Skip to content

The Network Effect: How Business Drives Progress

By Courtney Murphy, Manager, Strategic Engagement CECP

October 3, 2013–With summer vacations behind us and a slight chill in the air, the time is ripe to roll up our sleeves and approach the challenges ahead of us with a clear mind and unencumbered ambitions. For corporate leaders focused on addressing pressing community issues related to their business such as workforce readiness, education, obesity, poverty, and many others, this means catching up on the latest trends and promising models for achieving impact.

CECP’s 2013 Edition of the Giving in Numbers report, released in September, provides a snapshot of corporate giving in 2012. Most encouraging to CECP was the finding that 59% of companies gave more in 2012 than in 2007, the year before the global recession set in. Also, non-cash donations, which can include pro-bono service or donation of products, has risen by 10% or more each year since 2008, and paid-release-time volunteer programs were offered by 70% of companies in 2012, compared with just 53% before the recession.

Companies, realizing that today’s societal problems are too large and complex to be addressed by any one company or organization alone, are reaching deep into their toolbox, to draw upon their unique resources, expertise, and areas of influence, in addition to their cash support of non-profit partners. They are looking to combine all their assets and abilities with those of other companies and sectors to drive progress.

Whereas companies may have been able to operate relatively independently in the past, increasing expectations from consumers, decreasing government support, and increasing societal need have made external engagement and partnerships across industries and sectors essential. The shutdown of the U.S. federal government reminds us of how interconnected and fragile today’s civic society is.

Next week, business leaders in corporate responsibility will flock to the Nation’s Capitol, and while they may not be able to visit the National Zoo or museums, closed due to the shutdown, they will convene for the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC)’s conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to focus on “The Network Effect: How Business Drives Progress.”

Each company has unique influence because of its network of employees, supply chain, customers, shareholders, board, nonprofit partners, and community partners. Not only can a company affect change through its own action, but also that effort can be exponential when connected to the actions of others. Opportunities like the BCLC conference, to delve deep into the issues that are top of mind and identify the most promising interventions and scale them, equip today’s business leaders with resources and connections to bring back to their companies.

Collaboration is key to progress on systemic societal challenges, and through networks, we can break down silos, see the big picture, and produce innovation. But we must go beyond dialogue to create measureable impact on the ground. CECP looks forward to joining the conversation next week, and to driving progress alongside leading companies, through the power of the network.