Three Corporate Social Impact Opportunities to Catalyze a Paradigm Shift in the time of COVID and the #BLM Movement

Emily Wanderer June 16, 2020 CSR Trends

Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have aggravated and revealed inequities and present opportunities to change the status quo through our corporate social impact programs.

Begin by revisiting the purpose of your mission-driven organization and the social impact your company hopes to achieve. What does the world look like if your vision is met? What does it take to make the vision reality? If you address homelessness, maybe all citizens have a safe home with access to quality early education; address local environmentalism means securing the local watershed. No matter what your vision is, bringing it to reality likely requires a sea of change.

We suggest three strategies as you revisit what the future can look like and how your corporate social impact program works to achieve that success:


Support Pay for Success (PFS) initiatives to Help Build Preventative Solutions.

PFS brings together public and private entities to launch innovative social programs that otherwise would be too risky for the public sector. They provide preventative solutions that lead to better, long-term positive social outcomes that remove financial burdens on taxpayers, nonprofits, and institutions including healthcare and education. If you are interested in learning further about the Pay for Success model, check out Third Sector.


As a corporation, you can support Pay for Success through financial investments, underwriting, and support projects by providing technology solutions for operational efficiency and by helping market social services. No matter how you contribute, you can support a critical learning process as society explores the most effective ways of solving our toughest problems.


In Santa Clara county, California, Third Sector piloted a Pay for Success housing program to provide permanent residence to 150-200 individuals experiencing homelessness who relied heavily on socially funded resources and had a high risk of recidivism. Both private and philanthropic organizations, including, came together and underwrote $6.8M of the project to de-risk the investment.  Based on the success of the program, Santa Clara county will repay these investors the number of months of stable housing participants receive.


Prioritize Common Goals with Collective Impact.

Collective Impact brings a community of diverse interests together to work toward solving a shared problem. Social distancing and masks have been a personal Collective Impact practice during Covid-19. Some businesses practiced collective impact too by manufacturing and distributing PPE and hand sanitizer. Beyond Covid-19, think of ways your company can continue Collective Impact work by harnessing the same sense of collaboration to overcome complex social issues like homelessness or quality education.




In San Mateo County, California, The Big Lift launched a partnership between business, social service, and educational institutions with “the goal of have 80% of the county’s 3rd-graders reading proficiently by the end of school year.” Early results are positive, and the program has moved from start-up into pilot phase. As part of a Collective Impact partnership, companies can contribute funding, resources, consulting, or technology required to achieve the common vision.

In Collective Impact projects, there are five necessary agreements:

  1. Agree on a common goal
  2. Shared measurement
  3. Complementary strengths and activities
  4. Consistent communication and continuous improvement
  5. Dedicated project managers

More information on the five conditions of Collective Impact by FSG, and case studies here.


Bring a Racial Equity Lens to Your Work.

No matter where your organization is with its diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts, now is the time to give it attention. A recent study by Bridgespan and Echoing Green finds that nonprofits led by people of color receive less funding. According to your organization’s community engagement;

  • Which employees are choosing the organizations that receive funding?
  • Who leads and sits on the board of the nonprofits you support?
  • What groups benefit from your disaster giving?


The same study suggests that these funding outcomes will not change until the composition of the decision-makers change as well. So, realize that your CSR and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs are closely tied.


If you’re bringing people along on a D&I journey, start with language your audience understands.  Billy Taylor, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, uses the manufacturing approach Lean Six Sigma to advance D&I among engineers. Taylor said, “…do it with the team, not to the team.” When he shifted from operations management to D&I initiatives, he was not met with resistance, but lack of understanding. “You can’t manage a secret.”[1] So, Taylor focused on extreme clarity surrounding the “why” to first create evangelists, and then got to the “how”. Listen to more from Taylor here, starting at 26:00.


Vulnerable populations will not just be hit harder by disasters like Covid-19, but by the cumulative effects that widen opportunity and achievement gaps for generations. As changemakers, we have the opportunity to acknowledge this collective trauma and awakening for something much more: a paradigm shift.