Making the World Better: How Small Efforts Can Spark Big Impact
Doing better isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth pursuing. We took Sparx Publishing Group’s mission of “Content to make the world better” and put it into action. Check out some of the initiatives we undertook, and discover the lessons we learned along the way.
/8 mins/ SparxTeam
At Sparx Publishing Group, we create content to make the world better. Beyond the work we do with our clients, we also want to explore tangible and direct ways of improving the world around us.
We’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, including pitfalls to avoid, and reaffirmed a cornerstone of our worldview: that if you look for opportunities to do better, you will find them.
We’d like to share with you how the journey started.
Make The World Better Day
Sparx launched the first edition of Make The World Better Day (MTWBD) on September 30, 2020. The spark that inspired this day came from a place of both hope and loss.
The founder of Sparx Publishing Group, Hamish Khamisa, wanted to honour his daughter, Anahera, who was stillborn at 35 weeks. As difficult and painful as that moment was, the love and hope that Anahera embodied were the sparks that set in motion a challenge to transform tragedy into inspiration.
Inspiration is at the very core of the Sparx name. Drawing on that, Make The World Better Day is a testament to the belief that a spark, no matter how small, can ignite positive change.
At first, we weren’t sure exactly how to go about making the world better, but we believed that starting anywhere was better than waiting to find the “perfect” somewhere to begin. The simple desire to get started revealed another little treasure of insight: As marketers, we could not only do good, but our skillset is uniquely qualified to amplify good.
Starting with a blank canvas, we decided to set aside one full workday for everyone at the company to stop working on their usual tasks. Instead, we participated in activities that would amplify good.
In order to leverage our diverse skill sets, we had every member of our team submit ideas of what “better” meant to them and nominate causes or organizations that they felt were in line with their personal view of “better.”
As a team, we also decided that we wanted to make a local impact, as well as impact others in different parts of the world. To accomplish this, we chose a local organization, Sea Smart, to provide our marketing expertise to. We also looked to the popular microfinance platform Kiva to be the vehicle through which we discovered global opportunities for good.
A Cleaner Planet Is a Better Planet
A cleaner and greener planet was a key theme that emerged from several team members’ perspectives on “better,” so it made perfect sense that caring for the ocean was where we could start.
Sea Smart is a charitable organization, headquartered in Vancouver, that educates and engages children in connecting with the oceanic world. Through hands-on learning and discovery, the organization inspires and empowers children to care for the planet. The Sea Smart mission resonated with our view of making the world better, so we connected with Sea Smart to workshop and launch an awareness campaign.
The campaign consisted of display ads that we designed and distributed through the Sparx Publishing Advertising Network (SPAN), our in-house advertising network.
We were able to deliver over 100,000 impressions to British Columbian visitors to a major Canadian financial website. This campaign exemplified how our small team of 17 was able to impact thousands of individuals, even in a small way, by enabling them to learn about Sea Smart and their mission to improve the health of the world’s oceans.
Kiva Projects: Small Loans, Big Lessons
We also wanted to invest in individuals and organizations that are doing essential work in their own local communities, so we chose Kiva as an avenue for that investment during Make The World Better Day.
Many of the groups represented on Kiva are working to improve local autonomy through food security, infrastructure improvements, and education.
One of the reasons we decided Kiva would be a great fit for MTWBD was because it is an easy-to-use platform for connecting capital to local initiatives that we otherwise would not be able to access. The money provided to these initiatives is also not a donation; it’s a loan.
We initially earmarked a total of $2,000 across four separate groups that we had researched and voted on as a company. However, as part of our due diligence, we learned about the sometimes shockingly high borrowing costs of certain loans to individuals seeking support from Kiva. In the time it took to research more about the platform, as well as the agencies who would be disbursing the loan funds to the various projects, the window for donating to the selected projects closed.
Investing funds through Kiva presented a valuable learning experience for Sparx. One of the important lessons was that doing due diligence ahead of time would have better prepared us for the realities of participating in microfinance lending through this platform.
It was eye-opening to learn that interest rates that would seem stratospheric in Canada are considered acceptable for microloans administered in other parts of the world where Kiva operates. The last thing we wanted to do was to perpetuate a cycle of debt burden that would ultimately not let them create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The solution to our concerns about the borrowing costs and how the platform actually works was to start small. Instead of committing the full $2,000 right away, we ventured forward with a $500 investment in a woman-led business in Congo.
Depending on the outcome of our experience with Kiva, we will evaluate how we go forward on the platform. As a company, we have decided that if Kiva doesn’t work out, we can also redirect our efforts to make the world better in our local community.
MTWBD Inspired Us to Do Better
Our first Make The World Better Day was a success in that it demonstrated it’s possible for us to approach improving the world by leveraging our strengths as a creative agency.
Arguably, the bigger achievement was the shift in mindset that started to occur within our organization. Doing one intentionally good activity inspired us to look for even more activities later on in the year.
Movember: More Than Lip Service
A chance to grow facial hair and raise awareness for a good cause during November lockdowns was a creative example of how our Make The World Better program sparked good. Sparx’s Marketing Specialist, Ash Castellino, suggested the idea of a Sparx Movember team.
Movember is a global public health initiative that takes place every November. It aims to raise awareness of, and spark conversations about, men’s health issues – particularly suicide and cancer – in the hopes of reducing preventable deaths.
The Sparx team raised almost $500 during the month. And, the moustaches grown by President Hamish Khamisa, VP of Operations Ken Yeung, Web Developer Pedram Milani, and Ash himself were magnificent.
Our participation in this initiative once again demonstrated that small actions can have a cascading effect. One group’s investment in making the world better can inspire the efforts of those around them to support doing the same.
Holiday Season Gifting Turned Into Giving
During the holiday season, Sparx has traditionally sent gifts to clients as a way to say thank you and celebrate the holiday season. Inspired by our Make The World Better mindset, however, we decided that in lieu of gifts of items or treats, we would donate funds to causes and organizations that matter to our clients.
Through a series of client- and donor-matching programs, we were able to jointly donate a total of 5,000 meals to various local food banks across Canada and the US. In addition, we were able to amplify donations to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and a local humane society in Florida.
It was amazing to see the impact we were able to make with this program, as clients were both touched and inspired to participate in this initiative.
Making the World Better Every Day
When we began the process of translating Sparx’s mission of “Content to make the world better” into tangible actions, it felt a bit like pushing a stone up a hill. The challenge of having so many possible directions that we could have taken was, at times, overwhelming.
Approaching the challenge as a team and focusing our efforts enabled us to gather momentum and attract others into that purpose – not just in our official Make The World Better projects, but also in other spontaneous initiatives that have had a real impact.
We genuinely embrace the challenge that the concept of “better”’ sets out. The next MTWBD will also be better, and in keeping with the spirit of the day, we hope to do better in 2021 than we did in 2020 at living our values.
Each day, we intentionally look for opportunities to weave in the spirit that MTWBD was founded on and direct our creative energy toward moments where we can amplify positive impact. In that way, we believe that we will be content to make the world better.
Spring Activator is on a mission to make impact entrepreneurship mainstream through values-aligned capital. Learn more in this exclusive interview with Keith Ippel, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, and Caroline von Hirschberg, Co-CEO.
The Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad and Our Food Future are driving local collaborations to achieve Canada’s net-zero targets. Learn more in this exclusive interview with Andrew Telfer, Lead of Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad and Development.
Vancity is building lasting positive change for people and planet and challenging financial services norms. Learn more in this exclusive interview with Andrea Harris, VP of Impact Strategy, as featured in Make The World Better Magazine.