Social impact reflects the results of a number of decisions aimed at changing an aspect (or many) of a community. Witnessing a society shift doesn’t happen overnight. In a period of wellness and relative stability as the one we are in today, threats of it coming to an end seem to increase in intensity and frequency. More and more we are faced with news about unsustainable people migrations, climate and refugee emergencies and economic crises. And they can be overwhelming indeed. But solutions don’t only lie in the hands of the rule makers and political entities, which often seem to have other priorities at heart. Positive social impact can and is found more often than not in the microcosms of single individuals. In other words, you. Yes, you read right.
Social impact blossoms from a seed
“Me? I am a single person. How on Earth would I be accountable for social impact?”, “You must have a platform to be able to create change”, “It doesn’t really matter what one single person does”. These are all honest and understandable reactions. The answer is, though, that as individuals we have more power than we think. Additionally, today’s interconnectedness allows for creating communities and spreading a positive message and example easily. And a small choice or act can have a long-lasting ripple effect on your social environment. Very much as a small, unsuspecting seed grows into baobabs.
In other words, social impact is the effect that occurs as a result of an action (or inaction), choices, policies and programs. And you can actively be part of them. Here are 5 examples of how:
1. Educate yourself
Find a cause close to your heart and start researching it. Stay informed about social issues relative to your surroundings. The deeper you dig, the more you will be surprised at how linked they are to the global picture. But don’t let that scare you. On the contrary, it is clear now that if a seemingly harmless behaviour negatively impacts the bigger picture, it is also true that you can reverse it from the very same place. At least, you can start to. Attend seminars, participate in local events, and talk to people to better understand how to be involved in the cause.
2. Advocate for change
Now that you are aware of what the issues are, you can start to speak up against or for them. Once reliable information tramps ignorance, issues become recognizable, and you can shine a light on them by raising your voice for those that you deem worthwhile. No need to overdo it, though. Stick with what resonates with you and advocate for it, engaging in conversations in forums, in political settings, and in social media.
Or start mentoring and coaching others to get involved in positive social action. Spread the word and lead the way by example.
3. Support your local environment
One active way of driving social change lies in where you literally put your money. Educating yourself also entails understanding where you choose to spend. It can range from shopping to activities, from supporting organizations to avoiding businesses that aren’t sustainable or that prioritize their earnings over social responsibility. You can also donate and support charities whose focus is addressing social challenges.
4. Take real action
Do so by sharing your time and skills. You can volunteer in many different fields. It doesn’t matter whether you dedicate yourself to a human rights cause or an environmental one. Taking real action will help you feel more involved in the change you are aiming for. At SPEAK, for instance, we aim to champion the integration of migrants in their new lands. We do so by tackling some of the major issues of starting a new life in a foreign land: the language and culture barriers. A native – also called a buddy – shares their language and cultural knowledge with a group of participants of different origins. They will in turn not only learn how to communicate, but also how to navigate interculturally in the new societies.
5. Practice kindness and compassion
Probably easier said than done. Being kind requires more of a conscious effort than you might think. Be present in social interactions, actively listen and observe. At times, seemingly innocent gestures such as holding a door open or smiling at a stranger deeply impact the outcome of that person’s day. Plus, positivity is contagious, and it might inspire the receiver of a gentle act to do the same to someone else.
Be the trigger to social change
Social impact is not a spectator sport; it requires active participation and a commitment to making a difference. More importantly, it stems from daily acts of consciousness. By taking even small steps, you can create a ripple effect that positively impacts your community and the world around you. Nelson, Ana, Alexandre, and Talha are perfect examples. They came together and leveraged the diversity in their city to create a safe space for people to approach and learn about different perspectives. Mahatma Gandhi is often credited with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”. It turns out, you really can.