With my first 120 days at Edelman under my belt, I am finally able to settle in and reflect on the whirlwind of ideas, opportunities and new relationships these months have brought. I have traveled over 10,000 miles and have met with executives from Fortune 500 companies, and heads of smaller fast growing brands and nonprofits. This past week alone I visited five cities on the West Coast. I am more energized than ever. There is an infectious excitement from speaking with leaders who show so much innovation and passion for giving their company brands greater purpose. I have also made new friends at Edelman who share my interest of finding shared value between their companies and society.
While I was in L.A. The Do Something Awards created some buzz, so I thought it would be worth reviewing in this post.
You’ve got a choice
You’ve got a voice.
You’re in a rut, get off your butt
And do something!”
– Jane Lynch
Social entrepreneur Jessica Posner, 23, did just that and last week was awarded with $100,000 at The Do Something Awards. The fact that she won is a testament to the power of philanthropic crowd-sourcing. Each of the five candidate’s project was compelling, their message personally touching. But the public’s decision was not based on personal charisma and sentiment alone. If so, the prize should have gone to Jacqueline Murekatete who, at 9, lost her parents and six siblings in the Rwandan genocide. After escaping to the US, she eventually started her anti-genocide organization.
Instead, the prize went toward the organization that Jessica founded, The Kibera School for Girls and Shining Hope Community Center. Jessica will use the money to invest in an income-generating program that will provide clean water for the community. The earned income will in turn fund the organization’s other initiatives like health and education. Jessica’s use of the funds is impactful, a clear winner from a sustainable business point of view.
An investment in the “Rock Stars of Social Change”
Do Something’s approach represents something larger – a focus on the game-changers, the social innovators and powerful personalities who will find innovative solutions where corporations, non-profits and governments have not (innovation is costly!). While the Awards are now in their 14th year, a national trend toward investment in entrepreneurialism has been happening. You can see this through the national interest around the Pepsi Refresh campaign, Goldman Sach’s $100 million 10,000 Women program and their more recent $500 million 10,000 Small Businesses program.
The Judging Criteria can be the guidelines for any socially-conscious purpose-driven leader. Among my favorites: relaying confidence and enthusiasm about being a leader; having a long-term vision for the growth and sustainability; cultivating long-term and respectful partnerships within a community. Being passionate. Being committed and “Best-in-Class”.
The power of The Awards also comes from another defining force, Millennials.
Build the engagement platform and the Millennials will come (but throw in some celebrities first…)
The Millennials were practically born socially aware. As the product of the Earth Day-creating Boomers and Gen X-ers, social responsibility, recycling and other things once considered “granola” are as part of their upbringing as peanut butter and jelly and reality TV shows. The internet and advent of social media enable them to inform themselves and engage with causes. Geography is no longer a barrier and speed of information access has increased. The declining employee loyalty of their parents has influenced a more entrepreneurial self-empowered mindset, irreverent of traditional corporate paths. This has inspired innovation and entrepreneurship, and the corresponding confidence of success.
Combine all these factors and you have an uber-engaged, hyper-active talent pool. How times have changed from a generation ago. As George Lopez pointed out on the Awards show:
When I was a kid doing nothing came very easy to me. When the earthquake in Haiti struck it would have been easy to do nothing….but I finally did something. We are here to honor the outstanding young people who understand the importance of making a difference.
The Awards elevated these young people to hero status, while also using social media to give other young people a chance to be heard. As Michael Zeisser in his recent McKinsey article put it, this “recognition by peers is a powerful motivator, and brands that allow users to gain it deliver real perceived value.” This ultimately generates Word of Mouth buzz that can be treated as another form of measurable media.
This week’s Good Purpose blog post also discusses The Do Something Awards, and Clean & Clear’s “Join the Surge” campaign.