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If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?

If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?


I am a believer in the original tenets of Net Impact: that business can be a force for good and that people entering the workforce shouldn’t have to sacrifice principals or purpose for a paycheck.

Fresh back from our annual Net Impact Conference: NI19 – Widening the Lens, I am lifted by our communities’ depth, breadth, and passion. 1500+ strong, our attendees are collectively on the front half of the curve and I was excited to see our corporate-partners’ advocacy of sustainable practices and encouragement to our largely NexGen network. But, how do we take the vibrancy of a three-day conference and spread it throughout the year? How do we encourage more corporate advocates to join our work?

 If 181 Fortune 500 CEO’s have signed off on the Business Roundtable’s ‘Redefinition of a Corporation’, broadening the objectives from shareholder primacy to include all stakeholders (adding employees, community, supply chain, and consumers), what of the other 319? At the close of N19, I sought to re-ignite the challenge to us all, uttering: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Something is amiss with systems whose leadership talks of “leveling the playing field” and “inclusiveness”, of “listening to the community” and “social contract” but somehow cannot seem to get it done on a hastened or grand scale. These concepts are appealing to those committed to the status quo of systems like Capitalism and Investing Markets, even Democracy, as they are about time zero – the here and now. When those in power, authority or favor, think about ‘unfair advantage’ with regard to their own circumstances, it’s easy to become preoccupied with blame (and “am I being blamed”). The elegance, then, of solutions set for the here and now and future to come, is that these are within the power of those in control, with culpability reserved for those that came before them. These are mollifying statements that give rise to palliative solutions only.

Many of these systems are, to a degree, damaged – built for a narrower past version of people and planet. And while we may see small fixes or patches, there’s rarely discussion that a system itself is broken and in need of a redesign. The last vestiges of archaic, dying power and systems are to accept diagnoses of issues and prescribe placebos for them. “Here’s a Band-Aid for your gun-shot wound”. NexGen is saying, “This isn’t enough” and we agree.

We all, our community of partners and network, need to remain steadfast. Net Impact believes in the power of the incredibly talented and passionate leaders of tomorrow in fixing the problems they will inherit. And, we believe that work must start today, and continue to work towards evolutionary system design change of systems and agencies. While some may feel overwhelmed at the work ahead, fresh from NI19, I feel greater optimism as our Net Impact community alongside our corporate partners, mobilize and engage for a more just and sustainable world.

If not us, who? If not now, when?