Opinion Piece by Lauren Biegler, RipplEffect CEO
It’s fall 2017 and I’ve enrolled our fledgling company, RipplEffect, in the Nexus DC Summit for our official debut among industry peers and professionals. I was excited and nervous…mostly nervous…to be in a room of next-generation leaders, brands and social entrepreneurs, who all shared a heartbeat for the impact I wanted to make: using business as a catalyst to create social change.
When I arrived on the first day of the Summit, I looked around the room, whirring with suits, ties and stilettos (something akin to the entry floor of the United Nations), unsure of how to get myself in the conversational ring.
Do I just tap someone on the shoulder and hurl my ideas at them? Maybe I just slooth into a group convo, laugh like I know what they are all talking about. Or maybe I just play it cool…grab some smokes and stay outside the whole time. But wait, I don’t smoke…and that’s insane.
I chose to speak to noone and sheepishly ducked in and out of a few breakout groups, until I arrived at one where a person’s input inspired me to feel ready to voice my opinion: The Convergence of Western Capital and Emerging Markets. The speaker that ignited this spark of action in my vocal cords hailed from a generational family foundation that provides grants for emerging creatives to produce documentaries on current events.
I approached him, and said, “I work in media with companies like…(rattle off household brand names here)…and want to use the power of media and business to educate on the realities of social progress and the marginalization of people who can’t really share their story because of their limited access to resources.”
He deadpan looked me in the face and said….
“Have you ever considered the difference between looking good, and doing good? Unfortunately, you’ve picked the wrong person to talk to today. I believe you’re doing nothing but slapping lipstick on a pig for a paycheck. Have a nice day.”
My stomach dropped. I could not believe it. What had I missed?
It took a few deep dives into that interaction, to realize that doing good, for the sake of looking good, can be, and most often always is, an exploitative process. The nature of social change (sustainability, labor rights, give-back programs) is that it involves the lives of other people, and to share their lives, is a right that is earned, not given.
When you share the story of someone who has had trauma, tragedy of grief, it is with their consent, and with the shared desire to better the path for someone else. To honor the reciprocal ecosystem we share and use the story to really help someone we may not know.
What I also reflected on, is that being a household brand name, or someone with access to resources, does not disqualify them from being able to change the way things have been done. To do this, it takes an awareness and commitment to revisit a company’s genesis…to pop-the-hood, and examine the entity that has been built. To ask, is this…company, non-profit, community, etc. running the way we want(ed) it to? Have we put this in auto-pilot? Did we get into this to make money, or to give people something?
If you’re ready to start there, RipplEffect will humbly examine those pathways towards progress. Contact us.