An Alliance for Impact: Perspective from GOOD Worldwide’s Kevin Thompson on GOOD’s Merger with Net Impact

If you’re a student or instructor at any leading business schools, you likely heard about the combination of two powerhouse forces in social impact, Net Impact and GOOD Worldwide.  And this story has a direct connection to us here at Ross.

The two organizations have announced a social impact alliance, leading to collective endeavors, including the launch of GOOD Institute, to scale impact initiatives, engage the next generation of leaders, and serve as a force for good for leading businesses. This social impact alliance leverages more than 45 years of combined experience and relationships from GOOD Worldwide, Upworthy and Net Impact to empower and influence millions of engaged citizens, students, corporations, employees, and activists throughout the world to create meaningful and lasting change. 

We wanted to find out more, so we contacted Michigan Ross lecturer and GOOD’s General Manager, Kevin Thompson, who played a role in the partnership.
Kevin Thompson

What’s your role at GOOD?

I wear lots of hats and like it that way. I serve as the General Manager, with P&L responsibility across our brands. I also lead finance, human resources and with our CEO run our growth strategy, including mergers and acquisitions.

Can you give a brief overview of GOOD and its current brands?

Sure. Our mission is to help people and organizations be a force for good, together. We serve “people who give a damn.”

We’re a leader in social impact and sustainability, and a certified B Corporation.

GOOD started as a magazine in 2007 and grew as a publisher and media platform. In 2017 we acquired Upworthy, which focuses on bringing the best of humanity to the internet. Our distributed reach is about 100M people per month. Our work in media gives us an influencer role in culture and ability to shape belief, which is an important way to achieve our mission. We place high value on engagement, a publisher’s mindset and storytelling with an emotional connection. That makes impact work more impactful.

We have a social impact consulting business. We help our clients with sustainability strategy, financial ROI of social impact work and building purpose programs.

We have a science brand called Leaps.org which is an editorially independent media platform focused on the bioethics of scientific innovation.

We work with iconic brands, philanthropic foundations, nonprofits and the public sector.

How did the partnership, and ultimately the merger, with NI come about? Is this a merger or something different?

It’s hard to land on the right words for this. We’re so excited.

I was in Net Impact when I was an MBA student two decades ago and have long been a fan, supporter and speaker at their various events. One of our company’s first public events was with Net Impact.

Our clients are increasingly asking for more offerings, solutions and programs in one place, with one provider…the old expression “one throat to choke.” More general contractors, less tradespeople.

We have a belief that the impact market is going to consolidate. It should… no one has double digit market share in anything. So with consolidation in mind, we’ve been looking at organizations with aligned missions to deepen relationships with.

Net Impact inspires, equips and activates emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world, with 160K members in over 400 chapters in 40+ countries. We love their engagement with Gen Z and membership model. They also do really interesting program work pairing students with corporations through challenge accelerators and case study competitions. We all believe there’s huge potential to do more.

We began talking about bringing our organizations together in the summer of 2020. Our missions are aligned. Our strengths are complimentary. Together, we get scale neither org can achieve on its own.

It took us about a year to put the right structure and organization in place. We formed the GOOD Institute, a nonprofit which Net Impact is now a program of, and the leadership of Net Impact have moved into leadership roles at the GOOD Institute.

What is the shared vision for this next step for GOOD and Net Impact? What do you hope to achieve together?

Be a force for good, together. That’s both simple and complex. We believe in the positive role business can and needs to play in the world. And the force that will keep moving us all forward is next generation leaders working in business.

Beyond Net Impact, our shared vision for the GOOD Institute is to become a home for aligned mission nonprofit organizations working in business, media and science.

How will GOOD Institute operate?

The GOOD Institute is an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We have an incredible Board of Directors with representation from leading impact investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and academia. The relationship between GOOD Worldwide and the GOOD Institute is framed as a social impact alliance.

Did you consider alternative structures, such as running NI as another for-profit business line, or was it clear from the start that this would require an innovation in your structure?

Net Impact is nearing its 30 year anniversary. That’s a long time. Many businesses don’t make it that long. They could have continued as they are, but we all agreed that to meet the moment, in the market today, we needed more ways to bring partners and people together. Nonprofits also serve as trusted conveners.

The conversion of a nonprofit to a for profit can happen, and is happening in places today. We all felt that Net Impact should continue as a nonprofit.

Based on your experience, when and how should nonprofit organizations approach partnerships and M&A, both within the sector and with for-profit organizations?

Nonprofit mergers have moved from near nonexistent to rare. That’s progress, but there’s much more ground to cover.

Partnerships between nonprofits and for-profits are common, and going beyond just a funding relationship to deeper commitments to programs and solving systemic challenges. Innovations in policy are allowing for different types of capital to flow into nonprofits, which provides new opportunities. I think this will be an exciting area of social impact.

Utah Canyonlands National Park, where the InterMission (M&O 330) class experience ends next semester. – Nat Geo

Tell us about your work at Ross – how can students get involved and what courses do you teach?

For starters, I love having a connection to students and business education. I don’t think businesses being a force for good happens without transformations of business schools, and Ross has been and continues to be a leader.

I’ve been around Ross for nearly a decade as a guest and became an executive-in-residence and then lecturer three years ago. I developed a new self leadership course for undergraduates called InterMission (M&O 330). The purpose and intention is to help students adrift in a sea of expectations who are exceptional at fulfilling goals set by others but find themselves too busy to reflect on whether they’re the right thing to do. InterMission also has an important wilderness expedition component, which is an action-learning opportunity to apply leading self and leading others. Leadership takes practice. The course is taught in Winter term. InterMission is also a qualified elective with the Erb Institute and Erb Fellows as well as the entrepreneurship minor.

 

Three MBAs Receive 2021-22 Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarships

ANN ARBOR – Oct. 12, 2021 – Business+Impact (B+I) is pleased to announce that Nathan Alston (MBA ’22), J’Taime Lyons (MBA/MPP ’22), and Elizabeth Wallace (MBA/MS ’22) were chosen to receive the 2021-22 Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarships for outstanding commitment to solving complex social challenges through their studies. These three recipients were chosen from over twenty-five applicants, and the announcement comes with a $5,000 award for each recipient.  Each will serve as B+I Student Ambassadors for the full 2021-22 academic year.

Nathan Alston, MBA 2022
Nathan has leveraged his time in business school through leadership positions, the development of his own entrepreneurial venture, and building relationships through a variety of professional organizations. He currently serves as the Director of Marketing for both the Entertainment and Digital Media Club and Out for Business (the queer student organization on campus). These roles have allowed him to build community amongst his classmates and further develop his leadership skills. In addition, Nathan serves as an admissions ambassador, a member of the DEI committee, and a Wellness Chair. His venture Plucky Comics has allowed him to practice his leadership skills, in part at the Ross +Impact Studio. His goal has been for Plucky Comics to serve as a playground to make mistakes and develop his own leadership style. Lastly, during Nathan’s time at Ross, he has been selected to join both the Consortium and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), professional organizations that are dedicated to supporting people of color who are interested in business school. 

 

J’Taime Lyons, MBA/MPP 2022
Academically, courses such as Public Management, Business in Society, and Tax Policy have allowed J’Taime Lyons to learn more about the challenges of solving wicked problems. Outside of her academic experiences, she has used her Poverty Solutions graduate research assistantship, B+I’s Board Fellowship, and participation with the Zell Lurie Institute’s Dare to Dream Venture Shaping program to provide her with experiential learning experiences to build her skillset. Her first step in equipping herself for a career in impact was being a Board Fellow. J’Taime had the opportunity to work with the United Way of Washtenaw County in supporting their goals for increasing their public policy presence. This experience allowed her to see how nonprofits and foundations are tackling the systematic root causes for poverty. Simultaneously, she also participated in the Dare to Dream program. This program has allowed J’Taime to focus on developing a boutique social impact consulting firm. This has allowed her to do deep exploration in the pain points of organizations working to support children and families living in poverty. Following her first year, I went on to work on a nonprofit and local government strategy internship and apply my learnings directly to the social impact space. In her second year, she continued to work with her internship and also was able to work with a social impact startup, The William Julius Wilson Institute.

Elizabeth Wallace, MBA/MS 2022
At Ross, Elizabeth has leveraged many action-based learning opportunities to equip herself to deliver impact in Detroit upon graduation. This includes a year-long project through the Dow Sustainability Fellows program in partnership with EcoWorks in Detroit, the Sims Medal and Award from the University of Michigan School of Social Work.  Under the guidance of Erb professor Sara Soderstrom, Elizabeth built a financial viability model and wrote several grant applications for Intertwined Family Foundation on the East Side of Detroit. She also executed a consultative project for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s (DBCFSN) planned Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Through MAP Elizabeth worked with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit.  Her  internships have also focused on impact-oriented work and were made possible through funding from Business+Impact and the Erb Institute. These included the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)  and the City of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability, where she is continuing to work part time during the school year. Outside of these activities, she is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and am working to increase the representation of underrepresented minorities on campus, and she is in the DEI Certificate program and a member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. She has also been a mentor as part of the Detroit Revitalization and Business Club’s Detroit high school mentorship program. She is working to integrate Erb specific engagement in tandem with UpClose to attract more diverse candidates to the largest joint degree program at Ross.

Business+Impact is proud of all three winners, their aspirations, and all that they have already accomplished.

So Cool So Just Social Justice Organization Fair 2021

Since 2012, the So Cool So Just involvement fair has created space for students seeking opportunities to get involved on campus, build community, and learn about activities and programs related to social change.

We are planning for an in-person event on Tuesday, September 14th from 11 AM – 1 PM on the Diag. Tablers will also share information virtually. We look forward to seeing you there!

The So Cool So Just (SCSJ) Organization Fair is hosted by the Community Action and Social Change (CASC) Undergraduate Minor and the Ginsberg Center.

4th Annual Business+Impact Showcase – 2021

B+I to Bring over 30 U-M Impact Groups to Ross to Build Awareness

Tues, Sept. 14 @ 11 am – 1 pm
Ross School of Business
RSB Sixth Floor, Tauber Colloquium

Welcome new and returning students! We hope your summer was empowering and invigorating, because we have a lot of opportunities coming up for you. As part of our mission to make students aware of impact opportunities across campus, we welcome students to our second annual Business+Impact Showcase on Sept. 14 from 3-5 pm at Ross. Students will have a chance to meet with over 30 organizations and map out their U-M impact journeys.

Ross 430 – Meet the Faculty: Marcus Collins

Ross 430 is an opportunity for staff to learn about the lives and work of Ross faculty through interviews during which faculty will share their personal experiences about their path to Ross and their life as a Ross faculty member. All Ross staff are welcome to attend.

This session will feature Marcus Collins, current Lecturer in Marketing, and will be held on Wednesday, June 30th from 3:00 – 4:00 pm via zoom.

Please join us to learn more about Professor Collins’ career path and learn about some exciting things he has has been working on.  You won’t want to miss it!

If you would like to attend, please click here to reserve your spot.

Andrew Hoffman’s interview with award-winning author J.B. MacKinnon

MacKinnon (left) was interviewed by Andrew Hoffman (right) on June 16, 2021.
On June 16, 2021, Professor Andrew Hoffman interviewed award-winning author J.B. MacKinnon on his new book: The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves (HarperCollins, 2021). This book is asking, and answering, some very important questions for the future of our society and our world.  
 

What would really happen if we simply stopped shopping? Is “sustainable consumption” possible?

The economy says we must always consume more: even the slightest drop in spending leads to widespread unemployment, bankruptcy, and home foreclosure. Yet, the planet says we consume too much: in America, we burn the earth’s resources at a rate five times faster than it can regenerate. And despite efforts to “green” our consumption—by recycling, increasing energy efficiency, or using solar power—we have yet to see a decline in global carbon emissions. 

Is there a way to reduce our consumption to earth-saving levels without triggering economic collapse? 

At first this question took J.B. around the world, seeking answers from America’s big-box stores to the hunter-gatherer cultures of Namibia to communities in Ecuador that consume at an exactly sustainable rate. Then the thought experiment came shockingly true: the coronavirus brought shopping to a halt, and MacKinnon’s ideas were tested in real time.

Drawing from experts in fields ranging from climate change to economics, MacKinnon investigates how living with less would change our planet, our society, and ourselves. Along the way, he reveals just how much we stand to gain: An investment in our physical and emotional wellness. The pleasure of caring for our possessions. Closer relationships with our natural world and one another. 

B+I shared the one-hour interview between video between June 17 and July 8, 2021

Published Interviews with Paul Polman on Being a Force for Good Through Business

As featured in the Harvard Business Review Ascend article, “How to Be a Purpose-Driven Leader in the Capitalist World: Supplement your business school education”, this in-depth book, featuring a series of interviews with Paul Polman, offers a wealth of insights for the leaders of today and tomorrow. Titled “For Whom We Play the Game: Advice to the Next Generation of Business Leaders from Paul Polman,” the book spans three conversations all centered around staying true to your values while succeeding in business. The Michigan Ross interview team included MBA/MS students Celia Bravard and John Pontillo and Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise Dr. Andrew Hoffman. 

 Read the full-length book (in PDF) to hear the wisdom and insights generated in this far-reaching and engaging conversation series.

Data for Public Good Symposium

As both consumers and purveyors of information, how we interact with data is ever evolving. Now, more than ever, data for good represents a diverse and interdisciplinary effort to engage, educate, and empower the world around us. Statistics in the Community (STATCOM), the Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER), and the Community Technical Assistance Collaborative (CTAC) invite you to attend the 4th annual Data for Public Good Symposium hosted by the Michigan Institute for Data Science. The symposium will launch virtually on Thursday, February 25, 2021 and will showcase the many research efforts and university/community partnerships that focus on improving humanity by using data for the public good.

ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS
STATCOM is a community outreach organization offering the expertise of statistics graduate students – free of charge – to nonprofit governmental and community organizations. CTAC is a community-university partnership convened to serve a universal need identified by community partners around data and evaluation. CEDER is a School of Education center devoted exclusively to offering high-quality designs, evaluations, and research on teaching, learning, leadership, and policy at multiple levels of education. This symposium is part of our effort to bring together university organizations that promote similar ideals and individuals whose research provides a service for the greater good.

For questions, please contact d4pg-admin@umich.edu

Responding to Human Trafficking in Public and Private Social Impact Organizations

U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor or services against their will. The one exception involves minors and commercial sex. Inducing a minor into commercial sex is considered human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion. Although Social Impact Organizations typically are not the first place victims and survivors of human trafficking turn to for support, it is incumbent on organizations to apply social work ethics to provide a culture and an atmosphere that intentionally supports victims and survivors.

Using a macro practice lens, this webinar will begin with an understanding of the types and venues of human trafficking in the United States, how to identify victims of human trafficking in health care and community settings, an awareness of warning signs of human trafficking in health care settings and community organizations for adults and minors, as well as how to report suspected human trafficking. We will discuss how to cultivate trauma-informed care and practices into your work, and the manifestation of complex trauma in clients. This interactive workshop will explore ways for practitioners to nurture an organizational culture that supports victims and survivors, whether they make their experiences known or not. With a special focus on youth who identify as homeless and LGBTQ+ youth who experience a particularly high risk of exploitation and trafficking, we will use the voices of survivors and victims to inform practices that support and empower clients. Participants will share their own trauma-informed practices with each other and develop goals for their organizations.

Register here