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ACTER BACKSTORY

Updated: Jan 6

January 6, 2021 / Janne Winther ([email protected])



First of all, welcome to the blog. This blog is a communication channel that gives insights into our organization and development. Here we dive into various topics relevant to Acter. This very first blog post will present the backstory of Acter focusing on the conception of the idea, birth of the platform, and the becoming of a purpose-driven company.


Conception

In the relatively peaceful year of 2019, before the whole world knew of the global pandemic that would strike within that same year, a young man in Denmark named Emil Vincentz was reflecting on his work with purpose-driven organizations. He wondered why it was so difficult to connect the dots between resources and solutions to global challenges (like volunteers cleaning beaches and caring for the ocean getting connected with researchers, fishermen, and trash facilities). He wondered if other people working to counter global issues like climate change, sea pollution, poverty, or inequality were having similar experiences and struggles. Emil started a research period and asked questions about impact - what is holding organizations back from having impact? What is holding us back as a society from solving our global challenges? The research brought inputs from Brazil to Sweden from organizations working with youth involvement in social issues, LGBTQ+, climate change, forestry, agriculture, plastic pollution. One thing stood out in particular, that with all the solutions and resources we have, we are not solving global challenges because we lack collaboration and connectivity. This issue is the raison d'etre of Acter. How can we interconnect solutions, people, and organizations better to solve global challenges?










Conception of the idea



Birth

Emil and other volunteers who had joined during the research period started to build a test version of a platform to connect resources, solutions and issues. It included a map to locate and see other organizations, landing pages for organizations, background information, and current projects. Funds were applied to in order to develop the platform, feedback was sought, and Emil started looking for someone to partner up with to push Acter forward. In January 2021, Damon and I joined the Acter ship. Damon, a highly skilled software engineer, started developing the platform in our own code. In collaboration with Emil, I (a climate activist and political scientist) started working on the company’s organization, identity and communication in order to connect with the community of potential users. This enabled us to establish the first partnerships and collaborations with Regeneration 2030, Baltic Sea Youth Platform and Aarhus Municipality, among others. Now, we were able to bring more people power to our team to work on software development, communication, design, and community engagement (Malik, Josephine, Jude, Virag, Javier, Mirek, Brian among others).

The year 2021 saw us going from a super beta version of the Acter platform in March 2021, to a highly functional web app in December 2021. Moreover we managed to establish four very competent teams - Engineering, Design, Business, and Management.



Birth of the Acter platform


Becoming

From the beginning we chose to make Acter a socially responsible company that prioritized purpose over profit, human wellbeing, and self-organizing. This demanded that we actively considered each step of the way to becoming who we wanted to be as a company.

We continually add to our learnings to expand our knowledge and guiding principles. We get our inputs from people of the world, our network of users, other companies and organizations. One great source of inspiration is Fredric Laloux’s book and resources on organizing. That focuses on Teal-organizing and companies like Patagonia who are making a positive impact in the world and at the same time being a successful business. To be specific I want to introduce to you three essential learnings from 2021.


  1. In a startup, there is plenty of uncertainty both with regards to the product and concept, but also much more specifically when it comes to finances, team members, vacation, and partnerships. One principle that helps us deal with uncertainty is radical transparency. Being radically transparent eliminates uncertainty. At the same time we cultivate curiosity; we ask questions, give feedback, and advice. This eliminates stress and ensures great collaboration in our team.

  2. In a startup you have to make do with scarce resources. It means that each person is welcomed to be creative and play a role in many different tasks in the company. It also means that there is a high risk of overwork and stretching your resources to get everything done. We apply the 80/20 rule to help us prioritize and avoid burnout. The 80-20 rule is a statistical principle which says that 80% of the output stems from just 20% of the inputs. This rule directs us to focus on getting the basics right to reach our impact and avoid overwork.

  3. Doing something new and innovative is the aim of a startup. Building a viable product and spreading the use of it comes with experimenting, failure, and learning. This means that our knowledge evolves endlessly as well as best practices. We deal with constant change by developing strategy together and frequent all-hands-down meetings where we assess, discuss and improve our strategy.











All hands down meeting.


 

What do you do to thrive with uncertainty, scarcity, and constant change?


This trinity of challenge - uncertainty, scarcity, and constant change - I believe is part of any person’s life. I want to ask you what principles that guide you in becoming a person who lives and thrives under these circumstances. Please, let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.



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