I first met Simon Mainwaring in Boston in September, 2011 when we shared a keynote on best cause marketing practices (thank you, Katya). Ever since then, I have admired Simon’s unwavering commitment to change the world through cause marketing.
His bestselling book We First is a must read for anyone who believes that businesses play a role in their larger community. I wanted to check in with Simon, and see how the We First project was coming along. Here’s what he had to say…
GL: How has We First been embraced by the business community?
SM:Outright the business community has been very kind and open towards We First, welcoming both the book and its message. That said, the purpose of We First is to contribute towards substantive change through which the private sector tempers excesses that compromise the lives of others and does more to contribute towards positive social change.
Many times we wonder if we really can change things. Some wish to change all of society, while others want to resolve a specific problem, like education, homelessness, or environmental issues. Passion drives them, but many of us question whether our actions really matter.
Simon Mainwaring’s current bestseller We First (See Beth Kanter’s book review) certainly challenges us to believe that change of all kinds can happen. Mainwaring advocates for a sea change in capitalist culture towards mandated ethical corporate social responsibility and cause marketing. He advocates for a We attitude instead of a Me attitude. His suggested primary catalyst for change is, you guessed it, social media.
It’s easy to fall in love with social media, and believe we can change the world with it. Certainly, it is a powerful tool set for grass roots activism. The accomplishments of Middle East dissidents have shown us that with hard work over years it is possible to overcome established power structures and current media influences with these tools (see above video). Anyone of us can do this.
In the end social media are just tools. People change society, collectively. Individually, it takes hard work to get our peers one by one to move with us. Grassroots movements are not built in a day, and many are never fully realized. But as time evolves with momentum and success, we can move en masse towards desired change. The organizers behind Egypt’s January 25th revolution — Ahmed Maher, Asmaa Mahfouz, Wael Ghonim, and Israa Abdel Fattah — were unknown activists working behind the scenes since 2009.
You have to give Mainwaring credit. He advocates for change with We First, and leads by example with his marketing consultancy of the same name. As a long term resident in Washington, DC, his idealism is admirable. How that change occurs is another question.
That doesn’t mean that changing the face of capitalism can’t occur. Again, any of us can become change agents, even if we are affecting one person at a time. Certainly, this book would be well served as an ethical challenge to business students. How Mainwaring convinces Wall Street and the Fortune 500 to change their ways remains to be seen. Kudos to Simon for throwing down the gauntlet, and taking an activist’s role.