Social Responsibility and Social Consciousness for Changemakers

Balance of natureJust because you're already trying to serve doesn't mean you're immune from attack by the thought police or those who think you should go to great extremes to prove your commitment to building a better world.

The indicia of social consciousness and responsibility can be found all around. In fact, an entire cottage industry is emerging designed to advance the cause of doing good.

Don't get me wrong. I'm part of that group, and I wholeheartedly support their efforts to raise the consciousness of all to work toward rectifying the problems we've created for ourselves.

The problem is, when you're starting your mission, it's easy to get distracted by all the noise and detoured from the task at hand -- developing a viable, sustainable mission that makes the difference you're called to make. If you get caught up in all the good intentions (that too often come with mountains of paperwork, not to mention overhead and consultants like me to help you sort through it all), you just might find yourself falling along the wayside, unable to help anyone despite your best efforts and intentions.

There's only so much energy and attention we all have, and to build a mission requires a single-mindedness of focus that allows you to cut through the noise and do what needs to be done, without becoming detoured by all the things that you'd like to do or could be done.

In short, your mission will tell you what it needs. It will come with its own set of principles and perspectives, and to them you must be true.

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Now, if you're trying to build a better tomorrow while drawing on many of the old attributes that created this mess in the first place, like self-interest or the willingness to impose your will on anything that gets in your way, regardless of its impact on others or society, then perhaps you need to step back and think about what you're doing.

But I think most mission entrepreneurs have their heads on straight, and have a pretty good sense of how to treat people and be the change they're working to create.

I don't, however, think that just because you see yourself as an entrepreneur with a social mission, you should run right out an implement all these great policies and procedures to prove your worth to outsiders who have little influence on your mission's success or failure.

Sure, it would be nice to be able to meet all the standards of social responsibility that are being held up for us to follow. Paying your people a living wage is a great aspiration. Then again, if you're not generating any money and your mission's just limping along, draining your time and resources and not providing for it's own sustainability, then perphaps hiring someone and paying them such a wage may not be a good idea.

In fact, you might want to rethink your mission's business model, or examine the causes of why your mission is struggling, before you ever think about hiring anyone at any wage. Fix the problem. Don't create another one.

Putting down written policies and procedures is great, too, if you're already a viable firm with a number of employees. It can do wonder for employee morale, not to mention attracting investors, sponsors and customers. Such things are essential for B-corp certification or meeting ISO26000 standards. But you're probably not to that point yet.

But those aren't essential in a small shop. What is is surviving today and find a way to do the good your mission will do. You can always have one eye on putting them in place once you're a little more stable, and even decide what they will be so that as you grow, you will have already mapped out a path for you to follow and make those future growth decisions easier.

Make no mistake. I think it's important to wear your social consciousness on your sleeve. Not just for your mission, but so others can catch the fever and bring it into their affairs as well.

Use it in your promotional efforts. Infuse it in your staff, use it as a guide to hire the right people, and work with the right vendors, lawyers, CPAs and consultants.

But above all, to your mission be true. Test with your intuition whether well-meaning suggestions will add or detract from your efforts. And evaluate with your reason whether the costs will outweigh the benefits at this point in your journey.

As you can tell, I recommend that all mission entrepreneurs undertake their efforts with a healthy blend of both intuition and pragmatism. After all, it's your journey. It says something about you and your life

Don't build it in a way that will simply heap more stress and struggle upon you. Create it with an eye to the experiences you want to get and bring to others.

Make your mission serve the life you're trying to live, too. That's your first responsibility, because if you don't take care of you, you just might find yourself as the recipient of someone else's service somewhere down the road.

God bless you indeed.