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Try Arguing With Einstein

By Jo Edwardes, Managing Partner, Good Karma Media

It was 20 years ago now that I wrote a thesis as part of my Executive MBA at Cass Business School, in London, which strongly argued that the world of business needed to change for the better.

At the time, it was considered a little ‘out there’ by some of the faculty with its focus on business becoming more purposeful, sensitive and holistic; more intent on people and planet (though my mentoring tutor, Dr. Benita Cox was, I recall, wonderfully supportive - and Cass has implemented some ground breaking ethical initiatives since). Certainly, the paper wasn’t arguing against the concept of profit either but at its core it highlighted that those of us engaged in commercial activities, leaders especially, needed to appreciate more fully that said profit did not exist in a vacuum.

To ensure I had some heavyweight backup supporting my case I grounded the paper in some inspirational social commentary from Einstein, which drew attention to the profound connectivity between us all and the world we live in, as well as a need to more fully realise this. ‘Try arguing with him’, I thought to myself…

This thesis was a real journey of exploration for me and undoubtedly one of the stepping stones that has led me to my work today in the social enterprise sector with the agency I co-founded, Good Karma Media (GKM).

Alongside my business partner and fellow co-founder Dave Craft, and a continuously expanding team, I am thrilled and delighted to be a part of the social value community. I had the privilege of getting involved with the sector as it first emerged in circa 2009, and as it slowly started to grow I had no doubt it was the place for me – answering a real and lifelong question about where I belonged in my working life. I am sure it has answered that question for many others and I hope it continues to do so for many more. Happily, the evidence suggests that there's good ground for this hope as recent research from Harvard points towards a focus on Purpose over Passion for career fulfilment and happiness. In addition research from Cone Communications shows that 76% of millennials consider an organisation's social responsibility before deciding where to work and given this generation will make up 75% of our workforce by 2025 - the change will only accelerate.

As part of my journey with social value I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of meeting with many enthusiasts for the space. One of these was Sir Ronald Cohen back at an APPG circa 2012. He’s known as ‘The Father of Venture Capital’ and has been an avid supporter of social enterprise since the start. Sir Ronald predicted that the social value sector will have a 30-year growth trend and eventually become mainstream. This means we are currently a third of the way into that growth trend and I can attest that the first 10 years have been at times very challenging for many social entrepreneurs, myself (and by extension a wonderfully supportive wife and family) included.

But this is rapidly changing.

A key element of this change is engagement with larger organisations and progressive, visionary leaders who are paying more than lip-service to the significant shift needed in the world. Their recognition that social enterprises can offer competitive and highly competent services, as well as deliver social value, is helping impact initiatives accelerate all over the country. With this acceleration will come more positive change, more awareness and ultimately more good being done where it’s most needed.

This commitment is vital if we are to see a reduction in the ‘dis-ease’ we have unfortunately created for ourselves in the world.

For our part, GKM was the first data-driven marketing, research and social value consultancy registered as a social enterprise in the UK. We’re based in Surrey, offer both regional and national services and love to work with companies who are authentically taking steps to improve their social and environmental contribution.

To this end we’ve been working with organisations like Amey plc, who are part of SEUK’s Buy Social Corporate Challenge group. We’ve been working on various communications and research projects, bringing our deep experience of PR, marketing, data and social value to support their activities. Part of this journey is helping them with their commitment to really understand local community needs and deliver relevant social value programmes at this level.

Directly witnessing and participating in this authentic and very real movement within large organisations and their people is genuinely heartening and inspiring.

The other part of what GKM does as a social enterprise involves our own commitment to creating social and environmental value. We deliver this value as an intrinsic part of our model in the amplification of social impact when working with clients that are driving this change, as well as delivering pro-bono support and services directly to social enterprises and charities – especially those that otherwise might struggle to afford us.

We focus on three areas in terms of impact: solving long-term unemployment, supporting local communities and amplifying and accelerating regenerative environmental projects.

As a part of our social impact journey we found ourselves connecting with and supporting the fantastic Mapis CIC. Mapis deliver high-performing solutions to help the long-term unemployed, including some of the more vulnerable groups in society, back into suitable employment. We’ve had the pleasure of working with the inspirational Maggie Sikora providing ongoing work to help them progress and grow. Much of this work has been possible due to our provision of ongoing marketing and data science services to the organic food company, Yeo Valley Farms.

In terms of our local focus, which includes amplifying the concept and importance of localisation itself, GKM has been engaged with Loveworks; a Surrey-based charity fighting food-poverty and supporting elderly people in the community. Here we are assisting with delivery of PR and communications and, looking ahead, web development and volunteering support. This support has been directly enabled through our work with Amey plc since March.

Finally, GKM’s vision for the future is to support the most forward thinking environmental programmes. Dave, whilst keen on all our social impact work, is especially passionate about the environment. He’s pointed out to me the variance in the impact of differing environmental programmes from ‘no real impact at all’ through to truly regenerative - and as a result our goal here is to support, accelerate and amplify awareness of the regenerative mission as much as possible.

So far, the journey in social and environmental impact work has been by equal measure challenging and rewarding, the latter in ways that are wonderful to experience when the feedback confirms that social value is being achieved. And whilst there is an ever-growing and urgent need, and a great deal more for all of us to do, the good news is more and more of us are actually doing it - which could provide good karma for us all one day.

To find out more about our work and how we can help visit:

#sustainability #socialenterpreneurship #leadershiptransformation #socialimpact

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