Civics Inc.: How every business can help promote a healthy democracy

Civics Inc.: How every business can help promote a healthy democracy

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

This is the biggest election year in history, as citizens in countries representing half the the world’s population head to the polls. At home, the 2024 U.S. election will once again put destabilizing pressure on American political processes and institutions.

We know that the moment demands more than our attention; it demands urgent action. Employers hold outsized potential to promote civic participation and protect our democracy, but for many leaders, that work feels more fraught than ever before.

Developed from the insights and experiences of business leaders and democracy experts, this report is designed to meet businesses where they are. It provides a strategic framework to help employers customize their efforts around three goals and five core assets.

Three goals for employers to pursue in service of healthier democracy:

  • Encouraging and enabling civic participation
  • Promoting information accessibility, transparency, and quality
  • Supporting issues that protect fundamental rights and protect democracy

Five core assets that all businesses can leverage in pursuit of these goals:

  • Workplace policies and benefits
  • Employee engagement and people infrastructure
  • Corporate products and services
  • Political contributions and advocacy
  • Corporate and executive voice

What else is included in the report?

  • Talking points for making the business case for democracy, provided directly by corporate leaders and democracy experts
  • Dozens of real examples showing how businesses are promoting civic participation and a healthier democracy, paired with detailed implementation guidance
  • Peer-vetted recommendations for partner organizations on a wide-range of needs

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Investing in employee well-being: innovative policies and benefits

Investing in employee well-being: innovative policies and benefits

CURATED COLLECTION

The COVID-19 pandemic served as catalyst for employers to invest more deeply and creatively in employee wellbeing, driven by fundamental changes to workplaces (e.g. remote work), implications for healthcare, family and childcare support, financial outlook, and more. Simultaneously, increased focus on racial justice and equity has heightened private sector commitments to inclusive workplace policies for marginalized communities. More recently, policy changes in the U.S. –  including the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the childcare cliff – have escalated the need for employers to increase benefits that supplement lack of government supports. 

Employees and companies alike are placing workplace wellbeing higher on their priority lists. 91% of employees find that their job plays a role in determining their wellbeing, and 57% report seriously considering quitting for a more supportive workplace. 76% of U.S. executives feel that expectations about workforce wellbeing are higher than in previous years, and 87% say that workforce wellbeing gives their company a competitive advantage. In addition to productivity and retention advantages, companies with higher employee wellbeing scores fare better financially, showing a superior return on assets, higher profits, and higher valuations.

When balanced with other core aspects of employee experience (including leadership behaviors and job design), inclusive employee policies and benefits can play a significant role in supporting holistic wellbeing. This Curated Collection provides the business rationale for and innovative examples of private sector wellbeing policies and benefits across five key areas: reproductive health, family care, paid leave, financial wellbeing, and mental health.


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Pivotal moments: Responding to social, cultural, and political events

Pivotal moments: Responding to social, cultural, and political events

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

Frequent media headlines, debate on our national stage, and marked instances of backlash toward companies have mainstreamed the politicization of ESG. Although the underlying work of corporate social impact and sustainability remains in-tact and durable, newly mounting political pressures have created real headwinds for business leaders — headwinds that can fundamentally change how social impact and sustainability are practiced. To get more clarity on what impacts political backlash is having on corporate practices, NationSwell surveyed 74 corporate ESG leaders (VPs and above), and conducted in-depth interviews with 12 more (whose ranks include senior leaders from Fortune 100 and 500 companies). 

Our research surfaced one significant way that political pressure is impacting company behavior: it has sown a growing reluctance to speak out publicly on culturally sensitive and politically divisive topics. 

Whereas the social justice movements of 2020 normalized the activist CEO, the current moment is introducing new doubt in the boardroom and among management teams about the relative risks and rewards of taking public and participatory action when an issue is polarizing. If harnessed intentionally, this trepidation can provide a useful moment for companies to reflect, reevaluate, and reset the purpose and impact behind public responses. Companies need to consider their own credibility and opportunity for meaningful impact before making bold public statements or commitments. But too much restraint can be overcompensatory and damaging, both to society and to corporate interests. 

As we look ahead to continued global instability and social turbulence, the acuity of questions around if, when, and how to respond to social and political issues will only grow. In conversation with leaders and practitioners, we’ve surfaced four recommendations for companies to help them navigate ESG headwinds while considering the interests of their employees, customers, communities, and other stakeholders. These recommendations will be most effective if implemented together. We have also created four tools to support their direct implementation.

Recommendations:

  • Create mechanisms for understanding what employees and customers expect of your organization
  • Assess the impacts of sociopolitical issues on your company, and your company’s opportunity to influence those issues
  • Use a decision framework to weigh and resolve the best available information before acting
  • Consult an external advisory council to expand your perspective

Implementation tools:

  • Employee sentiment survey questions
  • How to create a social response scorecard
  • Template corporate social response scorecard 
  • Template Community Advisory Council charter

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How Johnson & Johnson is Accelerating a Health Equity Mindset: the Business Match Fund

How Johnson & Johnson is Accelerating a Health Equity Mindset: the Business Match Fund

In the U.S., health disparities for people of color relative to White individuals include higher rates of illness and death and less access to quality care. In response to longstanding and systemic healthcare inequities, Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) launched its “Our Race to Health Equity” initiative (“ORTHE”) in November 2020. The bold under-taking “aspires to help eradicate racial and social injustice as a public health threat by eliminating health inequities for people of color” with a $100 million commitment over five years.

The company will invest half of ORTHE’s $100 million through external grants, programs, and initiatives by 2025. To embed a health equity mindset into J&J’s everyday business practice and strategy, J&J has also committed to driving change from within their large enterprise, allocating $50 million over five years to a Business Match Fund (“BMF”). The BMF is an incubator and catalyst for alignment at all levels of J&J by providing dollar-for-dollar co-investment alongside business units seeking to advance a health equity-oriented initiative in the United States. 

This case study details how Johnson & Johnson designed and executed the Business Match Fund to accelerate the adoption of a health equity focus across its divisions and, consequently, to seed large-scale organizational change. Their approach includes five core elements, explored further in the report:

  1. Design a funding approach that promotes innovation, long-term thinking, and engagement
  2. Use a varied toolkit to invite applications from across the enterprise
  3. Administer a layered and inclusive review process to select fund recipients
  4. Track impact centrally and regularly, leaving room for flexibility
  5. Tell the story of catalyzed impact internally and externally

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Corporate engagement with HBCUs

Corporate engagement with HBCUs

The Supreme Court’s 2023 decision to strike down affirmative action in higher education may result in decreased racial diversity at public and private colleges, making the role of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) even more vital in advancing opportunities for students of color. Their impact today is essential, and applications for enrollment are increasing, yet HBCU funding is lacking in comparison with other higher education institutions. 

In response to member interest, NationSwell reviewed the available data on HBCU funding levels (historical and current), their benefits to individuals and communities, and the most common forms of partnership between companies and schools. We’re pleased to share a summary of what we learned in the hopes that it helps our member organizations better understand their opportunity to support HBCUs.


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Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging: U.S. certifications and recognitions 

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging: U.S. certifications and recognitions 

CURATED COLLECTION

From the Great Resignation to the Great Reshuffle, one thing is clear: workers want good workplaces alongside good jobs. For employers, however, it can be a challenge to signal their value to prospective employees or retain current talent in a tight labor market. Although external validation can never capture the true experience of what it is like to work at any one place, certifications, awards, or other public recognitions can offer employers the opportunity to pursue and promote excellence across a variety of DEIB dimensions.

This Curated Collection provides social impact leaders in the private sector with a roundup of United States-based certifications and “best of” recognitions related to different aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). 

The collection includes the following: 

  • Certifications achieved based on company-submitted applications 
  • Recognitions achieved without needing to apply

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Datasets for economic mobility

Datasets for economic mobility

CURATED COLLECTION

Wealth inequality and income inequality in the United States are significantly higher than in other OECD countries. And economic mobility is rigid. The likelihood of an individual moving from low wealth status to high wealth status over the course of their lifetime is low. Income disparity and wealth inequality are rooted in an array of social and economic factors, including race and geography. These factors create what is known as the economic opportunity gap.

This Curated Collection provides social impact leaders in the public and private sectors with a roundup of data-driven tools to strengthen their decision-making processes in addressing the economic opportunity gap. The resources provide specific consideration for indicators of racial equity and social justice and factors that promote mobility for disadvantaged groups across neighborhoods, communities, and states.

Resources include (but are not limited to) the following: 

  • Tools that allow companies to benchmark themselves against others on strategy and progress; 
  • Datasets that support deciding which communities would benefit most from company investments to increase equity;
  • Resources that encourage companies to prioritize racial and social factors that affect indicators of wealth (e.g., access to education and employment, and asset ownership).

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Bringing community engagement into physical retail

Bringing community engagement into physical retail

NATIONSWELL PRIMER

A growing number of retail-based companies are piloting and scaling in-store models for connecting more deeply and authentically with their local communities. Those efforts are motivated by the desire to drive economic growth in underserved neighborhoods, create space for community engagement and artistic expression, and modernize stores for evolving consumer expectations. While individual approaches to community-based store models vary, there are several themes and patterns that stand out. 

This one-page primer names five common approaches to creating community in retail stores, with examples of each model. 


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The state of play: DEIB

The state of play: DEIB

Organizations have taken a larger interest in the practice of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging since COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and other pivotal events brought long-entrenched societal inequities into the spotlight. While their arc of progress is uneven, the simple fact remains: injustice occurs as prominently in workplaces as anywhere else, affording companies the opportunity – perhaps the responsibility – to model solutions that could ultimately yield a wider societal benefit. This trend report describes five key trends for DEIB in 2022:

The trends: 

  • With high expectations from current and prospective employees, companies are revamping recruitment to meet diversity goals; they are struggling to employ complete strategies.
  • To advance equity and inclusion, companies are leaning into stronger benefits, policy updates, and employee resource groups; data on efficacy is scarce, but makes clear that the work is just beginning.
  • Employee perspectives on DEIB effectiveness vary in ways that are unsurprising; company leadership has a responsibility for more open and reciprocal communications to better respond to these differences.
  • Reporting and disclosures around DEIB are improving, but the data is inconsistent and incomplete.
  • DEIB executives are turning over at an increasingly high rate; lack of resourcing, insufficient company-wide engagement, and burnout are major contributors.

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How the Bush Foundation’s $100 million community trust funds are decolonizing philanthropy

How the Bush Foundation’s $100 million community trust funds are decolonizing philanthropy

Spurred by the global resurgence of the movement to demand bolder action against structural racism, the Bush Foundation designed an innovative approach to redistribute wealth to Black and Native American communities. Called community trust funds, the model disburses $100 million dollars through two steward organizations from these communities. Those steward organizations will use the trust funds to support educational attainment, home ownership, and entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals. The full report describes the Bush Foundation’s Community Trust Fund approach in five steps:

  • Issue a social impact bond to dramatically increase funding capacity.

By relying on debt financing to fund new grants, the foundation was able to urgently increase its support to the Native American and Black communities while still investing in other projects using their endowed assets.

  • Engage directly with community members to design a funding strategy.

The Bush Foundation structured a deep engagement process with 28 community members including leaders, elders, and experts on reparations and philanthropy. Their guidance helped the organization arrive at a community trust fund model for investing the $100M bond proceeds in Native American and Black individuals.

  • Invite expressions of interest from potential steward organizations.

The Bush Foundation cast a wide and inclusive net to invite interest from potential steward organizations. Their request for proposals focused on organizations’ capacity to credibly steward the funds and their demonstrated ability to engage deeply with community members in informing their work.

  • Select two steward organizations with guidance from community members.

The Bush Foundation recruited a representative community panel with understanding of the lived experiences and needs of the Black and Native American community to advise their selection process by interviewing finalist organizations. They helped identify NDN Collective and Nexus Community Partners as the two steward organizations for $50M community trust funds.

  • Provide initial funding and guidelines to steward organizations for their program design phase.

The Bush Foundation provided an up front $500,000 to each steward organization to support their work designing a grantmaking program for each community trust fund, as well as support around grant management, evaluation, and legal issues. The design phase funding is in addition to the $50M each steward organization will receive to seed their community trust fund.


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