Teach Us All (2017) – Will U.S. Businesses Learn?

I like to think of myself as a socio-economic entrepreneur, supporting for-profit businesses that have a “Giving Back” mentality, often referred to as “Social Enterprises”. While many Social Enterprises engage with non-profit organizations and they may support the same social causes, their methods can be as different as their typical approaches to funding their social impact initiatives.

For the most part I do not get heavily involved in non-profit business development any more. Why social enterprises rather than non-profits? A personal perspective I have to admit. I see too many being created as “hobby” businesses, quite often by individuals who have a personal connection to a cause but not the personal resources (or they do not want to exhaust their resources) to get involved. In some cases, individuals or organizations use non-profits to scam those who would like to support a believed good cause. Some are just looking to create a job for themselves. In other cases, people with hearts of gold wind up spending dollars that could very well be better spent and have greater impact elsewhere.

As with most rules, there are exceptions and I do get heavily involved in education projects, specifically the creation, development and support of charter schools in underserved communities throughout the U.S., many of which, by law, can only operate as non-profits. Of course, there is the personal satisfaction in “serving” and how wonderful that I am involved in such a noble and just cause – but I think we are missing a key point and thereby a real opportunity to add significantly to the American economy while “doing good”!

I recently watched the documentary “Teach Us All”, (http://www.teachusallfilm.org/), talking about how little we have progressed in providing equality in education. Sure, making America and the world a better place for all is something to aspire to but let me take off my “social” hat for a moment and don my simple “business” hat and make a few bullet points:

·  In an ever-evolving world economy, the typical American student achievement would rank 38th out of the top 71 developed or developing countries according to the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/).

·  Our global leadership in education plateaued around 1990 which is when the gap between white and minority student achievement stopped narrowing. Coincidence? (https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/the-costs-of-inequality-education-is-the-key-to-it-all).

·  The general consensus of leading business strategists and economists indicate our systems and methods of education are not getting us ready to create the jobs or ready the workforce of the future. A great article in the NY Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/upshot/how-to-prepare-for-an-automated-future.html?mcubz=0) provides some expert insights.

·  Incarceration versus education? Only a small sample of evidence and facts from the U.S. Department of Education (https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/report-increases-spending-corrections-far-outpace-education).

·  State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades.

·  The United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population yet more than 20 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

·  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, two-thirds of state prison inmates have not completed high school.

·  One study also shows young black men between the ages of 20 and 24 who do not have a high school diploma or an equivalent credential have a greater chance of being incarcerated than employed.

·  Researchers have estimated that a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates results in a 9 percent decline in criminal arrest rates.

I could go on but think you get the message. The question that needs to be answered is what are we going to do about it? By “we” I mean the business leaders and concerned citizens. What should we expect the government to do? Not much unless we push so hard that they succumb to the pressure. Ok, but where do we start? I want to get people to understand that this is not going to be changed overnight and we cannot do everything today. At the risk of sounding like I am prepared to “write off” those underserved people of today I would like to first try to stop perpetuating an unsustainable situation by focusing in on 3rd grade education in underserved communities and here’s why:

·  A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. “Third grade is a kind of pivot point,” said Donald J. Hernandez, the study’s author and a sociology professor at Hunter College, at the City University of New York. “We teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense if you haven’t succeeded by 3rd grade it’s more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then.” (http://gradelevelreading.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Double-Jeopardy-Report-030812-for-web1.pdf)

There is no one expert who knows it all or any one answer to any of these problems but I strongly suggest you read the article from the Pew Research Center The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training found at http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training

Is getting involved the right thing for you to do? I hope so! If you want to explore opportunities to have an impact please visit us at ImpactNavigators.com, send me an email at William.Brown@impactnavigators.com or follow us in Twitter @IN2Outcomes

Forty Percent of Students Seen Ill-Prepared to Enter Work Force

The preparedness is 60% full – but 40% empty.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that we are not delivering “qualified” candidates to the “White Collar” work force.  Is this hype or reality?

From my experience I would say this is a conservative estimate but it does highlight a real problem for academics.  When looking into it a bit deeper we have to say that our colleges and universities are doing a great job – with what they have.  Look at the material at their disposal.  How much of it is outdated before it is even printed let alone in the classroom?  How can our professional educators ever be expected to improve the outcomes for the students?  I don’t think they can – not alone, anyway.  WE need more and greater open collaboration among academiacs and business professionals, bringing more practical and tactical into the “education experience” if not into the classroom itself.

I would also suggest that we take a step back and look at the students entering the higher education theater.  Readiness of our high school students, into college or the workforce is lacking essential requirements as well.  Let’s be clear, I don’t believe for a moment that the problem resides with our professional educators, the vast majority being highly qualified and motivated themselves.  I do however believe that we must identify and execute on opportunities to improve the “outputs” of our educational institutions.  How?

The beneficiaries of a higher caliber workforce are our businesses and I think we, as business leaders, need to take a level of ownership (and yes, direct investment) in the process of human resource development.  Getting more engaged at an earlier stage of education will increase the results – and benefits for all!

 

If you are interested in engaging in this initiative please contact me directly.

1 in 3 Utah homes has cancer-causing radon at potentially harmful levels

This holiday season give your family, friends and neighbors one of the best $10 presents in the world!

Here is an article that is three years old yet maybe more significant now than ever.

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=18373214

http://geology.utah.gov/utahgeo/hazards/radon.htm

Corporate Citizenship – Revitalizing Manufacturing in the U.S.

Our Impact Navigators messages often refer to the Corporate Citizenship (CS) movement as the replacement for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  You will also often us promote a movement tag line of “economy with purpose” rather than a “purpose economy”.  While our fundamental principles mandate “giving back” we carry a banner of Socio-Economic Entrepreneurism and do not call ourselves Social Entrepreneurs.   What is the difference?  Is this some simple re-branding gimmick?  How does this relate to the issue of revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S.?

If you are a subscriber to our newsletter or a member of our IN Community you probably know more about our Corporate Citizenship model (if not, ask us for more information) so we will only touch on it briefly here.  The movement is based upon the simple premise that if you have nothing, you have nothing to give back and the time to give back is today, not when you have achieved extraordinary success and to then engage in personal or foundation philanthropy.  Primarily, this is a small to mid-size business movement, those wishing to be good Corporate Citizens but also striving to build and protect their business or organization.  Here is where the CS and the CSR models start to establish their own unique identity.

A common perception of CSR is that it is a socially-driven, cost center challenged, a tossing of profits into a “black hole” – because “we” have an obligation to “them”.  CSR programs are often challenged by internal financial managers, investors, stakeholders and shareholders.  Often even the employees see CSR “giving” as some  program led by the owner who  wants to been as a philanthropist and building a personal image or brand – using profits that the employees contributed to!

A common misconception of CS is that it is simply CSR with a different label.  Here are some of the major differences:

  • CS, rather than being a “black hole” is a program to improve overall business performance and measurably contribute to the bottom line.
  • CS is driven by the customer, employee, stakeholder, shareholder and investor rather than something that has to be sold or dictated.
  • CS does not require  a major investment.
  • CS takes the position that we are a part of the community, the “we” and “they” are really all “us”.

Yes, there is much more to CS but let’s move on to how this applies to the revitalizing of manufacturing in the U.S.

For many designers and developers manufacturing has become a “commodity” item and the thought of manufacturing locally is not of concern.  Former principles of “design for manufacture” are now replaced by a mentality of “design for China” where cost is considered only in the context of material and supply.  Economic development is nothing more than P&L and dividends to shareholders.  If I were to take this to the extreme, this mentality supports a CSR model  where “we” are giving money to the Food Bank so that “they”, our former employees don’t starve because their jobs have been sent overseas.

Corporate Citizenship takes a broader look at cost and benefit and takes into consideration the direct and indirect benefit of allocation of profits to our communities by utilizing local manufacturers.  Yes, it impacts local employment – which then in turn impacts community development (schools, roads, services, parks, recreation, …), attracts or retains a quality work force, reduces the dependency on government  sponsored services and supports self-sustaining families.  Benefits might also include the attraction of investment into our businesses, reduction in the cost of living and support for environmental sustainability.

This is not just a “feeling good” movement, there are significant and growing market demands and opportunities that are addressed in the CS model.  The hockey stick growth of a consumer base DEMANDING a “giving back” component for all businesses makes the CS methods of presenting – and promoting measurable positive impact cannot be ignored.  Those not following a CS approach are already behind the curve and risk being the next casualties in the battle for sustainability.

The true bottom line here is that instilling “good” in business is one of the best investments a business can make.  Including local manufacturing opportunities in the concept, design and development stages of business planning can achieve a significant return on investment.  This is not the only answer to our economic and social challenges but is one of significant and measurable impact!

Elect Standards, Not Slogans

I just attended a seminar on product marketing and could not help but connect the presentation to the inevitable onslaught of political campaign messages we see at this time of year.  The issue I had with the main presentation at the seminar was that, while expertly crafted by an individually knew how to sell, it in no way had any connection to the stated mission of the company.  Furthermore, it was clear that the product offering was to be of greater benefit to the shareholders of the company than it would be to the customers or employees of the company.  My question to the VP of Marketing of the company was “Who do you serve, the customers, employees, or the shareholders?”.  The answer was a very clear and confident “The Shareholders!”.  Honest but also disturbing.

As I listen to the scripted debates showcasing local aspiring congressional candidates I ask a similar question “Who do you serve, the citizens, party or the vested interest groups?” but sense a far different perspective from the first-time candidates than those seeking re-election.  I truly felt that the incumbents were not even answering the questions posed, choosing rather to take the opportunity to deliver a message they wanted the audience to hear.  Well prepared statements and slogans were the order of the day and while very well delivered they consistently lacked the sincerity or foundational values proposition.  It became very clear that their objective was clearly to say what had to be said to get re-elected.  What standards they would perform by never took the stage.

I would like to believe that the VP initially thought he would serve the customer and the first-term politician could make a difference but upon reflection, I don’t believe that either have those respective position at heart.  The difference in the two individuals was that the VP told me that the customer was not his first priority, the politician tried to get me to believe the constituents were.  The VP was selling his product (share price) to the shareholders and the politician selling his product (a friendly vote) to his party and special groups.

What we, the customers and constituents too often get is not the best we could get or even what we really need – but we buy it!  We eat the junk food (that kills us), watch the junk TV (that entertains but demeans) and re-elect those that we dislike (defined by the polls).  We talk a great game – then sit on the sidelines and let others play theirs.

Being a good citizen is not always easy.  It requires high values, standards and ethics but not just on the podium, on the couch or on the sidelines.  As individual citizens or having the stewardship responsibilities as business leaders it is up to us to take a stand, take responsibility for our actions, influence and take action.  Why? Because we own it.  There is no “they”, only “us” and we are the stewards of our world and the people who live in it.  It isn’t a matter of choice either, it can only be us, we are the stewards.  What is stewardship?  Often defined as  “… the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”.

We are the stewards of our world –  our lives, our businesses, our communities.  Let’s not just change the world, let’s make it a better place.

Corporate Citizenship – an added risk to non-profits?

There is no question as to the growth of cause-branding, social entrepreneurship and Corporate Citizenship (I prefer this to Corporate Social Responsibility) but what is in question is the influence that these social impact initiatives will have on the traditional non-profit organizations and philanthropic ideals.
A recent article in The Atlantic titled Is For-Profit the Future of Non-Profit? presents some thought provoking perspectives from respected leaders in the camps of “pure” philanthropy right through what some people call “consumption” philanthropy. While some valid and insightful positions are taken I can’t see this as an either/or proposition and while none of us have that crystal ball I think that there is a place and need for all manners of impacting social outcomes. Yes, I firmly believe that there will be some adjustments to methods and practices but in reality, are not all of us who wish to influence social impact looking for improved outcomes? While we may not all be on the same page are we not in the same chapter or book or at least in the same section of the library?
I firmly believe that pure philanthropy is a critical component of a giving culture, that humanitarian organizations serve a vital role in society and that there is absolutely a need for Corporate Citizenship. There is a role for a non-profit business community but I also believe that not all non-profits provide the best possible solution to social problems and taking it even further, many should not be non-profits at all (a topic for another time)!
Yes, I am in the Corporate Citizenship camp and am passionate about instilling a “giving back” culture in for-profit entities but I also believe that we (for-profit, non-profit, cause brands, philanthropists, impact investors, …) could do a better job of joining forces and with our respective competencies and passion, have a greater impact on outcomes. After all, are not outcomes what are really important?

ARC Impact breakout session at the Utah Small Business Summit

 

Corporate Citizenship – the new model of IN Businesses

Market Driven, Investment Ready

 With the establishment of benefit corporations in Utah this year we now have more options for business structures than ever before . . . but very few business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs fully understand these different entities or which best serves their vision.

The traditional division between for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations is no longer as clear as it once was.  Along with the new “B-Corp” model and the popular acceptance of “cause-related businesses,” we are seeing a movement away from traditional “Corporate Social Responsibility” for profit based entities and the emergence of a new “IN Business” model.  “IN Business” means a balance between corporate citizenship and economic sustainability can exist.  The issue then, is how can you establish this balance that achieves long term growth while satisfying socio-economic objectives?

The essential question for all businesses, emerging or established, is: “Which entity, structure or model will help achieve maximum outcomes in tomorrow’s business ecosystem”?  Issues relating to tax, operating cost, reporting requirements, business and product branding, business development, investment opportunities, and exit strategies are just some of the areas ripe for discussion.  Whether a business owner, senior manager in an established business or  just one about to begin the entrepreneurial journey, you must know the critical components of each of these in order to make educated and informed decisions!

Decisions on business structure should be taken with strong advice from legal and financial professionals, but having an opportunity to engage with a panel of professionals representing the four major business entities is an experience for which every business owner should take advantage.

On Wednesday, October 8th ARC Impact and Impact Navigators, leaders in Utah’s Corporate Citizenship movement will lead a breakout session focusing on the Market and Investment Opportunities for the new breed of businesses. There will be a brief presentation on the model, then the floor will be open for your questions.  Our panel will include legal, financial and business leaders who can give you first-hand facts and data about the tremendous opportunities in this space, along with sound guidance in mitigating risks to the realization of your vision.  This is not a lecture session, we want to provide real information that you can use right now!

Maybe you are just formulating your vision or need to adjust for the new opportunities.  Some might need to reinvent their model that just isn’t meeting expectations.  Whatever your situation is you’ll want to participate in this emerging movement.

 

Click Here To Register for the summit!

Standars change – even for Standard Oil!

Corporate Citizenship is becoming more than a movement, it is becoming the NEW STANDARD.  If you have not brought a “giving back” component into your company culture you just may be swept away by your competition!

http://www.fa-mag.com/news/rockefeller-foundation-joins-climate-change-cause-19263.html

Don’t support your local non-profit …

… simply because they are local.

We support many non-profits in our region (and benefit corporations – but that discussion is for another time) and the fact that they are local is a significant factor but not the only consideration. We want to feel good about not only our giving but more importantly what outcomes are being realized by the organizations we support. We want to know that our money is being well spent and not lost in a “black hole” but, as businesspersons, we also have to look at other factors to be considered.

One of the top factors for us is that who we support is a component of our brand and our brand is much more valuable than the amount on a check we might write. We feel an obligation to our clients, staff, stakeholders and community to make good decisions on our giving and take this obligation seriously. As a result we spend considerable time and effort in researching, vetting and monitoring the prospects as we would any partner, investor or associate. How?

There are a number of rating organizations out there and while we do utilize their ratings in our research we do not depend on them. As we say at ARC Impact, “Every organization has it’s own fingerprint, it’s own personality, and it’s own purpose” so how we assess an organization is by asking a simple question – WHY?

WHY are YOU the best organization for us to partner with or recommend? We don’t want to hear only about the social purpose but WHY YOU? Feeding the hungry? A wonderful purpose but many organizations engage in that cause, so WHY YOU?

What are the answers that resonate best with us? Less about the organization, the infrastructure or prominence in their field and more about the measurable outcomes. Supporting this approach we often ask “How is the world a better place after you have delivered your product or service? What are the metrics you use to determine this and how have you performed against them?” This discussion cannot be limited to the social component of the organization and we will likely also ask the question from the business side, “How are you managing the business side to assure maximum performance and sustainability? Yes, we will then be looking for the business metrics and performance. No, we do not rely solely on statistics such as an efficiency rating but yes, this is a consideration.

Essential to us is that the organization has their own brand and that the social and business standards, objectives, metrics and performance support their brand. For us, when we feel comfortable that an organization has established their own fingerprint, personality and purpose and can back up their performance with facts and data, they are much more likely to get our support and maybe even more importantly, becoming ambassadors for their organization.

Yes, we place most of our investments into organizations within the communities in which we live and serve but we do support others as well.  This is our approach and we do not promote this as the template for all to follow. However, we strongly encourage all businesses to develop their own Corporate Citizenship model and take your social investing as serious as you would any other investment in your business.