A GUIDE TO
the Impact Revolution
30 min read
impact is the measure of an action’s benefit to society and the planet - we must shift it to the center of our consciousness.
What kind of world do we want to live in?
That’s the question confronting all of us today — consumers, employees, pension savers, philanthropists, investors, entrepreneurs, social sector organizations and big company leaders.
The first wave of the Tech Revolution has come and gone, our lives have been transformed, and yet nations are still wracked by economic inequality, social strife and environmental catastrophe. It’s time for us to see the writing on the wall: things cannot continue as they are.
Governments, unaided, do not have the means to cope with the social and environmental challenges we face. They are also not well-positioned to develop innovative approaches to tackling such challenges - a process that inevitably involves risky investment, trial and error, and the certainty of occasional failure.
Philanthropy, while helpful, does not offer a scalable solution. It can only do so much to assist governments, as philanthropic donations are small relative to government expenditure - amounting to less than 5% of government expenditure on health and education alone.
Instead, we need to learn from the Tech Revolution, whose fruits were born from private capital. It is urgent that we access financial markets to harness entrepreneurship and innovation again, and that this time we steer them towards social change.
There are countless challenges that we must, and can, tackle: starvation, illiteracy, poor health, lack of access to clean water and electricity, gender inequality, youth unemployment, homelessness, migration and environmental destruction, among others.
It is imperative now to align the minds of investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, social organizations, big businesses, governments, and the general public, so that we can root out these persistent problems. It is time for us all to gather around the new watchword of our young century: impact.
The rumblings of a change can be felt underfoot in nations across the world. New technologies and tools are being used to rebalance the scales, to improve lives and the planet. We can all see that it is no longer possible for us to live in a world where businesses create, unchecked, negative consequences that governments unsuccessfully try to remedy at huge cost.
Capitalism has served us well over the last 250 years, but it has become untenable in its present form. It needs radical change.
The Tech Revolution is being followed by the Impact Revolution, which springs from the simple idea that we can overturn capitalism’s single-minded focus on profit to deliver profit and social impact simultaneously, redirecting vast flows of money to improve the world.
By combining profit and impact, we fundamentally change the nature of our system, so that it is no longer acceptable to say, ‘I’m just in business to make money’.
Our collective mindset has already started to shift in favor of impact.
Investors and businesses are becoming socially and environmentally conscious.
Impact entrepreneurs are beginning to gain access to the capital they need to bring brilliant, life-improving ideas to scale.
Cash-strapped governments are starting to discover value in harnessing the innovation of the private sector, channeling its talent and capital to find better solutions to society’s challenges.
Philanthropists are driving the delivery of tangible outcomes.
Now more than ever before, it is becoming possible for all people - poor and wealthy, young and old - to not merely inhabit this fragile world but make themselves protectors of it.
Adam Smith, the great economist, was prouder of his first work ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’, which deals with people acting out of altruism, than he was of ‘The Wealth of Nations’, renowned for its theory of the ‘invisible hand of the market’.
Had he thought of measuring impact, he might have combined the two books, and cast impact as the invisible heart of markets that guides their invisible hand.
Our current systems for creating positive social impact are more than two centuries old. The scale of our problems has changed, and so too must our response.
This moment calls for nothing short of a revolution. We must actively shift impact to the center of our consciousness. Instead of relying solely on governments and philanthropy to achieve social improvement, we must usher in a third force to accelerate the pace of change: the private sector.
When we ignore the damage we cause through the private sector, we spend precious resources cleaning up our own mess. When we harness our powers for good, however, we can accelerate social progress, amplify the impact of the public sector, and prevent similar messes in the future.
Envision a world where inequality is shrinking. Where natural resources are regenerated, and people can unlock their full potential and benefit from shared prosperity. A world focused not just on minimizing harm, but on doing measurable good.
That’s the purpose of the Impact Revolution.
Each and every one of us has a role to play in it. What’s yours?