Recently, the Animas Impact Team invited community members to participate in a series of focus group sessions to contribute valuable ideas and perspectives on how to create community-owned social impact projects.
The session to which I was invited was the first of several conversations that took place over the course of two weeks to influence our thinking about our Impact Incubator.
Set to launch later this year, the Impact Incubator is a programme designed to encourage and empower the Animas coaching community to build and establish its own social impact programmes.
The initiative, which is open to community members, is set to run for six months and will blend a mix of models and could potentially include group coaching and mastermind sessions to support applicants interested in setting up their own impact project.
Like the previous social impact workshops and integrations I have attended previously, I was really looking forward to joining the first Impact Incubator’s focus group discussion so that I could learn more about the forthcoming initiative and glean some new thoughts and perspectives from the participants.
What’s different about this session from the ones I’ve attended is that Emma limited the participants to a max of five people to further allow each person’s thoughts and experiences to permeate the space and really be heard by the team. I can clearly see why this was structured differently from the others because this session is all about drawing out ideas from each attendee and exploring how to implement them into the upcoming initiative.
The purpose of the Impact Incubator’s focus group sessions is to obtain ideas and information from the coaches, as well as to ask them what they want to improve and propose for the Impact Incubator concept. A ‘group think’ space as it were, where everyone is able to share both ideas and feedback to support one another on this new journey.
Emma kicked the session off by presenting the Impact Incubator’s initial concept and structure, sharing that during the span of the programme, there could be 2-3 hour monthly virtual meetups and mid-way check-ins to generate ideas, solve problems, provide support and suggest action steps. Workshops and Q&A sessions will also be included in the programme to ensure that the coaches involved gain insight, confidence, and a deeper understanding of what sits behind a successful social impact initiative, while planning and running their own programmes.
The participants then were asked to briefly share what they do, their Animas journey and the things they wish to bring to the table.
It was fascinating to hear how these four participants hailed from incredibly diverse backgrounds and professions. For instance, Andra Nuta is currently working for a global start-up accelerator while Eva Bhattacharya was a former chemist and scientist turned coach. Meanwhile, Nick Meinertzhagen delved into marketing and market research prior to becoming a coach and Maha Alusi has a background in art and architecture.
In my view, bringing together people from various backgrounds allows the conversation to yield a greater number of varied ideas and insights, drawing on each individual’s unique lived experience, and pulling them together into something that is tangible, unique and relevant to the desired goals and outcomes.
My opinion about this didn’t fail me. Over the next few minutes, what I picked out from each participant was full of rich insight and creative thinking.
The participants were asked, “If you were a part of the Impact Incubator programme, what would you deliver and how?” They all contributed pertinent thoughts and reflections on how to improve the programme even more.
Nick shared that there might be a need to define and filter the list of ideas from the participants by coming together as a group, seeing different perspectives and exploring how they might be expanded upon in order to create a far-reaching and lasting social change. He said;
Andra agreed with Nick and added that it may be necessary to discover who the target audience is and be able to directly speak with them to see if they find value in the idea or identify if it is important or relevant to them.
Maha also emphasised the need to invite social impact experts to the space so that they can share their stories and perspectives with the attendees in order to provide support and inspire them to keep going, even though it may take some time and effort.
Andra also mentioned the need of holding a virtual kick-off meeting to connect people and see how they would work effectively together.
Nick agreed, saying that stitching ideas together from several angles from like-minded people can make the concept much more impactful and relevant. He said:
And that statement really validated what I was thinking: that pulling in new realisations, thoughts, and opinions from like-minded people and putting them together to produce a cohesive and relevant concept or message is critical to making this programme or any other project relevant and successful.
Because, at the end of the day, one of the project’s aims is to leverage the combined strength of the Animas community to successfully implement a positive and measurable change in social issues.
As an observer, I can tell every participant made an effort to clearly put forward their views and ideas, and not just with clarity, but with real, tangible excitement,and evaluate where or how they could improve the Impact Incubator programme.
As the programme came to a close, Eva Bhattacharyya wondered aloud if the Impact Incubator was looking for a specific set of people. This was a question I had been considering too. Emma responded;
This project, in my opinion, provides an excellent chance for coaches to create a meaningful impact, no matter how small or large, inside their communities. I also anticipate that once the programme begins, participants will be able to gain a clearer perspective and a higher level of understanding of social impact’s place in coaching.
Again, as with past social impact sessions I’ve attended, I find it extraordinary yet uncommon to see an organisation establish a programme that allows the community to collaborate with one another in order to make an impact and bring about social change, not just in the community but globally.
I am confident that as the focus group discussions develop over the next few weeks, the Animas Impact team will have even more new ideas and insights on hand to make the Impact Incubator more successful, relevant, and influential. I’m looking forward to seeing what Emma and her team come up with for this project!