For more than 15 years, I’ve been practicing in the social impact field (probably longer if I consider my early career in social justice theatre as a director and performer). Back then our theatre productions showcased social issues, like educational skits on Monsanto’s injustices for organic farmers and directed shows about racism and poverty.
Recently, I decided to dig into the definition a little more. Even though I’ve written a blog and white papers to define social entrepreneurship, this definition of social impact from GoodFinance.org.uk is really what we are after in our consulting and facilitation work:
“Social impact is the effect on people and communities that happens as a result of an action or inaction, an activity, project, program or policy.”
I love that it includes inaction, which is not often the case in our work. Us do-gooders always want to be “doing something” to make the world a better place but what if there is something we aren’t doing? Why aren’t we doing it? Are you doing what you said you would do? Why or why not? This can be an effective way to measure your impact.
It made me ask myself, “is Prospera Partners really doing social impact in our consulting work? And if so, what does it really mean? How do we convey this to our clients that either know this work intrinsically or are new to this social impact stuff?”
Policy making is an important part of social impact, as well. As revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, systems and policies that have been in place for generations are not working. Our healthcare, education, and economic systems are strained and ready for an overhaul. Can you imagine policies from the local to federal level that have positive social impact baked in? We can!
At Prospera Partners we have made social impact the heart and soul of what we do. We consistently evaluate ourselves, our work, and our clients’ work (recognize the “I, We, It” of transformational leadership?) through the lens of social impact. Some of the impact measures we look at are:
- Sustainability (financial and environmental)
- Who benefits?
- How many people benefit?
- How do they benefit?
- Economic (living wages, benefits, healthcare, well-being, standards of living; community infrastructure; local economies)
- Policies and governance (internal ones to the business or organization, local municipalities, country, state, federal)
- Culture and leadership
- Relationships and collaborations
- Justice, equity, diversity, inclusion
We do all of this through the framework of systems change, which is best defined as addressing the root causes of social problems. These problems are often intractable and embedded in networks of cause and effect. We work with an intentional process and a set of guiding steps designed to fundamentally alter the components and structures that cause the system to behave in a certain way. Our steps include:
- Assessing needs and assets
- Engaging multiple stakeholders
- Mapping the system
- Emergent process
- Transformational leadership and culture development
If positive social impact is the outcome we seek, then social enterprise is the mechanism to get there. That is why Prospera Partners has made it our focus to assist social enterprises such as nonprofit organizations, small businesses, corporations and everything in between that focus on the intersection of social impact and business. We know that it takes real action to create real impact and we’ve helped make impact happen, time and time again.
We would love to make it happen for your business or nonprofit, too. Contact us to let us know how we can help!