ORGANIZE: The Expansion

This post is part of a series on creativity and project management. 


You started this workbook by articulating a high-level goal of helping a group of people solve a specific problem using a specific set of tools.

Then you developed an idea for a project that could help realize that goal. You gathered feedback from stakeholders along the way and used their insights to make the idea even more effective. Now you have launched your project and are working out the kinks. 

As you come to understand how your project performs in the world, you might ask yourself: How do we scale our impact?

There are a few directions you might consider. But no matter what direction you choose, if you have done the exercises in this workbook, then you are in a good position to approach partners and organizations that can help you at the next stage. Keep in mind that if the first person or organization you reach out to isn’t the right fit, they may know someone who is. So before getting off the phone, make sure to ask for an introduction, or at least a pointer, to someone who might be able to help.

Below are four directions you can take to scale the impact of your project. (While each direction is distinct, you’ll see that there are also overlaps.) The decision you make about the direction you take is both personal and situational. You want to take a level of risk that is challenging, but also doable.

STARTUP. You might decide that you want to turn this project into a high-growth startup. According to serial entrepreneur and Stanford educator Steve Blank, a startup is a “temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” A startup aims to grow into a larger company or get bought by a larger company. 

If this is the route you want to explore, then reach out to some business incubators. Incubators have resources to help you get to your next step, which involves raising money either by entering competitions, writing grants, pitching to investors, or crowdfunding.

Extra: check out B.Corp certification

SMALL BUSINESS. Perhaps you want to expand your impact by growing your project into a small business with just a handful of employees. If you want to explore this route, reach out to your local bank or Chamber of Commerce to find out what resources are in your community to support small businesses. It’s likely that the bank or chamber hosts workshops for new small businesses, which are typically not only informative, but great opportunities to meet people and share what you are working on. 

NONPROFIT. You might decide that a nonprofit is the way you want to go. To be clear, nonprofits do make money and strive for financial health and stability, but what drives their decision making is not delivering profit to shareholders, but, rather, delivering value to the community that they serve. If this is the route that you want to take, you might search for fiscal sponsors in your region. Fiscal sponsors are umbrella organizations for nonprofits. While having a fiscal sponsor isn’t a requirement, they are important players in the nonprofit community and can help you connect with people to help you learn, grow, and expand your impact.

DIY & OPEN SOURCE. One more option is to share your project for free so that anyone can pick up its framework and run their version of it in their own community. This route is perfectly acceptable; you can find many “creative commons” and “open source” communities and projects online. If you take this path, I suggest that you collect data from the people using your model so you can measure and share the impact of what you’ve created. Collecting and sharing this data can help the people using your model feel connected to something bigger, which could help, in turn, stave off burnout. The data could also help you build a future project.

Extra: check out Code for America and Open Agriculture Initiative