What Lens Do You See the World Through?


All of us look at the world through our own lens. A lens that causes us to instinctively recognise threats, opportunities and patterns, each according to our biases and preferences.

For some people that’s optimism, always looking at the bright side. For other it’s a design lens, 'how could this work better?' A skater sees the world as a series of railings and pathways and an entrepreneur as a cascade of opportunities and niches.

Some lenses are mutually-exclusive, such as optimism and pessimism, while others layer on-top of each other, like a skateboarding entrepreneur. But they’re always there, affecting what we see and what we don’t see, and what it all means to us.


‘My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. We see things the way our minds have been instructing our eyes to see.’

Muhammad Yunus


I realised the power our lenses have over us when I ran a dance music event production company while at university. Over five years we hosted over 150 events including five multi-stage festivals. After a while it became impossible for me to walk into any given space without beginning to stage an event there in my mind. I’d figure out where I’d put the DJ, the projector, the chill-out space and so on. Dance parties were the lens through which I saw all physical space.

Similarly, I had a friend who used to work in theatre lighting design. When she went out to see a play for fun she had enormous trouble following the plot, because she was too caught up following the lighting design.

These days, my lens is social technologies, and I think of almost every opportunity or challenge in those terms. How could this be improved with a crowd dimension? Should this be a platform? Can we crowdfund this?

This is how StartSomeGood’s new joint venture with impact investors Red Hat Impact to launch a crowdlending platform for social enterprises came about. They were already actively making loans to growing social enterprises and in talking about their goals I wondered, 'what if we took what you’re doing and put a platform under it then invited everyone to participate with us? What would that make possible?'

That question became LendforGood, which recently won the Eidos Institute Social Procurement Challenge (a great way to end the year!).

Robert Pekin & Emma-Kate Rose with the Food Connect team.

My challenge to you is to become more conscious about the lens you are applying to the world around you. Being conscious of our biases is important in helping us make better decisions. Cultivating a mindset of agency and opportunity will reveal a world of opportunities to make a difference.


Instead of making new year resolutions this year, why not think about the themes you want for 2018?

Your theme might be personal growth, or purpose, or going beyond your comfort zone.

These themes will help provide a lens for you to examine new opportunities and challenges through. By keeping them in mind you will have a framework for considering your decisions against, and linking them back to your priorities.

Is this a chance for personal growth, is it in line with your purpose, etc?

Doing this, I hope, will help you consciously cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, a lens that focuses on opportunity and how this links back to what you value most.

With set themes for your year ahead, you can be more intentional in how you think, committing to trying to apply positive lenses that support these aspirations, which then help you evaluate, anticipate and react to everything around you, and the challenges and opportunities 2018 provides.

So ask yourself, as you wrap up this year and stride into the next, what are you seeing and what are you not seeing as a result of your lens? Is this conscious or unconscious and is it the lens you want to apply?

about the author

Tom Dawkins is Co-Founder and CEO of StartSomeGood.com, a crowdfunding platform which has raised more than $8 million for social benefit projects globally.

Tom will provide a presentation on crowdfunding during our Elevate+ Social Enterprise Accelerator Program.

Listen to our podcast interview with Tom Dawkins On Fundamentals of Crowdfunding & Social Media For Social Enterprise.


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