To Do Good, Know Your Community

During our first 4 years of operation, a lot has changed at Cultivation Center. We flipped our business plan on its head. We developed values then expanded our team and revised our values to better reflect our growth. We overhauled our website. Most recently we trimmed down our mission. But through all of this, we retained our core commitment to being community-minded and to working with other community-minded businesses.

What does it mean to be “community-minded”? For us, defining this foundational concept helps us delineate our cross-sector work. We seek out work with community-minded clients and build partnerships across nonprofits, social impact companies, foundations and corporations who see themselves deeply rooted within the communities they serve. Often our work is to help clients define what “community-minded” means to them. Guiding a team through a short list of questions begins to clarify how a business defines, supports and builds community. Pull your team together to soldier through the following questions to share with one another what community-mindedness means to their work.

Who matters to you?

By answering who matters most you start to define your community. Are they a particular population you serve with your product or service? Are they your employees? Are they geographically specific or specified by another demographic? The more precise you can be, the better you can meet your community’s needs. Your answer to this question may — or may not — be your customers.

What do you do best?

Understanding what you have to offer can help you define what you have to give. Do you have an outstanding work culture? Do you make a product that changes people’s lives? Do you know a market or industry particularly well?

How will you know that what you’re doing matters?

We believe in measuring what matters. Defining how making a difference matters to your company is key in knowing if you’ve made a difference. Maybe you want to bring smiles to people’s faces, something scooping up free ice cream once a year can easily accomplish. Maybe you want to make sure your employees do not worry about healthcare and giving them high-quality health coverage is how you make your mark. How you invest your time and money depends on how you define success. There is no “right” way. However, by articulating success, you better define your approach.

For us, and we argue for you, there’s an even more important part of this process. Leaders are often the only team members asked to answer these important questions. To root community to your core, consider asking all team members — from those in senior positions to the newest recruit — what they care about most. Your team members’ answers will inform your work. Their answers also make the work more meaningful for them.

Developing these questions as criteria to vet for community-minded clients and partnerships serves us well-beyond our client engagements.This is in large part because we’ve turned the criteria on ourselves. That exercise supports us in the ongoing work to more deeply define our community and our social impact while being our own champions behind our drive to do good. A counterpoint to defining community-mindedness, we’ve found, is discovering effective tools to document, measure, and communicate our values. For example, where we once simply declared that we would provide gratis services to clients we fell in love with but had to stretch to afford our services, we established criteria and a process for determining who those clients should be to maximize their commitment and ours.  We have integrated news about our pro-Bono clients into our communications. We seek feedback from our pro-Bono clients about the value of working together. These types tools and practices build a profile of the impact we have on our community that we can draw on when it comes time to report on the good we’ve set out to do. Not only is this useful when we’re faced with re-upping our B Corp Certification, it is generally quite gratifying to be able to step back and say, “We’re really doing this!”

A basic tenet of community-mindedness is making a genuine effort to engage community members and stakeholders with your organization. There are a number of meaningful and fun ways to go about this, from administering a short feedback survey after an event or product deployment to hosting gatherings where you pointedly seek out community members’ perspectives. One of our favorite ways to interact with and learn from our community is by hosting regular, intimate luncheons where we get to dive into salient business development topics — together! At the table, guests build community with like-minded business leaders, learn from their peers, and also showcase their own wisdom and experience. For us, sitting down to break bread with our community members offers similar opportunities and more — we’re building meaningful relationships with prospective clients while gaining deep insights into the real challenges and triumphs experienced by the people and organizations we most want to work with. This, in turn, helps us to develop dynamic services to offer to our clients so everybody wins!

How we each define our community is personal. When we come together at work, we bring our experiences and values in pursuit of meaningful work on behalf of our company’s stakeholders. Purposefully building a culture of “what matters” is worth your time. In this process, you may stumble on an important discovery or a difficult decision — tell us about it — we’d love to hear from you!

Title photo credit: Kamaljith K V