What is social impact and how can I help?

What is social impact and how can I help?
Written by
Matias Salinas

Those are some great questions! I love your curiosity.

When we hear about social impact, we often get the feeling that we have to cure cancer or solve world hunger to truly make a difference. Now, whilst these would be great to achieve and overcome, your social impact doesn't need to fix a major issue in its entirety — and certainly not in one sitting.

When the steps to achieving positive change seem way too great for us, it can feel pretty discouraging. The good news: it's totally normal to be a bit worried or confused when you’re taking on significant social issues. The fact that you want to create change in the world is such an incredible thing and something to be very proud of.

Don’t let feelings of doubt cloud your hopes and desires for change. As much as you hear it from the entertainment industry, there is no such thing as an overnight success. A good mentality is to aim high and dream big.

"Sometimes, the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.” — Naeem Callaway

What a wonderfully thought-provoking quote. But we'll have to come back to it soon — I'm getting ahead of myself and haven't answered your first question.

What is social impact?

Social impact is kind of like your superpower. To put it into basic terms, it's leaving the world in a better place than you found it. It's doing things for a good cause — things like volunteering your time or giving to inspirational causes. Social impact is about creating positive change within your friend and family groups, your community and, for the big dreamers, the world.

That's the awesome thing; anyone can create a social impact.

So...How can you help?

Like in Naeem Callaway's quote, "tiptoe if you must, but take a step", we can all do our part to help the world, no matter how simple the steps we take may appear.

For us to truly make a change in this world, we need to first look at ourselves. Not in the common degrading way most of us do — "What if I'm not good enough?" "If only I were born into a rich family" "Why do I always lose my keys?!".

No, let’s be positive for a second, character-building even. I don't know about you, but music sure makes my nerves settle and helps me focus a little more, so whack on an inspirational track and let's explore how we can make a social impact together.

The 4 Cornerstones to Create Change

There are four cornerstones of your character to explore when looking to create social change.

They are curiosity, courage, compassion and community.

An invaluable TED talk presented by Dr Leo Wong explores these topics in an excellent way — aptly titled "Change Starts from Within". I urge you to take some time to watch through it after our time together. Let me provide a quick rundown of what Dr Wong dived into.

1. Your Curiosity

The starting point toward you creating social impact. It's about focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Figure out what you're able to do to help others and figure out what means most to you.

2. Your Courage

Believing in yourself is often the most challenging thing to do, but it's by far one of the most important traits to have. To create a social impact, you have to be committed to what you believe in. Your courage to stand up for your beliefs and goals comes from knowing who you are and what you stand for.

3. Your Compassion

Caring and compassion are part of human nature; however, they often come second to focus on success and wealth. When you show care, you are automatically creating a social impact.  You're able to see the world from another point of view, and from that, you realise what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

Ever heard the phrase, "a smile is contagious"? Well, it's true — our happiness comes from seeing others happy. So be that first smile, and watch your compassion impact lives.

4. Your Community

Community brings the value of collaboration to life. We can work together to achieve world-changing goals. We can share and combine our unique skills and passion for creating significant social impact. And because of the internet, our community is far larger than our local suburbs — it’s global.

UN’s 17 Goals to Create Social Impact

In 2015, the United Nations created "17 Goals to Transform Our World" geared toward a more sustainable future. We can use these targets to discover and understand the social impact we want to create.

This is a marvellous initiative because it helps us to categorise social change into distinct groups. We can look at these seventeen goals and align ourselves with what truly means the most to us. This helps make creating social impact less of a mountain and more of a manageable journey.

UN’s 17 Goals to Create Social Impact
United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals To Transform Our World

How to discover the goals that mean most to you

Perhaps the reduction of deforestation is something you hold near and dear to your heart. In that case, look to goal number fifteen — Life on Land. Like the other sixteen UN goals, it lays out a smorgasbord of helpful information to help put you in the right direction to create the social impact that matters to you.

You'll be able to explore key facts and figures, like, did you know that the world lost 3.3 million hectares of forest area from 2010 to 2015? Or that human activity has altered nearly 75% of the earth's surface?

Insane facts, right? But they help us understand the current situation and just how vital it is we make our first step toward social impact today.

Under each goal, you'll be able to find specific targets — milestones to breaking down the journey toward a more sustainable future. When you’re reading through them, don't feel discouraged thinking about how you're going to “take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species.” These are big goals — worldwide goals.

Not many of us can organise teams to track poachers, locate them and take legal action urgently. But what we can do is look at the target from how we can help. Things like; always being mindful of the products we buy, making sure they're sustainably sourced. Another action we can take is finding causes that aim to drive toward that target, like the Thin Green Line Foundation and donating towards their efforts.

So be a changemaker! I know all of you have the heart and ability to leave this world in a better place than you found it. “Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are” — Nkosi Johnson.

Remember, your social impact starts from within.

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