It was a pleasure to address the huge, diverse, and energetic crowd at Lean Impact’s first launch event in New York @Wix LoungeLeanne (left in picture below) and Leah of Start Somewhere were fantastic and well-organized hostesses, presenting their new ‘passion project’ in true lean startup form: simple, short, and rich content. The emphasis was on gathering the community and soliciting feedback on what WE want from this new initiative. Customer Development in action!

Ajaita Shah (right in picture above), a formidable changemaker and dear friend through Echoing Green, spoke about how her venture Frontier Markets is lean. They have been learning from years of experience on the ground in India, refining their services strategically as they grow and fail. Stay tuned for more on her exciting next initiative: Fronter Innovations, working to help others be as lean and smart as Ajaita and her team have been!

I talked about our Customer Development process at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization in the West Bank. We got to Nablus with a huge building, modest budget, and mandate to ‘help kids’. We talked to everyone who’d answer our questions about what was needed, trained a core staff, and put on a 5-week pilot program for 85 kids. That got us some kids and moms in the building to observe and talk more with.

They taught us a lot, namely that working with the moms rather than just the kids would provide a multiplier effect, enabling us to reach 8 kids (average family size) for each individual participant. That made sense to us, so we developed a range of women’s programs, promoting personal, educational, and economic well-being. The women came in droves, and we were able to measure real results. Plus, their kids came more regularly! And we saw results there too.

I’ve seen the power of lean startup principles for social ventures firsthand. They can make charitable work cheaper, more effective, and sustainable. Now my job is to help other entrepreneurs and donors understand how and why. I look forward to working with the Lean Impact team to do it!