Coworking: Must-Have Supply List

Five years into running a coworking space in Fort Collins, I’ve finally compiled a list of the most game-changing items you can purchase for your coworkers. From desks to dishes, Cohere has the scoop on everything from power strips to parchment papers.

We’ve had our fair share of desk iterations at Cohere. From highly customized and huge curvy desks with integrated power to bomb-proof dorm desks, I’ve finally found the best option for us and they are $99 each. Sweet. Please raid your IKEA accordingly. (IKEA is not paying me for this post. In fact, I was so wary of yet another desk that would fail me, I only bought two so the coworkers could test-drive them for several weeks).

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The IKEA THYGE desk measures an ample yet space saving 24″x 48″. Its legs attach with some effort but the overall effect is one of total stability and feels high end even though you’ll be giggling over your frugality. The legs ADJUST from 23″ to 35″ making it comfy for even the most stubby-legged members. Once our desk transition is complete, we’ll have 2 short, 2 medium and 2 tall desks for members to choose from.

The smooth uncluttered surface provides lots of spare room for your flex-deskers like remote software developer, Ian, above and enough room for the permanent dual monitor setup of remote software developer, Kevin, below.

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The thing we’ve missed most from the early days of Cohere is the integrated power we had in our custom desks. IKEA finally solved this problem for us by creating a clamp-on mount ($10) and pairing it with their power/usb strip ($14.99). Add their cable storage under mount basket for a nearly seamless office experience. For those of you doing math, that’s just $128.99 per workstation (you only need 1 cable storage basket per two desks).

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Cons: these desks aren’t on wheels but the feet of the legs are smooth enough that they are easy to slide around on carpet. If any of you have found a wheeled desk option that is this high quality for the same price, I’ll eat my bank statement.

Now that we’ve got your members working productively, they’re going to need snacks. Member Laurel casually asked me one day, “hey, for the next version of upgrades, can we get a toaster oven?”

Seven clicks and two days later, we unwrapped this beauty ($24.95). Laurel originally thought it would be a nice supplement to our stocked PB&J bar but I doubled-down on the idea and bought cookie dough.

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I’d love to say that we have exercised restraint and reserve warm cookies-on-demand for Fridays or Mondays but we don’t. Someone bakes goddamn hot cookies every damn day and it is spectacular. I highly recommend these mini break-aparts by Nestle. Pair your new baking members with parchment sheets ($5.89) for easy cleanup and an adorable mini-spatula ($8.99). Ignore the review where the lady says the spatula is “too tiny.” She is absurd.

Last but not least, I give you the thing that a member bought and put on my desk with the note, “Angel, this dish brush will change your life. Trust me.” -Lucinda

We’ve never had a dishwasher at the Old Town Cohere locations so we soldier on by hand-washing; never quite satisfied by other dish brushes, sponges or scrubby things.

The OXO brush not only takes the cake, it obliterates the cake with a swipe of the wrist and the push of a button.

I know you are super stoked to read about the features of a dish brush. Here they are in no particular order: it sits up in a stand that collects its own drips (I wish my baby did this), it only dispenses soap when you press the button on the handle, it never gets smelly and it really cleans the dishes!

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Bonus item: a little whiteboard above our sink. This has been the most effective message to date. It’s also a decent reminder to me that even if I have to wash a couple of spoons every morning, I’m doing a job that I LOVE alongside people I LOVE. No dirty dish stands a chance against that kind of happiness.

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Help Is Meaningful No Matter How Small

hug“I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.”

At myself.

I’m a helper. Always have been. I try hard. I watch the world for opportunities to help strangers, friends and Cohere members especially. Once, I almost crashed my car pulling over to help an elderly women right her shopping cart. Turns out she did NOT want my help and swore at me but I feel happy that I tried. I’ve apparently lost my way as of late…

Last week I ran into an associate who said to me, “Hey, “Sally Sue*” is really struggling right now. Can you think of a way we could come together and help her?”

I stammered and stuttered and then muttered, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

WHAT.

THE.

ACTUAL.

FUCK?

Let’s break down the absurdity of what I said, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

  1. I don’t know her well enough. That doesn’t even make sense. I’ve been friends with Sally on Facebook for maybe a year. I’ve met her in person at least twice that I can think of. I’ve SEEN her posts about how she is struggling right now. I’m familiar enough with her work, her life and I even know her daughter’s name.
  2. to help. Help is relative. Who am I to decide what is helpful to any person at any given moment? Who am I to look at someone and decide that this thing or the other thing is better or worse for that person ESPECIALLY if I don’t even ask. If I don’t even try. Inaction is worse than trying something.
  3. in any meaningful way. I dropped everything to help dear friends last week. I cancelled things, pushed meetings and told my own daughter to wait. That felt meaningful. It felt big and it was hard. Helping isn’t always hard or time consuming or particular drastic. Does Sally need that level of help from me? A relative stranger in her life? Can I hire Sally? No. Do I personally have the bandwidth to help her job search? Probably not. There are 300 things I could do to help Sally: send her a note of encouragement, forward a job opportunity that I see, hug her, say that I know it sucks right now but it’ll get better, tell her I understand, tell her I’m thinking about her. Anything at all really. I could have spent 3 minutes doing something helpful but instead I did nothing.

In a world where it’s so easy to keep our heads down and to make excuses that we don’t have the time or the money to help, let’s SEE each other. Let’s make eye contact and say HI. The world can be terrifying. People get gunned down, children die, people are struck down by awful illnesses. That lady with the screaming kid in the grocery needs help (a smile, an encouraging nod). The homeless person on the street needs help (ask). That distressed looking server at lunch needs help (listen). Your mom. Your brother. Your best friend. Help them.

I shed a tear during my reflection on my walk this morning as I smiled and said “good mornings” to strangers on the trail then I reached into a stranger’s car to turn off their headlights. Helping matters.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Fred Rogers

*name changed

Image Credit

 

How to F^ck Up Your Second Coworking Location

angel gcuc speaker

I recently got invited to present FAILURE at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Toronto, Canada. I take spectacular pride in my ability to fail with flourish and since the GCUC crowd always likes a good train wreck among stories of 43 Billion Dollar valuations and epic expansion stories, I indulge them. Below is the narrative of the failure and here is a link to my slides.

 

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixtsao/4909753834/

Near the end of 2013, 4 years after Cohere hit the coworking scene in Old Town Fort Collins, I had to start turning away would-be members. We were full, things were great. So naturally, I would make a series of unfortunate mistakes that would lead to the 2nd space’s death in early 2015.

To be clear, I did SOME of the things right. In fact, all early indicators would point to Cohere’s second location being a raving success.  Here’s what went right:

  • I had a wait-list of members who wanted to join Cohere.
  • Cohere was nearing auto-pilot. Systems helped manage the behind the scenes tasks, 3 members had a strong hold on the day to day in the space and I was getting bored.
  • I selected a location that was near to OG Cohere but further south in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Midtown where rents were still affordable and the housing market was blowing up in all the right ways.
  • I took many, many members through the building pre-lease and they steered me away from one suite into 3 other suites they were much more excited about.
  • The members lovingly name it Cothere. It sticks. It’s perfect.
  • Natural light, windows, trees and parking were in abundance.
  • After we got into the space, the Coherians partied to clean up the parking lot and build furniture. It was spectacular fun and had all the trapping us Veterans look for in budding communities.
  • I paint everything, repair broken door knobs and make our entrances more safe. I pour all my love into this physical thing that will allow Cothere to grow and flourish.
  • I met and offered up our space after hours to our brand new Girl Develop It chapter. We love each other so much.

Things start to take a turn for the worse:

The landlords fail to make improvements to Cothere that are in my lease: working windows, safe stairs for our private entrance (my mother-in-law almost falls 2 stories after the railing breaks away during move-in) and cleanliness issues in the common area start to clog my inbox

And A LOT worse:

  • Nearly every day, concerns about lack of health and safety in our parking lots and common area restrooms begin to flood in.
  • My repeated requests for help from the landlords are met with either silence or passive aggressive notes in the common-area bathroom saying, “PLEASE KEEP THIS RESTROOM CLEAN!!!”
  • I become mortified when new members ask where the restroom is. The members say, “this building is dicey but Cothere’s areas are NICE!”
  • I spend 3 hours cleaning bathrooms just to prove to myself that I’m right about how dirty the bathrooms are. I am right. I get pneumonia 5 days later.
  • The restrooms are dirty again. ALL. THE. TIME.  I have to explain WHY we need more toilet paper. Sarcasm floods through my veins. “We have explosive diarrhea!” “All the women are synced up this week!!” “We are STEALING it because we are terrible people!!”

Piper

The last straw:

  • The landlords tell me in an email that goes out to all the other tenants of their building, “you don’t pay enough to have the right to complain.”

I check out. I resent the space. I no longer care about it. I do the bare minimum that an office space rental agency does. Paper towels? Check. Vacuumed? Check. Coffee? Check.

I bring on a friend to help the Cothere community and she tries really hard but we are broken. Midtown is broken, the gross restrooms are broken, our parking lot is an ice skating rink in winter and a mixed-media nightmare of dead squirrels and fallen tree limbs in summer. I refuse to pay more for basic tenant rights.

I stop coworking at Cothere. I repeat. I STOPPED COWORKING AT COTHERE. <—-really important warning sign

I spend all my time at Old Town Cohere. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I cross the threshhold and see the man that takes care of our lawn. I run into the landlord and he inquires about my well-being and asks if everything is okay in the building. He compliments Cohere, the members and how proud they are to have us as tenants. They are always a text away. Quick to fix and utterly un-involved in our day-to-day ops.

I get out of my lease free and clear on their breach of contract. After an extremely polite email exchange requesting the termination of my lease and having them agree, I feel this:

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Down from a high of 20 members, the 3 remaining Cothere members join Cohere and love it. Just. Love It. “It’s so happy here!” “Everyone talks to me!” “I thought I wouldn’t like Old Town but I DO!” Several private office members at Cothere REMAIN in Cothere’s space after we leave. <—-this blows my mind.

So Really. WHAT went wrong?

As a veteran of the coworking community, I was raised up to always put the people first and see the physical space as a useful container that merely facilitates connections between people. Sure, I always made sure that Cohere’s container was lovely, cared-for and well-tended but none of my spaces until Cothere had ever existed inside a larger shell of a bigger building that I had no control over.

I began to think like a member as I approached the larger shell of Cothere’s space. Unkempt parking lot, dead bugs and leaves in the lobby, outdated decor in all the wrong ways, a soul-less, colorless hallway and then finally, the mecca of entering Cothere’s suites.

But sometimes the journey to mecca is just too far.

Post-hoc, I realize that Cohere has a really important value as a company and as a community that I had never said out loud, never consciously thought about and never wrote about. And this value includes the entirety of our physical container from the grounds around the building, to the entryways and all the way to the inner sanctum of our coworking areas.

To BElong to Cohere you must BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it.

Because Old Town Cohere has always had a loving landlord (we actually call him the Innkeeper) who tended to our grounds and common areas we had never truly felt the pain of a building owner who literally could not hold our container with positive regard. That, in turn, caused me to spend all of my Cothere energy trying to help the landlord learn how to hold the container that held US! He made it clear that he couldn’t hold the container. Won’t. Wouldn’t even pick it up and try.

As the community manager, I had nothing left to give the people of Cothere. My usual zest for connection and energy to give and listen was tapped out. My arms, my heart, my brain, were overwhelmed by TRYING to figure out how hold a container that didn’t actually belong to me. To us.

After asking the members what I should do about Cothere, all but one say a version of this, “we’ll follow you where ever you take Cohere (as long as it’s not in THAT building). Do what is best for you.” So I laid down the container. Permanently. After 14 months I gleefully get out of my lease and bring everyone back together at Cohere. The community is overjoyed that the saga is concluded.

As if the universe was bulging with abundance while it waited for me to sort out my shit, its fabric rips open and pours forth a rush of people who want to join Cohere. Tours are joyous again, filled with people and introductions and I don’t have to make excuses for the common areas. Each day we border on being full. Full of members, full of laughter and connectedness, donuts and lunches out together.

Cohere Social Event Hotdogs

A hot dog potluck marks the closure of Cothere and the revitalization of Frank Friday

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I immediately refine and add our values to our membership page:

BE yearning for interaction

BE willing to introduce yourself, make friends and help

BE ready to participate in impromptu and planned events

BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it

BE prepared for abundance (work, laughter, goodwill, and more)

Key Learnings

When considering expansion, don’t look for a building. Look for people.

  • Look for a community helper who is invested, excited and willing to put in the hours needed to bring people together.
  • Look to your existing members for feedback and talk about what expansion means for both communities.
  • Find a commercial Realtor who can add very specific language into your lease about maintenance and responsibilities.
  • Look for a landlord who is capable and willing to hold a container for you. MEET your landlord(s) in person before you sign.

Brave enough to share your epic failure? Post it in the comments or email it to me!

Building Coworking Communities: No Sailboat Required

It’s easy to make connections and get to know one another inside a coworking space. We take that for granted and just assume that we’ll meet someone new in the course of our day to day to-dos. A recent retreat to Seattle taught me how vital and AWESOME a planned group activity can be especially when that activity is way outside our “normal.” So when our organizer asked if we’d like to go SAILING, it seemed a little scary but we would be doing it together so surely it would be okay.

I tentatively agreed to a sailboat ride and bummed some Dramamine off a fellow coworker. Little did I know that it would be scary and exhilarating and that it would change Adam’s life forever.

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By getting us a little out of our comfort zones and putting us in cramped quarters we were able to learn something (sailing) from new friends (the captain and his crew) and experience our location (Seattle) from a whole new point of view. Andy and I even did the most terrifying thing and crawled out to the front of the boat while we were experiencing maximum “reaching” aka, the boat was really at an angle to the water and we could have fallen out at any moment. But we didn’t.

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In order to bring a similar experience home to the Coherians of Fort Collins, we’re going to stay up late and sort canned goods. Yep, I plan to use up as much if not more adrenaline during our Food Bank Shift at the CAN Jam on November 6th from 11pm-1am. Heck, it meets all the criteria: new location, new people to learn from and we’ll get a different point of view on where we live.

Has your coworking community done activities outside of your space? Tell us in the comments!

ps. my “crew” on the boat:

Aaron from Rapid City, MI, The Factory

Tony from New York City, New Work City

Adam and Alex (not pictured) from Philidelphia,PA, Indy Hall

Susan and Jacob from Seattle, WA, Office Nomads

Ashley from Toronto, Canada, The Foundery

Andy from Columbus, OH The Salt Mines

 

DIY Coworking Furniture: IKEA, Craigslist, Garage Sales

Furnishing a coworking space like Cohere in Fort Collins can be overwhelming and costly. It doesn’t have to be! I always furnish my coworking spaces with a mix of new, old and found products. This approach eliminates the threat of having a coworking space that reads like a showroom and instead gives your members lots of nooks and crannies to choose from and creates an eclectic vintage-y vibe.

So Alex Hillman doesn’t panic, here is a picture with people in it since all that follow will just be things–this is a post about furniture after all.

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From Draft to Done Blog Group

Before anyone will sit down they want to know where the power is. These wall mountable heavy duty power strips are amazing. They are sturdy and have 8 outlets! Cohere uses one stripper per table.

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In a world where you can drop a grand on a wheely table I always opt for IKEA. Pair this top with these legs to get a table that comfortably seats 2 for $85.99. Wheels make our rooms configurable for events, yoga or plain ole coworking.

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The same goes for chairs. You can spend upwards of $500 or more if you want a fancy label on your chair and ventilation holes for your ass cheeks but we get lots of compliments on this $79.99 model from IKEA. Pro-tip: as cool as the light upholstery looks, avoid it. Denim will stain those chairs.

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If you need larger desks with storage, these are solid though they take FOR. FUCKING. EVER to assemble.

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Assign your most OCD member the joy of this task. $159.99 each.

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For softer seating, we enjoy a sofa at each of our locations. Cohere sports a fancier version of this, which was our most expensive purchase in 2010 at $299. Cothere has its cute little sister below which I picked up at a thrift store for $80. Yes, that’s brown velour and a lobster pillow.

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Cothere’s itty conference room has this sturdy IKEA table. With the legs the whole thing costs $79.00. The chairs are craigslist finds, brand new in some guy’s basement for $15 each. In the background you’ll see our big Apple TV ready flat screen for presentations and impromptu dance parties. It’s on wheels. Always put your tv on wheels.

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The beauty below came out of a garage sale for $25. I sanded, primed, then painted it my signature turquoise with a dark grey racing strip. Black spray paint on the legs took this table from scrappy to fabulous!

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This mid-century laminate table came from an estate sale for $75. I got the chairs reupholstered and re-studded for $175. The zebra print is an IKEA bargain at $39.99 for how large it is.

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We want to see your clever coworking furniture finds. Please share your photos or links in the comments!

Featured Member Monday: Meet Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch
Owner/Writer
Buzzword Communications, LLC
www.buzzwordonline.com 

The very first time you visited the Cohere website, it’s likely that you watched the little video at the top of the page. That smiling face you met in the first frame was Katrina Pfannkuch, aka “Creative Katrina,” one of the original members of our coworking community.

Katrina is a communications expert, whether that means crafting compelling copy for your website or coaching entrepreneurs on how to keep their creativity flowing. When Cohere’s collective nerdyness slides into snarky cynicism, Katrina is always ready with a positive perspective, helping us to refocus on what’s really important. Since creativity and inspiration are her strong points, it’s no surprise that Katrina took naturally to coworking.

“I really love getting together with other people who embrace an entrepreneurial way of life and thinking,” said Katrina. “When people work side by side on their passion, there is a collaborative energy and inspiration you are unable to get working at home alone or along side people an office who don’t enjoy what they do.

“As a people-person, I was really missing that in my home office! I also really appreciate the sense of sharing in-person and online that we are able to do as a community. And most importantly, I love being part of a community that allows me to show up how and when I want to – there is no expectation of me other than to be myself.”

Like most freelancers and small business owners that work at Cohere, Katrina makes a living using her passions to help others be more successful. Unwiling to settle on a single title, Katrina describes herself as a creative consultant, intuitive copywriter, content strategist, teacher and overall creative fire starter. “I love helping people get clear on their gifts and then helping them develop authentic marketing and content to share it with the rest of the world,” she said. As if that doesn’t sound blissful enough, Katrina is also a Reiki Master, intuitive and an empath.

“Now that I’ve been a member of Cohere for a few years, I feel more part of a community of like-minded people that I was never able to find on my own or in an official “office job”,” Katrina said. “I’ve developed friendships and working relationships with other creative people I really respect and have also been introduced to even more groups, events, connections and work opportunities to enhance my learning and my business outreach.”

If you’d like to swap ideas about what makes killer content, or are just looking for a way to de-stress after a particularly long day, say hi to Katrina next time you’re at Cohere Coworking!

5 Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

Five Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

It’s the New Year. You’ve set your goals, and created your budgets. You’re ready to grow your business, but you’re a little low on inspiration. Or you still don’t know the answer to that nagging business/organizational/house-keeping question. Where can you turn?

Of course, the first place you should turn is the collection of creative minds sitting all around you as you cowork. But what about when your question stumps the coworkers as well? Ask the blogs.

We talk about, write, and link to blogs all the time, but how many of you are seeking out blogs that could actually make you a better freelancer? Here are 5  that should be added to your reader ASAP.

Freelance Switch This extremely popular blog–over 35,000 subscribers and multiple writers–includes advice, news and opinions for freelance workers, such as this insightful post on nurturing relationships with clients you’d like to keep. Also on Freelance Switch: forums and podcasts.

The Berkun Blog This Scott Berkun is a real hot shot hero to the technically inclined, but check out the archived blog entries–there’s stuff here for nearly every creatives freelancer, especially this lesson from a Dr. Seuss book.

Freelancers Union This union resource blog deals with the ethical and labor issues of contract work–including these thoughts on whether or not freelancers should lower their rates just because their clients are struggling.

Webworkerdaily: This blog tackles issues about productivity and other day-to-day issues in the freelance writing world.  It has advice on topics such as “Tackling Big Projects and Getting Things Done.”

Essentialkeystrokes: Check out this blog for general advice about freelancing, and about working on your computer.  It has useful posts such as “13 Ways to Move Big Files on the Web” as well as many others.

Thanks to oDesk (which runs a pretty snazzy blog for freelancers itself) and GuideToCareerEducation for these clips.

Image Credit: Flickr – filipe93

Unmet Potential

I ran as fast as I could to get outside. It was sunny and inexplicably bright. What wonderful delights would the yard hold today? Would I climb a tree, turn on the sprinkler and run through it? Would I dig a hole?  A light breeze flicked the leaves on the big cottonwood tree. I watched it as I ran. I grabbed the corner of the kitchen island so I could whip around faster.

I woke up on the floor. My head hurt. Mom cleaned the sliding glass door to an invisible sheen again.

Unmet potential.

I could have done more. I could have made a bigger impact. I could have changed things/people/lives for the better. I feel this swelling inside my chest. It’s somewhere between the lump you get right before you cry and the kind of utter exploding happiness you feel when a puppy wriggles in your hand or you watch two baby bunnies squirm.

Possible but not yet actual.

What to do with the utter certainty that you didn’t get to go all the way with your plans, your passion, your inspiration, your life’s work? Were you cut off at the pass? Did someone beat you to it? Did you sabotage yourself?

I had this great job once. A perfect job, really. The kind that hundreds of people wanted and didn’t get. I got it. I planned on working there for 26 years. For 86 days I ran so fast I lapped myself. I ran at full speed while I looked so far in to the future at what *could* be that I didn’t see the obvious barriers right in front of me. Instead of running in to a door, it was shown to me.

Undeveloped excellence.

That’s what they call potential. Undeveloped excellence. I sure had a lot of potential in that job. Bursting with ideas, alive with passion and well regarded by most of my coworkers as “the best [insert job title] person I’ve ever had.” Too bad I didn’t have even a cursory idea how to implement my big ideas in a way that wouldn’t result in my swift termination.

Do it anyway.

So I started a company. My very own squirmy bunny that I could raise up right in the vision of my own potential. Now I’ve got the developed excellence and ALL . I . WANT is to go back to that dream company and set the record straight.

I’d step off their elevator in impossibly cute shoes and say in an impossibly articulate way, “I was great for your company. I had the vision, the passion to carry it out and a whole boatload of employees who STILL WANT what I have to offer. But I’m Cohere’s now so I can’t come back to you. Your sprinkler is on and I can’t run through it.”

And they’ll smile and weep and hug me and offer me some ridiculous compensation to just hear my thoughts.

It’s possible.

Unreasonably Inspired

Last night I attended the Unreasonable Institute’s Inaugural Launch event in Boulder with my good friend and social innovator, Lucinda.

The Institute does this, “We unite up to 25 high-impact social entrepreneurs from around the world to attend our intensive 10-week summer institute. There, we will incubate their ventures with rigorous skill training and expert mentorship. At the end of the ten weeks, we will connect our Fellows with the start-up capital and global network of support needed to give their ventures wings.”

Who Gives a Crap

Each institute member was given 2 minutes to answer the question, “Who are you to define progress in our time?”  Some themes emerged.

  • Most of them said they did not define progress in our time.   Rather, they pointed to the people, the communities, the countries and the children that their products or services helped.  Women who sought education where none is offered, children who pull themselves out of poverty with micro businesses, toilet paper that builds toilets and more.
  • The focus is on innovation & learning not charity.  The underpinning of social entrepreneurship is NOT to create a bunch of non-profits who beg for money and hand it out.  Social innovation uses business solutions to solve social problems.  Facilitate getting tools into their hands or minds and let them thrive.
  • Progress isn’t perfect but YOU define it on whatever terms you need.

Uber Shelter

Thrive!  We learned that the simplest things can quite literally change an entire community.

  • Use a bicycle to hull corn 40 times faster and pay off the cost of this bike in 2.5 months!
  • Purchase toilet paper and build sanitary bathroom facilities for 1 million people.
  • Burn agri-waste and get carbon negative returns.
  • Let a vision impaired person identify their money with a color reading gadget.
  • Make a humane, 3 room home after a natural disaster with a wrench and a pallet of materials that can be carried by 2 people.

Get involved, get inspired, change the world.

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