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Mark Kramer - Reflections on Positive Impact

Mark Kramer (Visiting Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and Founder/Managing Director of FSG) reflects on the importance of a common agenda and common interest in achieving Positive Impact at scale.

The Palladium Summit 2017 brought together nearly 250 delegates to explore the huge potential for Positive Impact – the intentional creation of enduring social and economic value.

What is Positive Impact?

Mark Kramer: Well Positive Impact is, I think, very akin to the concept we talk about, creating Shared Value. It’s when companies understand the synergy between their own economic success and the welfare of the communities in which they operate.

So, it’s about finding business strategies that create both Positive Social Impact and enhance the competitiveness and profitability of the company.

I’ve worked in both Venture Capital and philanthropy for many, many years – before I began to do the work I do now – and nothing in those areas persuaded me there was much hope of solving social problems. I saw so many wonderful philanthropic organisations working so hard on such limited budgets, and not really changing any of the complex, systemic issues that cause poverty, pollution, health ills, etc. in our society. But when I began to follow this idea of Shared Value and see companies pursue the solutions to social problems as a business opportunities, I saw them achieve a scale and impact that I didn’t see with philanthropy. When we began to see cross sector coalitions come together – using this process that we call Collective Impact, to find a common agenda to solve a problem in a particular region together, to begin to align their efforts – we saw real change at scale. And so those two examples have made me very, very hopeful that we are finding new ways to solve social problems than we ever have before and that these ways work.

How can we get even more businesses and organisations involved in creating a Positive Impact?

MK: Well I think for businesses the key is for them truly to understand the economic benefit that comes to them from achieving Positive Impact and creating Shared Value. I think a key element of that is getting investors to understand that when companies talk about Shared Value, it’s not about corporate social responsibility, it’s not about socially responsible investing, it’s about competitive strategy that actually delivers results. We need the investment community to begin to understand this in order to push businesses in this direction.

If you had one message to Palladium or to our clients about Positive Impact, what would it be?

MK: I think the message to Palladium would be ‘go forth and do this’! This is powerful stuff and you guys have a great combination of experience and skills in the social sector, in international development, in business. It’s bringing these skills together that enables Positive Impact to happen. There are very few organisations in the world that bring together both the business understanding and the social sector and development understanding that are necessary, and Palladium is one of those few organisations.

For more highlights from the Palladium Summit 2017, visit our Research & Impact page or contact ThoughtLeadership@thePalladiumgroup.com.