Moving in the Direction of Impact | An Interview with Neetal Parekh

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Neetal Parekh
Photo credit: Neetal Parekh

Though she’s a licensed attorney, Neetal Parekh has pursued her passion for social entrepreneurship and impact with singularity.

She wears many hats as the author of 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, founder of Innov8Social, host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8Social, and convener of the Impactathon. She is also a frequent speaker, facilitator, and moderator at various events and venues such as SXSW, Net Impact, and Stanford Law School.

Read on to learn Parekh’s thoughts on the top three challenges of the social-impact space and what they mean for job seekers.

Challenge #1: Measuring impact

The first challenge of the social impact space is establishing universally accepted impact measurement and reporting methods for both private and nonprofit social enterprises. While there has been discussion and debate around this topic for years, today, no such standards exist.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are gaining ground as a common language for impact measurement,” Parekh notes. “It’ll be great to see various universal criteria and tools emerge to make it easier to plan, capture, measure, and report social impact by sector, size, and type of impact.”

More accurate measurement and reporting is made possible by technology, which offers an accessibility and allows all types of organizations to measure impact based on agreed-upon standards. This, in turn, can help investors, experts, and practitioners compare the efficacy of various programs and initiatives, and also hone in on what can be improved.

For the job seeker, impact measurement and reporting will not only help to better understand what an organization does, but more pointedly, how one can best contribute to its mission. For instance, with the help of impact measurement and reporting in your job search, you may learn that an organization has great success with one of its programs, but hasn’t fully realized the potential of another. You might leverage your findings by focusing on how your specifics skills could help to push that second program across the finish line.

Challenge #2: Raising awareness and interest amongst funders

The second challenge Parekh highlights is the limited investment and funding for the sector. That said, she is still encouraged. “There are a number of programs emerging to train and scale the investor side of social enterprise … by empowering, training, and guiding future investors on the role of social impact.” Programs for potential investors such as The Innov8Social Academy and The Global Impact Investing Network’s Training Program offer educational resources that run the gamut from a beginner overview of social impact to more advanced options for the social enterprise veteran.

A better understanding of the social-impact space among investors can contribute to a more robust funding ecosystem supporting the growth of various organizations. And as we look to the development of and investment in the nonprofit and social-impact space, it’s important to remember that growth isn’t possible without human resources. Only with more awareness and increased funding can organizations better support recruitment and professional development activities.

Parekh remarks, “Bringing diverse, new voices into the investment scene … can also contribute to different perspectives and innovative solutions.”

Challenge #3: Encouraging participation

The last challenge, as Parekh sees it, is educating and empowering individuals, companies, organizations, and investors and giving them access to participate in the impact ecosystem.

“Our work at Innov8social is focused on creating content, programming, and resources to make social enterprise more actionable and accessible,” says Parekh. “We are joined on the ecosystem-building side … by incredible individuals, initiatives, and institutions that create content, experiences, media, and training for social entrepreneurs.” One key example of Innov8Social’s work is the Impactathon, a live event where the Innov8Social team organizes a day of seminars, speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities to help participants jumpstart their social impact ideas.

“Each of us doing this work is part of the solution to [attract] more people who can bring a social entrepreneurship mindset to various industries, roles, academic disciplines, and innovations.”

Parekh defines the social entrepreneurship mindset as one rooted in problem-solving in which a multi-disciplinary approach allows one to recognize opportunities.

It’s also important to remember that anyone can have a social entrepreneurship mindset. There’s no demographic limit; it’s based on the sum of your professional and personal experiences. It’s a mindset that’s inclusive and diverse, one that any job seeker can have.

Reaching your impact potential

These challenges are significant, but Parekh encourages those interested in a social-impact career to keep in mind one of her favorite quotes by Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”

“I think of it often,” Parekh reflects. “Especially in moments of overwhelm, to remind myself that the pursuit of social impact is more of an intention than a destination. We are successful when we keep moving in the direction of impact, from where we are, using what we have and know, and doing what we can.”

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What do you think is one of the social impact space’s biggest challenges today? What about an impressive innovation that you have observed in the space over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and content coach based in New York City. She’s passionate about helping female business owners and creatives become stronger storytellers and advocates of the work they’re doing in the world.
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