Anthem Blog

Shaping Social Impact in 2023, Part 2

The second edition of our series highlights key insights and perspectives from the Anthem Judging Academy on the state of social impact work in 2023 and beyond. 

In the second edition of Shaping Social Impact In 2023, we spoke with a diverse panel of Anthem Judging Academy members to understand the gold standards of social impact. Explore their insights on the major factors influencing the work across the industry and crucial ways to navigate them. From fostering a sense of community to reimagining solidarity with a global lens, hear their insights on how you can elevate your work in 2023. 

We’re thrilled to continue inspiring our global network of advocates and organizers with the latest insights from the industry. Dive into Part I of the series to explore key themes defining impact work today and predictions on the future of social impact.


Insight 1: Cultivate Collective Ownership and Equity in the Work Environment  

  • Decentralize leadership internally to foster an equitable, collaborative, and collectively owned environment. 
  • The work will make a meaningful impact only if everyone involved has the safety and support to do what’s needed.

Paula Cizek, Chief Research Officer, NOBL
“Within organizations, employees are expecting to wield more influence due to a continued strong labor market—despite economic uncertainty.”

Kwame Rose, Social Activist
“Fighting for Black lives will always be the root of my advocacy, however, the workers movements we are seeing around the country have really been inspiring. The actors, writers, baristas, and so many other professionals have really taken a united stand to show the 1% that working-class people are the true foundation of this country. If you read about the history of social movements, solidarity was always key. The solidarity being shown, and the truth to power being spoken has really equipped those unaware and unimpacted to getting involved.“

Nadia Sarmova, Co-Founder & President, The Shift
“In the context of prioritizing wellbeing in the entertainment industry, some studios have been taking proactive steps to support their cast and crews when working on programs that involve sensitive and potentially triggering subject matter. At The Shift, we recognized the significance of this issue and took the initiative to create comprehensive guidelines and protocols to ensure the mental health and well-being of our crews and cast members, particularly when dealing with content related to youth mental health. As the industry progresses, we hope that such initiatives become the norm, reflecting a collective commitment to nurturing the wellbeing of all those who contribute to the world of entertainment.”

Insight 2: Impact Work Shouldn’t be Siloed or Isolated 

  • Social impact is collaborative by nature—doing the work in silos only leads to isolated changes. 
  • Organizations should work together to create collective change, no matter how specific the cause or region the organization works in. 
  • Advocates and organizers should stand in solidarity with global issues as well, not just local. 
    • A global mindset is essential to create meaningful change because social impact is deeply connected and intersectional. 
  •  The work is needed most when the world is experiencing difficult crises and resources are scarce. During these times, it’s crucial not to fall into an isolated place but lean on the whole impact community to develop solutions.

Noel Kinder, Chief Sustainability Officer, Nike. Inc.
“Getting out of our silos and old models for work. We need to think of ways where we can optimize each other’s work rather than competing amongst the traditional siloes of impact.” 

Alicia Eastman, President, InterContinental Energy
“Geopolitics, particularly the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine, has made countries very aware of energy security while just recovering from Covid, which exposed fragile supply chains. This has led many countries to retreat to isolationist tendencies. It has also shown, however, that renewables are more resilient, and instead of offshoring or onshoring, they should perhaps be friend-shoring. Dedication to solving climate change is bouncing back and growing. Several positive worldwide trends including IMO regulations to decarbonize shipping, the momentum for COP28 and inclusion of the Global South, and insistence on a just transition are growing stronger again. Inflation is petering in most places, and there appears to be a bounce back.”

Trisha Shetty, Founder, SheSays
“Leaving no one behind in a world grappling with multiple crises, including the crisis of failed leadership. That calls for accounting for the most vulnerable and marginalized, and protecting democratic institutions and human rights for all.”   

Insight 3: Social Impact Has to be Deeply Invested in Community 

  • It’s vital to center the voices of the community you’re working for and the voices of those who hold marginalized identities in your initiatives. 
  • Impact work should be community-centric. Initiatives should closely align and resonate with the audience you’re advocating for, along with having thoughtful representation.
  • It’s also important to represent the identities and communities you’re advocating for across the teams and employees within your organization.

Nina Kossoff, Associate Director of Strategy, The Soze Agency
“I think to effectively approach social impact issues requires understanding that comes not only from a team’s research, but from direct understanding of the lived experiences of those most impacted by an issue, or those who’ve committed their own work to the issue. Whether that is hiring directly from communities and prioritizing their voices in project development, to extensive first-person research with individuals and groups, no amount of research will outweigh a lived experience.”

Katherine Miller, Founder, Table 81
“Make sure your budgets reflect more intense community organizing, invest in training the trainer models, and be sure that your creative teams (and organizers) include members of the audiences you’re trying to reach.”

ElsaMarie D’Silva, Founder, Red Dot Foundation
“Include the voices of communities and under-represented groups. Decentralize leadership and power. Make data open source and build more with the people and for the people.”

Insight 4: Create Measurable Micro Strategies 

  • Think about social impact systematically and operationally. 
  • Set measurable goals, objectives, and implementation strategies that you plan to follow up on once the project or initiative is completed. 
  • Developing micro strategies can be key to ensuring ROI, whether your goals were met, and if you made the impact you planned to.  
  • Use data analytics to understand what worked, what didn’t, and what to improve on for the next campaign.

Dymphna van der Lans, CEO, Clean Cooking Alliance
“Over the next few years, leaders will increasingly view and approach social impact work with a more systemic mindset, making it a part of their organization’s DNA. This evolution is a reflection of society’s expectations, and it’s already happening with forward-thinking CEOs. To deliver on their potential, social impact programs will need to prioritize long-term sustainability, embrace cross-sector collaboration, leverage technology for scale and efficiency, and place greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Charles Beal, President, The Gilbert Baker Foundation
“First and foremost, making sure that local social justice movements outside of the major metropolitan areas have robust support. Also collecting data after creating programs is key. We do polling after our exhibits and conduct post-mortems after every local campaign when we are fighting to keep communities from banning the Rainbow Flag. We assess what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved upon then we implement changes.”

Ashley T Brundage, President & CEO, Empowering Differences Inc.
“I look for social impact work that generates insights for how it actually impacts people. My research showed that 85% of what [empowers] people across the world is related to them on a personal and emotional level, and 15% of what [empowers them] is the data and analytics of the business impacts. I [look] for programs that have the 85/15 split in mind.”

Ife Obi, Founder, The Fit In
“It’s important to understand in this current environment of political and economic uncertainty, ideas and thoughts can only go so far without understanding sustainability. Words and speeches don’t go as far as they used to. Follow your mission and agenda with actions that are self-sustainable and generate measurable outcomes.”

Insight 5: Bridge the Gap Between Different Perspectives and Generations 

  • Connecting and finding a middle ground between different perspectives allows for greater understanding—which is key to creating solutions. 
  • Generational differences can be bridged too, even though there might be differences in values. These differences can lead to growth when we listen and learn from each other.  
  • Organizers should consider their own perspectives. This is essential for creating holistic and comprehensive solutions. 
  • New ideas can energize and bring unique perspectives to the work. 

Deborah Rutter, President, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
“Campaigns that are able to bridge the gap between different organizations, issues, and generations are really powerful to me. We recently began working with an organization called ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence, which is a perfect example of this. They invite teens to submit 10-minute plays that confront the issue of gun violence. It gives teens an opportunity to address it in a way that is understandable to them, gives organizations a way to support and amplify their work, and gives the theater community fresh new voices that have something vitally important to say.  One project… multiple outcomes… all addressing the gun violence epidemic. It’s a tactic that prioritizes different aspects of cultural leadership among historically vulnerable communities. When we invest in multiple creatives that share our aspiration for a culturally equitable future—in both our local and national communities—we are able to amplify our collective impact.” 

DeNora Getachew, CEO, DoSomething
“Gen Z and Millennials will be the majority of the electorate by 2028 and the oldest members of Gen Alpha will begin to turn 18 by then. The voices of young people are increasingly shaping our democracy and the cultural conversation. Social impact leaders must intentionally engage young people as consumers, citizens, and employees to make their efforts relevant and impactful. The days of nice volunteerism or one-off action are no longer enough for the next generation of young people who are digital natives, pressing for systemic change to address the most pressing issues facing our world.”

Kwame Rose, Social Activist
“I firmly believe that the shift that is to come in social impact work, is the removal of ageism. I believe that the further we move to progressive change and the more we empower young people to be decision-makers the better society will be. Equipping young people with the necessary tools, resources, and guidance is important to change the status quo of boring old white men being the decision makers in this Country.”

Jon Huertas, Founder, WestSide Stories
“Consider your perspective. Teach yourself to look way beyond what is right in front of you and what you think you know. Leaders, advocates, and activists should always remain students. There are infinite scenarios, situations, and solutions and unless your mind is open and your vision is in wide-angle, you might miss a valuable piece of information that might make the ultimate difference in what goals you’re trying to achieve.” 

Mike Fung, Co-Founder, ABOARD
“In order to maintain the current advocacy base while inviting and bringing new generations to the work, we are exploring methodologies of helping people relate to other people to find common ground. At the core of this is the human connection… It is critical, to be honest and not hurt people.”

Insight 6: Rethink Your Communication & Engagement Tactics 

  • Don’t create campaigns that are flashy. Let the cause at the heart of the initiative do the talking for you.  
  • Shifting the message of the campaign to be thoughtful and hold meaning could be key to how much action you’re able to incentivize.
  • Understand your audience and foster a close relationship with them to create work that’s going to engage them effectively. 
  • To stand out in today’s digital landscape, your campaign messaging needs to be unique and intentionally developed with a distinct point of view.

Anthony Two Moons, Creative Director
“Do not believe your work is so incredible that it speaks for itself. It shares the stage with thousands of others competing for the same megaphone. Create a marketing plan that’s at least as great as the message itself.”

Alicia Eastman, President, InterContinental Energy
“I think they need to constantly be in touch with the populations or environment they are seeking to help, preserve, or change and look ahead for any backlash possibilities or offense. Many issues are more emotional than technical and all the studies in the world will not change minds until you change hearts – usually with real people or populations as examples or messengers. Find ways to make problems relatable and establish goals as part of the solution. Anything that can be recorded and counted in order to establish success or provide insight into potential need for directional shift will help momentum.”

Erika Soto Lamb, Vice President, Social Impact Strategy, Showtime/MTV Entertainment at Paramount Global|“Give people real calls to action beyond ‘learn more’ or visit a website. Ask for them to do something whether it’s an action to take for their own mental health, checking their registration to vote or asking them to support an important cause with a small donation. Incentivize them if you have to by playing into their interests.”

Sam Bathe, Creative Director, Zendesk
“Brands are doing engaging, highly conceptual work to translate the big issues we face in the world—and dilute the themes down something that’s instantly understandable. Corona has been particularly effective in this space, with their now annual plastic fishing tournament, and a 900-minute football match to raise awareness of the gender pay gap in football.” 

Daniel Roeder, Chief Academic Officer, David Z Foundation
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are only ideas unless grounded in authentic community. To build community, the work is in empowering storytelling and inspiring transformation from the inside out. Community leaders who put in time to inspire authentic connections so a community can grow and nurture itself over time is critical. There is no shortage of barriers, and overcoming them takes both deep and wide connections and care.”

Brett Peters, Global Lead, TikTok for Good
“From what I’ve noticed, I think the action of ‘speaking with’ and not ‘speaking at’ has been the most influential shift. Within the social space, we are long gone from the days of static text posts telling people what they ‘should’ be doing or feeling as effective messaging. If we really want to reach people, we need to meet them where they are and understand what is blocking them from becoming advocates of the work. Someone not understanding the importance of sustainability? Rather than hammering home the negative effects of climate change, try positioning the conversation around the benefits of living a more sustainable life, like saving money or time.”

Ben Ostrower, Founder, Wide Eye
“Audiences are hyper-aware of an organization or campaign’s brand and want to be respected and trusted—being direct, plain-spoken, and authentic is the foundation of any successful tactic. Humans listen to other humans that sound like humans, not textbooks, lawyers or politicians. It’s a simple idea, but in efforts to demonstrate our knowledge and expertise, sometimes we forget this premise.”

To hear more from our Judging Academy on what makes effective social impact work, see our latest insights featuring new judges. 

The Anthem Awards is judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Science, a renowned panel of advocates, organizers, executives, and social responsibility experts. Enter the 3rd Annual Anthem Awards to amplify your purpose-driven work to industry-leading impact professionals and champion your cause. Submit your work before the Extended Entry Deadline on Friday, October 13!

Patagonia – Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia has put social impact at the core of their brand mission and values from the start, and their iconic Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign demonstrates how brands can use their platform to make an impact — or better yet, to help reduce our impact. This 2011 ad ran in the New York Times on Black Friday, making a lasting impression for its bold message addressing the issue of consumerism head on and asking readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

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Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels Movement

Love Has No Labels is a movement by The Ad Council to promote diversity, equity and inclusion of all people across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability.

Read our Q&A with Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s Chief Campaign Development Officer on the team behind LHNL collaborates with partners to combat implicit bias—from crafting PSAs to driving viewers to take action, to how brands and companies should approach corporate social responsibility with authenticity.

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