Be a Lean NGO: Overcoming three key hurdles to build a more iterative organization

Insights, Leadership, Learning

It has been just three years since Eric Ries published The Lean Startup, and the book has become the standard playbook for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world.

The principles of the Lean Startup methodology, as you probably know, include building a testable prototype or pilot (a minimum viable product or “MVP”) as early as possible in the development of a company (or program or campaign) and focusing at first on learning and iteration rather than profit.

Cause-focused organizations, from for-profit social enterprises to charities, have been using some of The Lean Startup’s tricks (like pilot programs) for decades. But there’s opportunity for world-changing organizations to learn — and do — more by following this method.

A group of us recently came together at a convening of the Web of Change community to discuss some of the key hurdles faced by cause-focused organizations trying to “go lean” and to brainstorm ideas for how to address these apparent roadblocks. Here are the three biggest hurdles we’ve experienced in our organizations and with clients, and our recommendations on how to get past these blockers.

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