In a phone conversation today with a potential career coach, a conversation about what I'm passionate about began. After talking a bit about Social Good 2.0, my coach told me about a company called Solar Ear. What a neat company! I was immediately intrigued by its business model and product.
Solar Ear develops affordable hearing aids that are solar powered. As if the cool factor on this product could go any further, I learned that the company only hires deaf or partially deaf persons to produce the device.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, the rights of deaf people are often overlooked, especially in developing countries. Societal prejudices and barriers prevent deaf people from enjoying full human rights; for deaf people the major barrier is lack of recognition, acceptance and use of sign language. Majority of deaf individuals do not receive education in developing countries and approximately 80% of the world's 70 million deaf people experience the same. This is especially true for women and children. (http://wfdeaf.org/human-rights)
This is such a great example of social entrepreneurship and the potential it has to make such a signifcant difference. Hearing loss and deafness are not commonly highlighted issues within the developing world, but has such a profound effect on the lives of people. I love when innovation and social good intersect :)
For more information, check out Solar Ear's website: http://www.solarear.com.br/solar/
Here's an interesting fact - try Googling the term 'social bad' and see what happens...Don't worry I'm still here, did you see what happened? Exactly, nothing. You'll find topics such as 'social bad habits, is social networking bad for you?, bad social media' and the list goes on. My rudimentary research on the term 'social bad' indicates it isn't something that exists as a well defined concept in our society. Google 'social good' however, and you'll have much better luck!
I decided to write about this topic following a brief but very interesting conversation with a friend over coffee. He asked, how can you measure social good? What are the metrics, indicators, and quantitative ways that we can be sure anything good is being created? There's no definitive answer to this, and it's something that is becoming increasingly more important as social good becomes a more mainstream concept. By mainstream I am referring to the growing involvement of the private sector, entrepreneurs, and the demand for transparency from the public regarding how NGOs manage donated funds. The second half of the question was, how can you measure social bad? Is it basically when the metrics or indicators of social good aren't met?
Things that make you go 'hmmm'.
Let's use an example: Executive pay in non-profits.
Check out the following statement taken from Bloomberg.com:
More than 20 nonprofit groups, from New York Presbyterian Hospital
and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
, paid top executives more than $1 million a year in 2010 and 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy found. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-17/nonprofit-ceo-pay-topping-1-million-rises-with-scrutiny.html)
My opinion on executive pay in non-profits adopts a moderate view. I strongly believe that to attract top talent, pay is an important factor. I do however question the incentive of over $1 million to work for a non-profit. Is it not possible in this day and age to find another individual with the same business acumen, but with an equal passion for the cause as well? However, I digress, back to our conversation around social bad.
The idea is that Mrs.X, CEO of Company "Find A Job", a non-profit, should have performance measurements for her organization that measure the social impact of her company in relation to her level of pay - say, the number of individuals placed in jobs after training, or the number of individuals able to come off of welfare for instance. The more she makes, the greater the impact should be on these metrics. Social bad therefore is the result of failing to meet these social measurements - fewer people securing jobs, fewer people coming off of welfare for example. Barring any uncontrollable or unforeseen circumstances affecting the company, this result would equal a social bad.
In order to remain accountable, transparent, and to always ensure the mission of the organization is met, I agree with my friend, things need to be measured. Social bad therefore, is a concept that helps us avoid being apathethic, it holds us accountable, and keeps us striving for improvement. Sometimes a little negativity helps motivate us to reach our goals, and social bad is a perfect example of this.Image courtesy of:photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/4868822493/">quinn.anya</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
Financial institutions neglect to highlight their relationship with social investment and initiatives, judging from how few of us are aware of what socially good work they are doing.
That seems like a pretty heavy statement. But, what if I asked you about RBC's Impact Investment Fund, would you know what I was talking about? If I asked whether you had heard of Scotiabank's MobileWallet Project, would you nod your head? I'll go out on a limb and assume you haven't. If you have, that's fantastic!
I've come across these exciting initiatives primarily due to the research I complete throughout my job hunt. Sure, financial institutions make press releases on their websites and talk about initiatives in their Corporate Social Responsibility reports; however, I find it interesting that these types of projects fail to become more mainstream news.
My sentiments are shared by Nick Temple, director of business and enterprise at Social Enterprise UK. In his article 'Social Investment needs to make good use of its reach'
for ThirdSector (http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1155657/social-investment-needs-good-use-its-reach/)
, Nick says:It is often culture that prevents the bridging of these mismatches, and examples of real impact on the ground will be crucial to changing that culture. This is the responsibility of brokers, intermediaries and market-builders (including Social Enterprise UK). But it falls even more heavily on Big Society Capital because of its mission to build a plural social investment market. It is already making investments that benefit local communities across the country, but a visitor to its website would be hard pressed to know that, and anyone thinking of acting as an intermediary in order to tackle a particular local problem might not easily find a way in. Roadshows are fine but will only ever reach a tiny percentage of the charities and social enterprises that they need to. And they do need to: it is those charities and social enterprises that Big Society Capital was established to help, and getting investment into them is ultimately how it will be judged.
Let's take a step back to quickly to define 'Impact Investing'.
Impact Investing is a concept that I became much more acquainted with during my MBA. My simplified explanation of impact investing is this: it is a financial investment that concerns itself not only with a monetary return but a socially good return as well. Nicely put by Good.is
, impact investing is putting your money to work for your bottom line and your values.
Now, it's time to spread the news about RBC's Impact Investment Fund and Scotiabank's MobileWallet.RBC's Impact Investment Fund
In brief, RBC's Impact Investment Fund is a commitment of $20M. $10M is dedicated to financing projects by organizations and entrepreneurs who are tackling social and environmental issues and the other $10M is an investment of RBC Foundation's own assets into Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Funds. RBC is prioritizing projects that promote environmental sustainability and water resource management, and those that provide employment opportunities for youth and newcomers to Canada. (http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/2012/0124-social-finance.html)
RBC released the announcement of their Impact Investment Fund in January 2012 and is the first bank in Canada to do something of this nature.
Awesome, right? More awesomeness to come.Scotiabank's Mobile Wallet
Scotiabank partnered with Digicel and a company called YellowPepper to help the people of Haiti following the earthquake. Over 1/3 of traditional banks were destroyed, and 90% of the population needed a way to bank. The same 90% also owned a mobile phone. Therefore, Scotiabank created a 'mobile wallet' and named the service Tcho Tcho Mobile. It has allowed over 100,000 Haitians to continue their necessary banking using their mobile phones, ensuring continuity in their lives as well as their necessary contribution to the economic rebuilding of their nation. (Scotiabank's 2010 CSR Report, http://www.scotiabank.com/...R_Report_2011_English_final.pdf
Ultimately the point I'm getting at is that only through a deep interest and a lot of research might you chance upon the great work that large financial institutions are doing. In my opinion, these institutions are significant game changers in transforming societal priorities and values. Keeping their relationship with social investments and initiatives secret doesn't serve to increase awareness, support, or social good for local and international communities.
With that said, here are a few preliminary suggestions to get the awareness ball rolling:Suggestions
1) Give more prominence on websites to these projects and through social media
2) Educate the public through events, conferences, etc.
3) Build awareness among graduate programs that opportunities like these are available within financial institutions (e.g. MBA recruiting)
My hope is that this trend of social good among Canadian banks continues, grows, succeeds, and becomes just as commonplace as opening a bank account. Society and the world at large will surely thank them!
For more information on impact investing, check out this fantastic article, 'Social Impact Investing: It's not all Wall Street as usual', answering all your questions by Good.is
In the past month, I’ve really amped up my participation in addressing causes I am passionate about. For the longest time, I’ve maintained an interest in women’s rights issues, but finally reached a point where I asked myself ‘what exactly am I doing about it?’ Enough talk, more walk.
Finding the right fit
For a while, I searched for women’s focused organizations within Toronto, where I might be able to join the Board or find meaningful volunteer opportunities. Randomly Google searching for such organizations, I stumbled upon a group called World Pulse. This kick started my personal campaign to increase my involvement in contributing to women’s rights issues by signing up as a volunteer. My love of travel has broadened my global outlook and my passion for women’s issues all made World Pulse a perfect fit.
Who is World Pulse?
In my opinion, World Pulse is different from a lot of organizations I’ve come across, in terms of its approach. It is described on its website as an action media network powered by women from over 190 countries. Its goal is to make the voice of women all over the world heard through its web-based platform. Witnessing its global reach, and the way it was bringing women from all over the world together, I had to join. I decided to become a volunteer “Listener”.
What is a Listener?
Basically my role is to make sure that women know their voices are being heard, comment on their stories, urge them to share more, and every so often, when a shining gem of a story comes to light, I may recommend it for publishing. This role, at a literal level, seems simple, and it is, however the first-hand education I am receiving from the personal stories of affected women, is astounding. The personal transformation more than anything is very revealing to me, and while I may feel that I’m helping these women, the opposite is probably truer, they’re helping me. Cliché? Yes. But true.
World Pulse Live 2012 Kick off in New York
My personal campaign to become more involved strengthened when I decided to book a flight to New York City. I registered to attend World Pulse Live 2012, taking place at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, NYU. Here is a fitting description of World Pulse Live 2012 from the World Pulse website:“Three amazing women, representing the energy and power of the World Pulse community, are now in the US for the first time to lift their voices. These grassroots leaders are revealing how they use the power of new media and technology to change lives and create solutions on the front lines of today’s most pressing issues, including gender-based violence, food security, economic freedoms, and leadership training.”
I had the distinct honour of listening to the personal stories of each of these women. No ones emotions were spared in the room, I wished I hadn’t forgotten my Kleenex! Neema, Stella, and Hummingbird each gave very personal experiences, detailing their personal visions, and their faith in media and technology as a means to make change for women in their respective countries. To me, they represent the possibilities that exist amidst adversity. They’ve decided to use their voices, their stories, and their own negative experiences to create positive change.
Social Good Summit 2012 in NYC
I decided to theme my trip with the idea of social good and found another conference happening the next day in NYC. This one was called the Social Good Summit 2012 (SGS 2012) and was presented by widely known organizations such as Mashable, Ericsson, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, the United Nations Foundation, and 92|Y.
An interesting thing about this conference was that it encouraged meet-ups to occur all over the world. It was amazing to see the size of groups gathered in places such as China, Zambia, and the like, some places initiating the first conference of this kind in their country discussing social good.
A Palpable Energy
I walked into the SGS 2012 lecture hall, and that’s when it really hit me, I was a part of a community passionate about all things socially good and the possibility of solving problems much bigger than just our own. The room was buzzing with hundreds of people, the hall was packed, and there were cameras everywhere. I knew I was somewhere special, maybe at one of the many centres around the world where good ideas could be born.
The panels were stacked with high profile speakers such as Hans Vestberg - CEO of Ericsson, Pete Cashmore - CEO and Founder of Mashable, Kathy Calvin - CEO of United Nations Foundation, Todd Park – Chief Technology Officer at the White House, Kumi Naidoo – Executive Director of Green Peace, and the list went on! There were no breaks, there was simply too much to talk about, so I sat tight, not wanting to miss anything.
Here are some examples of the topics covered in individual panel discussions:
The World in 2015: Millenium Development Goals
Maintaining the Momentum: Delivering Solutions for Girls & Women
Unleashing The Power Of Open Innovation In Government
How Digital is Redefining Diplomacy
Can Mobile Phones Eliminate Pediatric AIDS?
Ocean Conservation In The Digital Age
Disappearing Degrees of Separation: Creating Community Connections
How Google Earth is Changing the World
Project Diaspora: Africa's Technology Renaissance
Internet Freedom, Mobile Technology and Human Rights
Mobile Revolution: How Your Phone Will Become The Most Dangerous Weapon In The Fight For Social Justice
I should also mention, this was a three-day conference, of which I could only attend one day. The topics above only represent some of the topics covered during my one day of attendance! People such as Jane Goodall and Deepak Chopra were speaking in the days to come, and the topics only became increasingly interesting. I left the event charged, with renewed purpose, vigor, and more motivation.
My Two Big Takeaways
Takeaway #1: Take action
There is a huge mobilized (no pun intended) community out there, passionate and serious about changing the world’s problems. It’s not enough to talk about it, and wish it away, but action is the only means to solving anything. What can we learn from Neema, Stella, and Hummingbird? Even though they come from rural and war torn villages, despite risk, despite the lack of support, and despite the lack of glamour that accompanies what they do – they are using their voices to DO something. Why? Because they know their purpose, and have a NEED to act on it, not just a pleasant desire to.
Surround yourself with likeminded motivated individuals
Surrounding myself with the company of passionate do-gooders at the SGS 2012 reminded me of what selflessly motivated people can accomplish through the power of collaboration and creativity. Margaret Meade got it right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Take a small step forward
Part of my action plan was this blog. It has been a constant intention for as long as I can remember, and I finally decided to take action and make it happen. Social Good 2.0 is my way of continuously engaging with people who share the same passion as me. In a way, it’s my own mini global online classroom where I’m hoping to both share my ideas and learn from those of others. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the birthplace of some radically amazing innovative ideas that solve some of the world’s biggest problems!
Takeaway #2: Mobile phones will save the world
While we in North America face the challenge of getting people to put their Smartphone’s away, in other parts of the world, mobile phone usage is highly encouraged. Mobile phones might be the very thing that helps people receive the treatment they need or saves a woman from being sexually assaulted.
A little training and a mobile phone can be life saving
Over and over again, both at the World Pulse Live 2012 event and the SGS 2012, I heard numerous stories praising the value of mobile phones. For example, Stella shared a story based on her experience training rural women how to use technology. A women in her village worked for a man, cleaning etc. He continually abused her. Upon instruction from Stella on how to use group text messaging on her mobile phone, the women was able to save herself. She heard her perpetrator approaching one day, and knowing what was likely to come next, she quickly sent out a group text messaging asking for help. Help arrived before anything could happen, and all because of the value of having a mobile phone, and being trained on how to use it. Sometimes simple solutions are the most effective, and this story exemplifies this.
Bigger isn’t always better
Neema from the Democratic Republic of Congo also shared that while laptops and computers are great, in villages, it can take up to 10 to 20 minutes for one page to load, and additionally for women to access the computers, they usually need to find a cyber café. For some women, leaving the home is not an option, making this form of technology relatively inaccessible for them. Stella also rightly mentioned, women are able to more easily conceal the possession of a small mobile phone, putting them at less risk from men who feel threatened by it. She herself doesn’t carry around a smartphone since that is too big to hide. Possessing a mobile phone can also be a sign of power for a woman, because it means she has control of her own situation.
Having access to a mobile device has allowed women to become more educated on the options available to them. Whether it be exposing them to governmental policies via a website on their phone, that can help them assert their rights as it pertains to themselves and their children, or learning more about health conditions that they can easily prevent. Truthfully, the value and benefits of mobile devices cannot be summarized in this one post.
A device is only good if it’s being used, otherwise it’s just a device
Another key insight, as common sense as it may sound, came from Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile, where he shared that mobile phones are great and so is technology, but they’re only great when people are using it.
It certainly brings into question how behavioural change, cultural sensitivity, and technology, can be effectively integrated. Stay tuned for another post on this and more about mobile phones!
Images Courtesy of:
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/6218638550/">AlicePopkorn ( off /on )</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/raggle/3163752268/">-mrsraggle-</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/305425495/">futureatlas.com</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>