How to leverage private sector relationships (or NGOs if you are a corporation) to tap into U.S. Government aid and development money slated to expire in 2020.
Video Blog November 8, 2017:
How to leverage private sector relationships (or NGOs if you are a corporation) to tap into U.S. Government aid and development money slated to expire in 2020.
I feel conflicted about hashtag-identifiable days that allow us to call out a concept, cause or action in order to draw attention to it. There is no question that going #ADayWithoutWater encourages us to think about what life would be like without access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water (a sad fact for 844 million people by the way.) I am all for celebrating #NationalChocolateDay, on October 28 each year, conveniently three days before Halloween, when we all imbibe on too much chocolate. I would be unfair to my fellow ladies if I didn't go all out on March 8, #InternationalWomensDay. Yet is there not something depressing about picking one day of the year to focus on the plight of women, or imagine what it feels like to be poor, or to eat a certain food, pay for a certain service, give to a certain cause? Should we not be focusing on these issues ALL the time, with as much intent as we can possible muster?
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching here in the States, and #GivingTuesday following shortly thereafter, I have been asked for my thoughts on how best to give back, particularly within the workplace. First, my hope is that eventually we don't need to hashtag certain days, and efforts like #GivingTuesday morph somehow into #GivingEveryday. I recognize that without calling attention to the needs of certain causes, certain sects of our population, even certain products and services, it encourages us to not ignore, and remember the power we all have to make differences in large numbers. I am grateful for #GivingTuesday, for giving millions of dollars to organizations I admire, believe in and work with. Yet I spend each of my days helping companies move into a perpetual mentality of giving back, and one day I hope my job is no longer needed in that respect. Until then, here are three ways to make #GivingTuesday about #GivingEveryday:
(1) Consider which charities or nonprofits are working to solve a problem that your organization or company cares about. Maybe your company rents cement mixers. Find a nonprofit that is working to improve infrastructure in underserved communities. Maybe you work for a bank. Could you drum up donations to microfinance programs? No matter where you spend the 8+ hours each day making a living, there is something you, together with your company, can do to give back.
Be sure to check Charity Navigator to discern whether potential charities are doing their financial due diligence, and using funds wisely. Global Giving is a also a great resource, allowing you to find small, medium and large organizations that contribute to causes you care about. I love buying clients, friends and colleagues Global Giving gift cards, allowing them to pick a recipient for their contribution.
Consider joining 1% for the Planet, committing to donate 1% of gross revenues to environmental causes (there are hundreds to choose from, global to local). Connective Impact recently made this commitment, and we are amazed at how the ways we are already giving back as a company contribute to our 1% goal.
(2) Be creative in encouraging other ways for your workplace to give back, beyond giving money. Encourage your leadership to find partners that help address social or environmental challenges that your organization cares about or are important to helping the company succeed. For example if your company sells paper products, perhaps your company can switch to FSC certified paper, or begin procuring sustainable ingredients, like bamboo. In doing so, your company helps protect natural resources that contribute to planetary health. If you are a logistics company, consider how filling half empty trucks or planes or ships or cars can provide needed goods to those that go without. Contemplate organizing volunteer days, or employee giving days, to drum up financial and human capital support within your workplace. Check out organizations like Pyxera Global, which facilitate employee volunteer experiences.
(3) Last, involve your children and family, so giving back becomes an activity you do together, and learn from. Remember that #GivingTuesday (and the holiday season overall) are not the only times of year that giving your time, resources or attention matter. Try and incorporate giving back in your every day, and share the experiences with friends, colleagues, and your boss. You'll start to see your excitement wear off on others, I guarantee it, and #GivingEveryday may become a reality after all.
For more giving resources, check out Kiva, Bstow, and GivingTuesday.org
Making the commute into Baltimore from Arlington, VA last week, while arduous given heavy traffic each way, was worth it just to take in the wonders of Expo East, the natural products industry's annual east coast trade show (not to be confused with the massive spring show on the west coast, easily distinguishable as Expo West). A client of mine, deeply engaged with the natural products sector, begged me to visit Expo East before even thinking of traveling out to California for Expo West, given the way one must crawl before he or she learns to walk. My legs (and appetite) thanked him for it, as I spent two days walking aisle after aisle, visiting food and drink booth after food and drink booth, tasting more turkey jerky and collagen-filled gummies (I am still not sure what the deal is with collagen) than I could have imagined over a lifetime.
I peppered the booth visits with a client meeting or two, plus a couple of seminars where I learned what some of these companies were doing to fight climate change (hint: it’s in the soil!).
PHOTO ABOVE: Scenes from the convention floor.
Two friendly baristas at Kicking Horse Coffee, client Fairtrade America's partner.
Overall, though, I spent a good bit of time finding out from exhibitors (this means all the food and drink companies with whom I visited, plus health and beauty, nutrition and consumer products companies as well) about what their companies are doing to address sustainability. One would expect companies that loosely use the term ‘natural’ to be already involved in some element of sustainability, and those exhibiting at Expo East could easily share plentiful info on their approaches. In fact many companies with whom I spoke did have innovative programs underway, like Natierra (the superfood company) and its partnership with Feed a Soul Project, or PlanetFuel contributing a percentage of sales to the Ocean Conservancy to protect our oceans from plastic pollution. There were also plenty of direct trade relationships, whereby food companies would source directly from farmers, cutting out the middle men and hence providing a greater percentage of income to growers than alternatively is the case (Theo Chocolate is one great example of this). In the health and beauty division I was enamored by a company called Nimbus Eco, making paper products out of bamboo inspired by the daunting effort to combat deforestation the founder witnessed in Indonesia. Nimbus Eco is a proud partner of Trees for the Future, planting one tree for every 24 rolls of toilet paper sold, and is evaluating other partnerships as well.
Though for every really interesting, innovative and encouraging partnership I learned of during Expo East, I also found myself disappointed when asking a founder of a chocolate company (to remain anonymous, but they have certainly lost MY business) about the company’s efforts to address child labor, and being told that in the end there’s nothing he can do about child labor, and what matters in the end is selling chocolate. I suppose the mission message never reached this founder. Perhaps I should have been less surprised that the marketing folks manning the many booths at Expo East were not well aware of their companies’ efforts to improve the environment or the social footprint of their supply chain, but I’d like to think that the population of companies at Expo East, where mission is imbedded in the development of natural products, should represent sustainability well. Maybe I’m an idealist, but each company should be a model for the rest of their peers, pushing conventional companies to be doing more, investing more and leading on more issues like sustainability. If there are still so many laggards within the Expo East population, we have a lot of work to do around Gen Pop. My mission over the next few weeks will be to follow up with each of the companies I met, learn about the work they ARE doing, encourage them to think bigger, grander and more impactful, and see where this gets us. If it means I need to strap on some running shoes and fire up my grocery bags to fill with turkey jerky at Expo West to keep the message about sustainability leadership going, so be it.
When I formulated the concept behind Connective Impact in 2013, I asked for input from friends, colleagues and family members. Most comments were supportive, and many commended me for my bravery. Others questioned my sanity, wondering if I had thought all of the elements of this new business through. Granted I was starting with effectively nothing: no clients, little funding, but a bold idea to transform how partnerships developed to effect change. Anyone who knows me, however, knows that I cannot just wait around for things to happen. I had been struggling with a lack of challenge professionally, in some cases lack of respect, and questioning my path forward for a while at that point. I had sought new job opportunities, but nothing presented me the feeling of fulfillment I had sought so deeply. I was at my wits end when I quit my job, giving my employer 60 days’ notice, and began to build this new company from scratch. It was, in many ways, risky and indeed borderline crazy. But as I share in my book ChangeSeekers, Finding Your Path to Impact, a nonlinear trajectory led me to this place for good reason.
With various degrees of success in each position I’ve held since graduate school, I have been asked often about my professional journey, about the path I took to get to where I am today, how I’ve grown an extensive network of professional contacts, and how I had the gumption to quit my stable job and start Connective Impact. I’ve had more coffee meetings than I can count, enough telephone brain-picking sessions to fill a lifetime, and more advice emails sent than I ever thought necessary. My thoughts are always the same: take risks, be bold, be curious, ask questions, be a good listener, never stop learning, follow your gut, and keep moving forward at all costs.
When my friend Adam suggested that I publish my story about starting Connective Impact, instead of continue to repeat myself over and over with each request, I made the brave decision to take pen to paper and begin recording my story. At first, I wrote about the lessons I have learned fighting to get noticed in a (male and also generally) dominating world as an investment banker, then a policy negotiator, an NGO program leader, and now a company owner. The story evolved, however, into lessons in resiliency, grit, and determination—how letting go of guilt, fear, self doubt, and insecurity can lead us down paths toward fulfillment we would never have otherwise tested. I chose to include stories of others whose journeys are also laden with determination, a willingness to test the status quo or take risks.
These ChangeSeekers continue to inspire me, as many have, in the way each of their life’s work is about making a positive difference and seeking impactful paths for themselves. The process of writing became incredibly cathartic and emotionally healing for me after years of struggling with questions around my sense of worth. I realized that over the course of my many years navigating my own challenges, finding the “right” fit, and seeking a more impactful career, there might be something worthwhile to share.
It has been an honor of a lifetime to write this book, and I am deeply grateful to everyone who has helped make it a reality. I hope it inspires other ChangeSeekers among us, and at the very least, allows its readers to take comfort in their own winding, curious, and thrilling paths to impact.
Use the pre-order code 'seekers30' at checkout for 30% off your pre-order copies.
Join Our Mailing List for Updates and Giveaways
We know the idiom about avoiding discussions of politics or religion around the dinner table, but why do we keep ignoring this advice? We live in a period of divisiveness, regardless of political persuasion, and no one is enjoying the battles waging here in Washington. The negativity, hopelessness and uncertainty are tough to handle, no matter who you voted for in 2016. We wonder how to move forward as ONE true nation, indivisible with real liberty and justice for all.
While there are a number of ardent supporters of the current Administration, who believe a real patriot (their verbiage, not mine) has finally won the White House, and the times of political correctness and liberal demagoguery are over, most conservatives and liberals alike are not feeling optimistic about how things are going politically. These mixed feelings and concerns among both parties, plus questions about the future and our ability to operate as one cohesive nation, are begging questions we must explore in nearly every setting of our daily lives. Nowadays this means putting aside the forbidden nature of discussing politics at the dinner table.
I have been known to raise political questions at inopportune times, and with the wrong audiences. While I have learned that there is a time and place, I sometimes struggle with following that advice. This is particularly difficult nowadays and in this political climate. It’s no secret, nor surprise, that I did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election (see my blog post where I described the difficult days I faced being in Africa right after the election, and also the hope I gained from that experience). Some think I am a flaming liberal (I’ve even been called a fem-nazi, which is inaccurate and likely deeply derogatory) but in reality I am a political hybrid – supporting socially liberal programs and conservative fiscal policies making me a quintessential independent. In 2016, Donald Trump was not my candidate. This was for various reasons that transcended politics, and do not need rehashing given the emotional upheaval his victory caused me. I do know many a Trump voter, however, and some that surprised me.
I was visiting a very good friend of mine recently, who usually votes Republican, but had been struggling with her decision between Trump and Clinton. While I knew she did not care for Clinton, I was sure she would vote against Trump, given the difficulty she has faced with workplace sexual discrimination as a start. I was wrong. When she told me the truth, I could not hold back my shock. I lashed out at her, questioning her decision, passing judgment and communicating disappointment. This did not bode well for the remainder of our dinner, and while I apologized and we moved on, it turns out my reaction was very hurtful to my friend. When I returned home, she sent me a text. She told me that it wasn’t fair for me to ask her to disclose her vote, and then attack her for it. She then explained that “maybe if smart and compassionate people you know feel differently [than] you on an issue, it's possible that there is another perspective and that the difference in opinion isn't down to the other person's stupidity or lack of compassion.” She suggested that I consider how I react to a difference of opinion next time, and take into account the other person’s feelings and legitimacy, rather than assume my opinion is always superior. This was such an important lesson, and one I am thinking about almost daily as I read articles bashing one side of our political system or another.
I have never been known for holding my tongue or having weak opinions. On the contrary, I feel very strongly that when I believe something is so, IT IS SO. It is hard for me to argue otherwise. I am not sure if it’s because I am an only child, or just a pain in the ass. But it’s simply my thing. I discuss the pros and cons of this trait in my book, ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact (out September 12). I share the struggle I faced when my strong beliefs about being right, coupled with my deep intuition and inability to hold my tongue on more than one occasion, made it hard for me to jive with superiors or last more than a couple of years in positions where I disagreed with decision making or felt my gut lead me in a different direction. Having a sharp tongue, speaking up for my beliefs, doing what I thought was right and fighting for my position, have ultimately served me well professionally. These traits have allowed me to run a successful advisory firm, Connective Impact, and get paid for offering my opinion. I have had to learn to listen, though. And listen with intent. I have had to be more quiet than not, hear my clients, hear what their challenges are. I have had to sit back and absorb differences of opinion, alternative approaches, conflicting points of view, waiting for the full story, ensuring I make recommendations based on complete information and without rash thinking.
The skill of listening is more crucial now than ever, particularly as we face bumpy roads ahead as a collective people. I clearly lacked that skill in the dialogue with my friend over Trump, and it affected her negatively. I am deeply disappointed that rather than hear her out, listen with consideration, I jumped to conclusions and ranted all over her position. It was a lesson in patience, kindness, compassion and open mindedness that I needed. It’s likely a lesson we could all use these days.
I am still passionately concerned about our future, and have serious doubts about the actions Washington is taking across every branch of government. I feel a mix of anger and resentment at the 49% of our population that voted for Trump, because I deeply disagree with his policies, demeanor, rash action, and approach to governing (or lack thereof). I also am deeply fearful that our footing as the leader of the free world will harm us over the years to come. Given the mix of all of those emotions, I am doing my best to hold off on passing judgment on my fellow Americans before I listen to them with intent, and respect their position. Even if I disagree with them, and cannot fathom feeling the same way they do most of the time, it's a very important lesson for me to learn to listen to them. Perhaps if we all acted this way we would be in a very different place.
What Connections Can We Make Today?
We love to share our thoughts on the connections contributing to improving our planet. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog, we'd love to share your thoughts as well.