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How to become a ChangeMaker? Can you be transparent & co-creative AND make money?

August 17, 2013

ChangeMakerBootcampRecently, my friend Eugene Kim publicly launched a business he has been pilot-testing for the past year called ChangeMaker Bootcamp.  It’s basically six two-hour training sessions over the course of six weeks where up to 12 participants learn (and then practice on their own time) principles to “work effectively in groups.”

The premise (which I wholeheartedly believe myself) is that in order to work in the “change sector” or for positive change in general, you can’t be a self-centered, self-serving shmuck.  You actually need to learn a new way of doing business from the conventional dog-eat-dog corporate world, and instead – as the ChangeMaker Bootcamp site says – practice:

  • Asking generative questions
  • Strategic doing
  • Listening and synthesizing actively and in real-time
  • Navigating group dynamics and difficult conversations
  • Designing and facilitating group engagements
  • Working transparently

The price for the Bootcamp is $695.

While totally agreeing with the bullets as best practices and “must-learn” topics, the price tag made me question if this could fly.

Is Eugene already well-known and respected as a consultant from Blue Oxen Associates and Groupya?  Absolutely.  Would some of his past clients vouch for his awesomeness that warrants $695 for one-on-one training?  I have no doubt.

And yet, recently Eugene posted on his Facebook wall that he had received some “hostile feedback” from a “surprising source” about the Bootcamp.  He and I also had a friendly email exchange about my misconception that because it was called a “ChangeMaker Bootcamp”, I assumed it would contain all the topics to truly become a change maker business person – ie business operations, marketing, financials, etc.

Later in the day, Eugene posted a wonderfully humble and proactive blog post in response to all  the constructive criticism from his friends: “Things I Need To Do Better.”  In it, among other things, he says he’s considering changing the name, and:

“My twist is that I’m working transparently. I’m sharing the lessons I’m learning — both good and bad — here and as close to real-time as possible. If you watch the exit interviews of past participants, they’re pretty candid about what could be better. I want people to see this, because I want others to learn from my experiences.”

This all reminded me of a conversation I had with two wonderful instructors of a new Laban-based movement workshop for women I did last year (my brother will guest-blog about Laban soon :)).  There were about 30 of us participating in this brand-spanking new workshop from two very accomplished instructors, and it was very clear that our feedback and ideas were part of their creative process, and therefore shaping the workshop content.  It was great.  Fun, inspiring and useful in our daily lives.  And, totally worth the $400-600 that everyone paid.  All but maybe one or two were excited about a follow-up workshop session in the near future.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 10.52.36 AM

Workshop for which we were guinea pigs in its inaugural year, 2012

But then, the future came a few months later, and only one or two of the 30 signed up for the $110 follow-up, so it was cancelled.  I talked with a few of the women who didn’t sign up, and everyone (off the record) basically said the same thing: Why should we pay $110 for content that we helped create?

The two fabulous instructors obviously created the core content, and yet we all (including I) felt like $110 was pretty steep despite our paying hundreds more before.  Why?

Two key tenets of the social/enviro/self-care movement in the world are transparency and co-creation/collaboration.  Both of which are awesome.  But, how transparent is too transparent?  And, how much should you (as the leader or service provider) need your future customers to come up with your amazing product or service?

I think that, unfortunately, our society is still in a place where we only want to pay top dollar for conventional for-profit not-so-transparent businesses and services.  Our society likes the idea of having some brilliant design team come up with a magical product or service and then present it in all its glory to the world to buy.  It’s nice to know how the creators did it, but do we really care?  Do we want to know how many screw-ups and prototypes it took to create that kick-ass electric sports car, personal activity tracking device, amazing workshop, or other such hot valuable thing?  I’m going to say No.  If we’re going to pay $X00, $X,000 or $X MM for something, it better be rocking when we get it.  I believe that is just how we think.

So, this concept of being transparent about your inherently mistake-laden creative process and requiring your future customers to help you fine-tune your product or service simply doesn’t seem to make sense…if you want to make as much money as conventional single-bottom line businesses. Or, does it?  Is there a way to have it all?  I’d love to learn about who has done this…!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. antoine moore permalink
    August 20, 2013 10:26 pm

    I wonder what would have happened if the trainer offered the follow up class and suggested to participants that they pay whatever they thought the class was worth to them. I wonder how participants would have responded then and how much they would have paid.

  2. Melanie Cheng permalink*
    August 22, 2013 11:46 am

    I wish that would have happened, so at least the class wasn’t cancelled. Still, I imagine it would have been a lot less than “market rate” for a workshop. Would love to hear who charges “market rates” AND is co-creative and transparent…

    • Antoine Moore permalink
      August 22, 2013 12:15 pm

      I know this is pushing into an entirely different domain, but I wonder whether it might not be worth it for those of us who work in the public and nonprofit sectors to get beyond the notion of focusing on “market rates”. Why must the co-creative and transparent impulses you point to evolve with market rates as opposed to some other, perhaps even more evolved system of valuing? I have the impression that crucial elements of value get lost in the movement to monetization. What might get opened up or used or explored or refined or ? in this movement to be more co-creative and collaborative when we jettison the need to validate simply with money?

      • Melanie Cheng permalink*
        August 23, 2013 2:42 pm

        I totally agree. In an ideal world, money wouldn’t be the only currency or valuation of things. There are some new alternative currency systems in various countries (including the US), but none that I’ve seen seem like they can apply to the general public/commerce – at least not now/yet.

        In the meantime, there must be some lower-hanging fruit solutions of modifying business models and/or framing to enable social/enviro-enterprises to make a profitable, successful living within the current system. The more that solutions require behavior or system change, the harder and longer they will take to implement. With some strategic thinking, can’t we make our job easier and more profitable for ourselves now?


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