He is, at least, surprising. Founder and director of verynice, a strategic design consultancy where half of the hours are dedicated to pro bono work. Called "crazy or genius" by Forbes, and recognized as one of the 100 most influential creators by HOW Magazine, Matthew's pioneering work in the fields of design and social enterprise has inspired thousands of professionals to become socially and environmentally involved in business responsible. Author of How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free and Toward Preemptive Social Enterprise, Matthew speaks regularly at institutions and events around the world, including TEDx, AIGA, Google, Mattel, Singularity University and HOW Design Live. To me, it has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview him for Diario Responsable.
Almudena Díez.- How and when did you decide to dedicate half of your work to free and humanitarian organisations?
Matthew Manos.- Every year in the United States alone, non-profit organizations are spending billions upon billions of dollars each year on fees billed by service-providers. When a non-profit is able to save valuable financial resources thanks to the generous pro-bono commitments of service-providers, they are able to immediately re-invest those dollars directly into their cause. Imagine what a spare 8 billion dollars could do? As business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, we need to do our part to alleviate expenses for non-profit organizations by making giving back an integral component of our business model. The double-half methodology is one way to do that.
AD.- How did this decisión affect your workers and business partners?
MM.- I launched the company completely on my own. While that was challenging, the immediate benefit was the ability to grow based on the vision of the company as opposed to the pressures of having too much overhead and responsibility too fast. For the first 4 years of the business, I did not have any employees or full-time collaborators... instead, the company was built around the freelancer economy.
AD.- Despite the amount of work you do for free, how do you manage to keep your business profitable?
MM.- verynice operates with a social production model. What this means is that we have a small core team of employees in Downtown Los Angeles, but also over 600 volunteers and contractors across the globe. This unique staffing model allows our team to collaborate with these incredible volunteers in order to reduce the cost of labor on a project that is unpaid. In doing so, verynice is able to maintain oversight for each project in order to maintain the quality our clients require while also making the pro bono work itself as affordable for us as possible.
AD.- You have really strong customers such as Google, Disney, or even the NASA. ¿Have you managed to translade them these working philosophy?
MM.- At verynice, we are lucky to work with such inspiring clients. Whether they are huge names or a startup organization just getting started, we work hard to not just solve client problems, but also share our own ethos and philosophy. As a result, you can find us educating clients regularly on the importance of considering both the impact and revenue implications of their brands, marketing campaigns, digital experiences, and more.
AD.- From all the proyects you have completed, which one of them makes you feel more satisfied with your work?
MM.- The project I am most proud of is a recent collaboration with the American Heart Association. In 2016, verynice worked with the AHA in order to re-evaluate, and re-define, their strategic value proposition. As one of the largest organizations in the United States, it was a project that felt so profoundly impactful.
AD.- If you tried, how would you convince other businesess or other people to dedícate some of their time to pro bono work?
MM.- I actually wrote an entire book on this! How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free effectively open-sources our own business model so that more service providers can learn from our best practices when it comes to pro-bono work. Here is a brief excerpt which gets at the greater purpose of this work...
"We are all given a short time, and I think the biggest mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they design and optimize their vision to provide the largest financial return possible. Now, making money is not a bad thing, but what should be known and understood, is that in the end, our salaries, the cars we drive, the square footage of our homes… none of that matters. What matters is the legacy that our business and our vision can leave behind – a legacy that has the ability to shape, disrupt, or destroy, a familiar system. When you disrupt a familiar system, you change perspective – you change the way a community can define themselves to inspire future innovation. Just because things are the way they are does not mean they should remain that way. I want to invite you all to leave your mark on something, and don’t be afraid of ignoring what you are brought up thinking is natural."
AD.- You have created a very interesting initiative, “Models of Impact”, where you help people to design business models, and where the users just pay for what they want. ¿What are you achieving with this, “gamestlye” proyect?
MM.- Models of Impact is a role playing and ideation game that simulates the process of launching a social enterprise. after defining verynice's "give half" business model, I learned that the ideal company sees impact and revenue as having equal value for their overall model. To teach this to others, I thought to create a game that challenged participants to combine impact and revenue models in order to help them invent a new business. Since then, our ground-breaking resources and content have been leveraged by thousands of educators, practitioners, and students across 100+ countries. As a frequent facilitator of the game, I have personally lead workshops across the United States and internationally in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Estonia, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and Spain. In addition, by authoring this methodology, verynice has become an industry leader in social enterprise consulting, a direct benefit to our business.
AD.- ¿Social entrepeneur? ¿Philanthropist? ¿Revolutionist? ¿Cracy? ¿Genius? ¿How would you define yourself?
MM.- It depends what day of the week you ask me. Today, I think that I'm crazy. In all seriousness, the one thing that connects everything I do is education. I see myself first and foremost an educator. All other titles change depending on who I'm talking to.
Matthew Manos is one of the speakers of the "European Pro Bono and Skills-Based Volunteering Summit", organized by hazloposible foundation and of which Diario Responsable is media partner