“Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone, You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone”
– Liverpool Football Club Anthem
Volunteers endow iSPIRT with their talents, their labour, their differences, passions, and knowledge. And in doing so, they create the collective energy needed to address our mission.
LIVING THE BELIEFS
There is a can-do spirit and pride, intellectual adventureness and inclusivity that shines brightly throughout iSPIRT. iSPIRT is audacious about rewriting the script of the nation. We seek to blend the best of our past, with the full technological capabilities that our present now allows, with an eye towards the scalability and adaptability that the future demands. Our core beliefs are:
- We Are At An Inflection Point As A Country, And It’s Time To Act
We don’t see ourselves in some kind of self healing system where problems will get easier to solve as they age. Problems must be addressed to be eliminated. The sooner they are addressed the more simply they are solved. The time to act is now. Any delay in nurturing or fostering the product industry could impair growth and curb the opportunity that this industry presents to the country. The positive impact is on employment, capital, investment, infrastructure and ultimately, revenue and growth for the country as a whole.
- Technology As A Leverage Point For Changing Systems
We believe that there are places within a complex system (an economy, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. We use Donella Meadows’ framework to think about leverage points where interventions can make a difference. We see software products as the “magic bullets” that can alter an entire system and bring about positive social change by leapfrogging to the next generation.
- Entrepreneurs Help Entrepreneurs
Just like a chain of mountain climbers, our product entrepreneur community is at different stages of evolution. There is an entire generation which has already established itself in terms of product, processes, people, and market. We encourage this generation to “pay forward” and nurture the newcomers. Learning from those who have been “through the grind” ensures that insights are better and mistakes are fewer. This also means the potential of catapulting the next generation to the path of growth and prosperity much quicker due to better tacit industry knowledge.
- Enablers, Not Cheerleaders
We are not in the stadium but are in the field. We have a keen sense of the institutional voids and ecosystem gaps that are holding back the growth of the Software Product Industry in India. We adopt a “roll up your sleeves” attitude to fix these voids and gaps. Towards this end, we work for a cause not for applause. We are an oasis of high trust that allows many collaborators to come together to build the ‘public goods.’ Our public goods are available to all software product companies on an open-access basis.
- Think Tank, Not A Lobby Group
We build public goods without public money. Our public goods are free of commercial interests. We believe that a think tank like ours is more credible and impactful than a traditional trade body
TWELVE VOLUNTEER QUALITIES
Developing The Qualities Of A Great Volunteer
iSPIRT volunteers are capable and collegial, smart and insightful, caring and kind. They see the world in shades of grey, not in black and white. They influence others without control. They deal with delayed gratification. They handle contentions and rejections. They build public goods selflessly. They are good thinkers, dependable doers and passionate change agents. Over the years we have discovered qualities of good and great volunteers that are particular to the iSPIRT volunteer model (and are different from, let’s say, what Linux and Wikipedia volunteer networks will value). They fall into three categories: cultivated skills, critical traits and modulating strengths.
FIVE ASPECTS OF GOOD DECISIONS
iSPIRT is a think tank with an outrageous ambition. We take clear decisions and bold actions. Our decisions are subjective but transparent. There are five practices that we encourage to help take the best decisions.
- First Principles
All our big decisions are evaluated on first-principles (“Veda Deliberation”; more in Handbook for Core Volunteers). They must also make sense in practical terms. Until there is alignment at both these levels, it creates a fractured foundation that will crack wide when put to the test, and we don’t move forward.
- Diverse Perspectives
Diverse perspectives coexist inside iSPIRT because there are many paths to becoming a Product Nation. In some cases, we do pick a particular position as an iSPIRT position. In this situation, the Volunteer Fellows Council (VFC) guides the process to ensure that (a) there is adequate consultation, and (b) a decision is reached. We don’t let anybody exercise a veto or a “pocket veto” (stall the decision by asking for endless time to decide).
- Battle Of Values
The values essential to iSPIRT are fixed and encoded in its internal logic. These values shape our decisions, often, in ways that are not obvious. They tilt the balance when we are considering multiple options. Our own personal values also guide how we approach decisions. Sometimes there is a gap between our personal values and iSPIRT values, and this can create an internal conflict, a dissonance. Resolving this battle of values is essential to good decisions. When wrestling with nuanced decisions, a self-awareness about this battle of values is helpful. Here are the contentious value pairs that we have seen over the years.
- Crucial Conversations
Crucial-conversations have high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotions. We seek crucial-conversations with our stakeholders to arrive at good decisions.
- Handling Conflict Of Interest
Our policy on volunteer ethics & donor influence is unambiguous. Each volunteer must abide by the code-of-ethics. E.g. those doing curation must disclose their interests during the shortlisting exercise. And those doing Playbook Roundtables mustn’t take any advisory equity in startups they help through iSPIRT. And our volunteers in policy rooms can’t invest in startups that benefit from the specific policy advocacy efforts that they champion.
THE DANCE OF iSPIRT
Simple rules, emergent and self- organized behaviours, and nonlinear interactions over multiple scales such that they produce orbit shifts. The volunteer model that underpins iSPIRT has been around since 2009. Every three years we write about our volunteer model so that others can learn from it and build their own volunteer networks or others can critique it and help us improve ours.
Do read our latest Volunteer Handbook here
To get things done, we subscribe to the idea of “peer production” (Prof. Yochai Benkler) and use “effectual leadership” (Prof. Saras Sarasvathy) within the organization. Our internal collaboration is explicitly modeled on open-source projects. In contrast to traditional organizations, we consciously use “polycentric governance” (Prof. Elinor Ostrom). In terms of economic principles, we embrace Paul Romer’s work on knowledge economy. We see ideas, people and things as the relevant factors of production in place of the traditional factors of land, labor and capital. Read more about the iSPIRT Governing Framework and Volunteer Model.