Human Capital Investment: A Positive System Disruption

by Dr. Tauni Lanier, Former Executive Director, IMPACT 2030

Corporate Volunteering has been part of the fabric of corporates activities since the industrial revolution. The practice has a standard structure; numbers of hours employees engaged in community activity. This activity ranges from the very basic, such as painting walls or digging latrines, to the very complex, such as pro-bono work done by the highly skilled. There has been a demonstrable shift in volunteering moving from the realm of philanthropy, to being an integral part of the corporate social responsibility strategy.

Kenn Allen, of IAVE, one of IMPACT 2030 Founding Stakeholders, lays out the history of Corporate Volunteering best in his book, “The Big Tent.” This blog explores the new, the “what next” and introduces how a new innovative approach can help us achieve what we set out to do.

As we look ahead, I would like to ponder the new thought around “Human Capital Investment” via Corporate Volunteering and its impact on social activity and system change; from the traditional Corporate Volunteering programs to something new; from transactional to transformational. As a fairly recent newcomer to the corporate volunteering world, I am struck by a few questions:

  • What has been the objective of Corporate Volunteering? What is the business case?
  • Why has it not continued to evolve without significant changes? A Nudge or Sea-change?
  • How will Corporate Volunteering look and be implemented in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?

Recent exposure to the new work by Jeffrey C. Walker on Solving the World’s Biggest Problems: Better Philanthropy Through Systems Change, outlined in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and the presentation at SKOLL2017, sent me scurrying back to my books to look closely at the work of Clayton Christensen and his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which came out fifteen years ago. The question that I was reaching for, and which is addressed in depth by Christensen was, “Why is success so difficult to sustain?” which he poses in his “Theory of Disruption.” It is a valid question and theory when looking to successfully address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by deploying the valuable capacity of Human Capital Investment. Walker has taken the next step, by asking a similar question for the not-for-profit world. Simply put, he asks “Why, despite the sector’s collective resources and best efforts, do so many social problems remain so persistent?”

In my view, both questions lie in the gap between intention and outcome.

IMPACT 2030 is the only business led effort designed to marshal the power of Human Capital Investments to address the UN SDGs in developed and developing nations – and the first time that companies will unite their Corporate Volunteering efforts to address the United Nations development agenda through collaboration; in principle, a Positive Systems Disrupter. 

As a positive systems disrupter, the coalition intends to turn the current system on its head, deconstruct it and then build it up again. We do this to answer the question and heed the call to use collective resources and best efforts to successfully, sustainably and positively impact social problems. We can then cleverly deploy the six functional components, outlined by Mr. Walker:

  • Innovation;
  • Research & analysis;
  • Communication & awareness;
  • Policy change;
  • Measurement;
  • Integrating the innovation.

IMPACT 2030 does not want to undermine the current system of Human Capital Investment via Corporate Volunteering and Employee Engagement, but to enhance it by adding an element of innovation. The innovation rests solely on the back of collaboration (SDG #17), because the call from the UN is, Leave No One Behind, therefore we must act because, if no one is left behind, we all must lead.

To be classified as a positive disrupter, IMPACT 2030 must take on the mantle of both system change and theory of disruption. To blaze this new trail, the thinking and outcomes must be transparent and structured. The basics of the approach embody similar characteristics as those outlined by Walker and Christensen.

The first characteristic, systems change (or innovation, as Walker and Christensen would describe it) is demonstrated by IMPACT 2030’s effort to connect two or more company employee engagement programs to collaborate and work toward achieving one or more of the SDGs. In doing this successfully, the massive capacity of corporate volunteering can be deployed to address some of the most pressing issues facing the planet. This component put into action, sees our solution embedded into the firmly established Corporate Volunteering system and then asks the system to be deployed in a different way.

Another characteristic, research and analysis, but with the IMPACT 2030 positive disrupter effect, is a key component of our approach. IMPACT 2030 is establishing a unique way of bringing a fresh view to Human Capital Investment via Corporate Volunteering; researching a way this investment can be effectively deployed to positively address the SDGs. We are using social media and education platforms to package research and analysis in a positive but disruptive way. We aim to influence the players, via the partnership model, to encourage change and grow collaboration and partnership.

Of course, no disrupter, either positive, negative or neutral can be effective without measuring the impact of that disruption on the system. IMPACT 2030, is taking the lead on the complex task of measuring the impact of corporate volunteering on the SDGs. The goal of any Human Capital Investment via Corporate Volunteering program to have a positive impact, but only measurement and innovative evaluation can create consistent and ongoing data to guide strategy and increase accountability.

Finally, without effective communication, disruption is not scaleable. We do not want to encourage that every player tries to disrupt itself, as there is no one way to do good work, but the environment needs to be ripe for positive disruption. The maintenance of transparent and compelling communication; advocacy internally and externally is the key to the success of a system disrupter. IMPACT 2030, uses every communication tool at its employ to encourage collaboration among our Partners and Stakeholders.

Although Walker states that policy change is part of the ‘disruptive’ effort, IMPACT 2030 would like to lead by example, as a “doer.” IMPACT 2030 is uniquely suited to forge the path of as a Positive Systems Disrupter, as a system entrepreneur. Our young approach has shifted from what we would ‘like to do,’ to what we ‘are doing.’ We have deployed the approach comprised of these characteristics listed above to create a collective impact on the SDGs, using Human Capital Investment via Corporate Volunteering as the backbone.

Finally, the foundation of our approach, our coalition serves as the characteristic that integrates the innovation and systems change we intend to create. Together we strive to look to the future and ensure that we are all leading.

IMPACT 2030 would like to thank, Jeffrey C Walker (@NewProfit), Dr. Kenn Allen (@IAVE) and Clayton Christensen (@claychristensen). If you are interested in becoming part of this global movement, please email and let’s discuss how your company can join IMPACT 2030.

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