Building on Lessons from 2021 to Do Big Things in 2022

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

I think it’s fair to say that 2021 didn’t turn out the way any of us expected it to. Remember how hopeful we started off, so eager to leave the turmoil of 2020 behind us? But after another 12 months of the pandemic, political and social upheaval, missing loved ones, and thwarted plans, we crawled to the finish line in December more than a bit deflated.

After some time off to ring in the New Year (which most of us spent either avoiding or recovering from the Omicron variant of COVID), we’re returning to work, as we do every January. But this time it feels….different. We’re tired, and we’re weary. It feels harder to tap into that usual infusion of “New Year, New You!” energy this time around, and instead feels more like this:

Poorly drawn lines cartoon with text: it's a New Year. The old year go too weird so we started it over.

Acknowledging the collective strangeness we’re feeling is an important part of meeting ourselves with grace in this moment. 2022 started not with the usual “bang” of fireworks, champagne, and glitter, but with a whisper: to tune into what we feel and need. To cut ourselves some slack. To set realistic expectations and be gentle with ourselves as we work to meet them. To support each other and ask for the support we need. 

The challenges of the last few years have taken a toll on us, to be sure, but it’s also done something else for those of us fortunate enough to have returned to a semblance of stability: it’s made us stronger, it’s made us wiser, and hopefully a little more empathetic, too. 2021 showed us that we need each other to succeed – no single person or organization can solve the world’s most thorny global challenges in isolation. Our illusions of a speedy return to “normal” (whatever that is) have been tempered by the understanding that this messy in-between space is where the real work – and real progress – happens. 

Yes, we still have much work to do. But look at how far we’ve come. To quote Vu Le in the article You are awesome, and 2022 is going to be an awesome year! , “In the dumpster fire that was last year, we still did incredible things. Our [social impact] sector has always been creative and resourceful even during the Before Times, but the last couple of years, we have done some of our best work amidst some of the greatest challenges.”

We’ve seen firsthand the way that people have persevered to turn the challenges of 2021 into new opportunities to adapt, pivot, partner, and build resilience. One of the most exciting trends we saw in 2021 was the unprecedented level of alignment between corporations, impact investors, social enterprises, individual professionals, and even governments on the strategic priority of achieving the SDGs, and the role of social enterprises in doing so.

This got us thinking: how can we create even more connections across our programs to drive sustainable change at the systems level?

image of yoda with text: work together we must

Creating an Impact in 2021

This thinking last year culminated in the re-launch of our S-GRID program to help social enterprises build sustainable revenue-based partnerships with the corporate sector, which Fast Company recognized MovingWorlds for as a World Changing Idea Honoree. In doing so, we are helping social enterprises scale sustainably, while also helping integrate their innovations to make companies more responsible and equitable.

We also welcomed a number of new strategic partners last year who are prioritizing social enterprise inclusion and employee development, including some of the world’s most recognizable companies like PayPal and SAP. MovingWorlds also joined the World Economic Forum’s COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, a community focusing on shaping an inclusive, just, and sustainable future for all through social entrepreneurship. 

Despite obstacles like lockdowns and travel restrictions, our network of experteering professionals from over 100 countries continued to step up to provide social enterprises around the world with high-skilled, pro-bono support. After millions of dollars worth of in-kind contributions of expertise, MovingWorlds is proud to announce that our network has contributed over 200,000 hours of professional skills worth over $25 million dollars. 

Screenshot of MovingWorlds living impact report

In addition to directly supporting social enterprises, our experteers took time to learn and grow, too. 

We operated 4 cohorts of the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship in 2021, growing our alumni community to almost 300 inspiring professionals from over 55 countries who are using their careers to drive sustainable change. MovingWorlds feels especially grateful to this community as we were lucky enough to add 2 alumna – Irit and Kelsey – to our full-time team!

Quote from Fellow Priya Patel

Looking Ahead to 2022 (and beyond)

As proud as we are of all we accomplished in 2021, we’re most proud of the way it has set us up to do even more to support social enterprises in 2022. We could not be more excited about what 2022 has in store for our team, and more importantly, the incredible community of social enterprises and social intrapreneurs that we serve. 

During our team’s internal celebration of 2021 and goal-setting session for 2022, an interesting trend emerged: as hard as we were all working, and as tired as we were, we each also recognized a deep sense of purpose in our work coupled with an urgency to act. To quote Professor Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world.” 

This is our time to make a real, lasting difference – to change the structures of the systems that shape our world so that they may usher in the more equitable, just, and sustainable New Normal we know is possible. 2021 showed us that realizing that vision is a marathon, not a sprint. This year, as we embark on the uphill challenge of systems change, we remain unwavering in our commitment to our work, and to each other as individual human beings with the understanding that systems change relies on individual actors that also practice self-care

Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world.” Indeed, this quote inspires MovingWorlds on a daily basis. But as we step into 2022 another year older and another year wiser, we would venture an addition: “With lever in hand, give me a clear mind, a sound body, and a place to stand alongside my fellow changemakers, and we will move the world”.

We have one more big piece of news that we can’t quite share yet… but it involves a massive initiative to better help social enterprises build the skills, connections, and capacity to scale – while empowering more leaders within corporations to partner with social enterprises, and become more responsible in turn. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to stay updated!