No Ifs or Buts

Finding the answers in the AND of the equation

Why It Matters

Black and white perspectives, binaries, polarization. For impact-focused leaders, these traps can be everywhere, but as we see, future opportunities can be found at the intersection of seemingly opposing outlooks.

I have come to believe in, embrace, enjoy, and be enveloped by the beauty and opportunity of AND. This is hard when the world really wants you to pick a side—even in our social purpose world. We are asked to choose between:

For-profit or not-for-profit

Making money or making an impact

Providing a social service or working for systems change

I reject OR and I choose AND.

The choice is particularly hard at this moment in our history, where we are suffering from extreme polarization.

For many of us, this includes our experience in school. You majored in either Arts or Sciences or Business. You hung out with the people in your program because they thought the same way you did.  As we progress through life, these stratifications can begin to replicate themselves in other aspects of our personal and professional lives.

While this could be the debate of a whole other article, it is worth noting here that these micro-divisions that begin early are only one aspect. This does not even begin to address the othering that comes due to our gender, ethnicity, and ability.

What these divisions and categorizations fail to realize is that there is opportunity in bringing divergent thinkers and actors together for convergent action.

We miss the value of opposing outlooks as a critical enabler of innovation.

On innovation


While it is clear that innovation happens anywhere, it accelerates on the margins.

While philanthropy and volunteering are critically important and core to our identity as Canadians, there are areas being developed that bring together diverse disciplines. These offer the potential to generate revenue and impact. It is why the concept of AND is so important to the future of good.


Social Finance

Past choice: Donate to this worthy cause or invest here for maximum financial return!

Future opportunity: Invest your finances to achieve both social (or environmental) and economic impact.

Fact: In 2017, the global impact investing market was valued at $228 billion—double what it was the year before.


Social Enterprise

Past choice: Run a social service organization or run a business.

Future opportunity: Get beyond the grant economy and seek opportunities to generate undesignated income through enterprise.

Fact: New corporate structures are emerging in Canada that recognize this new hybrid form and we now have more than 230 certified B Corps in Canada.


Corporate Social Responsibility

Past choice: Seek to maximize shareholder value by focusing on the single bottom line.

Future opportunity: Recognize and embrace the business case to do well by doing good.

Fact: Progressive companies are bringing all of their assets to bear on tackling social challenges and finding new business opportunities while doing so.

The opportunities presented by this new way of thinking, doing, and being offers us an exponential opportunity for new forms of revenue generation and impact. We just have to stop othering not only people, but also ideas, and sectors.

The future is ours to invent.