On February 4th 2016 – 90+ members of the TSSS community gathered at the offices of Loyalty One in Toronto to be inspired by three pioneers who have forged new paths to address social and environmental issues. Joining us were Doug Miller, Founder of GlobeScan and author of Can the World be Wrong, Robert Shirkey, Founder of Our Horizon, and Paul Klein Founder of Impakt.
Pursuing a dream is filled with unknowns and the lifestyle definitely doesn’t suit everyone but these are the types of stories that inspire us all. It was clear from the moment that the event began that the audience was energized. Everyone took great delight in hearing firsthand about the challenges and obstacles that each of the guests encountered as they shared their stories.
Doug Miller, the Founder of GlobeScan and the GlobeScan Foundation, kicked off the night by taking us through his 15 years of experience polling global public opinions. His recent book “Can the World be Wrong” is the culmination of this experience. In the book Doug shares his insights on where global opinion suggests we may be heading in the 21st century on topics ranging from geopolitics, the UN, the economy and the role of companies. Some of the trends include:
- National governments – have reduced trust as leaders
- Globalization – is not widely seen in a favourable light
- Economic System – is seen to be flawed and in need of change
- Free enterprise – sentiments lean towards challenging the role of the marketplace
The world is changing. We are seeing the rise of the aspirational and ethical consumer coupled with the power of the internet and social media. It appears to be the perfect storm, where the public will have far greater power to push the agenda forward on social issues that they deem to be lacking attention.
To view free sample chapters please visit this website: http://www.
Next up was Robert Shirkey, founder of Our Horizon. Robert’s dream is a world where municipalities mandate climate change warning labels on gas pumps. It’s a simple but elegant solution aimed at creating a new conversation about the harm that is caused by something that we do every day with little thought as to the repercussions. Only with a new level of understanding and acceptance of our role in climate change, can we begin to collectively own our actions and look for solutions.
Robert’s background is in business administration, psychology and law, and all play an important role in providing him with the right mix of skills to make his dream a reality. But one needs to dig a little deeper to truly understand the source of Robert’s passion. The motivation to see this initiative through was the product of a close personal connection with his grandfather who helped Robert better understand where true happiness lies. Robert soon came to the realization that happiness was not going to be found in the busy, high-octane lifestyle of a lawyer but rather it was to be found in following his passion to fight for positive change.
Time, finances and political inertia are only some of the major obstacles that Robert faces every day. In one instance when project deadlines were looming, Robert chose to temporarily live at his office for two weeks to save transportation time. Funding is a never ending struggle and continues to be an uphill climb. Currently, the organization accepts donations via patreon which can be as little as $5 a month and as Robert says, “it all adds up and gives me more staying power to pay my bills and fight for change.” Lastly, Our Horizon has faced challenges in the political arena due to the fact that municipal leaders are not particularly welcoming to disruptive change and often want to see others adopt an initiative before they will jump into the ring.
Looking to the future
Despite the many challenges, Robert is successfully driving change. The pivotal point took place last year when West Vancouver passed a resolution to support gas pump labels. And with that one resolution the wall of resistance began to fall. Many neighbouring communities began to pass similar resolutions and eventually the Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed it at their annual convention in September 2015. In Ontario and New Brunswick, Oakville, Waterloo, Pickering, Guelph and Moncton have done the same. But the biggest news of all came in November of 2015 when the city of North Vancouver actually passed the resolution into law and formally became the first to lead the charge. Next up on the docket: raise the number of municipalities enforcing this initiative across Canada, the US and around the world.
There are three key services that youth who have experienced homelessness need; affordable housing, education and employment opportunities. And while many organizations are working to find solutions, Paul Klein, Director at Impakt, felt that more that could be done. What if there was a way to create a job portal that would connect youth directly with employers looking to address specific recruitment needs along with their CSR objectives?
Just do it
Once the idea had been hatched, Paul and his team immediately began the search for partners, establish goals that would make the initiative self-sustaining and set the launch date. One incredible partnership began with a simple cold call to the jobsite Workopolis, which eventually built the entire back end of the HireUp jobsite at no cost to Impakt. Another amazing partner has been The Home Depot who supported the initiative early with a shared vision to help find jobs for homeless youth.
Today HireUp has emerged as the world’s first national job portal targeted specifically at helping youth who have experienced homelessness. At its inception, the goal was modest, to provide jobs to 180 youths across Canada as well as to bring 10 national employers on board. As of February 6,, 2016, HireUp has successfully formed a relationship with 6 of those 10 national partners and has seen the first job posting go live on the site.
The future of CSR
Impakt is in the business of building social purpose initiatives that are profitable. HireUp is a perfect example of a social change initiative that works on the following four levels:
- Raising awareness of a pressing social issue – Youth Homelessness
- Providing the mechanism to address it – the Job Board
- Building partnerships with those with the ‘know-how’ – Workopolis technology to collect and interpret data on an ongoing basis.
- Creating a social enterprise – Hireup will be a revenue generating mechanism whose funds will be redirected back into the organization.
A note on leadership
Someone has to be first but those who come next, the first followers, are equally important. They must be nurtured and recognized as they will help to build momentum and legitimacy. This video illustrates it beautifully.
What if there’s no money to follow?
For our CSR Entrepreneurs, the business case was never the driving force. They were motivated by deeper convictions such as social-conscience, happiness and self-fulfilment. Now imagine if you were passionate about something and you felt like you could drive positive change but there was no clear way to pay your bills. What would you do? No one would fault you for taking the safe path but imagine if you took a chance, followed your passion and threw caution to the wind. Change isn’t easy BUT we all have a role to play – what will your role be?
Thanks to Debra Scott for capturing the images of the event!