Social good investments must give equal priority to the present and the future

Bertina Ceccarelli is CEO of NPowera national, community-based nonprofit whose mission is to advance equity in the technology industry.

Across the spectrum of social goods, there has been a long-running debate – reignited by the pandemic – about whether businesses, nonprofits and other organizations should focus their social investments on the large-scale future needs of humanity versus those that are more immediate.

As a former business executive leading a national nonprofit that invests in people, I don’t believe the question is the present versus the future. It must be both at the same time. How do you do this? Take care of people today, they will take care of humanity tomorrow.

For example, the non-profit organization I lead, NPower, provides military veterans and young adults from underserved communities with technical training and support services to prepare them for relevant careers as a gateway to mobility. economic. In this way, we serve people from racial, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in the technology industry.

As an illustrative example: After a student completed a technical training program at my organization, he landed a job as a business operations engineer at a large financial services firm. From there, they were able to buy their first home. This is profound for many reasons, including the fact that they can now build up equity wealth to pass on to the next generation. Investing in people can pay dividends for a long time.

In my experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors, corporations have many opportunities to make their altruism effective for now and beyond. Here are three ways.

1. Invest in your greatest asset: your people.

Just as you invest capital in cloud technology, plant and equipment, innovation and product development, you must prioritize investing in skills, aspirations, growth, performance and opportunity for each level of your workforce.

With a venture capital mindset – and leaning towards diversity and inclusion – you can discover and invest in your “hidden figures” by paying attention to the unique skills and abilities of all your talents.

2. Involve the people you invest in.

Social good initiatives can be ineffective if they fail to engage the people you are determined to help. I remember not too long ago, schools in major American cities were getting thousands of tablets, but neither the teachers nor the students had the training or the curriculum to use them. Key stakeholders clearly did not participate in this initiative.

I realized early on that the program didn’t always work for students because different people learn in different ways. Computer training is particularly difficult because it is technical and sometimes theoretical. Interviewing students, graduates and their employers can help you find effective ways to vary your approach. From my own experience, I know that providing more hands-on hands-on training, for example, will help students experience what day-to-day work in an IT help desk will be like.

Another example is that some students say they can’t wait 16 weeks or more to complete a full training program before getting a job. There are ways to reconfigure shorter certification courses so that students can get entry-level employment and then follow up with more advanced training for even higher-paying jobs.

3. Tap into the nonprofit sector for talent and ideas.

True partnership with non-profit organizations. Recruit among them. Offer rotations and internships to your employees and theirs. The days of division between the corporate and nonprofit sectors are over, especially when we need each other to achieve our intersecting goals.

Nonprofits can open doors to new resources, allies, and advocates to strengthen and expand your programming and impact. Corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance initiatives will not succeed if they are created in isolation at corporate headquarters. I urge companies to expand their network to include the expertise that nonprofits can provide, including long-term studies and co-developed learning programs.

These people-focused strategies may seem basic, they are. But I’ve found that they’re often overlooked, deprioritized, or pushed aside for short-term business pressures.

Imagining how philanthropy can support futuristic projects like colonizing Mars or anticipating sentient technology sounds sexy and visionary. But isn’t this mindset a bit arrogant? It can also be dangerous if it involves bailing us out for the real and pressing social problems of today and diverting altruistic resources.

Solving the future must start now. It requires humility, empathy, immediate knowledge and wisdom. And that starts with investing in the people who are making a difference today, in their own lives and in the lives of others.


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