2020 Vision? The Beeck Center’s Predictions for Social Impact

January 7, 2020

2020 is the last year of the millennium’s first decade (fight me), and promises to be an interesting one with a presidential election, Brexit, 50th anniversary of the start of the disco era, and whatever other surprises will surely arise.

We asked ourselves what we might see in the year ahead in the social impact space, here’s what we see in our crystal balls.

Impact at Scale Means Accelerating Movements

Today, scaling impact is too often conflated with scaling programs or organizations. No single program or organization, no matter how great it may be, can truly solve the complex social ills vexing the world. Rather it will take a coordinated effort across numerous sectors– from social ventures to policymakers to local social service providers. 

In 2020 and beyond, we’ll observe a sea change as funders and impact organizations alike tackle intractable social problems through a coordinated ecosystem lens rather than scaling pointed solutions in silos. Donor collaboratives like the Tipping Point Fund (a $12.5M coalition of nine foundations and family offices) and radical coordination like Imperative 21 (a business-led coalition of 72,000 businesses across 80 countries) will continue to increase as more investment in field building is needed to sustain the impact we want to see long-term. We believe grassroot efforts need to reach institutions where change can be more widely adopted and ultimately create the intended positive impact for all.

For the Beeck Center, that means playing the necessary role as a “grasstop” player, linking grassroot and institutional efforts poised for action, and putting our efforts toward the messy infrastructure work that can accelerate and sustain positive social impact movements.

– Nate Wong, Interim Executive Director 

Thoughts from Outside the Center

CEOs Will be Judged Both as Commercial Leaders and as Social Architects

It is clear the current dynamic business environment, combined with evolving social, economic, and political realities, the role of the CEO is transforming faster than many had expected for both public and private concerns. Specifically, CEOs are realizing the need to take more active and/or vocal roles around stakeholder issues such as healthcare, education and retraining, climate change, affordable housing and the like. The most effective and most successful CEOs for the near future will need to be both strong commercial leaders as well as courageous social architects to ensure that the community of stakeholders they serve is as engaged and productive as possible.

– Tierney Remick, Vice Chairman and Co-Leader, Board & CEO Services, Korn Ferry. 20 Predictions for Business & Society

person holding clear glass ball

Photo by Jenni Jones on Unsplash

Students Want a More Hands-On Approach to their Education

Experiential Learning will continue to play an increasingly prominent role in higher education, with further blending of the curricular and co-curricular in equipping students for careers in social impact.

The Beeck Center will continue to break down silos at Georgetown, accelerating collaboration across campus as we’ll work with different schools and student groups to better educate students for social impact leadership.

Matt Fortier, Director, Sustainable Student Impact

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Rising Student Voice Will Prompt a Paradigm Shift among Professors

Today, students enter business school increasingly aware and concerned about the critical issues of our day. Faculty – charged with equipping these students with the context and skills to make responsible business decisions – will face louder questions about how the concepts they are teaching relate to issues like climate change and inequality.  These collective student voices will be hard to ignore, forcing faculty to make a conscious choice between teaching the seemingly discrete theories and models in the same siloed manner or exploring these challenging questions by looking at business concepts through a broader, more multi-faceted lens.

– Jaime Bettcher, Program Manager, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, 20 Predictions for Business & Society

gray and yellow tape measures and rulers

Photo by William Warby on Unsplash

A Demand for Results Means a Need for Tools to Measure Impact

We launched our Fair Finance initiative last year with the goal of righting the rules for shared prosperity, and we expect to see more partners engaged in our efforts as the year progresses.

Impact management practices and processes will converge as companies and investors increasingly look not only for measurable results, but for standard guidelines, commonly accepted tools and aligned frameworks to achieve positive and sustainable impact in communities.

If unemployment stays low, awareness of the need and opportunity to employ refugees and immigrants will increase.

The legislation that created Opportunity Zones (OZs) has only been in place for a short time, and as early movers begin to develop projects, more positive narratives about OZs will continue to emerge.

For us at the Beeck Center, we’ll bring together more of the key stakeholders in these areas as we convene our OZ Investor Council and complete a landscape analysis of workforce training opportunities for refugees and immigrants.

Lisa Hall, Director, Fair Finance 

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Move Beyond Gender to Include Broader Diversity

Gender equality and the inclusion of women on boards and founding teams has been a big theme over the past year and will continue to be an important agenda item.

However, as more investors recognize that diversity translates into more representative, better informed teams, we’re likely to see a bigger drive to redefine diversity beyond gender alone.

When it comes to diversity, there is still a lot of work to do and we shouldn’t limit this scope to gender alone.

– Karma Impact: Top 10 Impact Investing Trends for 2020


person holding clear glass ball with QR code background

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

Public Sector Workforce Grows Its Digital Skillset

In 2020 and beyond, data and technology will continue to drive the way our society builds systems and delivers services and we will need a workforce in the public interest and public sector—not just the private sector—that is equipped with the hard skills and policy expertise to leverage the tools of data and digital to deliver better outcomes. We need technologists in government to buy smarter so we don’t keep spending taxpayers dollars on software and products that vendors can’t or won’t deliver. We need technical skills at the policy making table in the public interest community and in government so major initiatives consider data opportunities and risks as well as tech implications in their design and also plan for rollout and implementation from the start. 

At the Beeck Center, I predict we will continue identifying ways that society can invest in the public interest technology community to ensure a workforce that meets our needs, and investing in projects and partnerships to drive forward the changing future we want to see. 

Cori Zarek, Director, Data + Digital

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Companies Will Expand CSR to Include CDR

More and more companies will embed data responsibility principles into the way they do business — and embrace corporate data responsibility, or CDR. The acronym may be new, but in a digital world, it’s the logical next step for companies committed to meeting their responsibilities to individuals, one another and society as a whole. For the Center for Inclusive Growth that means leveraging Mastercard expertise, data, technology and philanthropy to help ensure the digital economy happens for people, not to them.

– Shamina Singh, Founder and President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, EVP, Sustainability, Mastercard, and member, Beeck Center Advisory Board, 20 Predictions for Business & Society

In addition to our thoughts, here’s some of the predictions we’re seeing from outside our offices: