Written by: Emily Rentas, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
We are seeing growing impact focus and discussions from institutions, organizations, and companies in the last 10 years as social responsibility is becoming a driving force in investment and building communities across the globe. With the emergence of COVID-19 and social justice issues amplified in the past year, many businesses and organizations are making it a point to put their money where their mouth is and demonstrate their mission to impact collective good. But when it comes down to further analysis and scrutiny, how many of them are in fact creating impact, or are they riding the new hot word or issue of the season?
When considering impact as a business or organization, one must consider how it is being executed and understand its effectiveness. A business or organization should embark on careful review to ensure outcomes will not be riddled in biases and blind spots they failed to identify and rectify before they set off to execute. For one, it is important to understand the different areas that impact influences profoundly. Impact begins within the four walls of a business or organization first and then ripples across numerous spaces and into the communities.
Below are some of the internal areas businesses and organizations must consider when thinking about impact and what happens when they do not make it a point to embrace objective perspectives and approaches, even if that means confronting and dealing with blind spots and weaknesses.
Fairness and Inclusivity from Within
Businesses and organizations that center around creating impact must consider how their own internal culture is a reflection and microcosm of the impact they are attempting to achieve externally. How business is done, employees are treated, and inclusion practices are considered and executed will be seen and heard louder than any static mission statement on a company’s website or marketing piece.
How can a business or organization truly create meaningful and lasting positive impact in communities if their own house suffers from inequities and bad business practices that enable the systemic issues it claims to solve? A business or organization must truly create value within their employees before saying they provide it effectively to the public.
Employees within businesses and organizations represent similar if not the same populations they aim to uplift in the communities they serve and support. Considering the positive impact that needs to be achieved from within will create the foundation of the external impact delivered to communities. This means intentionally creating a fair and inclusive collaborative culture that supports employees to thrive and succeed while supporting their wellbeing and individuality.
Accountability, consistent and inclusive staff development and practices, engaging and transparent management, fair and livable wages, the absence of nepotism, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, and avoidance of conflicts of interests are just some of the essential ways businesses and organizations ensure their culture creates the ripe conditions for positive internal impact. This may sound like the standards all businesses and organizations should be following, but sadly it is not always the case.
If the very employees delivering a business or organization's services, do not feel valued, respected, and safe within its own four walls, expect those sentiments to trickle onto front-facing activities and interactions into communities. This results in perceived external outcomes a business or organization claims that end up being superficial and short-lived, often done to impress board members, donors, and communities that create a false narrative of impact.
Diverse and Differing Perspectives at the Table
When embarking on creating impact, businesses and organizations must clarify their who, what, where, why, and how they will be executing impact. Even then, it is important to consider how they arrived at these inferences and who is at the table when it was discussed and executed. Consider these questions to ensure diverse and differing perspectives at the decision table:
Who is involved in the decision-making to decide on what impact is to be created, and how are they involved in monitoring the progress and ensuring their commitment to the process?
Are there any conflicts of interest among the persons selecting or those involved in the project that can influence the outcomes?
Is there internal and external representation and inclusion of those who represent the area being looked at for impact within a community?
Is there employee representation of the business's various areas and an organization that will be used to execute the project for impact?
Where is information and data being collected to make the inference of this need of impact?
Who collected or sponsored it, and how accurate and up-to-date is it?
Are there any conflicts of interest of those who collected or sponsored it?
What areas can be identified where the data failed to address certain areas?
Are there any sponsors and donors of this project that have conflicts of interest that affect the execution and outcome of the work?
Who and how it will be ensured these conflicts of interest do not occur, and how will it be reported back to the business or organization?
If there is a missing representation at these discussions, what is the businesses or organization committed to ensure it gets addressed and acted upon so it does not continue?
What objective systems or supports will the business or organization utilize to identify blind spots and develop a plan to address them?
Who will be part of ensuring they are utilized?
Quality Trumps Quantity
Many businesses and organizations use public annual “impact” reports to share their work and effect on the market and communities with the public. They are filled with tons of data regarding amounts of clients/customers served, things distributed and completed, and other metrics that speak to quantity. Although hard data allows us to quantify where energy and resources go, sometimes qualitative data within the report is incomplete or even missing. For one, the angle often utilized is from the viewpoint of a business or organization reporting what they perceived they completed or finished. However, it is another to find an impact report where it is speaking from the customer or client perspective of what was completed or finished and the quality of that work. Some of the questions to consider the quality of those areas can be:
What are the levels of reported quality and satisfaction of the services or products clients and customers received?
What was utilized to measure satisfaction, and what are the intervals it is administered?
When applying the method, measure, and interval of the level of satisfaction did it take administration and collection issues into account, such as language, cultural competency, and consideration of accessibility to ensure no one was left out of the process?
Did the business or organization ask specific questions to clients and customers on what could be improved or to explain what did not go well?
What suggestions did the business and organization receive from clients and customers that lead to change and improved services?
What information and data leads the organization or business to believe the change or implementation was effective and impactful?
If they were not, what is the business or organization's plan and commitment to ensure it occurs?
How is this process first utilized within the business and organization to gauge employee satisfaction from within, and how is confidentiality utilized. Hence, employees feel they can freely speak and share without consequences?
These are just some of the objectives and questions businesses and organizations should consider when creating the frameworks and plans towards intended impact. The key to navigate the process lies in the openness and willingness to always seek and identify blind spots that hinder outcomes and create biases to a perceived impact. Businesses and organizations must make a consistent, intentional, and concerted effort to improve their internal processes, quality of work, and employees’ practices that enable the successful execution of impact-centered missions.
Emily Rentas, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Change agent Emily Rentas is a mental health leader, coaching, leadership development, operations, project, and non-profit management. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, to immigrant parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, Emily has navigated the cultural and economic systems and landscapes first- and second-generation immigrants face within the United States. She has been on a journey of counseling and mentoring clients and teams throughout her 10+ years within mental health and social services communities and organizations in New York City and the United States as a whole. She founded Paragon Solstice Inc. to help optimize and build resiliency in the lives, businesses, and organizations of those embarking on new journeys and transitions through their collective impact. Emily brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in transformation and mindset development together with a passion for leadership and mindfulness into her coaching style. With this approach, Emily aims to help individuals, businesses, and organizations create sustainable solutions that will unlock their unique potential and impact.
Her mission: Guide individuals and businesses to create the keys necessary to open doors to bring visions and goals into creation.