed her next leader Sumati, from the volunteer pool at TIDE. Svati herself had succeeded Rajagopalan, the founder of TIDE, and had learnt a lot from him on how to plan the transition phase. Despite this, the initial period was quite challenging for her. ‘You need to remind yourself constantly that even if someone comes and asks for help, your role is to oﬀer trust and support but not interference. You need to keep reminding yourself that you trust this person, and you have handed over the responsibility. If she needs you, then you are there and if she does not ask for help, then you should stop yourself from interfering,” says Svati.
Svati is now working on conﬁdence
building, and giving her constructive advice when she asks for it. From an organizational perspective, Svati started letting go of certain processes ﬁrst. Identifying accounts and administration as skills and knowledge that a leader has to have, she ﬁrst shifted these processes to Sumati. Secondly, she
started working with Sumati on networking and fundraising. Finally, Svati looked at technical competency and area of expertise. As Sumati did not have competency in the same area as Svati, she kept that section with herself. However, Sumati did have her own technical competency and interest, and she had the freedom to build that component of the organization.
Institutionalize Core Values By institutionalizing co-creation and other values into the DNA of the organization, entrepreneurs can ensure that they build a team with strong and aligned values. For this, structures like the governing board need to be kept dynamic, and core values institutionalized across teams. Financial, administration, and fund-raising systems need to be robust and working. Thus, a founder needs to constantly consider what kind of systems and processes are required to allow the organization to last, and to prevent them from coming back. Leadership needs to be diﬀused and vested across multiple spaces.
Rajagopalan, Founder of TIDE Rajagopalan, the founder of TIDE, placed great importance on embedding core values of the organization deeply into the structure of the organization. To ensure that the principles of the organization were followed, Rajagopalan ﬁrst carefully documented these as core values. Following that, he analysed how these values needed to manifest in the work itself. He identiﬁed the key skills that were required for the organization to survive such as building a young team, which could be constantly alert and cognizant of the latest trends
in technology and innovation. Further, he established a dynamic governing body, which would resist fossilization, through a constant renewal process. Towards this, he instituted a ﬁve-member body, which is recast every ﬁve years. Each term, two members of the body were asked to step down, and two new faces were asked to join, to ensure a level of continuity. In the course of two terms, the body would be completely revamped, injecting new ideas and energy into the organization.
A strong board, with clear roles and the right skills can play a critical role in supporting the entrepreneur. If the board has the power to ask for accountability, it helps ensure that the organization doesn’t turn to only the founder. When the founder submits to the board, it also sends a strong signal to the team that a leader/ individual is not as important as the larger idea. The organization also needs to build a body of knowledge and processes that are internalized into the very structure of the organization. These processes and structures will ensure that the founder doesn’t remain the only point person. A good example of a system that was created with deeply embedded core values is Shyamala Natarajan’s ﬁnancial audit system. For Shyamala, integrity and trust were critical values that she wanted the organization to abide by and she sought to put in place systems that ensured shared ownership over processes and accountability.
Shyamala’s ﬁnancial audit system identiﬁes lead partners for diﬀerent tasks and hands over ﬁnancial accountability to a team of people, rather than vesting it in one central authority ﬁgure. More importantly, it introduces diﬀerent levels of audits: peer audit within the organization that is done every three months, with two nominees from the team looking through ﬁnances. Internal auditors then look through the records at longer intervals and external auditors ﬁnally sign oﬀ. Their ﬁnancial systems were so robust, they have repeatedly topped the European Union list of best NGO practices, and have had the Tamil Nadu government trust them with the salaries of 1500 counselors in the state.
Be Transparent Periods of transition in an organization are often fraught with doubt and stress, not just for the entrepreneur but for the whole team. In order to assure team-members that their opinions and interests will be reﬂected in the new management, transparency of the process within the organization is key. Keeping the team in the loop is critical towards ensuring that the new leaders are accepted in the organization, and in preventing a revolving door of CEOs after the founder departs.
Rajendra Joshi, Founder of SAATH In 2009 when Rajendra Joshi, decided to identify his successor from within SAATH, he made it a point to announce to the team about his personal plan to move on. Further, he found it critical to involve all twelve senior members in the process. While he knew that not all of them would be candidates, each one was put through an intense task-based process through which they could demonstrate their leadership skills, and their personal visions. Furthermore, Rajendra also insisted on involving people from the community as well, and allowing them to have a decisive role in the process, and the tasks allotted to the members.
Towards building accountability in the process, Rajendra, along with an external consultant, ensured that this core group of senior members also became the evaluating agent for the candidates. They demonstrated their skills to each other, and not just to Rajendra as the founder. Further, once two candidates were shortlisted, the senior members remained as evaluators and advisors. Their inputs were critical in the ﬁnal selection, which also contributed to the whole team being fully behind the chosen successor, when she took over the helm at SAATH.
Let them bring their own shoes While discussing succession, it is important to also see the perspective of the new leader. Social entrepreneurs have struggled with the idea of letting go, and it involves both professional and personal heart-ache and distress. However, stepping into the founder’s shoes can be intense and over-whelming. For eﬀective transfer of ownership, new leaders should be allowed to bring in their own shoes. The dynamic between Svati Bhogle and Rajagopalan of TIDE is insightful. For Svati, Rajagopalan was a hands-oﬀ leader who withdrew once he had transferred his relationships to her, and Svati had to work hard to establish her own credibility. At meetings with partners and donors, she would often be asked about Rajagopalan’s absence. Through hard work, preparation and guarding herself against over-conﬁdence, she was able to slowly win the conﬁdence of her partners. Rajagopalan did provide support, but to a large extent she was pushed oﬀ the deep end. Looking back, Svati says this kind of leadership worked for her, as she had the autonomy to take the organization in the direction that she wanted. At the same time, when she had questions or needed a sounding board, he was around for that. For Shyamala, it was a period of struggle, where she had diﬀerences of opinion with the new ideas and visions of her new leaders. She also found it hard to adjust to the idea of not being in control over decision-making. However, after a period of struggle, which involved deep self-reﬂection, Shyamala ﬁnally came to the realisation that while they are still singing her song, they are singing it in their own tune.
It helped me take ownership, when some of my own ideas and suggestions for SAATH started coming to life. I felt like I am not stepping into anybody’s shoes, but Rajender Joshi allowed me to bring my own.
- Keren Nazareth, Saath
Is your organization succession-ready? For a smooth transition, there should be a number of conditions in place. We have created this checklist to help you plan your strategy towards creating strong systems and organizations. If these conditions are fulﬁlled, your organization is ready for leadership transitions, foreseen or unforeseen.
Organisational and Financial stability
Having a strategic plan in place with goals and objectives for
The organization should be stable ﬁnancially, and there are
at least three years.
committed funds for at least a year for operating costs.
A robust and independent board which is able to hold the
Financial systems should be robust, and meet external and
founder/ executive director accountable, and is performing
satisfactorily on its major governance jobs: ﬁnancial and executive support and supervision, development of policies, and strategic planning.
A leader-ful team
Extensive and exhaustive documentation
The immediate management team, based on scientiﬁc evalua-
Manuals, guides and how-tos exist for key administrative
tions, is seen as being highly skilled and competent for their
systems, are updated and accessible
positions and fulﬁll the following conditions: Members support each other and work through
Programmatic knowledge and activities are documented, and contingencies in place in case of emergencies
consensus and harmony in a vibrant team structure They have input in decision-making, and leadership of the organization is shared eﬀectively Are able to lead the organization when the founder or entrepreneur is absent Have the authority and autonomy to make decisions within their own areas of responsibility Other members of the team shares important external relationships (donors, funders and community leaders) with the founder/executive director
Checklist adapted from 'Building Leaderful Organisations: Succession Planning for Non-proﬁts,' the Annie E. Casey Foundation, January 2008 http://www.aecf.org/resources/building-leaderful-organizations/
lives, new roles 4 New What comes next? Often, since the identity of the social entrepreneur gets closely tied to the organization over the years, many entrepreneurs feel a vacuum after they leave. Social entrepreneurs might also have to confront several extraordinary situations, including having to come back if required, and having to live with the decisions they made.
Chosen leaders might leave Social entrepreneurs might face diﬀerent situations where their chosen leaders might have to leave themselves. In this case, they might have to step back in to the fray and ﬁreﬁght till a new solution is found.
Dissatisfaction with the new team Social entrepreneurs often ﬁnd that the values, vision and priorities of the new leadership may not be aligned to theirs. However, one has to understand that this is a part of the process, especially as the problem and contexts evolve. It is important to trust the new leaders. One can however continue to stay connected and inﬂuence decision making as a board member, advisor or mentor
The Professional Empty-Nest syndrome Leaving is a personal journey and the fear of letting go is hard to combat. However, it helps to not only think of exit strategy but also about what one is exiting into. Staying connected as an advisor helps, as well as creating a new role for yourself with a new idea or otherwise. Planning what to do next, becomes a critical part of addressing the professional empty-nest syndrome. This could be an organic growth, where entrepreneurs leave day-to-day functioning of organizations to other people, and step into spaces like advocacy, or mentoring within their sectors, to address unﬁlled gaps. For example, Harish Hande exited SELCO to form the SELCO Foundation to create a process for problem and need identiﬁcation among vulnerable groups and areas. Emerging from the work he did at SELCO, he understood the need to create a Centre for Innovation for the Poor, which would use sustainable energy applications to address the deeper causes of poverty in the country. Similarly, Rajagopalan knew that he needed to continue to be involved with the start-up and technology space in the country. After TIDE, he moved into academia, where he began teaching at Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. Here, he also set-up IITB Innovation Centre, which has become a hub for ICT research, innovation and enterprise in Bangalore. Many entrepreneurs remain connected to the organizations they founded, both in formal and informal roles. Whether remaining on the board, or acting as advisors and mentors for the new team, the connection remains strong despite the reduced involvement of the entrepreneur.
Summing up Insights and Take-aways Start Early, or Start Now
Create strong, dynamic structures
Planning for succession early on becomes natural if social
Since periods of transition are often chaotic, there will be the
entrepreneurs are looking at strong organizational capacity.
need to create long-lasting structures which power the
If social entrepreneurs are able to build strong organization-
organization, and which will last the handover. Moreover,
al structures, build leadership on the ground, create a strong
strong structures prevent the founder from having to come
supporting ecosystem of boards, funders, and other stake-
back. Shared and diﬀused leadership across multiple spaces
holders, succession planning becomes a default setting for
contributes to the strengthening of organizational capacity.
the organization. Indeed, it becomes much easier to build ownership and alignment when team members are allowed
Whether creating a dynamic and vibrant board, securing
to become a part of the co-creation process. Those social
committed funds which will outlast the transition period, or
entrepreneurs who have started early on have found great
ensuring that key partnerships are not held only with the
successors (people and institutions) to carry out their ideas.
founder, the key is to institutionalize core values such that they become part of the DNA of the organization.
However, if a leader hasn’t been thinking about it, it’s never too late to start. Several social entrepreneurs have experimented with multiple ways to do this even as they reach the end of their careers. Some social entrepreneurs have set aside two or more years to prepare their organization for a transition. Each experience has a lesson on what works and what doesn’t in diﬀerent contexts.
Building capacity in second-line leaders Once the decision has been made to exit, the process of
Sustainability – the organization and impact
letting go starts with building capacity in the second line.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs can look at sustainability of the
Organizations are often only as successful as the growth
impact as opposed to organizational sustainability. Social
opportunities they provide for all employees. When employ-
entrepreneurs have thus found unusual stakeholders to
ees see a growth trajectory for themselves within the organi-
take over the work and the model, and to continue to deliver
zation, it becomes easier to build ownership and responsibil-
results. Whether it is the government, another organization,
ity to the work, and the organization.
or the community itself, it is good to keep an eye out for people who buy into the idea and the vision, and take it forward in their own ways.