The Mighty Five: February.
A cross-sector curation of the month’s best social impact listens & reads
We read and listen to a lot around here. Articles, journals, case studies, podcasts – anything that provides nuggets of insight to fuel our mission and work. And we distill them down to our very top five in a regular monthly roundup. We hope you gain as much from reading it as we do from curating it.
A win for women and girls, period.
NPR | 3min
Waffle, flamingo, couples holding hands, and a red drop of blood. These are all new emojis being released in 2019, and the last one is a big win for menstrual health activists worldwide. Its appearance is the product of lobbying efforts by UK-based INGO Plan International – a small step to break the stigma and shame associated with periods in many cultures throughout the world. Of course, an emoji alone can’t keep girls from missing class or being banished from their home. But introducing a symbol to a visual language set used six billion times per day at least signals a move in the right direction: prioritizing the empowerment of women and girls.
Profit + purpose: new year, old story.
Harvard Business Review | 3min
Last year we read Larry Fink’s annual letter to CEOs with cautious optimism. This year's BlackRock letter? More like resigned pragmatism. There seemed almost no movement in 2018 to align core business with purpose. And Fink’s 2019 missive even sparked a backlash from some who took his call to action as a form of corporate socialism, presumably missing his point that purpose-led organizations have a long-term competitive advantage. As the father of shared value Mark Kramer cites in his response to Fink’s letter – there’s strong research showing that environment and society aren’t mere externalities, but have actual impact on a corporation’s bottom line.
Let’s give them something to talk about.
Fast Company | 4min
For social sector orgs, the difference between a distinctive brand and one that fades into the background could quite literally be a matter of lives and deaths. And obtaining nonprofit status doesn’t exclude any of them from having to find effective ways to communicate their unique attributes and personality. So we appreciated the reminders embedded in this article about 2018’s hottest new design trend: blanding. Plus this brand assessment checklist from a very non-bland design great, Paul Rand. Don’t be afraid to say something. But if that scares you, your staff, your funders, or your board – may we recommend engaging this (tongue-in-cheek) agency?
Rise and grind.
The Wall Street Journal | 9min
There are no award ceremonies for discipline, no global prizes for the grind. But maybe there should be. Bill Gates recently penned an article on the best investment he ever made – into funds that set out to eradicate polio and deliver vaccinations to far-flung locales. Essentially, an investment made in organizations who could find purchasing power in economies of scale and keep up a supply chain. Not too sexy, but beyond important. And perhaps the reason the Gates Foundation’s 2019 strategy is to maintain the status quo? It’s a theme we’ve seen ourselves: innovative thinking dying on the vine in the absence of the discipline to action it. Which is likely why successful Silicon Valley tech CEO Mathilde Collin says she’d choose “discipline over some grand vision any day of the week.”
To err is human.
World Economic Forum | 6min
While we’re celebrating sometimes-boring discipline, let’s also applaud failure! As highlighted in a recently published conversation between a social entrepreneur and a philanthropist, the social sector’s reluctance to discuss failure is the enemy of innovation. If we’re to succeed in combating complex change, we need to value transparent results – both positive and negative. To be sure, institutional change of this sort starts with individual vulnerability. Easier said than done, according to Brené Brown’s landmark TED talk on vulnerability with a telling 38 million views. Don’t know how to begin? Take Daniel Pink’s advice and just ask for some help.
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