On June 17th, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend the Social Impact Exchange 2014 Symposium on Scaling Social Impact at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC. The Social Impact Exchange is a national membership association dedicated to scaling impact in the social sector. In its 4th year, the symposium has become a magnet that attracts and brings together nonprofit executives, funders, professional service providers and academics to network, brainstorm and learn from some of the brilliant minds in the social sector.
This year some of dynamic personalities that took to the stage were Amy Celep of Community Wealth Partners and James Segal of KaBoom. Amy emphasized the importance of solving social problems at the magnitude they exist and provided 3 insights to developing a strategy to match the scale of the problem.
1) Set a bold goal
2) Influence is key
3) Talent trumps all else
James Segal from KaBoom, a nonprofit dedicated to making ‘play’ an important part of the lives of children in America, talked about why children need ‘play’ to thrive and its importance for their health and wellbeing. According to James, building play spaces alone does not solve all problems, but must be accompanied by a well thought out strategy. He has the following insights to share:
1) Convert awareness to action- Increasing awareness of why ‘play’ is good is not a problem, the problem lies in not being able to convert awareness to action.
2) Influence strategy – Employ strategies that can strongly influence key stakeholders and attempt to change the rigid norms and behaviors.
3) Evaluate strategies and ensure it has the reach and scale to be successful.
4) Grasstops action- Action should not be centered only at the grass roots level, community/government/corporate leadership and involvement is key.
The second half of the symposium consisted of three breakout sessions focused on strategic communications. The breakout session I attended focused on “Issue Framing and Messaging: Finding, Developing, and Sharing the Organizational Stories that Rally Support and Grow Impact.” Thaler Pekar, CEO of Thaler Pekar and Partners, led this session and asked the audience to participate in a few storytelling exercises. This led to a lively discussion on the techniques of effective storytelling, issue framing, and messaging and the significant impact good storytelling can have on garnering support for a cause.
Last but not the least were the presentations by the three finalists in the Business Plan Competition. Each finalist echoed the ideas and insights expressed earlier in the day and presented business plans and strategies that would help them achieve their bold goals of scaling impact. The winner of this year’s competition is Friends of the Children, an organization that provides selected vulnerable children with mentors for 12 years (kindergarten to high school). The early intervention and long-term relationship have proved to be an effective strategy and helped them transform the lives of many children.