At RockCorps, we are obsessed with scale. Scale, however, was very hard to attain in my previous work in the non-profit sector. There was often a disconnect between the efficacy of the work being done and funding sources; whether the funding sources were from private sector, public sector, foundations or individuals. Funding priorities change as governments change, foundations and corporate CSR goals shift focus or economic winds blow in and out.
When we created RockCorps we set out to find a new funding source that would make our movement –focused on youth engagement - truly sustainable.
In the UK Economy GDP is structured historically at 40% Government, 55% Private Sector, and 5% Charity or 'Third Sector' (Government a bit higher now since the crisis of 2008). How can you scale and make a massive social impact to solve Society's issues with just 5% of the ammunition?
We were intentional about not making RockCorps a charity. While we completely understand that social impact is a stool with three legs: public, private, non-profit; we didn't want to compete with our community partners (NGOs, charities and non-profit organisations) for limited funding. And Government - with its shifting priorities - is just messy.
So, we set out to work with 55% of the pie - the private sector.
But we had a great deal of learning to do.
The number one goal - a goal enshrined in law - of a profit-distributing organisation is to increase shareholder value.
For RockCorps to prosper by partnering with private enterprise, we needed to be able to do it all. That is, we had to focus on increasing shareholder value, by helping our partners sell more goods and services - and improve society at the same time. In order to show the value of our partnership we had to prove that these things were not and must not be mutually exclusive.
If we can deliver programmes that increase shareholder value to our brand partners, we know that we will engage more youth into their local communities; 150,000 so far in 9 different countries with over a million more in our extended social media communities.
The beginning of our journey, was to learn how our Brand Partners measure our impact with them. We had to discover how we drive important metrics such as Brand Affinity and Love, Purchase Intention – as well as key measures such as public perception and relations with Government.
It is vital for platforms such as RockCorps to understand what the value is to brand partners, and to constantly measure, prove and improve our impact. However, it is just as important for businesses to develop their own measurement techniques that enable them to link their social impact programs to shareholder value.
There are so many great examples of shareholder value and social impact being nearly 100% correlated; Toms Shoes, Zip Car and A to Z Textiles are some of our favorites. But every and any organisation can meet its legal obligation to generate shareholder value by being an enlightened enterprise not just those positioned as explicitly ethical.
Increasingly, it isn’t about what you do but why you do it- as the economist John Kay points out – often the most successful companies are those that chase goals that are oblique to chasing profit, often allied to a greater purpose or role in the world.
Developing internal measurement techniques will encourage other routes to profit, while increasing social impact.
When we first started nine years ago – the CSR and Marketing teams within our brand partners often didn’t know one another.
This has radically changed, with these teams today often working side by side or even completely integrated. Measuring social value gives marketing departments and CSR teams the confidence and internal support to form partnerships that deliver a much greater scale of both social impact and brand impact.
If we can get that 55% of the ammunition working toward social impact – our obsession with scale can begin to pay off and massive impact becomes the norm…and changing the world seems less cheesy.