With Humans at the Center, We Can All Do Better

By: Teju Asida-Farrar

"If you have to give back, you took too much." -Ricardo Semler

Humans are inherently interdependent: we live in communities, work in urban centers, educate ourselves in groups, and thrive in institutional bodies. We've also managed to capitalize on each other in ways that benefit a few and marginalize many, (i.e. the wage gap between the lowest paid workers and a CEO -- who are both doing needed work). Just as businesses need nonprofits and visa-versa, justice needs equity. Working and having a career should somehow benefit and uplift others in your community as well as humanity as a whole species. Human-centered design should not only be a concept, it should be a practice. Without being esoteric, I'm talking about social reciprocity, which I believe should be present in every aspect of our lives -- especially in our work. Equity benefits the economy, as does investing in positive social impact. Fighting for equality is the best way to achieve efficiency because everything is more efficient when 100 percent of its parts are working together towards progress, and none is hindered by obstacles.

I don't believe everyone should work for a nonprofit or a social-good tech company. However, I do believe we should all do some type of work that is enforcing equity, diminishing inequality, and empowering humanity. This can happen across fields, across-issue, and in the public and private sectors. Social impact work is valuable and should not be exclusively pinned on nonprofit organizations. Corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, and networks like Ellevate and Transform Finance are other sustainable ways to tackle the discourse on inequality and take actionable steps toward combatting this socio-economic ill. While some use the arts and music, others use architecture and urban planning to create and support thriving communities. Still, some use partnerships, social collaboration, and finance to support the notion of equity.

As the world becomes more globalized, we can take ideas and projects from all around the world to apply them to our local and-even-national circumstances. In fact, having a global perspective is a great way to inform local communities and businesses of action. Most issues affect many places around the globe. Learning about how people deal with similar problems in different regions, countries, and communities can be inspiring, innovative, and useful. Whether it's Ricardo Semler talking about how he's transforming education in Brazil or Majora Carter making the Bronx, New York more sustainable, we can use these lessons to help us determine how we can give back in our own work, lives, and career.

With the ongoing technology boom and the customer-focused start up model, we are re-entering a space that is putting people at the center once again. Industries are being reminded of the power and importance of a human-centered focus. This is something most nonprofits have never forgotten and they should be looked to as examples of how social impact inherently puts people potential first. Reciprocity happens in many ways, and can be achieved in all aspects of our lives. We must make an effort to use a human-centered reciprocal model in our work and daily practices. This mindset and human-centered practices will not only benefit our individual health and well being, but also make our communities and societies more resilient and equitable.

Here are five ways you can become more human-equity focused:

1. Ask your community what they want before developing a solution.

2. Continually gauge feedback from your community and the people with whom you work.

3. Find ways, within your capacity and sector, to give back consistently.

4. Collaborate and create partnerships with companies and organizations with a mission dedicated to social good and equity.

5. Remember the golden, somewhat cliche, rule we learn in kindergarten: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

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