This moment in time has us all grappling with big questions. As we shift into the middle of the year, what started as a chaotic pause in the first quarter of 2020 is now standard operating procedure. Uncertainty is now the new norm.
In some ways, though, uncertainty has always been the norm. We may have done a good job telling ourselves that our day-to-day existence was secure or, at least, predictable. That foundations we – and others before us – laid kept everything moving. If this time has taught us anything, its how fragile best-laid plans can be.
As a social entrepreneur, I may have an advantage during this time. Small business is always uncertain in a way. You do your best to design a plan; you connect the dots between skills and what’s needed; and you manage it dynamically. It makes you very aware of what influences outcomes. Nothing is fully solid until it’s done and that’s good for relevancy – and clarity. Clarity is probably the most critical skill to have right now because we can really only do one thing at a time, while attempting to have some vision of what we might want to build for the future.
At Social Impact, we started 2020 with a business-model shift. After three years of strategic planning and refining our course, our goal this year was to shift our focus from hands-on creative work to delivering our Public Image Works method. It was almost like launching a new business and we were ready and excited to put it at the forefront. Our typical “We Can Make It Happen” approach would have meant a major push and lots of energy. When the shutdown meant a slowdown, our best-laid plans had to be adjusted.
Which is the sliver lining of this whole experience. Slowing down and getting clarity. Everyone is doing that right now. What’s most important? What’s relevant? And what is at our core that is still needed no matter what is happening in the world?
By slowing down and observing this time, I was able to see very clearly how our work needed to be focused. I say “focus” instead of “pivot” – the word of the day – because I think that’s what’s needed most. I think everyone needs to do what they do best. What they know best. And what they established as their “purpose” or Mission. Once I had the time to really look, it became clear that the most important thing we could do right now also reinforced our purpose for being here. This was an important awareness not just for the COVID and then BLM moments. It was an empowering moment to really embrace our authentic Identity. Being clear about what we do and why it’s needed was very freeing. This is the #1 success-ingredient I encourage all of our client-collaborators to understand. It not only makes a strong Public Image – it focuses the foundation of everything you do.
This crisis helped me see very clearly that our real work is to remove barriers for bold ideas and action. And that our work in this moment needed to be about removing barriers for fearless communication and action. Too many good organizations, visionaries, and leaders were struggling with what to do next. Since this moment elevated the need for communication (our primary tactic at Social Impact), it became clear that we had to rise to the occasion in ways that would be most helpful.
Instead of mindlessly following the business model shift or scrapping the plans altogether, we found a way to focus and integrate the ideas while responding to the needs of the day.
In March, we started hosting Weekly Communications Support Zooms. Through a chosen theme, we look at “best practices” and how they are the same or different given our current times. We share our basic Public Image Works tools – making them freely available to help people remove barriers that might be getting in their way right now. You can get the details about these meetings here and see a full list of topics & tools we’ve already covered.
As our own organization made a public commitment to prioritizing anti-racism in our work, we found the need to support our community too. In June, we added a new Zoom for Embodying Anti-Racism in Communication & Action to give space for conversations and shared ideas about this work for the long-haul. You can find information to join these Zoom sessions here.
If you’d like to get weekly updates about our themes and new tools. Please drop us a line here and we’ll add you to that specific outreach list.
Another silver lining from this this deeper dive into our purpose is refinement and clarity about Public Image Works in ways that we might not have experienced otherwise. Now more than ever, good people need to promote their great work. By engaging our community, we have been able to tweak the program to be more relevant in the face of constantly shifting landscapes. If you’d like to know the latest, please read more here.
This clarified perspective on our core work has helped me keep going, even in the face of all of the uncertainty. It has also helped me see how flexibility will help me achieve this year’s goals with a fraction of the effort we might have put into it before. Instead of parceling out our work, we’ve integrated it. We still will apply specific perspectives for specific results, but in ways that remove barriers instead of making more of them.