Working for Social Good? Try These in 2019.

Research-led ideas to better your work this 2019.

Ab Brightman
4 min readJan 5, 2019

Whether you like to set new years resolutions or hate the idea, I think we can all gain from making some time this month to be motivated to try something new— with no pressure to continue if we don’t feel the benefits.

Having an open mind to trying something new can help create more of the social impact we strive for — both by making our practices more effective, and more enjoyable.

Here are three unique things you can try this 2019 which could bring a lot of value to you and your organisation. I road tested them last year and they really helped!

Try: Setting a learning goal

On returning to work or your volunteer role, its likely that you will either be setting new goals or continuing from those you set in 2018. Often those goals are something like ‘Recruit volunteers for X project’, ‘Secure funding for Y campaign’. Whilst these goals definitely have importance, there’s some really interesting research from Carol Dweck (of growth mindset fame) that suggests that when we work towards an outcome goal we struggle to apply the skills and experiential learning from that process to a new but similar situation.

However, if you set yourself a ‘learning’ goal — that is, your goal is the learning rather than concrete outcome — Dweck’s research suggests that not only will you gain more transferable skills and knowledge from doing so, but it is likely that you will work harder, be more motivated and ultimately enjoy the process more.

In the world of small socially good organisations having staff and volunteers who are happy at work, and able to competently switch between various different tasks is key.

So for 2019 why not try setting yourself a private learning goal (which could be anything from learning how to be more resilient to learning how to write great email copy), or seeing if you can adapt an existing organisational goal into a learning one?

Try: Adding strategic walks to your day

I never really liked walking until this year. For me it was a boring necessity to get to town/work/school/uni cheaply, and a frankly confusing hobby. However, after reading some compelling research in Dan Pink’s ‘When’ and some experimentation, I am fully converted to the power of quick, strategic walks to completely turn around my energy during the day. Here are some easy recommendations for you to try:

  • If you work from home: get out for even a 5–10 minute walk, just around the neighbourhood, before sitting down to work each morning. It really wakes you up with a dose of natural light and fresh air.
  • If you feel sluggish after lunch: right after you’ve finished eating head out for a 10–15 minute walk and you’ll be surprised how well it stops you wanting to put your head down on your desk. Plus you can make it sociable by inviting similarly struggling colleagues/friends.
  • If you love distractions: going for a walk is an excellent opportunity to listen to some of a podcast or let your mind wander. I find this dose of distraction and entertainment helps me stay far more focussed in those moods where every other click I find myself scrolling through twitter.

Try: Choosing principles for your work

Let’s be real; we may be working towards an overarching social good, but making choices inside our organisations, about how and what to do, is often more complex than simply weighing up the perceived social impact of both. At Student Hubs I saw how having organisation-wide, or personal principles/values can help staff to make decisions, shape programmes and evaluate their own performances in a practical way.

Since publishing an in-depth look at creating and implementing principles, using my own as an example, a number of organisations got in touch to say they found a lot of value in following the suggestions — so why not give it a try yourself? It is an opportunity to be far more intentional of doubling down on your strengths and personal values that brought you to the sector in the first place.

You can find the full guide to creating and using work principles here.

So there we go — a handful of really impactful things which you can try out this new working year! Think I’ve missed any out? Or tried any of these already? Let me know in the comments or

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I help socially impactful organisations to be more innovative, develop engaging digital communications and to organise their volunteers. Visit my site to see how we could collaborate.