3 Bold Methods for Turning Capacity into Impact

Companies that make an impact fitting of their capacity also dare to be bold. They dream a dream big enough to capture the hearts of their stakeholders and they make a robust action plan to that realize that dream

Companies at their best and brightest can be stunning when it comes to getting things done. Whether it’s bringing a cancer fighting drug to market, coordinating legions of workers to build a skyscraper, or distributing cans of coca-cola a far as the Himalayas, companies are capable of bold initiatives, brilliant ingenuity and breath-taking productivity.

CSR professionals seek to be catalysts for companies to leverage their powerful resources and capacities for good, but often companies who perform well in their core business functions fail to bring the same mojo to their citizenship endeavors. Sure, they are giving back in some way and have some programs to show off, but the inventive, audacious vision they are capable of isn’t applied to their efforts to serve their communities and mitigate societal problems.

And, it makes sense. Companies have first priorities and each is at a different place in their endorsement of the notion of a triple bottom line. However, some companies get it! Some companies understand that the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent, and a result, they bring the magnitude of their capacity to bear in their citizenship endeavors.

At RW, we love discovering companies whose citizenship prowess matches their firepower. As a starting point, such organizations are always strategic, i.e., what they do best as a company is directed toward specific societal problems that require their particular stripe of expertise and resource. And, this is huge…

But it isn’t enough. Companies that make an impact fitting of their capacity also dare to be bold. They dream a dream big enough to capture the hearts of their stakeholders and they make a robust action plan to that realize that dream.

One of our favorites, Microsoft, is a great example of such audacity. Here’s how they do it:

Choose a bold issue.

Large companies that possess significant resources and expertise should endeavor to tackle bigger global problems. Microsoft is invested in many areas of need (e.g., nonprofits, disaster relief, jobs and growth, etc.), but their focus on youth and education is perhaps their boldest initiative yet. The numbers are mind blowing! In today’s world, there are more than 1 billion people ages 15 to 24 on the planet, comprising the largest youth cohort in history. Of that, 75 million were unemployed in 2011, and less than half (44%) of them enroll in the equivalent of high school and even fewer graduate. For of issues of this magnitude, we need all hands on deck, and companies need to join the fight. (Check out the infographic at the top of the page for a visual of this info.)

Enact a bold strategy.

A key challenge to preparing youth for viable livelihoods is the increasing rate at which new technologies are changing the nature of work in every sector from farming to industry to services. Today’s youth need resources that in the past may have been desirable and even advantageous, but today are simply mandatory. As a technology leader, Microsoft understands this dilemma and how they are uniquely poised to make education and technology more accessible for them. Although Microsoft has numerous programs running that seek to improve access to high quality education, we will highlight three:

  1. Partners In Learning – This program aims to help teachers around the world to build their skills, share best practices, and innovate in their classrooms through online communities or at events that connect teachers from the around the world.
  2. Shape The Future Shape the Future helps governments to imagine and attain universal technology access for all their citizens. Microsoft helps build the Public/Private Partnerships that lead to greater employability, economic recovery and a better future.
  3. Students to Business – In 2011, Microsoft trained more than 360,000 students worldwide in technology and job skills through Microsoft Students to Business, which connects students with Microsoft partner companies. Students benefit from unique mentoring, training and certification opportunities.

Be bold in how you collaborate.

High impact initiatives for global problems at the scale of the ‘youth bulge’ issue can never be effectively addressed by a do-gooder hoping to go it alone. Collaboration is a must. If the programs above don’t speak for themselves, Microsoft has taken collaboration to the next level through their commissioning of the “Opportunity for Action” report. Through this paper, drafted by the International Youth Foundation, Microsoft is seeking to raise awareness regarding the opportunity divide—“an emergent gap among youth between those who have access, skills, and opportunities to be successful, and those who do not.” The report is also a call to action to address the challenges limiting today’s youth. By commissioning this paper, Microsoft is seeking to generate a global dialogue about how technology and other investments can help bridge the divide for youth around the world and is committed to working with others businesses, the NGO community, and governments to help youth succeed in the global economy.

These initiatives and many others are great examples of a company matching their citizenship with their firepower. Their issue, their plan, and their partnerships are not only strategic…they are audacious!

You can find more information about Microsoft’s corporate citizenship on the Microsoft Citizenship Blog.

Realized Worth works with companies to design and implement successful employee volunteer programs. Shoot me an email to discuss what we can do for you: brentcroxton@realizedworth.com