It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts for the first blog entry. I’m not a big-time blogger mainly because I have so many things I think about on a daily basis it seems like a daunting task to put them “on paper”. Ever since I started at my host organization a little under a month ago, I’ve been listening, learning, absorbing information and doing LOTS of research for the conference (#NI13). But I have to start somewhere so I’ve decided to dedicate my first blog entry to one of the first deeper discussions I’ve had with my supervisor and colleagues on the conference team.
My host org, Net Impact is “a community of more than 40,000 emerging leaders creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world.” Now, when I first read this on their website to prepare for my interview, I thought to myself: “Sounds great but I’d like to know more.” I hadn’t heard of Net Impact before and was eager to hear more details about what they actually do. On my first week here, my supervisor walked me through a slide deck on Net Impact’s culture and values. One phrase kept coming up consistently: “doing good.” Doing good through your careers, doing good for the environment, doing good for the society. But I was still confused. So I raised the question with my colleagues: what does it mean to “do good?” More importantly, what does it mean here in the US and at our host organizations? As simple as “doing good” sounds, for someone like me it also sounds, well, I’m sorry to say, a bit cheezy and fake. I don’t always believe in human beings’ altruistic motivations, especially if we’re talking about big business, which Net Impact also works with. So you’re trying to tell me that Apple and Walmart really believe in “doing good?” Sure, Puma just published its Environmental Profit and Loss Account but is it just a publicity stint or do they really meant it?
The answer that I got was simple yet more confusing in some ways. Let me explain: what folks at Net Impact mean by “doing good” is taking individual actions that have a power to change their organizations, institutions, and ultimately their society. So it’s not Walmart as a company that’s “doing good”, it’s the employees at each and every level that are pushing for these changes. This notion of individual human power and potential was not new to me but it is definitely not cultivated and practiced globally. I tried to digest these thoughts as as I searched for an answer that would satisfy me.
Then suddenly, I remembered Gary Weaver’s lecture on cultural differences during our training week in DC. He mentioned the difference between cultures of “doing” and cultures of “being”. And so it dawned on me that that is where the essence of the phrase “doing good” lies: in the “doing” part. Note that it’s not “being” good but “doing” good. Thus, nobody questions the motivations behind your actions as long as you’re doing something that benefits someone else. “Doing” also means “believing”: believing that my individual actions can make a difference. My colleagues at Net Impact sure believe in that. My fellow Atlas Corps Fellows do, too. Coming from a a society where all too often I’ve felt powerless and disenchanted, I need to start believing it too. Stop “being” skeptical and simply start “doing” good. And it looks like I’m just the in right place for that.