Oct 28

The Potential and Progress of Networked Smart Cities

Lauren Klein


Cities are amazing. Whether Beijing or New York, Delhi or Singapore, Sao Paulo or Paris, these metropolises of millions bring together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and throw them together in a sea of humanity. In the best of those cities, there are incredible smarts and partnerships at work cultivating economic opportunity and improving quality of life for residents.

But much of the potential of “Smart Cities” is still untapped. With more than half the world’s population living in cities today - and that number only set to grow - there is an incredible opportunity to source and scale innovation within and across global cities to ensure our urban centers provide a vibrant, equitable, sustainable and livable environment.

Given this immense opportunity and the challenges that go along with it, our Social Impact team took a deep look at the Networked Smart Cities movement to see what role different sectors can and should play to advance this work and communicate progress. This smart cities report is the first in a series of investigations into the key macro trends that are shaping the future of social impact work.

Estimates indicate the global market potential for smart cities - infrastructure development, technology integration, and e-government, energy and security services - could reach $3.3 trillion by 2025. Much of that market potential will be realized by collaborative investments in solutions and innovations that address inclusivity, sustainability and resiliency. This then requires greater capacity to identify the right partnerships, communicate complex ideas to and among stakeholders, and engage the larger citizenry in campaigns that galvanize support and action at all levels – from local communities to networked city ecosystems that connect people across geography and technology.

We explore these themes in our new report Networked Smart Cities. We invite you to take a look and let us know what you think. Stay tuned for additional reports with insights on how key trends - from improved transparency to inclusive economies - are transforming how people, organizations and systems connect to drive positive change.

Jun 11

Meeting the Transparency Challenge

Paul Massey

How are foundations bringing transparency to their work to solve complex, global challenges?

That’s the question that was the focus of a standing-room-only event that Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact team hosted in Washington, DC.

Marc Gunther, editor-at-large of The Guardian Sustainable Business and author of the blog Nonprofit Chronicles moderated a discussion with clients including Jeremy Hill, Director of Corporate Communications at the World Bank; Joanne Krell, Vice President of Communications at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Allyson Burns, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Case Foundation.

The conversation was candid, fluid, and interactive, focusing on how organizations are prioritizing transparency – and identifying the most meaningful and sustainable ways to report on impact.  The consensus of the evening was that while progress has undoubtedly been made toward increased transparency, there is still important ground to be covered. Panelists offered the following as advice:

  • Fail Forward: Be open and honest about missteps and share lessons learned with the broader philanthropic community. Allyson Burns of the Case Foundation spoke frankly about the importance of failure to the overall transparency discussion. She spoke about the contrast between start-ups, which often support a fast-paced, iterative, failure-as-a-positive environment, and philanthropic organizations which tend to embrace a more risk averse, slower moving culture. As Allyson Burns suggested, perhaps foundations could learn something from the open-sourced mindset that makes start-ups so successful.  The Case Foundation’s #BeFearless campaign, which Weber Shandwick helped to launch, is about failing forward (faster) to move on to things that work more effectively.
  • Bring Your Stakeholders With You: Include those who support you on your journey. According to Joanne Krell of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, “shared knowledge is a critical component of social impact and in order to create real change, foundations need to more effectively communicate to core stakeholders.” Additionally, Joanne spoke about the foundation’s efforts to build an organizational culture that supports increased transparency.
  • It’s a Journey: Integrating more transparency into day-to-day operations takes time.  Jeremy Hillman of the World Bank noted that being more open with your stakeholders is a long and potentially daunting process.  It takes significant planning and time to cultivate a transparency mindset within an organization.  In addition to younger donors seeking transparency in reporting, Hillman also noted that increasing pressure from large donors is going to push the professionalization of giving.

Check out the photo gallery below, and follow Social Impact on Twitter at @WSSocialImpact for the latest on trends and insights in corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and social issues.




Apr 9

The Role of Purpose in Advertising

Paul Massey

Our client partners at BSR, a global nonprofit organization working with more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world, have released a report with Participant Media, Transparency, Purpose and the Empowered Consumer: A New Paradigm for Advertising.

It examines a central question: can advertising linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) deepen engagement with consumers?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Content centered on CSR can build trust and affinity, provided that it is truthful and accurate, empowers consumer expression and dialogue, and is purposeful.

In fact, as the report documents, there’s been an encouraging trend of major brands putting purpose at the center of their advertising. It’s a demonstration of how CSR is bringing purpose and profits closer together. This spans industries and includes:

  • Patagonia’s Responsible Economy campaign, including a memorable Black Friday ad in The New York Times with the headline “Don’t Buy this Jacket”
  • Chipotle’s Scarecrow ad on sustainable farming
  • Unilever’s (client) “Why bring a child into this world” short film, launching Project Sunlight, a campaign to engage consumers in living a more sustainable life, as part of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan

The BSR report is timely, given the recent heightened attention to corporate engagement on social issues, from companies like Apple, Salesforce and Nike (client) taking forceful stands on the issue of LGBT equality in Indiana; to Starbuck’s effort, Race Together, addressing the complex issue of race in America.

Increasingly, companies see engagement on critical social issues as a business imperative (no longer a nice-to-do), in order to advance their business interests and to bring their expertise and scale to tackle social problems. It’s encouraging that there is a rise in advertising that reflects CSR as a strategic business priority.  It increases the likelihood that consumers will know more about which companies are contributing to both economic and social progress and reward them with their business and loyalty. 


Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Finding (and Using) Your Voice

Emily Semmelman

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


“This is a tangent, but I just want to say I’m addicted to Twitter,” Ford Foundation President Darren Walker addressed the BSR Conference audience, “Many times a leader’s voice is created by corporate communications - and it sounds so constructed! Social media lets you find your voice.”


Darren Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation, a leading, global organization committed to social change. He joined the 2014 BSR Conference as a plenary speaker to share his and the Foundation’s views and commitment to alleviating inequality, preserving human dignity and the intersection of corporations and non-profit organizations to advocate for social good.


Some lessons he shared:

  • Collaboration is Key: No one has the resources to get everything they want to accomplish done on their own. Walker urged everyone to improve in their ability to embrace partnerships. He remarked on how business and nonprofits need to come together to create partnerships for social good. There is a new paradigm where business and society come together for justice and inclusion.
  • Embrace the Power of Storytelling: Walker urged the BSR crowd to get on board with the storytelling to make a real impact. Storytelling tends to be underappreciated at foundations. As Walker frankly put it, “Some foundations will take really exciting things and just deaden them!” Stories carry more weight than hard data; meaningful, humanized messages change hearts and minds.
  • Use Your (Authentic) Voice: Anyone can, and should, be a storyteller. In addition to advocating for tapping social media to create an authentic voice, Walker urged leaders to stand up and speak up for their values and investments. As he proclaimed, it’s time for executives to forget jargon, stop relying on messaging and find a genuine voice.



Nov 7

BSR Conference 2014: Shifting Focus to the Long Term

Katy Reddin

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2014: Transparency & Transformation. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference on this blog.


BSR Conference 2014 was a strong call-to-action for business leaders, with PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi’s impassioned presentation being the primary example. Arguing that capitalism has been hijacked by short-term thinking, Nooyi posited that the system cannot function at its fullest potential when such a large number of people cannot contribute, and when the resources on which the system depends are being depleted so quickly.


Nooyi called upon leaders to write a second chapter of capitalism that focuses on short-term profitability and long-term sustainability, using examples from PepsiCo’s own work to demonstrate this mindset.  She stressed, however, that this second chapter cannot be written until the evaluation of business performance is altered, calling for a strong convener to create a global scorecard that all companies can utilize.


Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, was her insistence that business executives and other leaders remain “lifelong students,” reflecting upon her own roots in a water-deprived village in India and how this has enabled her to approach this issue with a “heart, head and hands” mentality. The importance of feeling an issue to the core in order to run a global enterprise that successfully incorporates sustainability is one that the audience instantly reacted to, and an idea that will likely be reflected upon more throughout the conference.






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