“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.”
– Bill O’Brien
This understanding sits at the core of how we think of impact at Masawa. If founders and organizations aren’t investing in their own wellbeing, then they can’t be expected to meaningfully contribute to solving today’s massive mental health crisis. You have to walk the talk.
This is of course easier said than done; the path to impact is non-linear.
External impact – your theory on how you are going to change thousands (millions!) of lives – is at best, based on a combination of solid evidence and sound assumptions about your product or service and its business delivery. But it also requires continuous flexible, creative, and critical thinking to incorporate new information as it becomes available, and upgrade the initial impact model. Just as early stage business models pivot for survival, impact plans must continuously evolve, especially for start-ups, and as they scale.
There is a vast opportunity to make meaningful social change without compromising on substantial financial returns. The internal rate of return (IRR, a key profitability metric) of impact funds is 2.1X greater than that of comparable non-impact funds. This is why at Masawa, we invest in companies that share our laser focus on measurable impact and create products or services that meet real needs. We work with these investees to craft a theory of change, co-create impact metrics, and provide hands-on expertise to support measurement, evaluation, and research. This approach leads to outsized gains, both financial and social.
However, none of this is achievable in the long run if the business at its core isn’t healthy, if the humans who are the business aren’t healthy. This is what we think of as internal impact. At Masawa focus on supporting our investees’ organizational health more broadly – that is, their organizational ability to effectively use resources to execute a vision, and to respond to changes and setbacks with resilience and innovation. Masawa co-creates a development plan with each investee, tailoring our suite of offerings to address the goals and needs of each organization. This includes services like coaching and training, key connections across our network, and advisory services to maximize wellness and organizational effectiveness.
This is because we’ve known for years that culture – how people work together – is a strong predictor of financial performance. We also know that what founders do early on matters for the organization’s long-term success – evidence points to strong path dependence of early choices on future outcomes. Unfortunately, a focus on founder resilience and organizational culture is not the type of support that traditional investors focus on, (although it seems like the even banks are finally catching on to the importance of workplace mental wellness).
2020 has been a year that has challenged us all to aim higher and dig deeper; it has slapped us awake to the need to take care of ourselves and each other, and to pour our efforts into drastically changing the doomsday future that awaits us in only 100 seconds. We cannot reverse the train of doom if we aren’t mentally well, a wellness that, for our part, is accomplished by emphasizing and enhancing both investees’ internal impact of organizational health and external impact of increased mental wellness.
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