News and Views

The future of social impact: takeaways from Engage for Good 2024

Christine McElhinney
May 23, 2024
News and Views

The future of social impact: takeaways from Engage for Good 2024

Last week over 600 social impact leaders convened in Minneapolis for three days of learning, connection, inspiration, and celebration at Engage for Good 2024 (EFG2024). As an organization that empowers corporate and nonprofit professionals to create mutually beneficial social impact partnerships, Engage for Good’s conference was focused on Turning Moments into Movements. Content focused on how social impact professionals can shift from isolated campaign moments to being the driving forces within social movements.

While I have worked in the social impact space for over a decade, I left the event inspired by four big ideas that will continue to shape the social impact work we do at thinkPARALLAX, and will likely shape the future of community engagement: 

1. Everything is interconnected and that should inform our work.

It’s vitally important to recognize how actions and decisions are connected to other issues and causes. Most issues don't exist in a vacuum and are connected to a host of other challenges that you have the opportunity to positively (or negatively) impact. For example, a program focused on reducing the impacts of climate change might also bring to light how certain communities are disproportionately impacted by this issue (intersecting with your environmental justice commitments), and can also tie directly to work around disaster relief, hunger, water scarcity and many other causes. By recognizing this interconnectedness, we can better understand the issues we are trying to address more holistically and identify the partners, programs, and actions that will make our work more impactful.

One way to assess this is by using a logic model.  Shared in a recent article by my colleague, Nicole Lambert, a logic model provides a roadmap for social impact programs: how they are expected to work, what activities need to happen (and in what order) for them to be successful, and how desired outcomes and impact are achieved… and interconnected. 

2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is here to stay.

We recently published an article “Why the ESG backlash is overblown” where Kaveri Maranthe stated, “ESG and DEI aren't going anywhere for one simple reason: corporations are fundamentally rational entities, and ESG and DEI deliver business results.” And this message was reinforced throughout EFG2024, as conversations highlighted that as the world becomes more diverse, it’s important to understand how various identities, backgrounds and experiences play out in social impact work.  This includes gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ status, disability, age, generation, caregiving status, military status, and many more dimensions of diversity. By considering these, we should be consistently asking ourselves:

  • When we make decisions are we including the individuals and communities who will be engaged or impacted? 
  • Do we truly understand the lived experiences of our stakeholders or are we making assumptions based on our own perspectives and biases?  

As Myles Worthington (Worthi), Diego Mariscal (2gether International) and Alix Lebec (Lebec) discussed at the conference, there is great opportunity in activating underestimated audiences with authenticity and consistency year-round.  There is also an important shift from “calling out” (or “cancel culture”) to "calling in,"  a framework shared by human rights activist, Loretta J Ross, that creates space for growth, forgiveness, and understanding.

3. There is a move from transactional to transformative. 

Engage for Good’s CEO, Muneer Panjwani kicked off the conference by challenging us to consider: “What is your role in the movement? What unique value do you or your organization bring to the movement?" Once upon a time, supporting a passion project, making a one-time donation, or “cause hopping” was the norm in corporate social impact, but now we’re seeing corporate and non-profit organizations establish long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.  

The best partnerships align on a shared purpose, innovate together, and build trust over time, which ultimately allows partners to create larger, sustained impact. The Halo Awards— EFG2024’s main event celebrating leading social impact programs, campaigns, and leaders—highlighted some examples including the 100 Million Meals Challenge (Hy-Vee and Feeding America), Drag Defense Fund (RuPaul’s Drag Race, MTV, World of Wonder and ACLU), Women Know How (P&G and CARE) and Tom’s of Maine Incubator. 

4. Our shared humanity is at the core of everything we do. 

To start day two of EFG2024, Alli Murphy, Managing Director at Engage for Good, spoke about human-centered leadership and shared three tips for making the most of the event: Be curious, Be vulnerable, and Be self-sustaining.

The third tip, “be self-sustaining,” stood out to me, as it’s something we don’t always focus on in social impact. By focusing on a cause, community, organization, or issue, often that can mean putting ourselves last.  She emphasized that by prioritizing ourselves, we can more effectively do this work for the long-term. This could mean getting outdoors more, talking to a mental health professional, connecting with your community, or seeking guidance and support from your team or another organization that is aligned with your work and values (like thinkPARALLAX!).  Basically, in order to support the humanity of others and create the change and impact we all hope for, we must recognize and take care of our own humanity first.

As we look at the future of corporate social impact, incorporating interconnectedness, intersectionality, and humanity into our work will be the catalyst for turning moments into movements. If you were at Engage for Good or want to connect on social impact, please reach out!

The future of social impact: takeaways from Engage for Good 2024
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tap on the images below to open in a lightbox
No items found.