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We can do the most good when we do what we’re good at

We often think that ‘doing good’ is something we do on the side. What if you could make a difference while making a living?
For more than 10 years, I had been working in branding and communications in London. The work was fun, challenging, and it paid for my lifestyle.

I thought I had it made.

The only niggling frustration I had was reading world news, and looking around me at other people in my community.

Sure, my life was okay… but I was one of the lucky few. What had I done to deserve an easier life than anyone else?

 

It frustrated me that I wasn’t really helping anyone else, when as a child that was a central part of my identity.

So I spent a year getting all gung-ho about contributing to charity. I started diverting a portion of every one of my paychecks to causes I believed in and I started donating my time to charity.

At the end of 2015, I decided to try and do something big…

I strapped my running shoes and ran for six days straight from my home in London, to my friends home in Holland.

It was the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken, and I thought I could use it to raise awareness and funds for the UN Refugee Agency.

For six days I battled mud up to my knees, and waxed lyrical on social media about how hard it must be to leave your home – carrying your children and belongings on your back – and make your way on foot to another country in hope of a better life.

It made a bit of noise. People said they were inspired. I felt good about the difference I was making.

But then when it all wrapped up, I realised I had raised less money than I’d spent on preparing for and undertaking the challenge. Let me just say that again:

I had raised less money than I’d spent undertaking the challenge.

That realisation took the wind out of my sails big time.

I could have just donated the money in the first place and saved myself the effort.

Why did I put so much effort in to achieve such a small result?

 

I returned to work after my little adventure feeling deflated.

And as I looked at the next project on my list – the one whose deposit had paid for my little adventure – my stomach knotted.

What I had thought would be a nice, simple project actually had much more sinister motives: the client I was meant to be working with was trying to change legislation that was protecting buyers and eating into their bottom line. It always amazes me the lengths some businesses will go to in order to increase their profits.

For a year I had spent my spare time and spare money trying to make some small positive difference. And yet, here I was in my full time job actively contributing to make the world a worse place.

Ouch.

Right then and there I made the decision that making a positive difference couldn’t just be a sideline gig. I needed to actively start looking for ways to use my skills in a way that would make a positive difference.

I decided that it was time to put purpose over profit.

To live a life that I was proud of and do work that was meaningful.

For a few months, that was enough for me. I started working 1-1 with individuals who were already making an impact in the world – but whose impact could be so much greater, with the right messaging and marketing.

 

But pretty quickly, I hit the next hurdle.

I started stretching myself too thin… trying to support these amazing clients with things that were outside my zone of genius.

Yes, I can tinker with code, or apply myself to the finer details of designing or writing content for a website. I can even sit down and craft a pretty damn awesome marketing campaign.

The more things I applied my energies too, the less effective I became.

It became clear pretty quickly, that if I wanted to truly make the big impact I dreamed of, then I was going to stick within my own swim-lane.

And so The Good Alliance was born.

An alliance of designers, copywriters, developers, photographers and other professionals, contributing what they do best, to projects and causes that make a serious impact in the world.

It’s not without it’s challenges, but we are proving that it really is possible to make a difference while making a living. And it’s become my mission to make that a reality for as many people as possible.

What could you do?

Does any of my story resonate with you? Why not leave a comment below to let us know what your sweet spot is, and how you could use that to make a difference in your world.

Cat Townsend

I spent the first half of my career helping big brands sell more stuff, to people that didn’t need it. And the second attempting to do work that made a positive difference in the world. Now I’m here to share everything I’ve learnt (and am learning) in the hopes that others might do it more profitably, more easily and more impactfully!

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