With the end of the year very quickly approaching, the Next Stage team spent a few minutes imagining what 2023 will look like in the world of social good. And like the last few years, we’re predicting continuing change, a greater focus on impact measurement and a critical focus on community voice and storytelling. We’ll talk about this more in early 2023 – but here’s a sneak peek at the eight predictions our team is forecasting in a range of social good categories:

ESG & Corporate Social Impact

The next frontier for ESG is the ‘external S.’
We’ve been talking about this for months, but we’re starting to see companies understand how their external social efforts address their bottom lines via community health, economic mobility, affordable housing, etc. These are issues that impact their own companies, and so we’re arriving at this important point of understanding as a society that things don’t live in boxes. Everything is related. And that is best exemplified by the ‘External S.’ Savvy nonprofits and companies alike will position their partnership strategies to address some of these issues to create win-win-wins. Watch for our follow-up to Profit & Purpose in January for a deeper dive into this topic!

‘How to measure impact’ will be on every nonprofit and CSR leader’s mind.
Companies shifting their ESG strategies will now turn their attention to how to best measure that impact. Everyone wants to help create transformational change – but how do we measure it effectively? We expect companies in particular to take a closer look at their impact materiality next year, identifying the specific resources that support their impact goals – as well as the internal and external impacts of their efforts. Some of the most forward-thinking nonprofits and companies are already working together in new ways to help build stronger measurements and we expect this trend to continue well into the future.

Community Voice

Community Voice will remain top of mind for neighborhood and community leaders – but uncertainty about how to best do this authentically will hold some organizations back.
Let’s start by acknowledging that Community Voice should not just be a trend for 2023, but a constant staple in our community work that inspires trust and hope. For too long, credence has been given to leaders who’ve upheld a top-down approach of governance, ideation and implementation. We expect to see movement that honors the power of voice to source solutions, especially by those who are most proximate to the challenges. Let’s validate and ‘see’ the people we want to serve through a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion and representation – while building trust and co-designing together.

With the many organizational brand stumbles in 2022 (anyone remember Juneteenth ice cream?) we expect that more companies and nonprofits will be seeking ways to authentically bring community voice forward in their work.

Organizations will increasingly prioritize place-based voice by attempting to cultivate trust and embeddedness.
Neighborhood-level engagement is essential to understanding and dialoguing on critical community issues such as affordable housing, education, healthcare, navigating systems, workforce development and more. Cities across the country are seeking ways to do this more effectively and we expect to see civic, nonprofit and company groups looking for better ways of assessing and amplifying neighborhood voices in their communities.

Organizational Strengthening

For nonprofits, the talent game will become even more challenging.
The war on talent has been raging for years, but it just got a lot more challenging. The private sector is looking everywhere for talent, and ‘pillaging nonprofits,’ as one person said recently, is on the table. The churn for talent is making it harder for nonprofits to keep their talent and find strong talent when vacancies arrive. This has the potential to lead to burnout for countless nonprofits of all sizes – this is no longer just the challenge of the founder syndrome nonprofit. Creating holistic, sector-wide talent recruitment strategies for social good is a critical must-do for 2023.

Internal strengthening and addressing of staff burnout will be critical. Organizational strengthening over the last few years has been focused externally, emphasizing collaborative partnerships, resource development, and the like. Now the focus is turning to those inside of institutions who are front line, rolling up their sleeves and doing the work. Like those served by institutions, these individuals have weathered increased demands and have experienced social and emotional distress. Organizational strengthening in 2023 must start with these critical teammates. With companies and organizations requiring their staff teams to return to work, values and guiding principles will need to be revisited and prioritized because what we once knew has changed. And let’s face it, we may need to re-learn and build upon how we work together to create space for authenticity, intentionality, unity and community.

Brand & Marketing

Telling your social impact story will require strong video visuals and storytelling.
For socially-focused organizations, video will be even more prominent in branding. With attention spans becoming shorter (see: Haley’s blog on focus!) people will want to consume short-form video, but we don’t believe that you should ditch your long-form content altogether.  A mix of content will be critical, along with short, simple direct copy that gets your point across quickly. And in addition to webinars and online gatherings, we think people will crave more in-person gatherings and connections. As always, asset-based storytelling will be the cornerstone of effective social impact marketing. The content we discussed in these webinars still holds – and is actually more true than ever. ( Narrative storytelling What’s Next? episodes).

Collaboration & Community-Building

Smaller, private communities will help move impact forward.
Does engaging on social media feel less enjoyable to you these days? If you feel that way, you’re not alone. The proliferation of sponsored content and influencer marketing means that our social feeds are less focused on the relationships and causes we’ve chosen – and care about the most – and instead, are based on the  “algorithm of the day.” But as more people log off traditional social media platforms, new spaces for connection and collaboration are being built. We believe a shift towards private, smaller online communities that come together with a shared purpose – for relationship building, support, or to generate impact – will see more traction in 2023. A way to connect with others that doesn’t lead you down a cringe-worthy rabbit hole of misinformation? That sounds like progress to us.