November 16, 2022
EVP, Corporate Social Responsibility, NBCUniversal
Co-Founder and President, America On Tech
Capitol Hill Correspondent, NBC News
Corporate social responsibility reaches far beyond corporate giving. To improve its ability to give back, NBCUniversal launched the Creative Impact Lab, which addresses critical resources needed to illustrate nonprofits’ positive impacts as well as provides diverse storytellers an authentic way to portray their community work.
Ali Vitali, Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News, joined two industry experts affiliated with the Creative Impact Lab to discuss how organizations can use their business expertise to adopt similar strategies when crafting social purpose platforms.
The Creative Impact Lab Gives a Voice to Those Without One
Hilary Smith, EVP of Corporate Responsibility at NBCUniversal, explained how NBCU wanted to be a company that enables its employees to give back. NBCU forged relationships with over 45 non-profit partners to encourage employees to give back to the communities they care about most — but NBCU wanted to put a finer point on its social impact.
“We decided to come up with a program where we could use our storytelling for the greater good,” said Smith. “The Creative Impact Lab seeks to help tell the stories of our non-profits and to empower apprentices from underrepresented communities to gain experience and break into the industry… [and] employee engagement is at the heart of it.”
Evin Robinson, Co-founder and President of America On Tech, was an early client of the Creative Impact Lab and has seen the initiative succeed firsthand.
“Working with NBCUniversal was an opportunity to work with industry leaders and thought leaders to redefine the story that America on Tech was telling,” Robinson said.
Creating High-Quality Media Brings Visibility to Stories and Causes
Robinson spoke briefly about the importance of representation in media, specifically, how these structures aren't often built for a wide array of lived experiences and how the Creative Impact Lab helped expand America on Tech’s impact.
“A lot of the principles of how America on Tech was designed is really based on human-centric [and] liberatory-design principles,” Robinson said. “At its core, we really are putting the individuals first. We have experts that help with the design of our curriculum from the professional development side as well as the technical.”
“My co-founder [and I] were both once the students that we now serve,” Robinson continued. “At every step … we're constantly thinking about ‘What is the impact that we're looking to have?’ ‘Are achieving that impact?’ and ‘Are we designing with the communities, the students, and the families in mind?’”
Storytelling Is a Vehicle for Lasting Change
The Creative Impact Lab has become a destination for nonprofits like America On Tech to have their stories told. NBCU is aware that non-profits have a critical need to illustrate the positive impact that they're having in communities but don't always have the resources or the expertise to do so.
“We could [have chosen to] become a studio for non-profits, but we wanted to do something a little bit different and help people from underserved communities break into the industry and gain experience,” said Smith.
To garner more diverse representation in the creative economy, NBCU decided to forge partnerships with 501(c)3 organizations filled with apprentices from underrepresented communities who want to be future filmmakers, writers, directors, and editors. The Creative Impact Lab then assigned each of the apprentices to one of its corporate non-profit partners to work with the organization and tell its story.
“It could be a marketing video, it could be a public service announcement, [or] even social media assets,” said Smith. “I have canvased the organization and have over 70 volunteers — from news to sports, to entertainment, to Telemundo, to advertising.”
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