This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Frankly, I put this question, “How will you increase your impact in 2018?” to dozens of social entrepreneurs and others in the impact space to help me figure out how to increase my own. I hope you’ll read their answers with the same idea in mind.
The responses came in two general varieties. The first are statements and goals that could be replicated by virtually any social entrepreneur regardless of their specific mission or operating plan. The second variety included objectives that are somewhat more specific to their particular situation. You can read about the inspiring work from the second list here. The first set of responses follow below.
As I reviewed the responses, a few themes developed. Half a dozen people highlighted the importance of teamwork in one way or another. That was clearly a key takeaway from the list. Note that some people hit on several topics; I’ve tried to include their full remarks where possible.
For instance, Lisa Curtis, CEO and founder of Kuli Kuli said, “In 2018, we’re going to also be looking inward and seeing what we can do for our employees and the sustainability of our internal operations. We’re measuring this using the B Corp assessment.”
Celeste Mergens, CEO and founder of Days for Girls International, said her goal was to have “weekly team sprint goals to help each team member focus on completing one achievable primary goal a week, keep other objectives moving forward and still have more personal life balance.”
Similarly, Kenton Lee, founder of Because International which sells “The Shoe that Grows,” said his goal was “Investing in our team, measuring our impact with the kids more accurately, and hustling in more creative ways. Staying in start-up mode will keep things fresh and inventive. It’s all about the kids!”
“Impact is about growth in 2018. We’re focusing on only 1 goal every 90 days and the team is all aligned towards that one thing. Then I’m showing the team how that one goal serves our mission,” said Andrea Shillington, the CEO and business soul architect at Brands for the Heart.
“It’s really quite simple–you have to invest in your people. We need to constantly create learning opportunities and develop new talents. Meaningful impact comes from a committed, yet challenged team,” said Jacob Lief, CEO and founder of Ubuntu Pathways.
Katherine Fife, Principal Consultant founder at Philanthropy Matters, LLC, said, “Engaging in more activities that utilize my strengths, and offloading activities to better utilize the strengths of others, will lead to increased impact and better efficiencies in 2018.”
A second idea that popped up several times in the responses from social entrepreneurs was surprising to me. Three of our responses de-emphasized growth and scale.
For example, Michael Lowe, President of Kidoodle.tv, said he would ” focus on quality of impact over scale of impact. Scale happens when quality is obvious.”
Similarly, Aaron Hurst, CEO and co-founder of Imperative, said, “I have spent a lot of time trying to increase my impact by thinking big. This year is the year of thinking small. How can I do one thing each day that matters to someone else? “
With a slightly different take, Ross Baird, President of Village Capital, said he would shift to “focusing more on how we innovate (how do we find, support, select ideas) than what the next big thing is.”
Another theme that developed was the importance of introspection and personal time for having maximum impact.
Angela Parker, CEO and co-founder of Realized Worth, who shared a goal in that vein, saying her goal was a to “Alert, Orient, Act. My impact will increase when I challenge implicit bias by alerting to new ideas, orienting to what those ideas mean for me, and taking action toward new attitudes and behaviors.”
Steve Grizzell, managing director of InnoVentures, sounded thoroughly introspective with his goal, “I have begun to realize that Impact Investing is just part of a process of living a life of purpose. Why am I doing it? Is it just enough to do it because it feels good? How do I measure impact?”
Self-reflection was one of two objectives that Priyanka Bakaya, CEO and founder of Renewlogy set for 2018. “My two themes are i) find more ways to give back through community engagement, and ii) find more me time through meditating and journaling each day (I recommend 2 apps for this: Inscape & Grid Diary).”
Two of the responses received focused on the importance of connecting with other like-minded people.
Karim Abouelnaga, CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, said, “I’m committed to starting or joining a mastermind group in 2018 to increase my impact, surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs who are ready to push each other to take our impact to the next level.”
Similarly, Amy Cortese, author of Locavesting, made this part of her plan by “tuning out the noise and focusing on what’s important—limiting social media and mobile news. I do my best thinking on long walks, so I’ll build that in. Also more face time with people who inspire me.”
The importance of reviewing past results to optimize future results came up a few times. Liz Baker, executive director of GreaterGood.org, said, “January is a great time to review last year’s programs. Look at outcomes, and work backwards: If you didn’t meet goals, why? Start with desired impact, and refine program tactics to do more this year.”
Echoing that idea, Thane Kreiner, PhD, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, said he would “test playbooks to replicate proven social enterprise impact models.”
A couple of the respondents focused on personal productivity.
Kathleen Minogue, CEO and founder of Crowdfund Better, (with whom I have a business relationship) said, “Make a commitment to take action every week and keep a list to keep yourself honest. Even when life gets busy, you’ll have that commitment (and a written list) to keep you focused throughout the year.”
Nell Derick Debevoise, CEO and founder of Inspiring Capital, shared her take on productivity: “I’ve committed to blocking 7-10 am every morning on my calendar to get ONE important thing done toward my weekly and annual priorities, in an effort to be proactive and strategic rather than reactive.”
The other insights received were similarly valuable but didn’t fall into themes or ideas.
Impact investor Morgan Simon said she would add political giving to her 2018 activities to increase her impact. “Markets won’t solve everything—philanthropic support for organizing and advocacy, and political giving, are essential complements to impact investing. In 2018 I will donate more systemically to organizing and politics.”
Judith Joan Walker, Director of Operations for African Clean Energy, said upgrading systems would be her strategy. “We will be pulling our extensive customer database into our newly upgraded CRM on Salesforce in order to accurately analyze the affordability and adoption barriers of our high tech energy products.”
Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner and founder of DBL Partners, an early investor in Tesla, suggested something that almost everyone could do: “This year I’m reducing my food waste; 40% of our food is wasted, as is all of the water and energy required to make it. No shopping until leftovers are finished!”
As you contemplate the ideas above, let us know in the comments below or on social media, what you’ll be doing to increase your impact in 2018.
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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!