What is social impact and why is it in all of our best interests to build social impact into our life today? This guide to social impact tells all.
Richly Wills aims to help humanity, first and foremost, and the best way to do that is by aligning as many people as possible to their true potential through bringing out their vision and will to make a difference and helping them create social impact.
Today, many of us have the desire and will to ‘make a difference’ or ‘make the world a better place’, but may not have unlocked the tools or know-how to make it happen. Or we may already have the tools but haven’t worked out where to best place them or what might be the cause of us not picking them up and using them.
This usually comes down to not being able to clarify what exactly we want to do in order to make a difference, so it becomes rather desired words devoid of realistic action.
It helps to first understand what making social impact really means (and what it doesn’t).
Table of Contents
What Is Social Impact?
You could define social impact as the number of people’s lives you help improve over an extended period of time.
When we define impact we generally assume people want to make a positive impact on humanity, and this basically boils down to the people within our world who we go through life together with, but while we can’t really ‘impact’ past lives we can impact present and future generations, so social impacting is a forward-thinking approach to life.
We can both help people close to us directly or impact people more indirectly through indirect actions (that may even affect people’s lives we may not have directly intended to have impacted).
We generally can create social impact through helping people improve or simply helping more people. In fact, combining the two usually creates the most impact in an iterative and compounding process.
Think of compounding interest for your financial portfolio, well, compounding impact is also very effective (see leveraging).
Why We Struggle To Create Social Impact
Creating social impact might sound easy enough by definition but it’s not so straightforward.
There are often many roadblocks or misconceptions that can get in our way despite our best intentions which can leave the will to ‘make a difference’ just that, a wish rather than a reality.
We may be chasing goals that don’t align with our potential, we may have lost our creative child-within to visualise solutions or problems to fix, we may be lost in routines and conventions that keep us safe and limit our potential, or we may misinterpret its definition as selfishly only applying to our own lives (i.e. sounding like we want to make a difference but really seeking to comfort ourselves before others or to virtue signal as caring for others when in reality we aren’t acting in the same way to help others).
Creating an impact with our lives requires a certain will but also a set of skills and tools that can help us overcome limiting roadblocks that might hold us back and create impact more effectively (ones which we may already possess but which may just need channeling).
How To Create Social Impact
Tip 1) Align Our Aim To Purposeful Living
One of the biggest roadblocks towards finding purposeful living is actually focusing too much on our own purpose and less on the needs of humanity.
Of course, we live in an age where our wellbeing is everything, but with too much focus on what we get out of something, and not on what we provide, then it can leave many people with the desire to ‘make a difference’ to give up when that road isn’t always as enjoyable and happy as they thought it would be.
The fact is, no work is 100% enjoyable all of the time, and more to the point, we don’t really grow unless we are tested.
To find purposeful living isn’t about simply finding something easy and happy, but about something that brings the best out of us. Something that makes us want to wake up at 6am and get on and do it no matter what the weather or struggles ahead that day. Furthermore, it also doesn’t have to directly benefit us, as purpose is truly found when it feeds into helping society/humanity too, and this is what social impact really leads towards.
Motivation leads to momentum and when our motivation is there despite when something feels difficult we will naturally build more momentum, and we will find that our life manifests more and more feeling of purpose from it.
Of course, to get involved in something that builds social impact you have to be motivated in the first place, so aligning a goal that creates social impact to an internally purposed drive can only help create a positive spiral and upward synergy.
This is essentially all about ‘finding the right fit’ for us. We are unlikely to want to help find ways to create 0W (zero waste) policies if we have no motivating purpose behind doing so, so our first step is to find something that helps generate that motivational urge within us to improve something and then see how we can align that to creating social impact.
If you don’t know what it is that could motivate you then considering the Japanese mantra of ‘Ikagai’ can help here.
Ikagai essentially holds four basic truths that when combined help you find your driven purpose. When you find something that you are good at, love doing, can be paid for, and which is what the world needs or can benefit from, then Bingo! Ikagai!
Try not being motivated when you have that desired mix. Then you are much more likely to find more focused ways of ‘making a difference’.
Tip 2) Strive To Create Ethical Progression
Creating social impact means positive impact, not negative. There are already far too many companies that are solely in the business of value extraction rather than value creation.
Some may argue they are creating jobs for other people who otherwise wouldn’t be providing something towards the economy and therefore humanity, and in a sense they are right, but in another sense, they are just distracting from the fact that so many businesses don’t create the kind of value that ‘adds’ to humanity, and instead if the business was liquidated tomorrow it would have no negative consequence to human progression.
You could look at many businesses in both ways. Take Mcdonalds. On the one hand, they are creating thousands of jobs and feeding people around the world at a cheaper cost. Yet, on the other hand, they are leaders towards creating an obesity epidemic that already exists but which is (not so subtly) glossed over with ‘fast food’ advertising promoting the benefit over the concern.
This is very typical of many businesses today, who could create a much greater, ethical social impact if capital wasn’t of such fundamental importance to a business’s survival. But that doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t bother focusing on how to improve their business from all angles.
Of course, they need profits to grow, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that in the future they will also need to be socially impactful if they want to keep their customers, and therefore still profit. Consumers are becoming smarter by the day.
They are aware of the monetising tactics companies use to persuade them into buying something they may (or may not) need, and they are starting to lean towards those who show value and care towards their customers more (not in a fake ‘green bandwagon’ way but in a genuine progressive change for the better).
Companies don’t have to play the profit over purpose game in the future, as more people are wanting to be part of companies who they feel they are a part of creating dynamic social impact through, and therefore it becomes in companies best interests to provide the types of ethical services both staff and customers want.
There will be more and more openings in the future whereby work will feel like it does provide meaning and helps ‘make a difference’, and where valued solutions to future problems and world issues will be valued.
Tip 3) Leverage Is Key To Effective Social Impact
As mentioned before, think of compounding impact as similar to compounding interest for your financial portfolio, but instead of money, you are leveraging people in a positive synergy-led network.
It’s a known fact that two people can create more output than one, but actually two people create more than double the output one person can. There’s a synergy that compounds with more people involved, especially if they are on the same page and working for the same values and goals.
While there’s merit that comes from individual work too, co-creation is very important towards creating social impact. I certainly learned the hard (and slow) way through trying to do everything myself, and you can be the hardest worker in the world and it will still take you years what it can take a group of focused, synergised people to do in a couple of weeks.
This is why social media has been so impacting. It’s created the opportunity for movements to spread so fast, for causes to be met, and for communities to be built around pressing topics (although social media also has the ingredients for creating a very negative impact too).
Impact is magnified and maximised when we find ways to leverage our skills and desires. This doesn’t have to be directly through an obvious job title, but can be through many forms that can compound together to create growth in multi-channels.
Leverage can be created simply by developing our skills around the impact we want to make. When we consider an issue we might want to work on in order to solve a particular problem in the world, we are much more likely to create an impact when we develop the skills that help us do so.
Experience is gained over time and impact is generally bigger the longer we have worked on something, so it pays to keep refining our skills and knowledge, and to keep working towards solving problems that will lead to social impact.
Generally, these are bigger problems in the world, rather than a micro-problem, as they will indirectly impact more people as a result, but we can also create social impact when we aim to help more localised problems too. The result of that becomes more direct and we can often feel a bigger sense of achievement when we work on something that is closer to home where we see the direct result first hand.
Either way though, we will feel like we are making a difference only when we get involved, and when we bring other people to get involved in shared problems (that humanity faces together) then we find we can leverage solutions faster and easier, which will lead towards greater social impact.
Tip 4) Learn To Think Ahead
If we truly want to create social impact through our work (or in our life) then we can do no worse than seeking to look ahead.
It might sound like a negative pursuit to seek future problems, as well as fix ourselves on current ones. It’s clearly easier to focus our energy on something current and happy, but then that wouldn’t be ‘making a difference’.
It amazes me how often we think we can make a difference by acting the same, but if we all had a follower mentality then we would still be in caves today. To create change and to create social impact we have to be looking around and looking ahead to potential problems we have, and we have to think differently to make a difference.
We can’t create solutions if we don’t seek problems to solve. We can’t create a difference if we stay the same. We can’t lead by example and create something new if we stick to our comfort zone and follow others all the time.
Of course, developing a forward-thinking vision required to see problems that others can’t takes a certain mindset. It’s not a gift you are born with, even if society might make us believe there’s only one Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.
Well, there is, but there’s only one of you too, and we all have the ability within to conceive solutions.
If you don’t think so, then think about how those pioneers made their mark. They didn’t seek a solution to ‘nothing’, they sought a solution to a problem, and we can all envision a problem, in fact, this is where a pessimist-optimist comes into their forte, where futurists and disruptors go into their element.
It might not be easy at first if someone is so used to routine, survival thinking, so if we find it hard to think ahead then we may first need to learn how to rethink.
To make a change in ourselves or the world we have to rethink what we are currently doing. If we want to be able to create social impact then it means we have to think beyond our own limited paradigms and into thinking what people will need to help them in life.
There’s a huge array of modern social-led issues in the world to solve too, which will need constant iteration rather than one big fix, so being able to envision what problems people have can help us develop solutions that create a hugely positive social impact on people.
It’s not just about creating a solution to a potential AI dilemma, but about realising how something like instant gratification or comfort-seeking can be a roadblock for future humanity progression. There’s room for iteration and progress that creates social impact everywhere.
Want To Create Social Impact Today? If So, Start Asking Yourself These Questions:
Following those 4 principles above will help you on your way towards understanding how to create more social impact in your work or life, but you might be stuck in a rut or in a career that doesn’t bring you that satisfaction of ‘making a difference’, but the key might be to change that mindset towards thinking how you can ‘create a difference‘.
To learn how to create a difference, regardless of whether you are currently in a job that makes you feel that you can’t, it can help to ask yourself some change-inspiring questions:
- Are you in a job that isn’t bringing the best out of your potential?
- Even if you aren’t in soulless jobs, are you doing something beyond your own selfish purpose? By that I mean, are you dreaming of having your own time, money, freedom just so you can relax in life and sit on a desert island, OR are you seeking something in life that makes you feel that you are truly contributing your best self to something more meaningful than just your own happiness, something purpose and larger than you?
- Are you also seeking solutions (or to be part of a solution) in solving issues that our world/humanity needs? Or do you just ‘feel’ that you want to ‘make a difference’ but don’t really know where to begin manifesting it? Are you just conditioned to the ‘ideal’ or making a difference but in reality don’t really want to change yourself first?
- Are you joining protests and movements in the pursuit of making a difference but lacking in creating solutions that see tangible progress? Are you looking around and asking fellow protests ‘what now’ without any real idea?
- Are you hopeful in finding a ‘job’ that would answer your calling to ‘make a difference’ but no idea how to find it or create it?
It’s okay if you don’t know at first, but the steps towards creating change don’t come in seeking to simply feel more comfortable or better about the way we use our time in our day but in how we actively seek to change from a life that focuses on value extraction to one that seeks to create value, in ourselves, yes, but also in the world to impact others.
People need help in crafting this life.
We may think we want to find money and freedom to make life easier, only to find that isn’t really what we want at all, and that we are becoming more aware of the larger purposeful goals within humanity today and want to be a part of that.
We might also think that involves a ‘moral tax’ of having to choose between a ‘good job’ that pays well and a purposeful job, but this is fast-changing as the world of work becomes more value creation and purpose-driven, and one where businesses will see more value and profit in doing good.
A final word of caution: Don’t quit your day job…just yet.
As a stern reminder to the first principle in creating social impact, the danger is to mistake work with thinking it all has to ‘feel good’ because that is frankly a limited perspective on the reality of finding a purpose-driven existence, and this can lead towards work that fails to create value for others and only focuses on value on ourselves.
An economy run on this principle would fail pretty quickly, as the urgency would be towards all seeking to be free and happy on a beach somewhere rather than working on pressing issues.
Don’t quit your job for the sake of immediate change (you may only find yourself back and feel like a failure). We may want to be involved in solution creating, but this will be a lot harder to do if we don’t have an entrepreneurial, adaptable, and open mindset, so we have to seek to change that first.
That said, it’s in all of our best interests to build social impact into our life today as we will be benefiting humanity and therefore ourselves as a result of that. We will find a lot more motivation and energy within ourselves to feel as though we are doing something meaningful in life, and we will leave a lasting legacy, which is one of the 8 key stages of healthy human development.