Collective Social Impact: Why CEOs Can And Must Lead Change In Their Communities

In 2017 trust in America’s four key institutions: NGOs, business, government, and the media declined by 37%, the greatest collapse in the history of the Edelman Trust Index. Francis Fukuyama, in his seminal book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, demonstrates that social capital in any community or business is fueled by cultivating trust. When trust is in the room, people collaborate, give each other grace to make mistakes, and innovation springs forward.

As Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel says, “Healthy communities build civic muscles that lead to greater trust.”

A leading researcher on building healthy communities, Gidi Grinstein, believes “a model twenty-first century community would be one that focused on supporting employability, productivity, inclusion, and quality of life for its members.” As he points out, national government programs cannot address the complexity of regional issues. Regional issues must be addressed in the spirit of a private-public partnership where all players co-operate to achieve sustained gains over time. 

Enlightened and well-developed CEOs and boards are stepping up to not only build thriving businesses but thriving communities. These CEOs know that they can uniquely work as catalysts to bring non-profits, government leaders, educators, foundations, and faith-based communities together to address complex problems.

The stories of the Itasca Project in Minneapolis, Talent 2025 in Western Michigan, and The West Side Health Initiative in Chicago are all encouraging examples of business leaders coming together to make a difference.

So, why should more CEOs and their organizations get involved in solving the social problems in their communities? Here are four reasons:

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