Meet The Winners Of The NYC Lean For Social Good Summit!

By Meg Rulli — Jan 29 14
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One December 5th, Lean Impact launched its first Lean For Social Good Summit in NYC where we got together an incredible group of nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, Lean Startup experts, philanthropists, funders, and innovators to bring Lean Startup principles to the social good space. At the summit, we heard from 20 amazing organizations who are putting theory into practice…

At the end of the 20 pitches, both the summit judges and attendees got to vote on their favorite Lean organization… And we are now here to share the stories of these winners with you!

Meet The Winners Of The NYC

Lean For Social Good Summit:

Cynthia Koenig – Wello Water

(Winner of the Lean for Social Good Judge’s Award)

Lean Startup Story Wello

1. What does your organization do?

Wello is a social venture with a bold mission: To meet the needs of the billion people worldwide who do not have reliable access to water. Through the application of innovative, appropriate, and low-cost solutions to water collection, purification and storage, we seek to improve human health and well-being, reduce poverty, and create life-changing opportunities at the base of the economic pyramid.

Our flagship product is the WaterWheel – a 50L rolling water container that reduces the time, physical, and health burdens of water collection.

2. What is the Lean principle that “speaks to you” the most? How have you used that, or brought that to life in your organization?

The ‘build-measure-learn’ feedback loop is central to everything we do at Wello – from co-creating our products with consumers, to building systems to help us scale, and everything in between. Before we develop prototypes or strategies, we list our assumptions as clearly as possible, and revisit and update this list at regular intervals.

One example of how build-measure-learn helped us course-correct early on was when we assumed that the WaterWheel was a product that would be most beneficial to women and girls, and therefore should be marketed only to them…. After struggling to conduct female-only focus groups and community meetings, we revisited our assumptions and experimented with a more gender-inclusive product introduction strategy. As it turned out, men not only valued the WaterWheel as an agricultural tool, but they were willing to use it and share the burden of household water collection too. And just like that, our market size doubled!

3. For organizations who want to go Lean, what advice would you give on getting started?

Stop planning and start learning (aka – get out of the building!)

4. What’s one thing you could recommend to Lean organizations, i.e. “no matter what, don’t forget to…”

Fail smart – learn from your mistakes.

5. What’s ahead for your organization?

Wello is scaling production in India and expanding to Kenya… we’re on a roll!

Paula Brantner – Workplace Fairness

(Winner of the Lean for Social Good People’s Choice Award)

Workplace Fairness on Lean Startup

1. What does your organization do?

Workplace Fairness believes that fair treatment of workers is sound public policy and good business practice, and that free access to comprehensive, unbiased information about workers’ rights – without legal jargon – is an essential ingredient in any fair workplace. That’s why Workplace Fairness creates and maintains the most comprehensive, online one-stop-shop for free information about workers’ rights, at www.workplacefairness.org

2. What is the Lean principle that “speaks to you” the most? How have you used that, or brought that to life in your organization?

While we’ve adopted many Lean principles, even before they were identified as that. I think Pivoting is one that really resonates. If what you’re doing isn’t working, you have to change your direction or strategy. When our organization ran out of money following a traditional nonprofit fundraising approach, we needed a different strategy for generating revenue if we were to survive. Adopting a social enterprise model meant the difference between having staff, keeping our website updated, and continuing to exist.

3. For organizations who want to go Lean, what advice would you give on getting started?

Think about what is really essential: Do you need a long and drawn-out strategic planning process? Multiple meetings of various board committees? Five or ten people involved with every project or program when one or two have the necessary expertise? Are you frequently missing the boat in terms of optimal timing or the news cycle or the freshness of what you’re attempting to do? Empower your people to make quick decisions, take risks, test assumptions, fail fast, and move on to the next iteration. There’s no time for hand-wringing or “what-ifs?” if you want to be successful using Lean principles.

4. What’s one thing you could recommend to Lean organizations, i.e. “no matter what, don’t forget to…”

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There’s always time to make things better, but you may miss your window of opportunity if you’re not getting your minimum viable product out there and then tweaking from there.

5. What’s ahead for your organization?

What’s next for Workplace Fairness? We are looking to launch WF 3.0: Entering our third decade after our founding in 1994, we are looking at the next logical space for us to inhabit. In our first decade, it was books; in our second, it was information about the law via a website; now starting our third decade, we are thinking about what additional information — in addition to information about their legal rights — is necessary and vital for workers to thrive in the 21st century workplace. We also have to make sure that we are successfully using the right channels, so ensuring our social media and mobile work, for example, is on target and reaching people in their digital space is vital to our success.

Want to highlight all the awesome ways your organization has adopted Lean Startup methods? Apply to speak at our March 26th Lean For Social Good Summit in DC! 

Meg Rulli | Social Media Director

Meg started her career as a business management consultant helping large-scale companies develop more efficient IT strategies to maximize performance and achieve measurable results. After several years in the corporate world, she decided to travel the world and follow her dream to be an entrepreneur. After spending a year abroad with her husband in 2012, she started Sticky Marketing with her partner-in-crime, Caroline Eaton, which focuses on helping small businesses & startups stand out in their industries and compete against larger competitors. Meg attended Babson College in Boston, MA where she studied Entrepreneurship and Global Business Management.

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Lean Impact is a Learning Community dedicated to helping Social Good Organizations use Lean Startup Principles