When I was a graduate student I was enthralled with the idea of corporate social responsibility. The corporate social responsibility I dreamed of was the kind that stretched further than the one day a year that everyone helps build houses or does a river clean up, which, let’s be clear is lovely, but I’m talking grant making. Tens of thousands of dollars towards intentional change… you can imagine how the concept of being the one directing the money vs. the one competing for it was attractive. In my mind I would walk into an interview with a multi-million dollar corporation and say “please let me us your money for good things!” and of course they would respond “You’re hired!” I felt attracted to the idea of structure and a prescribed avenue.
It wasn’t until I was formally introduced to the idea of social entrepreneurship in my grad program that I began to consider that there were other structures worth exploring. At that time I had floated only 3 or 4 times in my life… 6 more floats and a year or so later Kevin emailed me out of the blue asking if I’d be interested in having a discussion about joining the team at FLOAT STL. It turned out a concrete path, though seemingly secure, also felt incredibly limiting.
Operating a float center is not a concrete path. Hilary reminds us that when we are vulnerable we have greater access to creativity. The path of the float center owner/operator is directed by our values and focus, only limited by the scope we choose. She then shares a quote she values deeply.
“If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.”
I had focused my studies on management, aiming to support organizations in evaluating their programs and procedures in ways that would inform future program development that would ultimately promote the outcomes that they wanted for their clients.
I was learning a lot about how organizations can, should, and shouldn’t be run to get the outcomes they are seeking and stay afloat (no pun intended).
I think that businesses should be run more like non-profits, incorporating social impact into their measures of performance, so they are mindful, of not just their financial bottom line, but a double bottom line of being accountable to their community.
Social entrepreneurship and various forms corporate social responsibility are on the rise. Multiple studies have shown that millennial buyers… expect companies to make a public commitment to corporate citizenship. Intentional efforts toward corporate social responsibility can build brand loyalty, raise awareness, and strengthen reputation.
There are many ways to be active in a community, through donation, social initiatives, or speciality niche experiences for their customers. I prefer to patron businesses who invest back into the community.
Combining the ideas of best practice and iteration I began exploring potential models of for-profit social impact and came across the social enterprise spectrum. This graphic reinforced for me, much like float tanks, there is no one particular structure that is the crown jewel. it comes down to what will fit best for the business[es] desired experience and sometimes a combination of several options is most effective.