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It is all about using the standstill as a stepping stone for greater social impact.

Joining a start-up competition with the intention of expanding vision and deepening impact may not be your typical response to the ongoing pandemic where most things seem to be on a standstill. Practical wisdom might say the goal should be to simply stay afloat, stay on course until the pandemic eases up. The key question was, “Why now?” The quick and easy response was, “Why not?”

Indeed, these atypical times make for an interesting opportunity to use the slowdown to accelerate for the future.

My journey with the C3 Social Impact Accelerator Program was a very eventful one. We put out our application built on promising tractions and a wealth of possibilities. We knew we were in for the learning experience. I was investing on my braver dreams.

Learning Milestones

The C3 Experience had been like no other. The program addressed key milestones in the journey of a social entrepreneur.  We covered many tracks over the course of nearly 2 months. 

  • Week One  – we covered impactful enterprises and conducted exercises like the Personal Impact Exercise, the Theory of Change, Impact Mapping and Setting Indicators.
  • Weeks Two and Three – we covered funding and building capable teams. We had experts come speak to us about pitching for VCs, raising capital in a post COVID world. We also had fireside chats from start-ups that have raised funds and worked on company valuations.
  • Week Four – we learned about the tools to correctly measure our social impact, and how to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics into our business model.
  • Week Five – we delved into strong shareholding and governance structures, and touched on governance principles and shareholder agreements.

Overall, the experience had been very enriching, particularly as a social startup. It provided unique insights from mentors and experts on different topics. We had the opportunity to course-correct and learn not only from experts in different fields but also from fellow entrepreneurs who brought in different expertise and skill sets. The program thoroughly impressed upon us the values of a socially responsible business. It had me rethink our company’s mission and design a framework to measure our impact both on children and learning systems. In the coming years, this will become a particularly important metric to measure our growth.

I was humbled to be part of an amazing cohort of start-ups from the MENAT Region. The friendships formed acted as a true stress buffer. Besides emotional support, we provided each other direction as we lived remarkably similar experiences. 

Main Takeaway

Out of more than 600 applicants, 23 finalists from 8 countries in the MENAT Region (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey and UAE), I never could have anticipated the outcome. Clever Play emerging as the grand winner was a fantastic surprise!

Looking back, I can’t say a specific turning point that made the difference. It was passion all along – that unrelenting drive to immerse in learning and experience the breadth of outlook that comes from a community of shared purpose. I take away a renewed commitment to serve out our impact. To borrow the definition of Harvard professor David Perkins, I say we are out to serve with “Learning that matters in the lives learners are likely to live.”

Here are my 5 key tips:

1) An open mind opens doors. Show up fully, and be prepared for the unexpected. 

2) Maintain momentum. Continue experimenting while learning to juggle growth, change, and inevitable challenges. 

3) Broaden your vision. Keep your purpose and your customers front and center.

4) Leave room to adapt and evolve.

5) Be true to your intentions, flexible in your approach.

Latifa Al Khalifa

Latifa Al Khalifa

Latifa is a Co-Founder of Clever Play, a creative learning space devoted to providing children with innovative and in-demand 21st century STEAM skill-building adventures. She is an avid reader and enjoys the outdoors, particularly hiking and kayaking.