Ewa Wojkowska: Stop dreaming and put your money where your mouth is!
Ewa Wojkowska was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.
by Ewa Wojkowska, Co-founder and COO of Kopernik
Changemakers asked: Converting an idea for social change into a reality is a critical step facing many “changemakers” like yourself. How would you advise potential innovators to move from idea stage into active prototyping? How do you convert your idea into an actual model for social change? And what particular advice would you have for women?
Is your idea needed?
The first thing is to make sure that your idea is responding to a real need. In our case, we identified this need through our work in international development over the past decade. The need was the lack of innovative approaches to solving development problems. We knew that innovative technologies existed that could have a life-changing impact, but they were not getting to the people who needed them – the people in the last mile. We began talking about our idea with our networks of local organizations in the countries where we had worked. The response we received confirmed that yes, absolutely, access to these innovations was needed and could have a huge impact within the communities in the last mile. It was clear to us, Kopernik was going to fill a massive gap.
Does your model make sense?
You have to make sure that the model you have developed is going to work – does your founding team have the skills and networks needed to implement it? If not, it’s never going to fly. We worked through several models before deciding on the current one, and some of the previous ones just were not going to get off the ground because we were not able to build the necessary infrastructure ourselves, and we lacked access to the skills and networks that were necessary to do so.
Invest your hard earned cash
You have to put your money where your mouth is. If you don’t invest your own money in the venture first, nobody else will. Take the long view and ask yourself – am I going to be able to pay the rent in a year’s time if I don’t find funding for this venture? And plan accordingly. A new venture is all consuming – in order to succeed you want to avoid having to take on another job to pay the rent.
Pilot the model from start to finish, on a very small scale. And be open to completely changing it. You will learn so much through this process, and you will undoubtedly revise your model. We did.
Everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s an expert with an idea of what you “should do.” It’s easy to be a critic and have ideas, but much more difficult to implement them. Try not to take it personally. Be resilient. It gets easier!
Ewa is the Co-founder and COO of kopernik.info -- an on-line marketplace that connects life-changing technologies to communities in the last mile.