Harnessing Business Resources for Social Profit Posted October 10, 2016 by Annah Mason
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts from each of the CommonBond members and employees who will join us on our second-annual trip to Ghana to see CommonBond's Social Promise in action. Read posts by each member and employee who is taking the trip to understand why the trip is important to them and what they are looking forward to.
Name: Annah Mason
School/Grad Year: SUNY Geneseo, Class of 2006
What She's Bringing on the Plane: Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
Amid the economic turmoil of 2009, I'd just lost my job to a round of downsizing when I asked myself what it really means to give back. My hope was to find the silver lining in the layoffs and explore a long-time interest in social responsibility.
I knew that giving back didn't look like the big American banks that'd begun unraveling, leaving markets and lives uncertain and disrupting the start of careers like my own in financial journalism. As I watched news coverage outlining the risk and greed that had started it all, it became clear to me that we needed companies to do better for people.
Like for so many others during the recession that followed, searching for meaningful work was difficult yet eye opening. Increasingly drawn to the idea that businesses could create both financial and social profit, I decided to join local nonprofits in opening and running social enterprises. These beneficent businesses not only sold marketable products, they also invested their revenue in communities where it was needed.
And I realized that giving back actually means giving forward, not necessarily in a philanthropic sense, but in a way that weaves social impact into the very fabric of company values and operations.
In the years that followed, my love for social enterprise grew. I helped run shops that empowered homeless and low-income women on Los Angeles' Skid Row. Afterwards I spent 12 months in East Africa strengthening a business for families affected by conflict in northern Uganda. And along the way I reveled in watching our customers have moments as they realized their purchases could support a double bottom line.
This passion led me to join CommonBond, and to speak with our community about social impact at every given opportunity. Not only do we create economic mobility for Americans with student loans by helping them refinance, we also contribute to education initiatives on a global scale. For every loan we fund on our platform, we also fund the education of a child in need in Ghana through our partnership with Pencils of Promise. We call it our Social Promise.
I have the opportunity to attend our second-annual Impact in Action Trip, where CommonBond members and staff will travel to Ghana to see the impact of our work for the students and families we support. Through this experience, my hope is to better understand how cross-sector partnerships can utilize business practices to solve social problems. I believe that when businesses do well, many people around them should benefit, and that a socially-responsible Capitalism 2.0 can accomplish this.
Ultimately, my aim is to examine a question that will become more common from consumers: "What can your product do for me, and what can it do for the world?"