Or the other way round.
There might be people out there, who find all the change they need within themselves. But when I look at how Net-Map moved from toys in a cookie tin to what it is now, I know that I met a significant guide at most of the important cross-roads. Someone who says: “This might be the best idea you’ll have in your life, stick with it for a while, don’t run away because you’re bored, don’t assume you’ll invent something more interesting tomorrow” (John Mason of NCRC, Ghana), “Give it a name, turn it into a toolbox, make it a recognizable product – and we’ll help you do it.” (Klaus von Grebmer and his communications team at IFPRI), “WRITE THESE RESEARCH PAPERS! This is how people learn about Net-Map and start taking it seriously.” (Regina Birner at IFPRI), “We’re all doing it and you can also be independent and thrive!” (Mark Steinlin, Nancy White and so many other colleagues at KM4Dev)
Today is my personal international “Thank the change agents day”. It’s amazing how that works, because change has to be outside and within at the same time, this brief moment that is like an opened door. Because we all know how often people encourage us to change this or that and we just feel like: “Leave me alone and mind your own business.” But every once in a while you meet people who hear the change that is brewing in you already and give you the one question, advice, criticism that you need to jump. It does make you wonder: Who or what opens this door?
Ok, in the end you have to do all the hard work to make it happen, and, let me tell you, change never comes for free… But, would you even have tried without this random or pointed remark?
My last change agent encounter was actually with more than one… more than one customer asking me for the same time slot, wanting me to be in different corners of the world at the same time. And then I sat down with my partner in crime Noora Aberman (IFPRI) and we asked ourselves: How can Net-Map grow beyond our own limited capacity? How much sharing and how much control is needed so that it can spread wide and still not be diluted too much? Can I let go? Of what? How does collaboration work if I don’t want to employ?
I don’t know. Yet. But I will find out. And I’m asking all my friends to tell me what they think… So if you have made an idea grow beyond your own limited size – or if you failed to do so and learned a lot along the way – tell me what you have learned and you might be on the golden list on my next “thank the change agents day”…