If Not Now, When?

Recently I saw this TED talk from Bill Gross, who is the founder of Idealab, where he talks about what takes a startup to succeed. After watching it, I started co-relating it with how social enterprises work and why they suffer too on similar grounds. It struck me how social entrepreneurs are working tirelessly and still many at times it is difficult to see why the impact is not visible the way we imagined it to be.

According to the talk, the ‘timing’ of an idea matters the most than anything else. If your so called ‘market is desperate enough to accept and appreciate the change your idea is going to bring, it is surely going to be a success. Throughout history many great ideas came, but failed miserably because they were ahead of time. He explains this concept by giving the example of Airbnb; how it came at a time when the recession was at its peak and people were looking for extra income without any investment, hence it quickly gained its traction because of this desperation and need. The idea however was earlier rejected by many investors.

Similarly, in the impact space, while dealing with Social issues, as a change-maker we often see things from a perspective that should be ideal and believe will work on the whole for the better development. Often, experts in the field defines what would be the correct product for the market and how it is the need of the people. A key area we end up negating is if the people are actually concerned about the issue and do we have a demand for the issue to be resolved. Or, in Bill gross’s words- has the time come for the problem to be resolved?

To explain this better, I will put forward a comparison between 2 social issues we have seen recently.

Women empowerment, a social issue we have been facing from decades, has gained a traction in the recent past. With equal education rights, pushing families to send their girl child to schools and various other interventions the society started believing in women empowerment and what it can do. It gave women the chance to come forward and stand equally with the men. Hence, making empowering women the need of the hour (read- the time has come) if we have to move forward in the right way; making people actively work on it and ask for it as a basic right!

Whereas when we see clean India- ‘swatch bharat’ campaign, we find it lacking behind although Indian government is putting their best effort to make it work. I believe and in my opinion the Bottom of pyramid society still doesn’t take it as a necessity and don’t consider it as a problem. For them issues like job, employment and food takes over as a priority than hygiene. A toilet is more of a luxury than a necessity in their lives. Hence ‘it’s time has not come yet’.

While I do know such social issues are of utmost importance and are based on research and hard science facts; explaining us what and why they should be the priority, I believe it is more critical for us to realize if the time is right for the problem to be solved!

A better way would be to put our resources and ideas on explaining people ‘why this social problem is an issue’ and why ‘right now is the time’ to react on it. Work towards making them believe that this is the time to make it a necessity. Creating a time travel for these issues to become people’s priority and need. Bringing such behavioral change in the society is far more needed for its growth and I believe with this advent, then putting innovations, products and services in place will do a much better and effective work in realization of social solutions. To sum it up- a saying by Victor Hugo, one of the greatest and best-known French writers, fits pretty well-

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."