Considering how polarized our society can feel right now, today’s International Day of Peace offers a great opportunity to unite and put things into perspective. With everything currently weighing on the public conscience, it’s worth spending a day reflecting on how the things we say and do contribute to building healthy communities.
Offering opportunities for employees to make more meaningful contributions to their surrounding communities can also benefit your team. It can provide a greater sense of purpose (which can also improve that individual’s outlook on life), combat depression, and improve the well-being of a community and its residents.
At Valassis, we make a point to give back to our surrounding communities and encourage our team to do the same. Devoting our attention to these matters has helped us create a workplace and a community where all people can flourish. These small investments make everyone’s lives better — both inside and outside the office — by establishing more holistic, engaging, and sustainable environments.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Think small at first.
You can promote community engagement and social responsibility with even the smallest of community-building initiatives. Some of the largest movements started as small groups with an ability to coordinate their efforts and inspire others to join the cause.
One of our account managers, Joanne Munekawa, volunteers with 48214 CARE, a collection of neighbors in the Detroit area that partners with nonprofits, businesses, and other volunteers to provide resources to anyone affected by COVID-19. Some of those initiatives including meaningful gestures like grocery delivery, rent/utility assistance, emergency home repair, and emotional support or prayer. Over the past three months, 48214 CARE has provided more than 130 services to community members, ensuring they don’t have to suffer the fallout of COVID-19 alone.
To make a sizable impact on your community and the world at large, start with small actions that align with your interests, values, or expertise while supporting your neighbors and surrounding areas. Say you walk past a polluted public access river or beach in your neighborhood. Mobilize yourself or a group of friends on a Saturday to help clean the area up. It’s something doable without a lot of resources, and it can have an immediate impact on the people and places closest to you.
2. Become an advocate.
One of the more effective ways to contribute to society and take part in building healthy communities can be summarized with one word: advocacy. All too often, people forget that their support of even one person can make all the difference in the world.
Hannah Livianu is our senior director of business operations and strategy, and she began volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate for CASA last year. Hannah wanted to make an impact in a child’s life, and she already has. In the year she has spent with her child, she has kept track of her in-person and virtual learning, provided emotional support, and served as her advocate in the court system during monthly hearings.
You or your team members don’t need to volunteer with formal organizations to advocate for others, though. Helping elderly neighbors schedule medical appointments, calling city officials to address issues, or contacting schools when you witness bullying are all forms of advocacy.
3. Elevate diverse voices.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives have become the backbone of many CSR programs. In fact, an increasing number of companies now include these initiatives in their missions to help strengthen company culture and eliminate unconscious recruitment biases.
Earlier this year, National Geographic announced its Field Ready Program, an initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in television production. Participants complete an online training course and then take part in a one-week production boot camp to “ready” a new generation of people to work behind the camera.
Your company doesn’t need to launch such an extensive campaign, but you could take steps to promote Black-owned, LGBTQ-owned, or other minority-owned businesses in your area. Ashley Freeman, our social media and brand marketing manager, runs an Instagram account called @raleighfoodpics that is dedicated to eateries in the North Carolina Triangle. The account, which has more than 61,000 followers, regularly posts pictures of local dishes for a fee; to help restaurants during the pandemic, the page has offered to post photos for free. During the early parts of national protests for social justice, @raleighfoodpics shared a list of Black-owned restaurants that its followers could support.
4. Help rally support.
Promoting peace and supporting the community can take many different forms. One of those, undoubtedly, is using whatever influence you have to rally the support and resources needed to assist the communities and causes that are most dear to you.
Aaron Streeter, one of our national sales executives, volunteers on the board of the Golden Valley Community Foundation, a collective that helps support nonprofits and community events related to local outreach and social justice initiatives, among other areas. Aaron uses his business development experience to help coordinate donations with local businesses and illustrate how their donations can impact the surrounding communities. He says the most rewarding part of his work with the foundation is seeing the continuous impact the group makes and how his own personal expertise helps fuel it. It’s his own way of creating a better community (and world) — and something he hopes his daughters continue in the future.
As we celebrate being peaceful during a tumultuous time in our history, it’s important to note that you can do your own part to contribute to the restoration of that calm. Your daily actions can contribute to a greater good. Instead of focusing on how much money you could spend or the number of employees who could volunteer for a particular cause, think about the small but impactful things you can do for the community at large.
Are you curious about what you can do to help? Click here to learn more about what you can do on this day and those to come.