I'm humbled to share my recent interview with CanvasRebel magazine.
We CanvasRebel recently connected with Spencer B. Hodgetts and have shared our conversation below.
Spencer B., looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’m Spencer B. Hodgetts & I believe that marginalised dogs & disenfranchised people have the right to belong in society!
About seven years ago someone on social media in the US shared a video about a “prison dog programme”. That video touched something deep down in me about listening, real deep listening….without pre-judgement. I’ve been in too many situations from very young childhood & throughout my life where I or others around me have not been listened to.
When I went to secondary school in Holyhead, N.Wales in ‘68 I was one of only half a dozen English kids in a school of 1900+ pure Welsh speakers, so one learnt pretty quickly to fight one’s ground. I’d grown up there on a beach with an abandoned English Collie as my friend; my mother had died from alcoholism & my father was a drunk. I’ve been standing up with my head above the parapet for over half a century!
The light bulb moment in that video was the moment that a rescued dog & a prisoner are facing each other, when for the very first time in their lives the other is listening without pre-judgement, no labels attached, doesn’t give a s..t what the other has done previously. I could see so much potential, not just in the prison sector, but in all situations where we have marginalised people from the homeless, the autistic & those who belong to gangs, the lonely, the elderly to veterans with PTSD, those who’ve been bullied & never listened to throughout their life.
The question I asked myself was how can I create an impact at scale without another 50 years of working life available? From my walking with Warwick the English Collie on the shoreline I’d developed, to quote a medicine walk business coach, “…. a deeply relational gift of listening to and learning from a living sensate world. That is who you are. Go use it well in service.” This gives me an ability to see & understand the symbiotic relationships in natural ecosystems along with visualising mind maps. I’ve adapted this to networking people, with the adeptness of being able to converse equally with the homeless guy or the global CEO, so the latter will listen to the former; as a bridge, a connector, a catalyst.
About this time, I’d read Connecting to Change the World (Plastrick, Taylor & Cleveland) Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact.
What if? I thought I could create a social-impact network – a “generative network”, a social-relationship platform – a ‘human operating system’ – for spawning activities. A “generative social-impact network” – generative because we are designed to be a platform for generating multiple ongoing kinds of change, not just accomplishing a single outcome; social-impact because we focus on achieving change that results in social good.
The logic of why you felt this would work? I’d bounced this idea off numerous people both in person locally when scrounging food for dogs of homeless people on my 60th, to early Skype calls with leading pet advocates & feedback from local & international charities and the UK’s prison minister.
Unique approach as we’re bringing together not just the pet advocates & those in animal welfare, but also those in the social welfare sectors. In 2024 we’ll bring in the financiers & philanthropists. Unique, with a global reach not just U.S. centric. Unique, because we are not just repeating existing models.
What about this idea got you most excited? The possibility of enabling individuals to collectively create greater social impact than they can by themselves. To disrupt a 200 year old broken animal welfare system. To create the platform for innovative solutions to wicked societal problems. The potential to enable millions of disenfranchised people to participate in society by creating social entrepreneurial opportunities.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I’ve been rescuing dogs for over 50 years, the misfits, the abandoned, the non-conformists. I’ve always had the ability to listen without pre-judgement and to get those in authority to listen to the underdog – those whose voice is not usually listened to. I spent several years as a union representative culminating in representing 7000 UK employees on a EWC (European Works Council) so their positive social conditions were delivered.
Reboundog provides three services:
1) Genuine & trusted Network Introductions to the world’s leading pet advocacy innovators & disruptors; with the potential to create collaborations.
2) Sofa Meet-ups – opportunities to engage in curious & transparent conversations as if you’re on your favourite sofa, leading to the potential to create collaborations to disrupt wicked societal problems. No status, no egos & no selling. These are not panel discussions nor speakers speaking at you. Both 1) & 2) provide open & welcoming opportunities for the next generation of pet advocates to learn from us, even if you’re just starting out with only an idea for the future.
3) I provide the 3rd service as a qualified Kick Ass Culture Business Coach. I enable small business owners & non-profit founders to embed a fantastic culture within their business/organisation, based on their purpose, vision & values as their foundation for growth.
What problems you solve for your clients and/or what you think sets you apart from others.
All too often people suffer from peer pressure to conform to the status quo. As a result, they fail to create the change they seek. Reboundog solves that problem for members by providing;
A safe space to build trust where silos, stovepipes & solitudes can be broken down. Where curious & transparent conversations can take place without fear of pre-judgement. Where the status quo can be questioned.
A dynamic, influential & knowledgeable global network who reciprocate without expecting a return and who are questioning the problem behind the problem.
What are you most proud of? The Reboundog membership individually & collectively. Those who gave their time freely to be part of Reboundog’s Working Group to steer it from nothing into what it has become.
What are the main things? Our Values of Trust, Curious & Transparent that are embedded in everything we do. TRUST is an acronym for Thoughtful, Reciprocity, Understanding, Sharing & Together.
Our Reboundog Sofa Meet-ups achieved a full calendar in 2023 of monthly meet-ups with guest speaker bookings taken for the first quarter of 2024. These curious conversations are turning into disruptive collaborations.
Our brand logo represents all the potential for change when the doors open on a rescue/shelter cage.
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
When my UK national landscaping business collapsed financially in the early 1990’s recession, I lost two homes within a few years. That’s when you really understand the precarious nature of housing and how so many of us can be just one pay cheque away from being homeless with no support. This lack of support was & is still today in many cases lacking when the offer of a rented house from the local council (Gov’t social services) is not available to those with pets. Yes, we have been told to get rid of several of our dogs (we’ve had five at one time), My response was only two words & then I slammed the phone down!
To recover, I went out to work in a job and rented privately. The first job was recruiting members for a small business lobby group, where I gained a lot of people listening skills. The second job was truck driving, which led to union representation & the company’s EWC (European Works Council) negotiating with the Global Board of the world’s 4th largest logistics company.
Resilience becomes inbuilt, though not necessarily any easier on each setback, the more times you are kicked down. I liken my response as in the context of an Aikido martial artist absorbing the energy of the adversary then bouncing back up.
Belief in oneself (not ego) is crucial to building resilience, along with not taking to heart – nor carrying the emotional burden of – other people’s derogatory opinions. Belief in being of service to others is beneficial.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Early in 2023 Reboundog was focused on creating a VR (Virtual Reality) educational space for disenfranchised people. This, with the support of a leading VR educational specialist would have provided the opportunity to create impact at scale globally. At the same time, I was applying to a funded business accelerator programme focused on social impact investment rather than the unicorn VC (Venture Capital) model. I was not successful in gaining a place on the programme, the investment market is very scared of risk & prefers to stay locked in it’s own silo. Without funding, we couldn’t keep the interest of the leading VR educational specialist. Thus, a decision had to be made as to what Reboundog does. We chose to focus on the Reboundog Sofa Meet-ups bringing together experts, specialists and newbies. This decision was based on an early BMC (Business Model Canvas) created with the Working Group that showed Reboundog as a meet-up event company in the social-impact space.
The pivot has been successful in that we filled all of 2023’s monthly virtual meet-ups proving that they are a much-needed resource.