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Think Local When Making an Impact on the Community, Real Local


February 12, 2018

There’s an irony to the expression, “Think globally, act locally.” The irony is this: The “act locally” part is supposed to make the concept achievable for an ordinary individual or business owner. You don’t try to change the world. You just do your part by focusing on what you can do in your own backyard. Yet the “think globally” part sets the standard of success awfully high.

If you’re not careful, you can let it turn into one of those “if only everyone” propositions. You’ve heard them before: “If only everyone would give five cents a day to fight hunger, there would be no hunger.” Sounds reasonable! So you set about the mission of giving five cents a day, only to quickly become frustrated because everyone else isn’t doing it.

And alas, hunger remains. But if only everyone had!

So for a local pet retailer who wants to make a positive impact on the world, how do you think globally, act locally… and not end up frustrated with the slow pace of changing the world?

Before we get into some things you can do, some suggestions on how to think about it in a healthier and more constructive way:

1.Don’t measure your impact by what’s happening throughout the world. You can’t control that. In fact…

2.Don’t measure your impact at all. Just do what you think is right consistently, and try to set an example for others.

3.There may come a moment when you feel compelled to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, and lead an effort to duplicate what you’re doing 100,000 times over across the globe. Don’t do that. Feed the fish instead.

In other words, to act locally means exactly what it suggests. Your area of impact is your community. There you can do a world of good, even if it doesn’t literally change the entire world.

Now, how do you put this philosophy into practice with action? And what should the action be? Well, now we get into the fun part.

Look out across the world. What moves you? What speaks to your heart? What do you want to see improved or solved? Hunger? Pollution? Illiteracy? Obesity? Teen delinquency? Animal abuse?

Don’t just pick something for PR purposes or because one of your customers cares about it. You have to be the person who cares about it, or you will not stick to it. That is guaranteed. Not only that, but your exit from the chosen effort will feel negative and wrong for everyone involved with it.

Pick something that’s in your heart, and then apply your head.

Now, remember that whole thing about, “if only everyone would do this or that”? Everyone is not going to do it. The world doesn’t work that way. But you can do it. So do.

How?

First, find out who in your community is working on the issue you care about. Unless it’s an astoundingly abstract issue, chances are you’re not the first person to care about it or to make an effort to impact it (If the burden on your heart is protecting nine-legged frogs from the threat of wayward dryer exhaust, well, then you’re probably blazing the trail, and good luck to you).

So contact whoever is already working on this issue, or trying to, and get involved.

Next, ask them what they need. Are they lacking resources? Someone with a particular skill? The right person in a crucial leadership role? Just “getting involved” in a nebulous sense might allow you to make a marginal difference, but what you really want to do is find a role that lines up with your strengths and the needs of the group or organization.

Now—and this one is crucial—figure out how to align your involvement in this cause with your business objectives as a retail store.

This is where the objections usually start:

Hey! Are you suggesting my efforts should be insincere? Not motivated by genuine concern but motivated by the pursuit of profits? A cheap way to look like I care when all I’m really doing is trying to sell more chew toys? Is that what you’re really telling me?

Well, I must say, it sounds pretty bad when you put it like that. But what I’m actually doing is trying to help you do two things at the same time without allowing each to harm the other.

Remember: There is nothing wrong with operating a pet store at a profit. It’s why you have it in the first place. There is also nothing wrong, obviously, with trying to think globally and act locally to make the world—or your own little corner of it—a better place.

These are both good things to do. What is not a good thing to do is to act at cross-purposes with yourself. If you don’t find some way to align your business goals with your activism, you will always feel pulled in two different directions. Every time you put the focus on one, you’ll feel you’re neglecting the other.

So how do you do that? Let’s consider an example: If teen delinquency is your thing, you could arrange to have troubled teens and their parents learn about the care of animals as an alternative to causing trouble. If you’re concerned about poverty, you could use your position as a retailer to offer basic retail skills training to some youths in need of an opportunity. What if your concern is drug addiction? You could donate a certain percentage of every live animal sale to a local treatment facility.

You know your business so you know better than I do what would make sense for you. Where I’m trying to lead you, though, is to a place where your business and your activism feed each other, so your natural incentive is to stay committed to both for the sake of both.

And remember, if you’ve made an impact on your local community, then you’ve accomplished your goal. I know you’re thinking globally, but relax. There are other pet retailers in communities all over the world, and they’re all reading this, too.

We’ve got the globe covered

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