The Social Good Journey

If I asked you to take a journey that would ultimately result in a valuable contribution to the well being of our society and a rewarding experience for everyone involved, would you do it? What if I told you that you would be sure to stumble upon difficulties, disappointments and setbacks along the way, would that change your answer?

I’d assume your answer to each of these questions would be “Sure! Where do I sign up?” After all, who doesn’t love disappointments and setbacks right? Just kidding. Let me say that this journey, with its rewards, challenges, difficulties and setbacks really represents the reality of working for the benefit of social good. It’s a path that may not always be easy or smooth but I can assure you that the rewards of getting there far outweigh any of the challenges you will encounter.

Social good rewards are wide and varied with the single most important one being that non-profit organisations can generate the resources, individuals and awareness they need in support of their causes, thereby ensuring that they, along with individuals, and communities, receive support to thrive. Businesses also benefit from social good, because instinctively people want to work for, buy from and invest in businesses that demonstrate a strong social commitment. Even our customers benefit, either from directly being on the receiving from social good initiatives or from the satisfaction that comes from supporting others who are doing good for society.

But, despite these advantages and even with smart planning, excellent leadership and the very best intentions, it is possible for social good initiatives to fall short of expectations or even to be misunderstood entirely. This can be hard to accept and even harder to correct if it damages your reputation but the reality is that a social good stumbling block can happen to anyone. In fact, it recently happened to us at Republic Bank.

Last year, our digital agency, Caribbean Ideas Synapse, came to us with a brilliant idea for building awareness and participation in social good. We worked with them to develop what would eventually become #betheOne – a social media based initiative with the intention of highlighting small and individual ways we can each incorporate social good into our lives. When we launched #betheOne in December 2017 we knew that, for us, this was a bold and different approach to social good. Still, because it was so new, we also could not be certain of exactly what the reaction to it would be.

From our very first #betheOne social media post, it became clear that the support from our social media followers was not the avalanche we thought it would be. Most of our followers were encouraging but many others were doubtful about some aspects of the initiative. Our motives, our values, the worth of doing small acts of good to begin with were questioned and generated lots of discussions.

Reading these comments proved to be a learning experience. The team had put our all into a social good project that we really believed in and the feedback made it clear that it wasn’t being received in the way we had intended. But the questions also forced us to reflect on our own intentions and ambitions for our project. Asking these questions of ourselves ultimately helped our team to build a stronger sense of conviction and greater confidence in the fact that we were indeed spearheading a project that, with the commitment to rally on, would make a positive difference in the lives of others.

What did we do? Our gut response was to engage our followers directly in the comment sections under our #betheOne posts. But we soon realised that our input actually wasn’t needed because our followers were already starting a dialogue among themselves. Some of the persons who really understood what we were trying to achieve with #betheOne had begun to engage others who were not so sure. In the end, it was those genuine and spontaneous conversations rather than any direct interventions on our part that eventually turned the tide of uncertainty into the wave of support that made #betheONE into the success that it is today.

Last month, almost one year after the launch, we planned our very first #betheOne scavenger hunt which engaged 33 teams in a race to complete a list of good deeds to win cash for charities of their choice. The success of this event proved to the Republic team that, after a rocky start, we had accomplished our initial goals for #betheOne, we found unique and fun ways to encourage others to do good and we had driven home that message that there’s more to social good than partnerships between businesses and non-profit organizations; it’s also about the individual looking out for the well being of the people you meet on a daily basis.

It would be tempting to forget those early responses to #betheOne and the initial uncertainty towards what we were trying to do but I believe that there are important lessons to be learned from that experience. First, it speaks to the importance of starting your social good efforts with a genuine interest and a strong purpose. This is the mettle that will get you through the difficult challenges or moments of doubt that may come your way. Second, I will forever be proud that we did not let our challenges deter us from achieving our vision for #betheOne. Too often, we allow the threat of failure to stop us from trying or persisting where we would otherwise be successful. But with social good, the stakes are simply too high to let fear of failure stop us from supporting others where we can.

As I like to say, doing good is doing good. When it comes to social good it’s better to try and experience a challenge or even a failure than to not try at all.

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