By Anna Moegerlein, Deputy CEO
In the realm of economic development, a critical realization has emerged—the need for a holistic approach that integrates Inner Development with Enterprise Development.
We’ve spent years testing and refining our approach to coaching and capability building, and our belief in its effectiveness has been galvanised as we’ve witnessed results for ourselves and those we’ve coached, both personally and professionally.
Fostering holistic growth: The synergy of Inner and Enterprise Development
Equipping people with the necessary technical skills to start and run a business is only solving half the problem. To ensure the long-term success and sustainability of social enterprises, NFPs and SMEs, it is essential to equip business owners with inner resilience and skills to overcome the unique challenges that exist within each context.
This is particularly true for women business owners in developing nations. In situations where negative social norms exist and become internalised, women can be held back from full participation and success, and that is where the work of Inner Development can yield the most powerful results, not only for women, but for families, communities, and local economies.
In 2021 we coached Maria* over a period of two months, as part of a program designed to build capability among women-owned SMEs across Papua New Guinea (PNG). [*Name withheld for confidentiality].
Maria was running a laundry business with her husband. When we first met Maria she was feeling despondent. Their customers had dropped to one or two a week, and she was only generating PGK400 per month. She shared, “I wasn’t confident in my business reaching its ultimate goal. I had doubts and many grey areas”.
Before sharing the rest of Maria’s story and the transformation that occurred both within herself and her business, let’s examine how we designed our coaching, and why it has been so effective.
The critical role of Inner Development
Over the past four years, we have partnered with mindset specialist Kate Wilson of Resources Reimagined to incorporate Inner Development into our coaching method for entrepreneurs and business owners. Throughout our collaboration we have refined a holistic approach that unlocks individuals’ full potential and fosters sustainable enterprise development. We call this our ‘InsideOut’ model.
Inviting Kate in as a consultant alongside our team, we ran a coaching program in PNG offering over 900 hours of integrated business and mindset coaching to women-owned businesses and MSMEs. This project provided us with extensive qualitative and quantitative data on effective approaches. As we tested, workshopped, and clarified this method based on field lessons and collected data, the following diagram emerged, and we’ll begin to unpack this below:
Unlocking the Potential of Entrepreneurs through Inner & Outer Development
To address the real-world problems faced by entrepreneurs, it is crucial to work with them on both their Inner Development (mindset) and their Enterprise Development (practical business skills and operations). Through our years of experience, we have found that coaching and supporting business owners – not only as entrepreneurs, but also as individuals – yields the most successful results.
This is particularly evident in our work with women in developing economies, but also applies to our work with any groups that experience exclusion as a result of their race, gender, or other lived experience. These cohorts are often neglected by traditional Enterprise Development approaches, and they’ve also experienced more profoundly the detrimental effects of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.
Our InsideOut Model of coaching represented by the diagram encapsulates the interconnected relationship between Inner Development and Enterprise Development. What we have discovered over the last few years of practice is that positive acceleration in one ‘wheel’ catalyses movement and acceleration in the other. Conversely, stagnation in one aspect hinders progress in the complementary domain. The Inner Development wheel on the left illustrates this growth of essential personal and interpersonal skills, such as self-awareness, situational awareness, and healthy boundary setting.
Let’s return to Maria’s story to see how effective Inner Development brought a dynamic shift to Maria’s business:
As we began addressing Maria’s mindset blockages we witnessed a ripple effect that extended beyond her personal growth and permeated her business. Over the course of the coaching program we worked with Maria on a range of issues, such as helping her to regain her confidence and de-coupling her personal worth from her business success. We also worked on the limiting mindsets that stopped her from increasing her (very low) prices and helped her move through her fear of disappointing people.
As she gained confidence, confronted unhelpful beliefs, and embraced her worth, her laundry business flourished. Maria’s capability to participate in more traditional elements of Enterprise Development (the wheel on the right) was strengthened. Maria developed a stronger understanding of her customer segments and value proposition, worked at improving her pricing strategy, and learned to better communicate her offer on social media.
As a result, during the coaching she not only increased her price five-fold, she didn’t lose any customers! The newfound sense of meaning and self-expression fuelled her determination to succeed, resulting in increased revenue, job creation, and contributions to a strengthened local economy.
Over the course of the program, as participants embraced and applied these Inner Development skills, significant transformations occurred.
And it wasn’t just Maria, the data we collected revealed remarkable outcomes across the board:
- 95% of participants expressed newfound belief in themselves and their businesses due to coaching support.
- 91% reported an increased sense of confidence.
- 91% gained clarity on the barriers holding them back.
- 64% won new customers
- 100% of surveyed business owners stated that coaching positively influenced their business’s chance of survival.
Furthermore, two-thirds of surveyed participants not only defended their revenue base but also doubled their revenue, even during economic downturns brought on by the pandemic. They attributed 75% of this growth directly to the coaching program, highlighting the significant financial impact of our Inside Out approach.
So, what happened for Maria?
Three months after the coaching Maria’s business was servicing two to three customers per day, had 1800 followers on Facebook, and Maria had begun supporting two other women to start their own businesses. Maria’s income grew from PGK400 per month to PGK5000 per month, and she says that 70% of this growth would not have been possible without the coaching.
Maria’s journey reflects the profound interconnectedness between Inner and Enterprise Development. By investing in the holistic growth of individuals, we unlock their ability to navigate challenges, make informed decisions, and seize opportunities. This integrated approach amplifies the impact of traditional business support, allowing entrepreneurs to thrive in the face of adversity.
Maria’s story and the stories of countless other entrepreneurs like her underscore the urgent need for a paradigm shift in economic development. When people are empowered, not just technically, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, we see greater returns economically.
Inner Development essential to achieve Sustainable Development Goals
Creating a more inclusive and regenerative economy requires more than transformation amongst entrepreneurs. Movements like the Inner Development Goals are beginning to recognise the necessity of Inner Development work as a key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
We know that we can’t solve today’s problems with the thinking and behavioural patterns that got us here in the first place. People designed the economy, and people maintain the status quo. But people also have the power to change it. It starts with us, and it starts with looking at our own implicit dominant (and often unexamined) beliefs and fears about ourselves, others, and the world, that hold us back.
“You cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness”
– Otto Sharmer
We need new Inner Development skills to shift our inner world, in order to more effectively do the outer work that will bring change to our world as a whole. This is both a collective, culture-making task and an individual task, and the seed of transformative change.
It is our belief that this will lead to better system-level interventions that address structural inequality and bias. This includes, for example, improving labour rights, transforming the care economy, and addressing the social norms that drive inequity in workplaces, institutions and society in the first place.
Integrating Inner Development within entrepreneurship is vital for global development and local business. But it is also vital that we all do the inner work. Especially those of us who hold a seat of power.
Possibly, this is the most important work of our lifetimes.
If you’re interested in exploring Inner Development with a community of practice, join the Melbourne Inner Development Goals Hub, alongside the global movement, as we dig into the Inner Development Goals Framework to the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals.