In my eight years at Matter Unlimited I have had the privilege to work with a variety of humans who are dedicating their talent and time to bettering people’s lives. I have been with them in boardrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, living rooms, and hospital rooms all over the world to help them tell their stories and have those stories catalyze meaningful action.
As social impact creatives and consultants we have seen many tides in the last decade and, today, as I proudly serve as our company’s President, we have greater urgency, ingenuity, and opportunity than ever before.
Here are a few reflections and lessons learnt that can help us all meet that opportunity responsibly:
Address symptoms and systems
For every issue we tackle we must ask ourselves “are there absent products, programs, platforms, or policies that must be created to change something for good?” Narrative change is necessary, but so is innovation. Fixing the fundamentals and addressing root causes means sowing the seeds for long term outcomes. This work is a sprint and a marathon.
A note on this for entrepreneurs: the world doesn’t need another hipster life-style hack. I beg you, use your ingenuity and drive to solve problems that actually matter. You will still make money and, while you do, you will help the next generation inherit things more precious than wealth.
Inclusive collaboration is the key to effectiveness
Design with and for communities. The architects of your program, partnership, or campaign need diverse experience and lived experience of the issue you are trying to solve. Find ways for a variety of voices to influence the process, spend more time understanding and working with the communities you are trying to reach. Both your output and outcomes will be all the more successful for it.
Invest in narrative change
Creative thinking can inspire, ignite, and propel action. It’s often very difficult to measure because it doesn’t always satisfy immediate or short-term outcomes. But when done well, it works. It changes minds, cultural moods and, ultimately, behaviors.
There is always a price to pay for the decision to go with pro-bono work; it is often done for case study value versus community value. While nonprofits should never pay the same as brands and require accessible service offerings, we can still signify to a professional community that their contribution matters — that it is not an afterthought but a critical ingredient to social and environmental progress. Doing so helps us keep talent focused on doing good, showing them their worth.
Look after the change-makers
I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing change-makers — doctors, scientists, CEO’s, organizers, and activists. They are on the frontlines of shaping the future and they are fighting overwhelming odds. In some cases, their fights have lasted for generations and, most recently, they have battled them in the midst of a global pandemic. Burnout is real and if we lose these leaders to it, we will all suffer.
We must care for them, celebrate them, make space for them, listen to them, and help share in the burden they carry. They know the way forward.