The Mighty Five: June.
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.
The Economist | 10min
We think and talk a lot about the effective altruism movement. Not surprisingly, it’s championed by those made rich via the cold logic of business. Applying data-driven rationality to maximize philanthropic spend is laudable. And as a means of evaluating where donations, investments, and support should be funneled, we’ll take an ROI approach any day. Especially when the alternative is a shortsighted focus on minimizing the overhead ratio.
... then a shining example of heart-driven impact.
Gates Notes | 5min
But also: we recognize the complexities of this approach. There's no pivot table substitute for proximity. Nor a calculation to capture an innate and empathetic understanding of the human condition. And our logic could be illogical within other cultures and contexts. Take Dr. Denis Mukwege, relentless in his work to heal women, girls, and children who are victims of brutal sexual violence. Is his work scalable and systems-changing? Perhaps not. Crucial? Undoubtedly. So we continue to navigate that important space between rational enlightenment and the sometimes inexplicable power of the human heart.
Japanese transit designs for social good.
City Lab | 13min
As marketers, we geek out on a toolkit of techniques to drive behavioral change. Even fine details like color choices, text placement, button shape and size, and the subtle combinations of fonts. All are decisions that can encourage engagement and action. And frankly, it’s fun to find real-life environments that also employ similar tactics to optimize human behaviors. We’re crushing on Japanese transit, where environmental design influences the masses. Even down to the personal level.
Lead with product to meet the mission.
Bloomberg | 14min
While recently in Cape Cod, Kathleen discovered Centerville Pie Company. After tasting no less than four pies, it was clear why this local favorite made it into Oprah’s Favorite Things. The buying experience was delightful, the pies delectable. Only later did she learn it was a social impact company that hired individuals with disabilities – a fact they barely advertised. It underscored an opinion we’ve been forming: b-to-c social impact brands must function as product-first organizations in order to stay competitive in the long run. With recent news of TOMS Shoes at risk of bankruptcy, it seems prudent to follow the example of brands like Warby Parker, Nisolo, and Soko which produce fully competitive products that feed their strong impact missions.
Strategy is a verb.
Stanford Social Innovation Review | 10min
As external consultants, our biggest fear is that no matter how insightful or important our findings and recommendations might be, they’ll gather dust the moment our contract ends. So while we structure long-term engagements and guide implementation too, the best plan in the world still won’t make a difference if an organization isn’t healthy or primed to distill big-picture strategy into the day-to-day. We loved this piece by Deloitte’s Monitor Institute, which argues that strategy lives and dies by leadership’s ability to ground it in the daily activities of the entire staff.
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