A few years ago I thought small. I wanted to help those in my community but I was only looking at ways that provided immediate relief, not long-term resolutions. I thought the main ways to help were through donations or volunteering. But then I started to realize the bigger picture. Donations and volunteering are great ways to help but we need to do it in a better way. It was at United Global Shift in New York City in October 2014 that I truly understood why we need to do things differently – We need to create systemic shifts, not band-aid solutions.
So what is the difference?
A band-aid solution is when you help an immediate problem but do not address the underlying issue. If someone is hungry, you give them food.
A systemic shift is addressing why someone needed food in the first place. It addresses the root cause and looks for a solution. Why does the person need food? It is when you ask that question that you realize there are many causes of lack of food that need addressing. It may be because they lost their job, or were sick and lost pay. Perhaps their car needed unexpected repairs. Maybe there is just not enough money to buy food. Or, one family member uses money meant for food for drugs or other vices.
There are many underlying causes. Each underlying cause requires its own solution. Giving food only solves the immediate issue. Helping solve the underlying problem prevents ongoing hunger.
So what do we do? For someone who does not make enough money to buy food, we must address issues of poverty and the root issues of same – lack of education, mental illness, disabilities, lack of low cost housing (the opposite being high housing costs), lack of decent paying work or full-time work, high childcare costs and more. The problem now becomes more complex. It is not surprising that so many choose only to look at the surface issue without truly diving beneath the surface to find the root cause.
This is particularly important to consider if you are looking to pursue social entrepreneurism or wish to make your business socially conscious. It is up to you to decide the level of impact you and your business will make.
This holiday season, please continue to give. Help your community by donating food and/or funds. This will provide immediate relief to those in need. But, at the start of the year, I ask you to take some time to consider what you and your business can do to make a long term impact.