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Student Presents Corporate Social Responsibility Recommendations to the United Nations

Alyssa McDonald

Alyssa McDonald, a student in the Master of Arts in Organizational Psychology program in Vancouver and 2019 Alfred Adler Social Justice Award Winner, recently completed her Social Justice Practicum working with IMPACT2030, an initiative of the United Nations Office for Partnerships. McDonald’s passion and focus centers on how corporate social responsibility, practices that integrate social and environmental concerns into companies’ business operations and interactions, can benefit employees, businesses, and communities. IMPACT2030 is a multi-sector network that aims to harness the power of people and partnerships as part of a larger global movement to advance sustainable development. We talked to McDonald about her Social Justice Practicum and how she hopes to help improve the corporate sector by promoting the benefits of socially responsible business practices.

Why is IMPACT2030 important and why did you want to get involved?

IMPACT2030 is a first-of-its-kind, private-led initiative that works to leverage employee volunteerism to achieve the United Nation’s sustainable development goals that end in 2030.

These massive companies, including IBM, Pfizer, Chevron, and Bank of America, have all committed to leverage their human capital for good and to collaborate, not only across sectors but within the private sector. I wanted to get involved to see how I could help. I thought, why not do my Social Justice Practicum with an organization that enables other people to volunteer? I think that volunteerism is so powerful. That is one of the reasons why I think Adler University is so great because it has that component in it [as part of every student’s graduate program.]

How do you get involved?

I was invited to attend IMPACT2030’s bi-annual summit held in New York City September 5-7 by my Social Justice Practicum supervisor, Chris Jarvis, Founder and CEO of Realized Worth and co-founder of IMPACT2030. The summit gathered more than 160 attendees, including senior representatives from the United Nations, executives from private sector partner companies, and other academic and public sector leaders.

What was your role during and after the summit?

My internship started at the summit where I was able to learn about IMPACT2030 and meet the different stakeholders. Over the three days, I was fortunate to participate in two planning meetings with 17 leaders who are developing corporate volunteer projects across the globe.

My role at the summit was to observe and connect with the IMPACT2030 network. I then conducted an action research project to uncover what existing strengths, resources, and opportunities can that increase and improve member engagement, collaboration, and social impact as IMPACT2030 grows. Afterwards, I interviewed 20 different people across the network and created a report and presentation outlining my findings and relevant recommendations.

What was your approach to this project?

I used appreciative inquiry, which is a positive psychology-based approach to qualitative research and change management that only focuses on core strengths, capacities, and experiences. It focuses on what is there instead of what is not there. This is a huge switch from a lot of consulting that is usually very deficit- and problem-focused, which can create defensiveness, break down relationships and create negative energy within the organization. My goal with the report is to bring people together and use this opportunity to inspire people to be engaged.

What have you taken away from the experience?

I’m really inspired by the global reach and goals of the organization that allow everyone to have a similar framework for creating positive change. This lets companies see where their gaps are in different corporate social responsibility policies. It’s exciting to see companies take that on and to see the world in the same way. Especially because the world is so divisive at this point, to see people come together, even with their competitors, and to say that they are committed to this is really amazing.

In a personal standpoint as a student, I got to be in a room with people who care about exactly what I care about. I have worked in social enterprise and purpose-driven companies in sales and marketing, and I loved sharing good ideas that would change the world. But I realized that I was way more engaged in my work and in the world compared to my peers in the workforce, and I think that is because a lot of companies don’t connect their work to purpose for their employees. So I switched my career to sharing good ideas to enable others to feel connected to purpose. And that is exactly what all of the other leaders in IMPACT2030 are doing now. It was extremely validating to see that people really care about this work and that companies are trying to tackle these problems in very similar ways.

What attracted you to Adler University?

I love the fact that the school focuses on social justice and on creating socially responsible practitioners. What’s really exciting about Adler are the students that it brings to the table, who are passionate, empathetic, caring, critical students who have inspired me to get involved in the Adlerian community.