We needed to focus
At this point, you’ve probably heard it a few times. We became a Certified B Corporation three years ago. Since then, we have remained agile and active: Constantly reevaluating how we operate as a business, pushing to be better. It’s easy to get comfortable when things feel like they are going well. Our 2020 started with a bang: Rewarding work and great clients. Busyness often produces blurriness. We needed to stand taller for something. It felt morally imperative. We needed to focus.
Last year we decided to only take on one pro bono project at a time on a rolling basis. Our include some of our most meaningful and fulfilling work. They magnify and multiply our impact. But how do we decide what pro bono projects to take on? How do we generate impact and do our best work without taking on too much? In turn, how do we land on goals that are broad enough to include a diverse range of clients but also be able to set parameters so that it is easier to say “no?” Again, we needed to focus.
We have been talking a lot about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations developed in 2015. You can read more about them here and here. Often B Corps will select one or more to concentrate on. The goals are all a call to action tackling significant worldwide issues, including hunger, poverty, climate change, education, economic growth, and health. They also include a call to preserve our oceans and forests. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that these goals could help us focus and select our Pro Bono projects. Sounded doable.
I am a firm believer that Bullhorn is best when we are looking at each other, listening, and talking. Plus, we all like each other and typically tell some pretty good jokes. We prefer to conduct group exercises to make decisions. Sometimes that means we ride bikes, plant trees, or do yoga together. Or sometimes, that means we gather, write down some thoughts, and process out loud. We ask our clients to participate in exercises too. These practices help us talk about ourselves or produce authentic and confident language for a client.
So, we put a date on the calendar, ordered breakfast, and gathered in-person (pre-pandemic) and virtually (shout out to our office in Louisville and DC—sorry you didn’t get any pastries, Will). Jenny gave an overview of SDGs and why they matter. And why they should matter to Bullhorn. First, we all chose and shared one SDG that resonated with us. Even in a room of middle-class hipsters, we recounted stories of poverty, hunger, and gender discrimination. Things got real. Then we each selected a goal or two where we felt Bullhorn could focus our efforts. The results for that exercise were all over the map. We are a group of passionate opinions. How would we ever narrow this down?
We needed to focus.
Finally, we divided into two groups and worked to each narrow to five SDGs. Even some we felt strongly about, we weeded out. I mean, how much direct impact can we have on SDG 14: Life Under Water? We live in a land-locked state. We might each be able to contribute to this goal in our own way, but there is not a ton Bullhorn can do. Anyway, one group followed the rules, landing on five goals. The other came back with eleven. (And we are known for our decisiveness. I blame the overachievers.) We did have three overlaps: Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Quality Education (SDG 4), and Gender Equality (SDG 5). There. Decision made.
We landed. When we looked back at our recent pro bono work, these goals made sense. They align with the projects we’ve already done but will also challenge us to step out of the box to do more.
We have a focus.