When we look back at 2016, one thing is clear: for much of the world, it was a difficult year filled with loss, tragedy, and fear. We understand that this doesn’t immediately change with the start of a new calendar year, and it’s important to continue making room for resulting grief and ongoing repercussions. That said, it’s also important to recognize progress made over the past year – for us as individuals, companies, and communities. Where did we create good? What are we proud of? How can we improve as we move forward?
At WhyWhisper, when we look back on our 2016, there’s a lot that we feel proud of – and of course, there are areas in which we can improve. After all, doing good isn’t about being perfect; it’s about continually working to be better. So in the spirit of trust and transparency, here it is – what we think we did well, and where we would like to do better:
We Changed Our Services to Increase Our Impact
We made big moves in 2016! At the beginning of the year, we took time to evaluate our services in an effort to increase our positive impact, while also addressing our team’s evolving interests. How? Historically, we had worked with nonprofits and social enterprises. But the more we learned about the powerful potential of using business to address global issues, the more we wanted to empower and support businesses that weren’t already harnessing their power for good.
After working with a few companies to develop and implement more socially responsible policies, in mid-2016, we formally announced our strategy, planning, and project management services for businesses interested in launching new impact initiatives. (Interested in getting started on your own? Here are some tips to guide you).
We Defined Our Values & Used Them to Guide Decisions
This year, we took time to further define our values as a company. While we had already outlined our values of accountability, positivity, purpose, learning, and empowerment, we hadn’t sat ourselves down to clarify exactly what they meant to our team. By setting aside time to define our values, we reaffirmed our commitment to them, and better determined how to use them as guidelines when making company decisions.
On the subject of accountability, we also became a Certified B Corp after completing B Lab’s rigorous assessment (a process designed to hold companies accountable to the highest standards of social and environmental performance). You can read more about that process and what the certification means to us here.
We Developed a CSR Strategy for Our Team
We knew it was critically important for us to first develop our own CSR commitments before we gave counsel to others. So at the beginning of last year, we sat down and defined our 2016 goals. It was important to us that these goals be attainable, impactful, and value-aligned. Here’s what we set out to do, and how we measured up in December:
- We decided to donate 5% of our profits to causes that roared against injustice where others had whispered. These funds were donated throughout the year to the following:
- We committed ourselves to one pro bono project as a team. After reviewing applications, we had the privilege of working with Changemaker Chats, a nonprofit that brings women together in an intimate forum to share their experiences and build relationships, while learning practical tips for advancing positive change at work, at home, and in their communities. You can read more about them in this interview. To check out our 2017 pro bono application, click here.
- As individuals, we committed to one volunteer activity per quarter. This collectively resulted in 135.75 volunteer hours this year, which were spent organizing blood drives, supporting LGBTQ homeless youth, wrapping holiday presents for child survivors of domestic abuse, spending time with teens at Rikers Island, and more. This was a particularly fulfilling element of our commitment.
- We pledged to only take on new clients that had goals of creating measurable impact. Such clients included: New York State: Reforming the Energy Vision, Local Voices, Center for Social Impact Strategy, National Arts Strategies, The ANDI Brand, Sukoon, Sanctuaries, WeThrive, and Kula for Karma.
- We decided to actively prioritize kindness. To track team participation, we logged our individual acts of kindness on a weekly basis, totaling 173.
- We committed to practicing mindfulness by setting aside a meditative minute at the beginning of all meetings.
- We strived to minimize our environmental footprint, so we started actively tracking and working with vendors focused on sustainability, and continued to recycle, use recycled and eco-friendly materials, and avoid printing, whenever possible.
We feel great about our progress this past year, but we also know we have plenty of room for improvement. Here are a few of our focus areas for the coming year:
- We’ll be conducting surveys and interviews to further define our new service offerings, so as to ensure they’re effectively creating win-win strategies for our clients, their communities, and our world.
- If you have insights or ideas to share on how businesses can be good for the world, we would love for you to get in touch.
- Since putting people first is at the core of positive impact, we conduct regular check-ins to make sure everyone on the team is feeling balanced between their work and personal lives. In 2016, we gave ourselves weekly work-life balance scores, and noticed some periods when the balance was…off. The scores were helpful in making us more aware of those periods, but in the coming year, we want to take this process a step further. Instead of just reporting on our scores, we'll take a minute to reflect on why the score is what it is, and how we can take steps to improve, if needed. We'll support each other in coming up with ideas, and shifting workloads if and when possible.
- Because this was the first year in which we committed to a pro bono team project, we went into it with somewhat open parameters surrounding the selection process and our services. While we were lucky to have a truly wonderful experience, we received applications with such a wide variety of requests that we realized it’s important for us to get more specific in the coming year.
- Rather than making small donations across a variety of causes, we will spend more time researching and selecting one revenue donation recipient, so as to lay the groundwork for a long-term, scalable relationship with an organization that meets our criteria.
- We will continue to hone in on WhyWhisper’s “ideal client”. While we have definitely made strides to work with organizations and businesses that are creating measurable impact, we realized that this isn’t the only criteria that matters. It’s also important to us to work with clients who are positive and kind – those who are passionate about their work, understand the value of strategy, planning, and time management, and communicate openly and effectively. We’ve been grateful to have worked with such clients in 2016, and we want to do so more intentionally, going forward.
- We will work to be bolder in implementing our mindfulness practice at the beginning of all meetings. While the practice helped us focus ourselves and start meetings on a positive note, if we’re being honest, we weren’t always that great about making time for it.
- Did we mention we’re always striving to make improvements? ;) Stay tuned for more to come…
Thank you for being a part of our journey as we continue to grow and evolve! We look forward to continuing to support you in all your impact endeavors. Be sure to stay in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.