Question Everything, Change Something, Do It Collectively

October 12, 2012

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s possible that your organization is a change agent. If you’re part of an organization that was represented at our conference this week, I’m certain you’re a change agent. How do I know?

A single theme dominated this two and a half day conference – at least in terms of my takeaway (for other perspectives, see the tweetchat and additional blog coverage). In the corporate citizenship field, we seem to now be in the era of questioning the mental framework that drives the work in this sector. All of us – businesses, nonprofits, government partner organizations, entrepreneurs, students, and more – are tossing assumptions aside and flipping conventional wisdom on its head.

We’re re-imagining what we do, how we do it, and what difference it makes.

A few great examples from day 2 speakers:

  • Mona Mourshed of McKinsey & Co. challenged businesses to be the impetus in bridging the gap that exists between education and the skills employees need to fill jobs today and in the future. Businesses need to be involved, she said, so that we start educating for employment and not just for degrees.
  • Ross Beerman, founder of South African company AllLife, built a business that is one of a kind: it provides life insurance to HIV-positive people, when no other insurance company will. As he puts it, to deny someone life insurance is to tell them you don’t expect them to live long enough to be a profitable client. As a for-profit company, AllLife needs to be able to make money – so it needs its clients to live long lives. The mental shift has huge impact for AllLife clients
  • Leila Janah, founder of Samasource, every day challenges the mindset that “poor people in poor countries only want a hand out. They are working, she says, they’re just not necessarily doing the work that we’re used to seeing in this country (the United States). An estimated $3 billion market exists for “microwork” – a concept with Janah forging the frontier.

The way business engages in society is indeed changing. The search for real and lasting impact has been prominent in discussions during this week’s conference. What we at BCLC are seeing now is an emerging story of collective actionto create big moments of impact. Through these big moments, a “new normal” starts to settle. We’ve been doing this global conference for several years now. In the early days, panelists took the stage to advocate that organizations work across sector lines to form public-private partnerships or business-nonprofit partnerships. Those days are over – partnering is a given.

Today we’re beyond selling the need for partnerships. The energy in this year’s global conference centered on identifying common challenges and bringing each sector’s best assets to bear to move the needle. Check out our YouTube channel, blog, and tweetchat for first-hand insights from the conference.