Dierschow: People, companies rise to societal challenges

The year 2020 has been a tumultuous year, and we’re only halfway through! Whatever plans we had have been greatly modified or completely thrown out.

There are echoes of the health challenges of HIV/AIDS and smallpox. Echoes of the financial crises of 1929 and 2008. Echoes of social unrest of 1968 and Apartheid.

You might throw up your hands in despair that humanity isn’t advancing at all. That we’re destined to follow a path outside anyone’s control.

But here’s my point: None of us can fix everything, but everyone can fix something.

Yes, there are huge, huge issues. But you and I can make a difference in our own spheres of influence. And it matters.

I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support and compassion for workers in education, health care, social care and food service. I’ve seen governments actively working on the deep issues of social injustice that have plagued our nation for 400 years.

I have seen companies that have rethought their purpose and priorities, realizing that there are more important things than just amassing profit. There’s no question that money is crucial, of course, but it’s rarely the exclusive purpose for running a business.

The outpouring of support for non-profits has been stunning. Many have had to totally redesign how they raise funds and interact with the community, and the response has been incredible. It turns out that people DO care about taking care of each other and improving quality of life for all.

That shows us how each of us can make a difference that matters.

I totally understand that you’re struggling to make ends meet. Despite that, you can still treat your employees and customers with honesty, humility, and compassion.

The need for your products and services may have been severely damaged this year. Despite that, you still have knowledge and skills that can be valuable to your market and others in the community.

You’re seeing a misalignment between what your organization has been doing, and what will be needed in the future. It feels like it’s impossible to make the right decision. Despite that, you can include and support your team through the process of change.

When I look around, there are many inspiring examples of people making a positive difference. I see social justice warriors moving beyond the protests to help city leaders design new approaches to policing and fair housing.

  • I see people and companies contributing PPE and food to our front line health-care workers.
  • I see restaurants redesigning their business models to serve the needy, ultimately saving jobs and filling a critical gap.
  • I see customers going out of their way to support the retention of jobs in companies they care deeply for.
  • I see new for-profit and nonprofit partnerships, with a view to building the kind of community we all want to live in.
  • I see managers not only redesigning jobs for telework, but also attending to the needs of parents unable to have their kids at school or daycare.
  • I see neighborhoods helping out local musicians by hiring them for cul-de-sac concerts.
  • I see schools creating special virtual events and mementos for graduating seniors.
  • I see government entities moving extraordinarily fast to help businesses reopen.
  • I see people reaching out to reconnect with family, friends and former colleagues in the spirit of “we’re all in this together.”

When I see this kind of generosity and grace, I’m given hope that we can work our way out of the most challenging year in our lifetimes. One piece at a time.

Because every one of us can make a difference in our own way. Every little bit matters.

Carl Dierschow is a Small Fish Business Coach based in Fort Collins, specializing in companies committed to improving society and the world. His website is www.smallfish.us.