A few days ago I had the pleasure of attending Boston College’s Leading for Social Impact Symposium. The event brought together nonprofit and business leaders, consultants and students alike to discuss the evolving field of social impact. Through topics such as social justice and social enterprise to impact investing and measurement, the event attendees explored what the future may look like for the social impact practioner.


While there were many call-to-actions, such as instilling a “double-bottom line” in business and educating consumers about corporate cause initiatives, none felt more pressing than the call to make lasting change that truly “sticks” in our communities.


In this spirit, Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, took a moment to share what he has learned about “making it stick” over his thirty year career working to improve the economic well-being of low income people in urban areas across America. His advice on creating lasting change included:


1. Establishing a cross sector group. Bring varied stakeholders to the table; lasting change cannot occur without all parties (nonprofit, business, government, citizen, etc.) on board.


2. Agreeing on a bold end game. Aim high and reality will ultimately bring goals down to size.


3. Being data-driven. Track where you are now, where you are going and how are you getting there with quantitative and qualitative metrics.


4. Being a disruptive leader. Speak the truth when others are scared to do so; white lies or cover-ups for pleasantry’s sake doesn’t help anyone.


5. Changing the way money flows. Use money to change people’s behaviors and make them pay attention in new ways.


6. Avoiding viewing the world as “race neutral.” Develop a programming lens that accounts for the barriers that non-white people face.


7. Establishing the “backbone” of the project. Choose a person or group that wakes up each morning thinking about this project and keeping all parties on track.


By leveraging his timely advice, all of us can work together to create positive change in our communities that truly sticks.


Ben Hecht is the President and CEO of Living Cities and a contributing author in Managing for Social Impact: Innovations in Responsible Enterprise.  


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