Chris McDonald On Protecting Communication Human Rights Through Social Enterprise — Impact Boom | Social Impact Blog & Podcast | Global Changemaker Community | Social Innovation, Enterprise, Design

You were in special needs education, so what are some challenges and barriers which you’ve experienced in this transition?

Absolutely. I have always been a little bit entrepreneurial, even as a little one. I was always mowing people’s lawns and hustling in that respect, and I think the only reason I learned how to do algebra was so I could have the parents teach their kids how to do algebra. I don’t think there was any real inherent enjoyment of algebra, but this is definitely my first crack at starting a global company.

Now I have been working in education in the disability space for 20 years, so I know who I’m working for. I feel like I’m working for that space and I know what is required to succeed in that space.

My main challenge has been around funding, and I’ve explored lots of different avenues with that as most people who are trying to get a start-up off the ground.

I’ve eventually just settled in a space where I just do it all myself, because I felt that I wanted to be in control of it in the early stages. I mean funding is a big thing, time is a big thing, and also sanity is a big thing. It’s not a particularly easy thing to work a full-time job and make all of this stuff happen.

But having said all of that, I think that that when it comes to opportunities and  when it comes to barriers that I think most of the time barriers and obstacles are very much opportunities and you need to pay attention to whatever it is that you think is holding you up. Sometimes it’s actually a blessing.

When you look back on it an hour or a week later, you think of that obstacle because it made you slow down and it made you kind of reinvent what it was that you were doing at the time. I think that barriers are actually a good thing.

Absolutely. I think that having that ability to reflect on those barriers is so important for success, especially in this field of social enterprise, and I think you would agree.

You’re also learning a lot. There’s a lot of hats to wear when you’re trying to do it. Everything from patenting to coming up with packaging, and drop shipping, and crowdfunding, accounting, marketing and creative, there’s a lot of hats to wear and to not necessarily master, but you’ve got to touch base with everything so you can make sure that you’re across the door.

Absolutely. What inspiring projects or initiatives have you come across recently that are creating positive social change?

I think that I’ve got to mention our partners here, because by starting this, they actually fueled it from the beginning, especially a big shout  out to the OIC Cambodia founded by Weh Yeoh.

They’re amazing because of just that, I guess the scale of the issue that they tackled in Cambodia, where there was no speech therapy, and a population who very much needed that input.

And also Umbo which Weh Yeoh is also a founder of, and they’re just completely ahead of the curve when it comes to things like telehealth and have really set a new precedent for being ahead of the game, when it came to COVID and things like that, they were already rolling out telehealth.

So, OIC Cambodia and Umbo. Global Symbols is a thing that is being put together by a guy called David Banes and Ian Dreyfun. Definitely worth checking out. They’ve been a supporter of us from the beginning, and they’re just an open source image platform. It’s very international in nature. The Nika Project based out of California, they’re across the entire world from Africa to Asia, to South America. Basically up-cycling old technology and giving it to people with communication disorders.

The Global Autism Project is amazing because they’re just everywhere doing everything, and the last one I’ll mention is Pencils of Promise. They’ve been around for a while based out of New York, and they’ve just got this amazing model that I very much look up to and hope one day to serve. I’d love to collaborate with them when we get a little bit bigger.

There’s just an enormous amount of integrity in Pencils of promise. I think that they probably are a little bit underrated and not spoken about enough, with just what they’re doing around the world.

Well, those are some fantastic initiatives you mentioned there, and for all the listeners, there will be some links in the article, and you’ll be able to check all of those out afterwards. To finish off, I would love to ask what books would you recommend to our listeners?

So, I’m loving audio books. I consume so much, so many podcasts, but I’m easily addicted to listening to audio books, and actually a book that I had the physical copy of that I was given to many years ago by a colleague is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It’s just a fantastic read, I really do think everyone should sink their teeth into that. And flowing on the whole stoicism theme, a book by Ryan Holiday called The Obstacle Is the Way is a really fantastic book. Highly recommend that definitely if you’re trying to get into this space or you’ve got a start-up in mind. Obviously, I love children’s books. I’ve worked in primary education for a long time, plus, I’ve got two little ones. So, the book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.

Now I reckon I’ve read that book 500 times, and just the other day, it was weird. I was saying to my wife that I’d never really thought about the meaning of that book. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that book, but it’s very entrepreneurial I think.

Maybe I’m just way too much into it because I’m sleep deprived! But as the lead up, I feel like it’s the story of a start-up, and every single obstacle they come to, like they come to mud, and then long grass and they come to snow storms and all of these things. Are you familiar with the book?

I am.

Well, I’m going to need your help on this because I like the mud one the best. I think the mud is very symbolic of what being an entrepreneur is about. They get to the mud and they can’t go over the mud and they can’t go under the mud. What did they have to do?

You have to go through it!

You have to go through the mud, and you have to go through everything. Then they get to the end and they’re tiptoeing, and it’s all coming to this climax and this bear is there that they were looking for in the first place, I’m not really quite sure why they get so surprised that it’s there, but the bear doesn’t exactly turn out to be what they think its going to be.

Then it chases them back to the house. I’ve even drawn a parallel to like working from home, I know that’s really obscure! But I think with that book, there’s a message in that book that’s not so much just for kids. I think we can all take a little bit out of that. I’d read it so many times, but I’d never really thought about what it was, what the message was.