“Social Impact” is, in some ways, an enigma. There are about about 1,710,000,000 search results on Google for “social impact,” but for a phrase with such a large amount of results, it sure seems hard to nail down one, universal definition.
Before you start your social impact business or incorporate social impact into your current business, career, or personal life, we need to think about what success in social impact means, and this logically starts with nailing down the definition of the term and using this definition as our measuring stick throughout the journey.
We are trying to find the formula for the science of social impact. What are the universal or recurring elements of social impact formulas and how do they apply to us? The formula for social impact is out there, and we intend to discover it.
- What is social impact?
- Why is social impact important today?
- How to make social impact part of your life
What is social impact?
Understanding social impact must start at finding a basic definition that is universally accepted.
Social Impact has multiple definitions. We tend to use the word social impact all the time, but we don’t necessarily share a common thread amongst the use-cases. Picking up trash on the beach is an example of social impact, but littering out your car window is also an example.
Educational institutions often allude to social impact’s ability to address pressing social issues. Business publications will refer to the wellbeing of members of society, and international definitions often lead with the “effects” that a program or policy has.
As we piece all of these variations together, we conclude that Social Impact can be simply defined as your positive or negative effect on people and the planet.
Why is social impact important today?
In a world of lots of problems (and we all can agree on the abundance of problems), we need to focus more on solutions. Society at large is pushing us to “stay in our lanes.” We are conditioned to worry about ourselves first, and it puts blinders on.
We believe that it is our duty to “go outside of our lane” to help others however and whenever possible. One major way to help others is through social impact.
Positive social impact is important because it’s effective use will spawn replication, contributing to global improvements.
At Crate of Good, we frequently partner with companies that are social impact advocates- pushing social innovation and change through their products and missions. As a result, they create “cohorts” of customers and supporters who care about what they care about and believe what they believe. This is the textbook example of effective social impact fostering continued improvement.
Sometimes a business decides to incorporate social impact into a product, a product line, or their overall offering. Sometimes the business idea starts with the social innovation/improvement in mind. Other times, the business model comes first and AFTER the fact social impact is added. All roads lead to Rome here.
On our podcast, The Science of Social Impact, we learn about an architect student who just wanted to design a better phone case and eventually turned the endeavor into a business that has planted hundreds of thousands of trees around the world- business idea first and social impact following behind. We also interview an ex-corporate employee turned world traveler who saw poverty firsthand, specifically children not having school supplies, and built a school accessory company for children that is able to donate school supplies with every purchase- social impact idea first, business second.
As long as social impact is part of the formula, new social innovations will sprout and help our society improve. While all of this sounds great, we also have to ask, “How does this apply to us?”
How to make social impact part of your life
In our eyes, you have two choices when it comes to social impact:
- Go Deep: This means making a social impact that extends deep down into a specific population or cause. Example: You decide to provide 10 inner-city children with a new school uniform, new books, a tutor, and transportation to and from school.
- Go Wide: This means making a social impact that extends wide across a specific population or cause, but only on a superficial level. Example: You decide to provide 100 inner-city children with JUST new books and nothing else.
In the deep example, you turned donations into social impact that helps 10 children. In the wide example, you used social impact to help 100. Given only the numbers, one would say that you made a greater social impact in example 2, but this is a large gray area.
There are four steps to starting a journey in social impact. First, discover a cause or mission that you care about. Next, you make a list of all the organizations currently working to solve that problem or serve that cause area. Then you pick a couple of those organizations and start to inquire about how you can help them on their journey. Last, you ACT and start to help! This ultimate guide takes you through these steps in much more detail.
Step by step, we’ll guide you through the entire social impact process, and we’ll give you practical tips to easily bring social impact into your life.
Check out these links for more social impact content: