Reflections on Human Capital and Social Impact in the 21st Century

“Organizations are no longer judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large—transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.” – Deloitte Insight, 2018 Global Human Capital Trends

I recently returned from the Net Impact Conference, and for the first time since I started my MBA 2+ months ago, I have returned with a bit of an outline of a career pursuit plan. This, combined with the flexibility of a long weekend mixed with just finishing mid-terms, allowed me to return to some notes I had taken from some wonderful informational interviews I’ve had since beginning my program.

From Brooke Brown-Saracino, I had a note to read Deloitte’s report, as quoted above, to explore my interest in organizational development and human management (basically, HR for the 21st century.)

I was not all-together surprised (but still pleasantly so) that this year’s report was at the intersection at the three of my chosen career/intership pursuits, which I had spent this weekend refining different resumes in to highlight my abilities in each: Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Centered Design Consulting, and the aformentioned Org Development.

I next went to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, as recommended by Cleveland Justis.

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From there, I linked to this interesting article, which I found on the homepage though it dated to 2007… seems like it might have some current relevance I’m guessing?

So, if as Deloitte puts it, if orgs in 2018 are being transformed from business enterprises to social enterprises, what does that mean?

“We define social entrepreneurship as having the following three components: (1) identifying a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity… (2) identifying an opportunity in this unjust equilibrium, developing a social value proposition, and bringing to bear inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude… and (3) forging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large.”

Wow.

Is this even possible in our biggest corporations, existing, as they are, to make money for their shareholders? Deloitte notes that in a recent survey a whopping 65% of CEOs rate “inclusive growth” as a strategic concern, while only about 20% cited “shareholder value.” The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that people worldwide placed more trust in business “to do what is right” than the government.

Of course, this definition is over a decade old so I went to the most recent issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

I found an article on Mastering System Change. The writing wasn’t directly focused on this issue of thinking about human capital and social change as a primary goal of a company, but it had some profoundly applicable points.

“Organizations are increasingly turning to system change to tackle big social problems. But systems are complex, and mastering the process requires observation, patience, and reflection.”

Two of the primary suggestions offered to master the process were “do things right before doing the right thing”, i.e., in this context, learn how to function as a social enterprise even if you don’t quite know what the perfect fit for your organization’s identity is yet, and “hire and nurture people with a commitment to learn”, urging away from the impulse to go with prior expertise and knowledge, and instead hire for curiousity and desire to learn.

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That made me think of Phil Balagtas, and the amazing role he is playing in bringing together futurists to engage online and in person.

So I decided to sign up for his event on Tuesday in San Francisco. Road trip!

Because clearly this is a question not just for the present, but perhaps more vitally, for the future. For, as Phil puts it, futurism is not about prediction, but about possibility.

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Wrong kind of Futurism…

And, as Deloitte puts it, “Foundational to behaving as a social enterprise is to listen carefully to the external as well as the internal environment—not just business partners and customers, but all parties in society that an organization influences and is influenced by.”

Music to my ears.

As I did last week, I’ll end by once again recommending Imperative, with its outgoing and hard-working CEO Aaron Hurst. You can request a 7 day trial of their purpose accelarator, and it is well worth it. It addresses, on an individual level, an interesting complement to what Deloitte is investigating on a multi-organizational level.

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Imperative Office (I’m assuming, it’s from their website)

I don’t want to give much away of what it goes through, as I urge you to try yourself, but I wanted to leave you with something I was very touched by in its assessment of my personal potential. It’s comething we can all strive for.

“You may already recognize how frequently you visualize the outcomes that work has on real people. You look beyond the “how” and focus on “what we are trying to achieve” for a certain target group. This is how the best impact-driven leaders show up at work. You bring this gift to everybody that you work with on projects, in strategy sessions, and in meetings. It’s where you feel in the flow, what gives you your edge, and what helps you to create breakthrough solutions.”

If that is not a reflection on human capital and social impact in the 21st century boiled down to its very essence, I don’t know what is.

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