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Business Must Design For Impact

26 April 2018 at 8:48 am
Wendy Williams
New challenges are emerging in the world of social impact as there is growing expectation that business and business leaders will contribute to the issues that matter most to society, according to the director of LBG Australia and New Zealand.

Wendy Williams | 26 April 2018 at 8:48 am


Business Must Design For Impact
26 April 2018 at 8:48 am

New challenges are emerging in the world of social impact as there is growing expectation that business and business leaders will contribute to the issues that matter most to society, according to the director of LBG Australia and New Zealand.

Simon Robinson told Pro Bono News that many business leaders were beginning to find their voices and make their positions known, both here in Australia and globally.

“We increasingly saw last year quite a few companies coming out and having a very clear stance on same-sex marriage for example,” Robinson said.

“Probably five years ago I doubt that would have happened, that companies would have been coming out with very public statements as to what they think about that issue or any other issue.

“Companies are being clearer and bolder in terms of making statements as to the social impacts they want to have and taking a position on that. Building on some of that momentum let’s be clearer and bolder about what we want to achieve and develop more impact-led strategies to achieve those goals.”

Robinson said this also brought new challenges.

“Measurement is always a challenge, and as companies are innovating in how they’re investing in society there’s still room, and there always will be, for more philanthropically driven investment,” he said.

“Increasingly you’re seeing more strategic investments. Increasingly we’re seeing companies innovating and looking at social procurement for example as a vehicle to make a difference.

“I think there’s a lot of muddy waters around what we mean by shared value.”

The organisation has now launched a new program called Design for Impact which aims to help companies move beyond measurement towards designing for social impact and help solve some of the world’s biggest social issues.

The intention behind the workshops, the first of which will be held in May, is to share and encourage dialogue between companies in order to demonstrate how and where to prioritise effort for maximum impact.

“We’re interested in a new approach for companies who are wanting to move from, I guess what we might call more traditional ways of investing in the community to more impact led strategies,” Robinson said.

“Starting with essentially what are you aspiring to have impact upon, to change and then work backwards, to design the program around that.

“It’s fairly radical, well maybe not quite radical, but it’s trying to think about it in a very different way, and bring into the thinking lots of international case studies where companies from elsewhere in the world are perhaps further along the track than we are in Australia, to achieve these goals.”

Robinson said understanding the impact you wished to create was also a vital building block for not for profits developing corporate partnerships.

“You see time and time again [organisations] try and kind of retrofit and go back and say ‘what impact have we had?’ but they never had the conversation to see what impact they were intending. To go back then and work out what the impact you had is tricky but if we get that clear, upfront from the start, what are we trying to do here, who are we trying to do it with, by when etc, then when you have done it you can tell the story much more effectively,” he said.

LBG supports not-for-profit organisations with corporate-community partnership reporting, impact measurement and strategic partnership development through its LBG for Community program.

The aim of the program, which launched in 2017, is to give community organisations an understanding of what corporate partners are seeking from their partnerships and help them develop their tool kits for more successful partnerships.

Robinson said the aim was to give not for profits some guiding principles which they can use to govern how they approach corporates, and then how to measure and report the inputs and outputs and the impacts of the partnership.

“When I think it really works is when I see a process where not for profits or vice versa are actually suggesting impacts that the other party could track,” he said.

“So they are actually beginning to say ‘I’ll get it from your side. Why don’t we track the views of your employees that participate in these activities?’ They are beginning to see it from the point of view of what the company might be after.”

He said language was crucial.

“Having worked in this space for a number of years, I’ve seen time and time again how frustrating it is where partnerships are not working to the best possible outcomes because both parties are not fully understanding each others thinking or maybe they haven’t taken the time to understand it or they only see it from their own perspective,” Robinson said.

“There is a lot of confusion out there, is it CSR versus community investment versus sustainability versus shared value. There are lots of different ways of describing what it is we’re talking about, and not everyone necessarily has the same understanding of what we’re talking about so if we all have the same language, we have the same glossary that we’re working to, that in itself can help us take a few steps forward.”

Robinson said it was essential for not for profits and corporates to understand each other.

“Both are aspiring to work together, to derive value from working together, and so if they’re able to communicate and ‘speak the same language’ and understand each others’ drivers and aspirations for working together, then I believe that can ultimately provide a much more fruitful relationship for both parties and therefore, it is a slight cliche, but you have the win-win-win,” he said.

“The business wins, they have greater value because the not for profit side understands what particular aspirations or impacts they might be seeking and vice versa. So everybody benefits and ultimately society will benefit and the partnerships will be stronger.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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