Today, almost ten years after the idea of MovingWorlds was born, I am thrilled to announce that MovingWorlds is a 2021 Fast Company World Changing Idea Honoree – a tremendous milestone that comes at a time when we’re setting even more audacious goals for our next ten years.
This award has prompted us to reflect on just how far we have come as a company and as a team, and trust me, we have come a LONG way. About seven years ago, during an especially perilous moment for MovingWorlds’s longevity, I had a meeting with potential investors that did not go well. I was laughed at, dismissed, and publicly “shamed” in front of other entrepreneurs and investors for being “cute” for prioritizing impact above profits.
The irony is not lost on us that today, it is that very commitment to impact that has led to MovingWorlds being selected as a Fast Company World-Changing Idea Honoree. During a year of crisis after crisis, our team has doubled in size, our impact has multiplied, and our partnerships have grown. Most importantly, we are supporting professionals and social enterprises across over 100 countries who are contributing to a more equitable and sustainable economy. All of this growth, even during the most unlikely of times, has been fueled by sustainable streams of revenue – creating even more jobs, and we have even begun to repay our impact investors that seeded our idea in 2014.
Of course, I should take a moment to give credit to the investors and customers that dismissed us in those early days – like so many early-stage social enterprises, we struggled to communicate our vision and value proposition in a way that resonated with a mainstream audience. Seven years ago, the idea of a “benefit corporation” did not exist, the Sustainable Development Goals were not ratified, and most companies did everything they could to avoid discussing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. Corporate Social Responsibility was a fancy word for philanthropy and widely written off as a PR play, and the majority of people still thought that donating to charity could change the world.
But Derk Norde (my Co-Founder) and I knew things were going to change – not because we were the smartest or most visionary, but because we listened to the real innovators trying to drive sustainable change and asked them how we could help. We knew that while the social enterprise movement was growing, most social businesses were stuck in the Pioneer Gap and would therefore not be able to access capital needed to help the scale. We knew that companies would increasingly align with the (at that time, brand-new) Sustainable Development Goals. We knew that individuals were increasingly looking for more purpose in their work and would take bigger and bigger steps to find it.
Most importantly, we spent time talking to the very people we were looking to partner with, and they told us what they wanted so that we could design around it. We built prototypes, practiced human-centered design, learned fast, and launched something much bigger than we ever thought… What started as a website to help people volunteer their skills overseas has transitioned into a single platform where corporations, impact investors, social enterprises, and passionate individuals can learn, connect, and work together to build a more sustainable and equitable global economy.
So… What Is It That MovingWorlds Does?
Today, nearly 10 years after I left my corporate career to volunteer with the Nepal Wireless Project supporting a small school and telehealth center in the “foothills” of the Himalaya, we tell a very different story:
- In the next fifteen years, over 12 trillion dollars per year will be invested in supporting business models that are carbon recapturing, equitable to employees, society-positive, and that regenerate our planet (to learn more, check out our research). In fact the move to a regenerative economy represents the biggest business opportunity of all time.
- Most of this spend will be initiated by international corporations that are already making audacious commitments to be carbon negative, equitable to employees, and transition to circular economics – These transitions will be prioritized by executives and Boards that will even tie their compensation to achieving these targets, and ESG reporting is already becoming the norm by most major governments, even in the U.S.
- ESG will become so important that the biggest asset managers and investors in the world will require ESG disclosures, and soon, ESG targets for all their portfolios.
- In order to achieve these targets, corporations will have to partner with a new type of enterprise, the social enterprise, to ensure that their entire supply and distribution chains also achieve ESG targets. As an example, take a cup of coffee. You can never drink a world-positive cup of coffee until it is growing regeneratively, processed, shipped, packaged and brewed carbon neutrally AND all employees across the over five different types of businesses responsible for you getting your coffee are also paid equitably and treated ethically. “Social enterprise” is the type of business that develops social good while managing all its own externalities to do this – like Change Please or Vega.
- These social enterprises capable of building a better economy already exist, but they are stuck in the Pioneer Gap – meaning they need to up-level their operations, strategy, and team member’s skills to get to the next level. That’s exactly where MovingWorlds comes in.
- We partner with major corporations to direct financial capital, human capital, and procurement budgets to these social enterprises via our S-GRID Program, embedding more social enterprise thinking in the global economy while helping the social enterprises themselves scale revenue and impact. Beyond connecting social enterprises to highly skilled volunteers and new business opportunities, we also invest in the professionals that lend their expertise, providing them networking, education, and support to help participants initiate improvements at their own company as “social intrapreneurs”.
- For professionals that are especially committed to creating more impact in their careers, we operate a MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship – now with over 250 alumni from over 50 countries – to provide coaching, networking, and career-acceleration support to help individuals find more fulfilling and world-positive careers.
- We have already helped some of the biggest companies in the world, like Microsoft, PayPal, Avanade, SAP, Kering, Booking.com, eBay, West Monroe Partners, Amazon, EY, Timberland and more to think about how they can educate and engage their employees to scale social impact initiatives in a way that contributes to the long-term success of their business, their communities, and the planet at large.
- Most importantly… although our company is not new, in many ways we feel like we are just getting started and we hope you will join us.
The economy has a long way to go before it is sustainable and equitable, and it will take a lot of work to get there. We also know that times of crises further propagate inequalities and leave a lasting imprint on our communities. I am reminded of a quote from Desmond Tutu, “A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.”
To rebuild a better society that is inclusive of all and sustainable for the planet is a choice – and making it commits us to a long and challenging path that will inevitably be full of obstacles and missteps, but we know it is the right choice. Never before has interest been so high from people, investors, startups, employees, governments, and executives alike to create a more sustainable and just economy, and we are going to work tirelessly in this next decade to make it a reality by 2030. Together, we are changing the world. We hope you will join us.
- Are you a social enterprise? Apply to S-GRID Social Enterprise Corporate Partnership & Revenue Accelerator
- Are you a company? Learn about our fully-managed CSR programs and program design work
- Are you an individual? Apply to our MovingWorlds Institute, and be on the lookout for new job announcements coming soon.