by Moska Najib
April 4th, 2017

Today, there’s little argument that we have many complex issues to address.

We only need to reference the UN Sustainable Development Goals to understand some of these challenges – from ending poverty and hunger, to advancing gender equality and reducing inequality. And, every day, the news offers a new snapshot of critical problems that require us to listen, understand and assess how we — as individuals or as part of a network — can contribute to meaningful progress and solutions.

Increasingly, modern social movements are providing new perspectives on how to approach these challenges. In 2014, the #IceBucketChallenge went viral on social media. People across the world participated and nominated others to pour ice water on their heads to help increase awareness of and solicit donations for the sufferers of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. More than $200 million was raised as a result and, within two years, scientists had made major breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating the disease.

Skip forward to the 2017 Women’s March, which began as a social media post in response to the U.S. Presidential Election 2016. It spawned 670 sister marches across six continents, inspiring millions of people to picket for human rights. And, this year, social media celebrities Jérôme Jarre, Casey Neistat, Ben Stiller, Chakabars and Juanpa Zurita came together to form #LOVEARMYFORSOMALIA, a crowd-funded humanitarian effort to send food to malnourished infants in Somalia. To date, the campaign has raised US$2,154,640, and roped in Turkish Airlines to send a cargo plane with 60 tonnes of food to Mogadishu.

Whether it’s the #IceBucketChallenge or #LOVEARMYFORSOMALIA, individuals and organisations are smartly leveraging technology to unlock new ideas, forge new connections and advance large-scale advocacy.

The feel-good factor

In fact, buzz around social impact has grown louder and harder to avoid. Thanks to technologies like our smartphones and wearables, we all have the power to bear witness, share ideas and stand up to be counted. As a result, it has become both easier for individuals to make a difference than ever before – and for companies to be held accountable for their business practices and affiliations. All of this visibility is starting to impact consumer choices.

Findings from The Company behind the Brand II: In Goodness We Trust, a study conducted by Weber Shandwick and KRC research, indicate that more consumers are making decisions based on the positive personal impact of a brand’s products and the social impact of a brand’s behavior than ever before. 46 percent of respondents reported that they were more likely to make purchases from companies that made them feel happy.

Going further; a third of respondents worldwide reported that they wanted to feel good about the companies they supported with their purchases. Nearly half of all respondents reported that their conversations around companies oscillated around ideas of ethical behaviour, company safety and a company’s overall ‘goodness’. More and more, corporate reputations among consumers are being built on ideas of social impact.

As such, it is critical that brands and organisations in Asia Pacific take responsibility as catalysts of support for today’s social and environmental issues. Given the region’s prolific consumption of social media, brands have a great opportunity to crowdsource, connect and catalyse people into making strong, positive impacts in their communities and building healthy and profitable corporate reputations for their businesses.

Navigating complex, new territories

Through Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact practice, we can help brands navigate complex, new territories – and build stronger and more equitable communities. Across the globe, we’re proud to be engaged with clients on more than 150 assignments linked to each of the UN Global Goals. By putting the desired impact at the centre of our work and focusing on the problem to solve, we’ve been able to engage the necessary stakeholders and networks to identify, facilitate and create action on needed solutions.

Here in Asia Pacific, we recently supported Daughters of Mother India, a documentary film on gender violence in India. Together with film director Vibha Bakshi, we implemented a public education campaign aimed at dispelling stereotypes of gender violence in India and evolving the way India’s police handle cases on sexual assault. It was the first time the Police Commissioner of Delhi allowed a camera inside the Delhi Police Control and Command room, where women police officers take calls from victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence.

The film was bestowed the National Award – the country’s highest film honor given by the President of India for “Best Film on Social Issues”. More importantly, it has helped spark a change in the way India’s police force manages domestic and sexual violence cases.

To truly realise crowdsourcing’s promise both in Asia Pacific and across continents, our society needs the collaboration of multi-sector efforts to develop smarter, more connected cities, with transparent access to purpose-driven data that help inform and shape our solutions for social challenges. As the African proverb goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

What begins as a small step can ripple and evolve into something large, long-term and sustainable – if we all work together.

We tell stories in creative ways, across media and digital platforms. If you want bold communications and engagement to accelerate social progress, contact our award-winning Social Impact practice here.

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