Leveraging Technology for Social Change With Astrid Scholz of Sphaera
Because of her economist background and 15 years of experience in the social change industry, Astrid noticed patterns of behavior in the social change sector that actually inhibited the pace of change. “It makes it easy to see the bigger pattern in any industry.” Astrid noted of her economics background.
This is where Sphaera comes in. Sphaera leverages the creativity and potential of technology to speed up the pace of change through connecting the best solutions with innovative problem-solvers around the world.
The possibilities of sharing solutions impressed Astrid while she was in her previous capacity in a nonprofit. “We had built some really good and innovative decision support tools for marine planning and for natural resource management in the ocean,” Astrid shared, “and on a personal level I was very proud to have been involved with both the development and the use of those tools to help create marine protected areas here in our coastal ocean off of California and Oregon.”
In addition to this success, Astrid’s work began to spread farther. The CEO said, “Those tools actually gained interest far beyond our home territory. We ended up working with a Mexican conservation organization that used some of these same tools to work with fishermen and recreationalists in Mexico. That to me was sort of an early experience of sharing what we’ve learned here at home in making conservation decisions that work with the fishing community.”
Leading Social Change
Source: Oregon Business
“I think what’s been most useful to me has been, frankly just life experience,” Astrid commented, “All those hard skills build up over time and then there are new things to learn that are specific to the kind of enterprise SaaS company that we are. But by this time in my life I am confident in my ability to learn new things, so that’s what set me on this path, to be undaunted by it.” The visionary Sphaera CEO pointed out how valuable experience and the confidence can be to a making a career change.
As Astrid has reinvented herself as a tech entrepreneur, she has an uplifting point of view. She related, “I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I have enough experience to know that I can recover from those mistakes, and that it’s worth trying something new, even something that seems radically different from my previous career as a nonprofit executive.”
Mistakes and other obstacles are not a rare occurrence. The social change CEO noted, “We just had a pivot discussion with the team and have landed on a, not a new product, but a new focus. The challenging thing is that we are impatient, we want the market to be readier for us than it is.”
This realization had the Sphaera team asking, do we have the right thing for the right time for where the industry is that we’re trying to influence? Thoughtful questions like this one can make a huge difference for startups who’ve built a product or service that isn’t quite seeing the expected results.
For those interested in following the social innovation career path, Astrid recommended, “Get familiar with the big issues that are defining our world, and a good place to start are the sustainable development goals, which is sort of the global community’s expression of what we have to achieve if the entire planet is to live well in the 21st Century.”
Based on the those issues, Astrid addressed a question that aspiring social innovation entrepreneurs should ask themselves. “What value can I add to these existing efforts, or what makes me special or different?” With this question, Astrid addressed qualities that are necessary for answering it sufficiently. The social change CEO said, “There is a degree of patience involved in understanding what people have already been trying to come up with a truly useful innovation and the innovation is more likely to be successful if it’s adaptable, something that somebody has tried.”
Astrid summed up her advice as to what social innovation entrepreneurs need as “The patience and humility to understand what’s already working, and the study on how we frame the big challenges facing us.”
Having a Solid Foundation
Astrid explained, “For anything you do, that you envision, that is big and ambitious and where you will run into a lot of skepticism and outright obstacles and therefore failure outside, you need to have just a rock solid foundation of support at home.” Astrid tells us how having a partner who is not competing with you, in terms of careers goals and professional energy, is important to entrepreneurial success because women tend to step back and put their own goals and needs second.
Astrid expounded, “Having a partner who truly supports what you do is important, right? You cannot have a bold vision and have any hope of executing towards it, if then at home on the home front you encounter expectations around what your role is in whatever, you know, doing the dishes and making the household run.”
Astrid’s last words to By Geekgirl were words to inspire action. “Just do it.” The Sphaera CEO shared, “the slogan is not mine, obviously, but just go out and do it. So many women second guess themselves and are looking for perfection, even in their own planning, even in their own analysis of a problem. And I’d encourage, you to actively counter it in your personal practice and give yourself that internal nudge to go out and do it.”
What issues would you solve with technology?
What issues do you see in the world that can be solved through the creative use of technology? Share with us Geekgirls what your mission is and what you’re doing about it.