FIP 96: How to manage the isolation and mental stress as a social enterprise founder with Ilaina Rabbat

Today, we speak with Ilaina Rabbat (co-founder of Amani Institute) on burnout in social entrepreneurs–why it happens, what can be done to protect yourself from it, signs it’s happening, safety measure to put in place–which is so critically important when you’re doing this sort of work. She recently published a thesis on how to thrive in the social sector.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Ilaina focuses on thriving rather than surviving/burnout, although burnout is not usually a word used by social entrepreneurs since it’s almost seen as a bad word; saying that you’re burnt out wasn’t part of the dialogue originally.
  • She gives an example of experiencing burnout herself, opening up an Ashoka office in El Salvador, a new country for her with no support network.
  • Inside Armani institute, a main topic included in their curriculum, “inner journey of a changemaker,” is to help intrapreneurs understand who they are, what they want, and how to sustain themselves since normal university curriculum never talks about this, and it was their most popular curriculum topic.
  • Sacrifice, and touching upon Daniela Papi-Thornton’s thesis on tackling heropreneurship.
  • Signs that Ilaina felt when she first started to get burnout:
    • When you feel like you don’t want to keep doing what you’re doing (e.g. intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation),
    • Your body (ie. headaches, back pain, fatigue, etc.), and concerns from loved ones.
  • Binary trap that entrepreneurs get into a lot, like should I run my social venture or should I spend time with my family, e.g. A or B rather than A and B. It’s a mental trap that entrepreneurs get into a lot.
  • Social entrepreneurs cannot do everything so they should narrow down their responsibility and their impact to make it limited, tangible, and achievable; otherwise you will burn out.
  • Ilaina discusses five out of ten variables (or common themes) across groups of social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs:
    • Sacrifice (want to versus have to),
    • Work centrality (ability to not think in a binary way),
    • Responsibility (everyone thinks they are responsible to make this world a better place),
    • Privilege (either in a grateful way or guilty way), and
    • Empathy (remaining centered and avoiding compassion fatigue).
  • Actionable things to do in order to move from surviving to thriving:
    • Self awareness (feel more connected to yourself) and meditation helps with this, and in slowing down burnout.
    • Relationships (spending time with people that love you; but quality over quantity).
    • Intrinsic motivation (remember why you’re doing what you do).
  • Who is high risk to burnout? Social entrepreneurs in the middle of their career. When you first start, you still have a lot of passion and energy. The same for those who have been working for 15 to 20 years because of the wisdom they have gained. But the people in between, like the first 5 to 10 years in a social venture, the passion and excitement is starting to go out, and the wisdom gained later isn’t there yet.

Links to Resources:

10 variables chart

Connect with Ilaina: