Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Proliferation: Noun.  Definition: a rapid and often excessive spread or increase.

In this current political climate, we are seeing a rapid growth of entrepreneurs selling social change.  With a corresponding increase in the hype, ego and promises of rapid monetization whenever there’s people with a laptop who sense an opportunity.

Now, let me be clear that I have been working for social change since high school.  And I’m a big fan of social entrepreneurship.

Still, the space is experiencing hockey stick growth and let’s just say some of the newer entries I’m seeing seem a little thin in the experience department.  🙂

3 Questions to Help You Assess the Depth of Social Impact Brands

We live in a time when even Walmart feels the need to try and sell themselves as a “green company”.  But I’m not impressed.

So in a time where there’s more genuine desire than ever to have positive social impact in business, I’d like to offer 3 questions to help you assess the depth of a brand’s commitment to and experience with having positive impact be part of the ripple effects they have:

  1. Who are they committed to helping? One of the things brands often do to obscure the fact that they are just jumping on the social impact train with little depth of commitment is to be really fuzzy about who they help.  Genuine social impact leaders know that you make a difference on the ground in the communities that people live, love and work in.  What communities and people is this brand committed to helping?  How long have they been doing this work?
  2. What are they doing to help?  Wordy statements rarely change lives.  What are the mechanisms and programs that the brand supports?  How many people benefit from these initiatives?
  3. Who are their partners? In every community, there are natural leaders who the community knows and trusts.  These leaders have embodied knowledge that you can’t get from a book or a YouTube video.  If a brand makes a claim to care about a population or a community, then look for leaders who are from that group or location.  

What if you want to incorporate social change into your brand?

One major dynamic I’m seeing is a growing number of entrepreneurs and practitioners who’ve been operating in the spiritual and personal development spaces feeling called to talk more openly about social change.  In fact, with the political climate we’re in, the market is increasingly expecting and even demanding this.

While I’m a big fan of social entrepreneurship and I think it has a critical role to play in helping us get out of the big messes we’ve created on this planet, I do have to say I’ve seen a whole lot of unskillfulness in some of the more recent entries to the world of social entrepreneurship.

Two of the biggest issues I’m seeing are:

1) A lack of understanding of the nuances of the issues and
2) An attitude of “savorism”.

The antidote to a lack of understanding is good mentoring.  Yes, it takes time.  And, as I shared in the 3 tips above, when you don’t have meaningful relationships with people who have embodied experience .. the lack of depth and resonance almost always starts to show.  And the most likely time for that to happen is during a time of stress – like a big launch.  So please, do yourself a favor and get someone who knows the space to be a guide and an authenticity partner.

The antidote to “savorism” is honest self inquiry and genuine humility.   A great resource to start the process is Jordan Flaherty’s book, No More Heros.  In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest no one should be leading work through the frames of social change or social impact who hasn’t read it.

What’s Your Experience?

Are you seeing more talk about social change and social impact among your colleagues or do you feel a pull in this direction?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what integrity looks like as well as what questions you have in the form of a comment below.