Category Archives: CSR


Corporate Social Responsibility: Companies of all sizes are considering how their work impacts the world around them, finding innovative ways to contribute positively.

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

The Fast Route to Instant Recognition

What if you could instantly tell if a business is enlightened?

Organizations that recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility are part of what I’m now calling the Enlightened Economy. These companies have emerged from the Great Recession with a more considered perspective on how their business impacts the world.

We all know national brands who make social responsibility central to their messaging; among them Subaru, Newman’s Own and Kashi. Yet many local businesses and national corporations’ efforts are invisible. What lost opportunity.

The National Recovery Administration, fighting unemployment and deflation during the Great Depression, asked employers to shorten hours and raise wages. Participating businesses, from JC Penny to Gillette to the local hardware store, put the blue eagle in shop windows and on factory doors. Americans were asked to boycott businesses that did not participate.

While the blue eagle only lasted a few years, what a powerful example it sets. What if we could tell who was doing their part, who had grown wiser from the days of corporate avarice? The right logo could make it happen. 

For more detail about the NRA, listen to NPR’s “Planet Money.”

New Work: Doing Pro Bono, Pro Bono

Inspired by the American Bar Association’s Celebration of Pro Bono, our friends at Taproot Foundation wanted to create a global celebration of pro bono, skills-based service across all professions. They chose last year’s Global Pro Bono Summit as the birthplace for their movement. As business leaders gathered to discuss the increasing viability of the pro bono ethic across industries, Taproot rallied the troops. Summit attendees were quick to demonstrate their enthusiasm, and in that moment, Taproot’s idea became a worldwide movement.

Wave that flag! The new Pro Bono Week logo embodies the spirit of skills-based volunteerism.

As lovers of all things pro bono, we were thrilled when the folks at Taproot asked us to develop Pro Bono Week’s brand identity. Ryon Edwards and Nate Puza collaborated on a design that captures the essence of the movement: Proud. Spirited. Visionary. The energetic yellow-orange reflects the contagious positivity of that moment last year when Taproot first unveiled their ambitious plan, and the flag bearer dares every participant to think big. Pro bono is no longer a nicety. From now on, it’s serious business.

Like the movement itself, the Pro Bono Week logo is a call to action.


Ryon's mockups demonstrate how the logo might be used with the official Pro Bono Week hashtag.

Putting pro bono to work.



10 CreateAthon Secrets Every Volunteer Should Know

  1. Bring PJ’s. When you work all night, changing clothes a few times helps.
  2. Washing your hair at 5am helps you power through the last few hours. Also, your hair may look like you’ve combed it with a porkchop. I know this to be true.
  3. Bring tissues to every presentation. Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, you will.
  4. When you can’t make a decision, get another opinion. If it’s 2 a.m., get an intervention. Remember: “Think about it. Decide. Move on.”
  5. Try to eat healthy. Staying up all night is tough. It’s harder when you’re full of chocolate, cheezy poofs, cookies, Red Bull, popcorn, coffee, doughnuts, peanuts, tiny candy bars and Little Debbie Fudge Rounds.
  6. Deliver the extra idea. There are always extra little awesome details or ideas, make them happen. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many nonprofits. Go the extra mile.
  7. Be flexible. You never know what will happen. Go with the flow.
  8. Have fun. The 24 hours of CreateAthon is pressure packed. Take time to have fun. Stop what you’re doing, have a normal conversation. Hop on Twitter to see what other partner agencies are doing. Hold a 2am all 80’s dance party.
  9. Don’t be afraid. When you leave your last CreateAthon presentation, you will be so energized it’s almost hard to believe. You’ll feel empowered at what you did and gave. It’s a feeling that never goes away and only gets stronger when you volunteer again next year.
  10. Spread the word. There are many areas in this nation where CreateAthon could do 24 hours of good. We’d like to be there. You can help.

Watch the video below to get a sneak peek at the magic of CreateAthon.

Generation Y and Millenials: Work With A Purpose

I’ve read a lot of posts out there discussing the implications of Generation Y and their younger counterparts, the Millennials, entering the workforce. The majority of these types of posts fall into two equally cringe-worthy categories.

There are articles written by older bloggers bemoaning Gen Y as the entitled, narcissistic, offspring of dreadful helicopter parents. They generally come off like this:

Then there are the posts written by members of Gen Y and Millenials themselves. They just want to be seen as more than the entitled, narcissistic offspring of dreadful helicopter parents. But they come off sounding like this:

So many of these posts fail to recognize one of this younger generation’s best qualities. Despite entering the workforce during one of the worst economic climates in history, Generation Y is unflinchingly optimistic about its ability to affect positive change.

I think back to my college days in the early 2000s just before we, those of us born smack on the cusp of Generations X and Y, began to graduate. Returning to school after a year of Americorps service, I took a public relations class. One morning we divided into teams tasked to create mission statements for imaginary employers. While individual statements were unique, they also shared some common threads. Social responsibility. Environmental stewardship. Community giving.

City Year Columbia: My first foray into "work that matters."

My peers and I expressed expectations our professor challenged as “potentially unrealistic,” but they seemed perfectly reasonable to us. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were leading the way for a new workplace experience.

It’s been called Career 4.0, and it seems like the obvious follow-up to high school and college years that strongly emphasize teamwork, collaboration, and service. This generation believes great ideas can come from anywhere and are eager to bring the best heads together to address the most daunting challenges – in the workplace and in society at large.

While work/life balance is still critical, Gen Y and the Millenials have a strong desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. By 2025 they are expected to comprise 75% of the workforce. If you want to attract the best talent, show new grads your commitment to corporate social responsibility goes beyond a well-crafted statement on the company web site. Let it be a reflection of the kind of work they’ll be doing every day. Employers who get this, will get them.