We all have the power to change the world. It's a fact! For better or worse, for a brief moment or eternity, for a micro change on a big scale or moving the world's needle significantly but we all do have this power, as we move and act over our lifetime. That is a comforting thought but scary at the same time as it might make you question all of your choices (but that's a good thing as well, right?).
And why not? After all, if you are reading this you are one of the privileged members of society. You can read, which puts you at an advantage over 15% of the world population that is still illiterate. Accessing this content on your PC or phone means you have access to energy and the internet — well that leaves 35% of the population behind you (13% of the world population does not have access to electricity and 35% to the internet). Besides that, you have values that guide your decisions, you are passionate about something that is not you, and you have a unique set of skills that no one else has. These are your little superpowers that can be used to create an impact and change the world.
And like many superheroes, we might not know how to use and direct those powers and skills and give them purpose. It is important to direct your effort towards the place where you can actually create the most value. While for example focusing on environmental issues is important, there might be a better way to channel your resources and create impact.
Let me give you an example, we at OutSystems have very low carbon print as a software product company and rather than investing in eco solutions we are focused on bridging the digital skills gap (for individuals and organizations) because that is where our sweet spot is. On the other hand, Coca-Cola invests a big part of their CSR practices in addressing water use, packaging, product materials and sustainable agriculture because they are one of the big polluters with plastic bottles and this is a way to minimize it.
Whether you are assessing impact for you individually or for your organization there is a short but powerful exercise you can use and that can guide you in finding the sweet spot for where you and your company can deliver value and give back to society in the most effective way.
You literally have to create that sweet spot by crossing three important aspects of the internal and external factors creating a simple Venn diagram (adapted from the course Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators by Penn State University). It helped me a lot when we were creating the Social Impact Program at OutSystems and I always have it close to keep me on track.
In order to create a solid social impact strategy for your company, or find the sweet spot for yourself there are three important things you need to look at:
1.What does the world need?
I know — how the hell you are supposed to know this? Well, first of all, look at “your world” or the part of the world where you want to act — your community, geo-related region, industry, area of work — whatever group of people or entities you would like to positively impact. At OutSystems DevRel team we knew that we wanted to support nonprofits (and support their digital journey) and we wanted to do this with the support of our Community — so we started from there. We run around 60 interviews with various nonprofit organizations, intergovernmental and governmental agencies that support civil society and asked them directly “What can we do to help?” And they told us where are their biggest struggles, in which areas they are lacking support and showed us how we can help in very practical terms. Two main issues were funding and digitization (as many of these organizations do not have IT resources to digitize and automate manual processes). So, we thought building a custom fund-raising app could be the solution, or even better providing tools and skills to build one (following the old “If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.”)
That was our first clue.
2. What are your values?
The next thing to think about is what are our values, what drives us as people and company and what we believe in. Values are individual beliefs that motivate people to act one way or another. They serve as a guide for human behaviour. Companies also have values defined as the set of guiding principles and fundamental beliefs that help a group of people function together as a team and work toward a common business goal.
What are your values? List them down and see how they correlate with what the world needs, where these two overlap and can potentially create synergies. For example, we looked at our mission, and the statements issued by our CEO for example related to the #BLM movement, we also looked at the main principles listed in the Small Book of the Few Big Rules that guide our culture. It was easy to find the common thread and align it with the needs of “the world” we wanted to support (Give everyone the power to innovate, tolerance, DEI, Challenge the Status Quo, Be helpful…).
Now, we need one more element to find the sweet spot.
3. What are your skills?
In different words, what do we have to offer to the world? Think about the skill set and talents, things you are good at. As a company look at the same but also your product, your people and expertise and your community.
In our case, we knew that our strongest assets is our product and the apps we can build with it. Another strength we have is the technical expertise not only of our people but also of our community. This was an inspiration for our Digital Volunteers Program that perfectly blends our values and skills with what the world of nonprofits needs.
Et voilà! Ideally going through the exercise made it clear where your superpowers — passion, skills and expertise can find the best use and create the most impact. This is the easy part, now you need to define strategy, stakeholders, metrics and plan the next steps.
I will keep writing about this journey and have the OutSystems Digital Volunteers Program as a good example of it so stay tuned for more!