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Social Impact Companies Need to Restructure To Survive

Big Thinks Contributor Alicia Alfonso and Helen Keller quote, "Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much."

Before the pandemic and before lockdown which was just over a year ago, the world was already seeing the shift of enterprise organizations to “organizations for good.” Once the pandemic hit, organizations for good no longer fell only to non-profits and social impact organizations. The world started demanding large and enterprise corporations take accountability as well.  Their operations and products not only have to do no harm, but also have to support a better, safer, healthier, and more equal world. And not only support ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) but be able to prove it with data. 

A lot of this has to do with the current make-up of the workforce. Millennials are now the largest working population, which means the old rules don’t apply. Millennials grew up with parents telling them to do well in school, go to college, pick a major, then go out into the world and find a “forever” job. They were told that this was the American Dream. Well, by the time Millennials graduated college or went out into the working world, they lived through the Great Recession where entry-level no longer meant no experience. Where goals when graduating college or high school was just to find a job, being considered lucky if it was in their chosen field. And if you were able to go to college, you can add crippling debt to that equation. The American Dream that Millennial parents preach no longer exists.

So what does this all mean for Social Impact Organizations? It means that the old ways no longer work for them either. Enterprise-level companies with billions of dollars at their disposal are quickly going to make start-up and small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) obsolete unless they quickly adapt and change. It’s not possible to compete with Fortune 500 companies that decide to step into their space. With billions of dollars available to them, they can do things more quickly, more efficiently, and with quicker impact than start-up and SMBs that likely had the idea first. With the world calling on all companies to be Organizations for Good, Social Impact Companies need to restructure to survive.

So what does this restructure look like? Well, the one thing start-ups and SMBs have is a much easier ability to pivot, try new things, make mistakes, and try again. Social Impact Organizations need to understand that moving quickly is life or death if you choose to work in this space. Now, moving quickly shouldn’t be confused with moving or pivoting for the sake of moving. In the past, things could be done based on an assumption or even a whim and organizations could still see mild success. Actions that change the course of your trajectory need to be backed by data. In a world that is beginning to demand and expect proof of your impact, data is a key to not only prove what you are doing is working, but to also make educated decisions about what actions to take. As soon as possible, figure out how to measure the work that you are doing to keep your social impact business relevant. If you don’t already have good measurement tools in place, find systems that fit the organization’s needs right away. 

Also included in organizational structure is the make-up of the organization’s workforce. These are the employees that bring the Social Impact Organization to life. The big shift here is away from full-time employees to contractors. Contractors and freelancers come in and out of organizations at specific times to support the business’s needs at that moment. By using the data that you set up for your organization as well as identifying the organization’s immediate support needs, you can make smart hiring decisions. This will help manage overhead and free up funds to use elsewhere. Data shows that very soon, the majority of the workforce will be freelancers and contractors. However, shifting to a freelance/contractor workforce doesn’t mean that Social Impact Organizations can shy away from the responsibilities that it owes its workers. Culture and workplace integrity are more important now than they ever were, and that expectation from Gen Z will be even bigger. 

The important thing to remember is why your Social Impact Organization exists. You are trying to make the world a better place. Adapt, shift, and remember that the old way of doing things no longer works. Track everything through systems and data, bring in specialists when you need them, and do the work to change the world!

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