Part 1: Intent, Interest & Impact
As companies recalibrate their engagement as corporate citizens, many of them are facing the reality that doing good is good, but not good enough. They are realizing that their good deeds and good intentions have not and will not have the impact they were hoping to make. Consequently, they are struggling with what they should be doing, what causes they should be supporting, and what role they should play in social and political issues. And make no mistake, there is no easy answer. Each company must seriously evaluate what they stand for and how that connects to the greater community we call neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, and the world. The realization that doing good is good, but not good enough, affords these companies the opportunity to reset and recommit to their mission and the desired impact. There are at least three considerations organizations must make when endeavoring to do good: What is their intent, how does that align with their interest and what impact are they trying to make?
If the intent is to make a difference, for many, that should be good enough. However, making a difference in one area is good, but because the problems are more complex and structural, it is just not good enough. There are many companies attempting to address hunger. Their intent could be to make the world more food secure, be an involved corporate citizen, or receive a tax write-off. Intent matters and it is simply not good enough to say “we did our part”. This is not to suggest that these activities should be abandoned but rather to point out that none of us can sit back and be satisfied that we did something vs sitting on the sidelines. We should constantly be asking ourselves how can we make our part more meaningful, more connective, and more impactful. We ask these questions when we are seeking to make money and should do the same when we seek to improve the world. We should always evaluate our intent and if that intent is to look good versus doing good, regardless of the results, it is simply not good enough. Importantly, even when the results are good, it doesn’t mean we have arrived. So what should companies do if whatever they do is not good enough?
- Be honest with themselves about why they are doing what they are doing. If it is to look good or avoid outside criticism then maybe their motives need to change.
- Be more thoughtful about their purpose. Don’t just get in the game, be in the game. A thoughtful purpose puts things in perspective.
- Make sure your employees and partners understand the intent/purpose of your effort. This will help to create alignment, champion the cause and ignite innovation.
Many companies struggle with where they should put their energies. Should they pick one major focus or should they seek to address multiple areas? However they arrive at their area(s) of interest, the company must generate excitement around that interest. The company needs people who are passionate about the subject and must give those people the time and resources they need to be a part of it. Companies should ask themselves if their interest ignores what is happening in the world. It is good to be interested in hunger but it is not good enough when people need affordable housing. This is not to suggest that your company has to shift resources from hunger to housing but for the company to understand that the issue of housing still has to be addressed and unfortunately tackling hunger in a vacuum is just not good enough. Companies can maintain their interest in hunger AND seek ways to partner with organizations and other companies who are looking to address other areas which are equally as important. Your interest is not independent of other institutions and initiatives. So what should companies do when they realize that whatever cause/interest they choose is just a part of the puzzle?
- Make your interest a crusade versus a charity. Seek ways to go beyond doing your part to helping others do their part.
- If you have multiple interests/causes, seek ways to collaborate, when possible. It might not be a great connection when promoting your cancer work to also talk about hunger. However, your cancer people should not go hungry. Maybe the hunger team works to make sure the cancer patients don’t have to worry about food security.
- Make sure your external interests are consistent with your internal interests. It is disingenuous to prevent hunger outside the organization if you have people who are hungry inside the organization.
The intent and interest should lead to impact. Take food insecurity, for example, people are hungry all year round. While it is good to feed people, it is even better to help them feed themselves. Feeding the hungry is a good thing but to provide them a feast on Thanksgiving only to see the same people year after year, should make you question the real impact of your efforts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with providing the hungry with a feast as it does more than provide a meal. It creates community, it promotes dignity and it allows people to destress if just for a few hours. However, it doesn’t have the impact of reducing hunger. It is good but not good enough. So how do we make good better?
- Make your interest part of a greater solution. Seek external partners, even competitors, to make your efforts more impactful. If you are a bread company that donates bread, partner with other bread companies to increase the amount of bread donated. Partner with organizations to reduce food waste. Collaborate with a meat company to ensure the bread leads to a meal.
- As stated above, constantly seek to align all internal and external activities to support the cause as best as possible. It is good to help people outside the company with hunger AND it becomes better when you also help your employees out of hunger – i.e. better pay and food security benefits
- Measure your impact. Go beyond how many people you feed to how many people you help out of hunger. While this may be hard to do, the change in focus from feeding families to securing families will have a greater impact.
Putting it together: Intent is what you wanted to achieve – the motivation behind your decisions and actions. For many of us, our intention is connected to appearances – we want to look concerned, or at least not appear unconcerned. Interest is the area of focus to achieve our intention. Time and attention are limited – where does a company put its energy? How can it create partnerships and alliances to have a broader interest? Finally, Impact is the effect of your achievement – the sum of intent and interest. A larger impact can be achieved if intent and interest are well aligned. Little Impact may be accomplished if a company is unfocused or “going through the motions.”
Now that we have explored the 3 I’s, part two looks at the 4 R’s and how they interact with making good even better.
Written by: Reggie Ponder, Executive Marketing Lead