Why honestly? Because there’s a lot of BS floating around when companies talk about social value.
Some talk a lot and do very little, others do a bit out of legal obligation or because they want to pay less tax. And while good PR and a lower tax bill may be an added bonus, neither of these things came up when Red Badger’s staff decided to form a group to enable ourselves to create more social impact.
Like all good fairy tales, it started in a castle.
A castle in Leipzig where we held our now infamous 2016 Summer Party. But unlike the stories of old, this one didn’t start by royal decree but the modern and inclusive agenda setting technique that is ‘Open Spaces’. Designed to enable large groups to create their own programme of discussions quickly and easily, Open Space workshops basically involve attendees putting forward discussion topics they will go on to lead. Topics ranged from tech, strategy and process, to politics and, the question I put forward, ‘How can Red Badger deliver more social value?’ It was one of the most popular sessions on the day.
Let’s make things better.
That’s actually our company strapline, but it also explains why lots of us want to make a social impact in our day job. In simple terms we care, so much so that it’s part of our brand and purpose. We want to use our skills for social good but also see it as a great opportunity to use exciting new tech/process/strategy and expand our domain knowledge in new sectors. Last but not least, we thought it could be a great way to maintain company morale, and provide some respite from project fatigue.
Keeping true to our roots.
The question ‘How can Red Badger deliver more social value?’ had obviously struck a chord with loads of people in the company, so it was chosen as one of the three areas we would explore further. But rather than leading it, Red Badger’s top brass decided it should continue to be driven from the ground up in the form of a staff-led and self-managing 'committee'.
To this day, it is still unclear whether they selected me as Chair because of my background in the public and not-for-profit sectors or because they thought I really loved clipboards. In the end it didn't really matter; a couple of meetings in, we decided that it was time for a re-brand.
First things first; naming conventions.
I don’t think I’m alone in associating the word ‘committee’ with a governmental talking shop, the kind that takes years to investigate an issue, only to come out with a report which no one reads and is outdated months before they even manage to publish it. Keen to remove this stigma, we wanted a new name. One that perfectly encapsulated our action-driven, pragmatic and focused outlook. One that no one would associate with a clipboard.
We like to do, not just talk.
Enter the Social Value Task Force. Think Arnie, but in place of the AK-47 we have post-it notes and lovely intentions.
Once we’d gotten the renaming out of the way it was time to think about the little things; the challenges, the things which restrict us, the sorts of things that we will need to think about in order to make sure we, you know, succeed.
Keeping it real.
Our lofty ambitions need to be ground in pragmatism and an awareness of all the things which may inhibit us so that we can keep our, and our company’s, expectations manageable, realistic and most importantly achievable. And there are many such things; as a consultancy our clients’ needs will always be paramount, so skipping out for meetings is not always possible, and any resources we have available for internal projects can change, and rapidly. The last thing we would want to do is bite off more than we can chew. On the other hand, what if we work on a project, only to find out at the end that the solution doesn’t really solve the problem?
Clearly, if we were to take any project on, we would need to first work with any partners to validate the ideas on the table.
If in doubt, map it out.
The other challenge, albeit a good one, was the sheer number of ideas everyone had on how we could deliver social value. We began to affinity map them into categories; our wallets, our resources, our time, our communities and our skills.
But to understand where to focus our efforts and assess any potential opportunities we needed to understand the amount of commitment (and thus inhibitors we need to consider) versus the value that it would bring. I don’t know about you, but for us at Red Badger, this just screams graph.
On the horizontal axis we had ‘RB commitment’ and on the vertical, ‘Social Value Impact’, we then plotted all the ideas we’d come up with. The result, was not only a thing of beauty (see pic) but also a really useful tool we could use to identify some quick wins which we could get cracking on straight away.
Not letting the distance get between us.
As a dispersed team we needed to make sure we have good channels of communication. Our graph helped us to create a to do list, or social value backlog of sorts. Cue Trello to manage it all and give visibility to everyone on the task force regardless of where they are based (we work client side at RB). We also have regular lunches, with members taking turns to organise it so that everyone has a chance to book one in that’s near to their current workplace. And it wouldn’t be a task force without a Slack channel. Obvs.
So what’s been done so far?
All talk, I hear you saying. What have you actually done?
In the six months or so that we’ve been going we’ve started to pick off some of those quick wins by;
- Donating our old laptops to Code Your Future, a non-for-profit coding school for refugees
- Setting up a foreign currency donation so all those leftover coins could go to a good cause
- Holding a company wide vote on who we should approach to be our charity partner (watch this space)
- Setting up our very own payroll giving scheme, with Red Badger agreeing to match our monthly donations
- Doing all the standard stuff; chatting to collaborative networks, going to meetups and attending talks etc
It’s baby steps, but it’s still early days for us. We have a lot more on the list, but the progress so far has been encouraging. Maybe even life-affirming. Maybe.
Keeping it real, still.
Honestly, we’re under no illusion that we're changing the world, but in order to make lasting impact we want to slowly build up to the right hand corner of the graph (maximum value, maximum commitment) ensuring we are taking the right approach, involving the right people, and being firmly grounded in pragmatism so that we don’t compromise our company, clients or partners.
If you have any ideas for how Red Badger could deliver social value please get in touch. And if you’d like to join the task force (and by default, Red Badger) have a look at our Jobs, we’re always on the lookout for great, passionate people that want to make things better.