How can social good initiatives go global and resonate with locals?

posted in: Social innovation | 0
Circle of people raising their arms.
Noa Gafni, CJBS Fellow of Social Innovation
Noa Gafni, CJBS Fellow of Social Innovation

The social good sector is more global than ever before. Over 90% of European organisations give internationally. In Latin America, corporations are equally as likely to offer domestic or international pro-bono support.[1] And 1.6 million tourists travel abroad to volunteer annually.[2] The millennial generation is particularly inclined to rally around global, rather than local, causes.[3]

But making an impact globally is not an easy task. Even though we often hear that the “world is flat”, the majority of people have primarily local ties. Of all the telephone calling minutes in the world last year, only two per cent were cross-border calls. The average person consumes just 1-2% of their news on foreign sites. And only 2% of university students study in countries where they are not citizens.[4] With only a small percentage of the world’s population living global lives, it can be hard for social good initiatives that have a footprint in one region to make a tangible impact in another.

How can social good initiatives create a global footprint with local resonance? Here are five best practices:

  1. Be authentic
    After sanctions were lifted in Myanmar, Coca-Cola launched in 2012 with a mission to be both commercially viable and make a difference in the lives of local people. The company implemented a corporate social responsibility initiative based on the Coca-Cola’s 5 by 20 program for women’s empowerment. Swan Yi, Coca-Cola Myanmar’s community initiative, is empowering 24,500 economically disadvantaged women through capacity building trainings in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and business management.
  2. Don’t be afraid to experiment
    The Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, selects a small percentage of the 5000 person global community – 50 Shapers – to attend the World Economic Forum’s flagship event, the Annual Meeting at Davos-Klosters. Instead of making Davos a divisive issue, the Global Shapers experiment each year with ways to involve the community virtually. This past year, the Global Shapers launched Shaping Davos, which brought together virtual panels and in-person events across forty cities around the world, creating an exchange between the Global Shapers at Davos and the rest of the community.
  3. Partner with local influencers
    When +SocialGood, an online community that sparks action in the social media era, took its flagship event to India, the organisation partnered with its Advisors and Connectors on the ground. By partnering with locals who knew the landscape, +SocialGood brought together leaders, policy makers and philanthropists from different sectors to discuss the use of technology and new media in global action. According to Meera Vijayann, a +SocialGood Connector, “The Social Good Mumbai summit was a one-of-a-kind summit which brought people from diverse sectors and industries. This is usually never the case in conferences or summits because we tend to talk to the same people in a particular sector. But the Mumbai summit was a big step forward in getting cross-sector collaborations started in India.”
  4. Double check all translations
    English. Then, another volunteer translates the text into another language. After the initial translation is reviewed by a third volunteer, it is reviewed again and approved by an experienced “language coordinator” who had submitted at least five translations to TED in the past.
  5. Launch in a locally-relevant way
    When One Young World, a UK-based network for young change-makers, hosted its first event outside of Europe in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the organising committee made a conscious decision to give the conference a local feel. Local residents opened up their homes to host dinners that engaged One Young World delegates with Pittsburgh residents.”One of the predominant characteristics of Pittsburgh is that it’s very welcoming,” says Dan Law, a member of the Pittsburgh One Young World organising committee. It’s part of the culture- to show off the city and make newcomers feel welcome. We wanted to show people what’s really happening here- a very diverse, progressive city- to give people a strong impression of the city and leave a lasting legacy.”It can be challenging for social good initiatives to expand their reach whilst maintaining their resonance. By staying authentic, experimenting, partnering with local influencers, ensuring the accuracy of translations and launching in a locally-relevant way, initiatives have a far greater chance to succeed.


[1] Giving around the globe, Points of light (2014)
[2] Volunteer tourism: A global analysis (2008)
[3] Millennial Cause Study, Centre for Giving (2006)
[4] “11 stats that suggest our world may not be as globalized as we think”, TED Blog, (2012)

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