In Conversation with Tom Higley: Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs

May 14, 2021: In Conversation with Tom Higley: Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs

“Entrepreneurs are the lever that can move the world.”  So says Tom Higley, himself a serial entrepreneur and founder of the 10.10.10 and XGenesis startup incubator programs, which focus the efforts of select groups of entrepreneurs on projects designed to address the world’s most complex, or “wicked,” problems.  The 10.10.10 program is well connected to foundations, NGOs and others in the social sector, whereas XGenesis is connected to the investment community – and the pair, functioning as a “tandem organization,” were launched with the goal of creating a bridge linking entrepreneurs and investors with the nonprofit sector.

On March 22, 2021, Liz Ngonzi hosted Tom for a conversation co-sponsored by The International Social Impact Institute and The Resource Alliance titled “Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs.” As a member of the Resource Alliance’s global content team, Liz sought to identify contributors for a dialogue on the theme of “New Thinking” relevant to the social sector, and Tom immediately came to mind.  He brings a fresh and unfamiliar perspective to the challenges faced by the sector as it confronts society’s complex problems.  As Liz remarked in introducing the March 22 conversation:

The ‘wicked problems’ that [Tom] focuses on include healthcare, education, infrastructure, energy, climate and water . . . the same issues for which many of us in the charity sector are working to find solutions. Tom and his team just have a radically different methodology for finding those solutions: They use the entrepreneurial mindset to explore possibilities and opportunities for a new world.

As Tom pointed out, both entrepreneurs and their potential investors have shown a tendency to shy away from working on wicked problems because those problems appear so daunting and unmanageable, arising as they do from multiple interacting causes.  Hence the need for programs like 10.10.10 and XGenesis, for which particularly complex problems represent the exclusive focus.  Those who would tackle problems of that nature, Tom suggests, should be willing to make three essential commitments as they attempt to formulate solutions: A commitment to listen and learn; a commitment to engage with teammates and collaborators of diverse backgrounds and having diverse perspectives, values, and understandings; and a commitment to view themselves as being equal to the task they have set for themselves.

Click HERE to watch the interview

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Why Learning How to Tell Your Story Can Help You Align Your Purpose and Your Paycheck

Over the last year of remote work, Zoom school, and simply trying to stay healthy, many of us have been wondering about our careers, and about whether our current job allows us to be the best version of ourselves – for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities.  Some of us have lost the jobs and titles that seemed to define us and are reflecting on career issues as a matter of necessity.  But the solitude and isolation that we all experienced has brought up, even for many whose careers seemingly remain on track, questions like “What is my purpose?” and “Could I earn a paycheck in a way that enables me to fulfill that purpose?”

I have been in the position of asking similar questions at various stages of my life.  In my first job after undergrad, as a Marketing Specialist at Digital Equipment Corporation, I saw colleagues with 20+ years of experience caught up in a mass layoff through no fault of their own.  Several years later, the apparently solid and stable consulting firm that employed me was completely shuttered owing to its association with a major corporate scandal.  During the 2009 economic downturn, my own consulting business abruptly lost 60 percent of its client base.  Most recently, I found myself pondering these questions when I came to realize that my purpose had evolved beyond the executive role that I had held for four years with a particular nonprofit organization.

At each of those turning points, I took stock of my situation – seeking inspiration from a favorite author, guidance from a mentor, enrolling in a seminar, or working with a coach – and spent some time assessing my strengths and weaknesses, where I wanted to go and how I might get there.  I also thought through how to re-position myself for my desired career move: by refreshing my resume and LinkedIn profile, of course, but also by generating content to support my new positioning, by seeking out speaking opportunities to build visibility in the new conversations that I wanted to participate in, and by re-sharing older material that I had written or in which I had been quoted.

The last time I began such a process was in 2018.  At that time, I observed that many people had been seeking me out for career guidance and for assistance with their LinkedIn profiles and with matters related to their careers, businesses, or organizations.  Looking through the content that I had created over many years, I realized that everything I had done throughout my career – from working as a Marketing Specialist in the information technology industry to teaching nonprofit leaders about Digital Storytelling at New York University – had always been about helping others to tell their stories for maximum effect.  That realization led me to form two new businesses.  Through the first of these entities, called Liz Ngonzi Transforms, I work with leaders looking to clarify their purpose, develop their story and communicate it effectively to stakeholders such as clients, partners, investors and potential employers.  Through the second, called The International Social Impact Institute, I assemble teams of trusted collaborators to deliver training, consulting services and events that are meant to amplify the voices and impact of purpose-driven leaders from historically marginalized communities – enabling them to clarify, develop and share their stories with stakeholders such as prospective funders, partners, and employees.

I would like to inspire you to undertake a similar process of clarifying, developing and sharing your story with the goal of aligning your purpose and your paycheck.


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