‘Impact ideas’
Andrew Greer - Jan 11 - Columnists

Giving back may not solve the problem

Image: Katie Huisman

I’ve been thinking a lot about giving back and community needs. I’d like to build solutions from the ground up rather than waiting until I’ve made it to give back.

The practice of ‘giving back’ has become expected. Many companies, events, and products contribute something back to those who are experiencing either temporary or permanent need.

Tips at your favourite lunch spot go to the food bank. Ten dollars from your oil change goes to the women’s shelter. A few thousand a year might go into a corporate foundation which employees can help decide where to spend the money in the community. One percent of your purchase might go to the planet. A company may take a day off per year to volunteer together. There are myriad ways to give back to serve diverse needs.

Giving back isn’t going away. It’s changing.

The next evolution of company or organization will build solutions from the ground up rather giving back. Staff, customers, communities, and investors are looking for organizations who live and breathe value and outcomes rather than profit and programs. It means addressing the root of the problem from the ground up.

This is starting to show up in different ways for different organizations.

  • Living wages are being paid rather than giving back to food banks to support employees who don’t have enough money to pay rent and buy food;
  • Hybrid organizations, like Community Contribution Companies (CCC) are incorporating as for-profit social enterprises but have 40% caps on profit to shareholders; the other 60% has to go into community investment;
  • Organizations are choosing diversity of sex, age, income, ability, race, and more in hiring practices, boards, senior leadership teams, partners, etc.;
  • Organizations are building products and services differently with suppliers who rebuild the community rather than destroy it;
  • Shared value models are developing which truly share strengths between companies and community organizations to provide benefits to both.

Taking from the community, the planet, and the people while giving a little bit back is outdated and insufficient.

Building organizations who replenish, rebalance, and build is the way forward.

Andrew Greer is a co-founder and community catalyst at Purppl (Purposeful People), a social enterprise accelerator in Kelowna, British Columbia. He is an experienced program manager, sales manager, and community builder. He also plays an active role in building acceleration programs for tech startups with Accelerate Okanagan.

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