2: On Making a Difference + 5 Ways I Measure Impact

Feb 5, 2019

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Listen in for an exploration of what it often looks like when we talk about “making a difference” within the transformative business industries, including what’s missing from the conversation and what’s needed. Andréa also shares her top five ways that she measures impact in her business.

Transcript and Mentioned Resources:

You’re listening to A Call To Serve. This is a podcast calling entrepreneurs, coaches, healers, creatives, entrance formative leaders who want to make a difference in their communities to show up with integrity, use their power and practice radical service. My name is Andréa Ranae. I’m a facilitator and coach focusing my work on holding space for leadership and liberation. I am so glad that you’re here. Thank you so much for listening. Let’s go ahead and get into this episode.

Welcome to Episode Two! I’m using this episode as well as episode #4 to unpack the purpose of this show and share a little bit about what I’m coming into this worth.

So I say in the intro that this is a resource for people who want to make a difference. And in the last episode, episode number one, I mentioned wanting to disrupt the way that we think about making an impact. And I want to talk about that.

First. I’m going to talk a bit about 3 things I’ve observed within the transformative business space about how we hold this idea of making a difference, and then I’ll share 5 ways that I measure impact in my own business. This is a media episode, so make sure you’re in a space where you can really take this in and if you’re a note-taking kind of person, you’ll definitely want your writing tools on hand.

Okay? All right. Let’s dive in.

The first thing I want to speak on is what I’m going to call Social Change Signaling.

So you’ve probably seen messaging, especially in the transformative business, coaching, healing, spiritual teaching, or people teaching you how to run a business, that there is this messaging that tells you if you make more money or reach more people or have more sex or change your life, you can change the world on the surface. There’s not much to get picky about with this other than the lack of complexity and reality within that statement. In practice though, this is something that really gets me going because the social capital and interest that’s gained by marketing yourself or your work to people as something that’s world-changing is immense. The social capital gains are immense and it requires little to no work or follow through.
Part of my current theory here on this is that this is the case because, as humans who care about other humans, most of us have an innate desire and a longing to make a difference and to know that our lives matter so that messaging speaks to us, but also because, as consumers, we often see changing the world as such a gigantic task that when we experience change in our individual lives as a result of using a product or participating in a service or program, we feel like the social change promise has been fulfilled to our satisfaction, especially if the marketing or copy is on point.

So here’s a little experiment for you: when you use or see the words or the phrases, “mission driven movement, radical revolution, global impact and change maker” for starters, go deeper. More often than not, these words are used as decoration to make something seem more interesting or relevant and impactful than it actually is, especially now in this climate that we’re in where people are talking about white supremacy and people are talking about the flaws within these industries. Some of us are actually picking up these words to try to keep ourselves safe and try to show people that we’re inclusive or that we’re good people and if that’s you… Hi. Thank you for being here. I’m so glad you’re listening to this. Use this as an opportunity to go deeper and to reflect on what those words actually mean to you and speaking of meaning.

The second thing that I have seen is that there’s often no clear or practical understanding of difference-making.

I wanted to mention this because there’s this reality that many folks who say that they want to make a difference or an impact don’t have a clear vision or understanding of what that actually means for themselves or for the people around them and even more people don’t have a grasp on the social and political and economic and environmental context that they and their work is existing within, so there’s often very little critical analysis of what exactly in the world do you want to change and that makes the next question of how do I want my life and work to support that change? Almost impossible to answer! And I just want to give you an opportunity. If you aren’t clear on that first question of what exactly in the world it is that you want to change, pause this. Go and reflect. You can come back to this later because having at least some ideas and thoughts for yourself on that is crucial.

The third thing that I have noticed when we’re talking about making a difference is this idea that impact = a life influenced or changed.

Especially in the online business world, there’s this common practice of believing that “if I’ve influenced or changed someone’s life, I’ve made an impact” and there’s nothing wrong with that idea, but it’s been my observation that many of us associate this idea of making a difference through influencing individual lives as a sufficient strategy for changing the world or at least our little corner of it and I just want to put that idea to the side for a sec and make some space for us to ask a few questions of ourselves. Like:

  • In what ways am I already impacting the world around me? For better or worse?
  • How are the systems and institutions and cultures that we’re constantly navigating throughout playing a role within my life, the lives of the people in my communities. The issues that I want to influence?
  • How is the work I’m doing connected to those systems or to the collective and what theory of change in my operating from?

We do ourselves and our work a major disservice when we don’t allow our changemaking efforts to have roots and part of that rootedness is not only being able to answer the questions that I just posed, but also having clear ways that you can know that you’re on the right path for you and I just want to quickly do a verbal underline here for you because I am not about giving you the right answers. If I tried, I’d be way out of my lane and I’d also be lying to you because the right answers don’t exist, but I’ll get more into that in episode four.

For now, let me share with you the 5 ways that I measure the impact of my work and my actions.

*Number 1 is through my integrity and my experience of my work.*

Notice “my, my, my”, (laughs) this is very self centered and it’s that way for a reason. My number one concern is the impact that my choices and my work is having on myself because this work is very important to me and I have big plans and I want to be there for when those plans come into existence. And I would like to be well and present, you know, for, for the implementation of them. So I am constantly asking myself questions like,

  • Am I doing what I want to do?
  • What’s my vision? Am I living it?
  • Am I doing the work that’s mine to do? (Taking into account things like my purpose, my why as well as the power that I have at hand.)

I also asked myself things like, are all of my basic needs met? And not just food and shelter and water, but all of the things that are essential when it comes to me being able to show up for the work that I’m doing and show up at my best. Those basic needs.

And then the other question that I ask myself is, are my choices – the choices that I’m making – aligned with my values and my commitments as I define them?

I didn’t make this number one on purpose, but I’m really glad that it is because so often we forget about ourselves in the pursuit of making an impact, making a difference, creating change. We lose ourselves in it and prioritize other people and their needs over our own, which seems really kind. And, you know, when we talk about service like seems like what you’re supposed to do, but if you cannot sustain the level of energy that you’re giving to other people, you will burn out. And we have to think about ourselves. We have to think about what is actually within our capacities. Are we doing what we want to do or what we’re doing is what we’re doing in line with our vision? So think about these questions for yourself!

*The second way that I measure my impact is through my own relationships with my family and friends and colleagues, students and clients and so on.*

The reason that this is important to me is because the purpose of my work is to shift the way that we relate to each other on multiple levels, on a systemic level, on a cultural and institutional level, on an interpersonal level and internally how we relate to ourselves. So I asked myself questions like, do I feel like I know them, the person sitting across from me or that I’m coaching or that I’m in physical space with or virtual space with?

Do I feel like I know them? Do they feel like they know me? Do they feel like I know them? Do I feel known and seen and heard and has my relationship with them deepened or expanded or changed in any way?

These are the markers for me because I know that the quality of my relationships is a direct reflection of what I’m doing. If I’m showing up the way that I want to show up.

*The third way that I measure my impact is through the experience of my students and listeners like you and my community.*

So first, taking in my own observations of how others are experiencing my work so that, that might be what they’re saying about it. But really what I’m talking about here is things like the choices that they’re making, a what they’re gravitating towards, what they’re showing up for, um, how they’re showing up.

And, if they’re engaging, and in what ways are they engaging? So just intuitively, kind of, but I’m just taking in what’s being sent my way nonverbally from the people who are taking in my work and consuming my work. But also getting into the nitty gritty detail of who is resonating with my work on a identity level and experience level and you know, who they are personality wise, what they’re coming into this with, and not just who, but also why. So, you know, there’s some people that come to me, because they feel guilty because they’re scared that they’re gonna get called out. And there are other people that come to me because they have previously been super involved in organizing and activism work, out in the streets doing direct actions and protests and now they’re getting into a different way of being and using different skills, um, and wanting to create a business and wanting to, to coach. But with this lens, um, that they have gathered through their organizing work that’s different. Right? And this is all vital information for me to know who I’m touching, if I’m touching the right people and so on. And then the other piece of this is receiving intentional feedback from y’all on how you’re engaging with my work and what you’re getting out of it and what you feel you’re contributing to it, and also what you’re choosing to do with it and how that is impacting your life and business and relationships.

*The fourth way I measure my impact is through numbers of people.*

Now this is a tender one, y’all. It’s taken me a long time to admit, on an embodied level (not just verbally), that I want the work that I’m doing to touch and influence millions of people.

Real talk. Being blessed with the opportunity to positively influence just one life is amazing, but when I take into account the capacities and gifts and skills and privileges and power that I have, one person is not satisfactory for me. So the number of people that I interact with, my work interacts with does matter very much to me. I won’t compromise my integrity for it. So my desire for isn’t sitting in the driver’s seat, you know, but it does influence my decisions and it lets me know how I’m doing.

I also have to take into account that this is almost impossible to measure because when I say millions of people, I’m not necessarily saying that I want to directly impact a million people and holding this goal. Knowing that while that would be cool, right intent and my hope is that the people who come in contact with my work, will take what they gather and bring it to their families and their friends, their partners, clients or students, colleagues, community members. I never want anything that I do to stay locked up inside of individuals that would defeat the purpose of everything that I am intentionally invested in. Because the work and practice of liberation is ultimately relational. So I guess when I say numbers of people, what I’m really getting at is that I want widespread shifts in the way that people relate to one another. Because I showed up and shared what I had to offer.

*The fifth way that I measure my impact is through revenue.*

That feels a little weird to say because it’s both like a given, and there’s this cultural thing that when you’re doing work that is for the good of others or of a community that you’re not supposed to be worried about the money. But owning and running a business, of course the money flowing in is vital and influences so many things, including a lot of what I’ve already spoken to, but when it comes to measuring impact, I look at revenue as a reflection of whether what I’m offering or creating is speaking to the needs, wants and capacities of my community. So does my offer meet a need or desire of the people that are most wanting to serve or does it sit within their current capacities financially, physically, energetically? Basically, is it accessible?

So using my program Coaching as Activism as an example. I can absolutely say “yes” to the question of whether or not it meets a need or desire of the people that I’m wanting to serve. It’s a program specifically for coaches, healers and transformative leaders who want to integrate their values and bring in an anti-oppressive lens into how they live and work and lead, and now when it comes to having a critical analysis of the context that we’re living within, especially when it comes to gender, race, class, the coaching and wellness and spiritual development industries are severely lacking. And when I first started this program, this was something that was really on the fringe, but over the last few years it’s started to spread more into mainstream conversation and people are asking questions like, does my work actually make a difference in the world and how can I dismantle white supremacy and how can I be more inclusive of people with various marginalized identities?

Coaching as Activism gives those folks a space to get supported and to be held accountable and to take responsibility for answering these questions for themselves. So I can check off that question. Uh, and the revenue that are brought in from Coaching as Activism reflects that, especially as this conversation has gotten a little bit more trendy. And I do want to make sure I say that this is just for right now, right, because people and things change, they always will. And as they do Coaching as Activism shifts as well. And there may be a point in time where Coaching as Activism isn’t needed anymore. That’s my hope. That’s my wish. But for now this is where we are. Right?

So the next question of does it sit within their current capacities financially, physically, energetically? Is it accessible? I won’t get into this a lot today because it would probably make this episode twice as long and I’ll save that for another time. But regarding Coaching as Activism my answer to this question is a firm “yes, and…” I’ve made specific decisions about the program, the content, the community calls, uh, the pricing structure and probably many other things to make sure that I meet as many people as possible where they are, not where I want them to be, not where I think they are, but where they actually are. And I’ve done the work and continue to do the work of getting to know these folks, building relationships with my peeps so that I can feel firm in this, so yes, and… it will not reach everybody. Yes, and… it may not seem accessible to everyone and that’s okay with me. Yes, and… there will always be more work to do. So I’ll leave it at that. If you want more on this, let me know. Message me via Instagram or email me or something. I’m down to talk about this later. Just let me know.

The last question that I’m always asking myself, especially when I’m looking at revenue, is am I effectively communicating the purpose and value that my offers have and the possibilities that they create for my community?

This last question. Oh, it’s definitely a struggle for me and honestly it shows in my revenue, which at this point in time isn’t as much of a bummer for me at the moment as the reality that what this really means is that I’m not reaching the people who are craving what I’ve got. So I’m working on this one. There’s, some stuff still lurking around within me where I’m tying talking about the value of coaching as activism, especially to being narcissistic or vain. I’m working it out, but if you ask anybody that joined Coaching as Activism and consistently showed up for the work and took responsibility for their experience and their learning, what their experience was. I can pretty much guarantee you they’ll say that the program has changed their life and their business and their relationships, so there’s a huge disconnect for me right now between how I share about the program and the experience that folks are having and if you relate to this at all, it helps to get really clear on what that disconnect is all about for you and decide what you want to do about it. For me, I’m working on clearly seeing Coaching as Activism for all that it is and unapologetically asking for and receiving testimonials, but also and probably most importantly, letting go of the habit of judging myself for shining.

And since we’re talking about money, I’m a give you a number six. I’m going to give you a bonus.

*The sixth way that I measure impact is through giving.*

So the main question that I tend to ask myself around this as am I able to give and donate to those that are marginalized and therefore under supported, especially Black Brown and indigenous folks, especially folks that are trans and nonbinary or gender nonconforming, especially folks that are disabled now within my business structure, almost everything that I offer has a pay. What you choose or a sliding scale option and how I set that up is constantly shifting as I learn more and get more creative with my choices, but what I’m talking about here is actual dollars, cents, euros, etc. Going directly into the pockets of the people who want and need it. I am consistently growing in each of the ways that I’ve already listed, but this is a practice that I am definitely on, what I like to call, my Freedom Edge with, which is that risky, new or different place where you’re doing something different that you haven’t consistently done before in service of liberation, mine, yours and ours.

The past couple of years in my business, there hasn’t been much structure to my giving. It’s mostly been in the moment, kind of messy, decisions, basically reacting to whatever needs come up at any given time and there’s nothing wrong with that and I definitely want to have space for that kind of spontaneity, but with where I’m at in my business right now and I guess as an alleged responsible adult, I want to be more intentional and clear about who and what I’m supporting or investing in so I might have more to share on this in a future episode, but for now I wanted to make sure I included this one and offered it up as something for you to consider if you haven’t yet.

  • What kInd of structures do you want to have around your giving?
  • What issues or who do you want your giving to center?

I made this the last one because when we talk about businesses showing up for social change and justice and impacting the world around us, the go-to is always giving and listen…

Giving is absolutely necessary. Spread the wealth, share your coins, but giving money to people and initiatives is not the end all, be all. There is so much more and this isn’t even an exhaustive list of the ways that you can measure impact. These are just the ways that that give me the information that I need to know in order to assess whether or not I’m doing what I’ve set out to do. These may and probably will be very different for you depending on what your business is, what you’re offering, who your people are, what really matters to you, what your values and commitments are and how do you know that you’re making the impact that you want to make and answering those questions for yourself will help you if you don’t already have some ways for yourself to measure impact and figure those out for yourself.

So now that we’re comIng to an end, I would like to say a quick word or two about detachment because when it comes down to it, I can’t make an impact in the way that I want to. Unless others are open and willing to be influenced. Which is something that I have absolutely no say in. So even though I just shared all of these ideas and questions, all of that I can really do is show up and take responsibility for my part and do what I can and relate to what is and shift as needed. Everything else is up to you.

Alrighty. I’ve asked a lot of questions and maybe given you a lot to think about. Take this and run with it. See where it leads you. I’ve only scratched the surface with a lot of what I’ve brought up today and that’s on purpose because a lot of these ideas and questions will continuously get explored throughout this podcast by myself and through conversations with guys.

But if this was a lot for you and you’re kinda like, “where do I start with all of this?” I’ve got something for you. If you go to http://andrearanae.com/values. The link is in the description. You’ll see a mini workbook called Work Your Values and this helps you name define and put your values into action in your business and your life. So definitely check that out. it’ll help you as you explore the rest of these questions that this episode has brought up.

But before you move onto the next thing in your day, could you do one thing that helps this podcast to reach more people? You could review it on itunes or email it or text it to a friend. You could share it on Facebook or Instagram (and if you do that make sure to tag me so that I can see it I’m @andrearanaej). That would be so amazing and I’d be so grateful.

In the next episode we’re chatting with my friend Graeme Seabrook about her work as a mom for moms. I’m really excited to share it with you because it’s sooo good, but until then, thank you and I hope you’re having a beautiful day!