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Reflecting on Why It Took us so Much Time to Finally Rebrand and Embark on a New Journey in the Social Good Sphere

From NGO Advisor to thedotgood: A Spin Full of Joy and Meaning

We finally did it. How terrifying it is to re-brand, we didn’t know beforehand. What we knew was from the very start: It was inescapable. Here is why we are so happy we did it. And why it is great news to all of us.

by Jean-Christophe NOTHIAS
THEDOTGOOD's Editor-in-Chief

It has already been a decade since I first launched the rankings back in January 2012. At the time, it had been published as a special edition of The Global Journal, a magazine dedicated to transnational governance and globalization. Like any firstborn, this ranking was the most challenging one to do. We had everything to invent, and would it not have been supported by a group of young talented master’s degree students and Post-docs from IHEID in Geneva, my vision would have never made it until today. When the magazine came to a stop after 4 years of publishing, many organizations part of the rankings reached out and encouraged me to continue that effort. Jeroo Billimoria, a serial social good entrepreneur (Aflatoun, Child Helpline, CYFI, and lately Catalyst 2030) was among them with Womanity Foundation founder and CEO, Yann Borgstedt, Neal Keny Guyer former CEO at Mercy Corps, Mark Clark Generations for Peace’s CEO… Thanks to all of them for their unwavering support along the way.

We're way beyond the 'non-governmental organization' terminology. And we need to recognize that and adapt.

In 2015, NGO Advisor was launched with the objective to continue the Top 100 list. Not an easy task but so exciting because of the many incredible people and organizations populating the so-called “non-profit or non-governmental sector” – not to mention the even more outdated ‘charity business’. NGO Advisor’s objective was simple: Keep the rankings alive. Indeed, a noble ambition. However, it fell short of covering the landscape we were walking through nor addressing every trend and evolution that was happening in front of us on that endeavor, and inadvertently, our mission statement was missing. That omission was inevitably to circle back upon us.

Why was it so critical to reflect on the ‘Why’ before embracing a new brand?

The more we were scouting, debating, and discussing the many challenges and issues of these organizations, the more daunting it was to be confronted with a simple fact: The term NGO was no longer relevant. Many organizations simply didn’t recognize themselves as NGOs. They felt uncomfortable with it. For many good reasons.

That would require a book to explain that irrelevancy. Not that I wish to skip that discussion, but maybe for now shall we ask a simple question: Could we keep living with that irrelevancy? Of course, we can to some extent if we do not understand what is at stake. The underlying problem, the elephant in the room, is in fact, way bigger than a terminological challenge. We had to admit that the non-this, non-that is a fateful impeachment to liberating the full magnitude of the transformative dynamic percolating from the many organizations we are constantly scrutinizing. What we consider the Social Good Sphere needs to step out of its teenage. The Sphere uses and needs funding whether to operate, invest, kick-start, go for the long-term soft transformation, or urgent action to stop the bleeding.

Société des Moulins du Bazacle: First European for-profit private company with shareholders has been incorporated since 1372, Toulouse, France
Benefit Corporation: In 2010, Congressman Jamie Raskin sponsored in Maryland the first kind of new corporation with a triple bottom line.

We questioned ourselves about the commonality among these organizations. What made them so similar in their diversity and multiplicity, beyond their obvious need to be financially and economically sustainable, and possibly as independent as they can be? When we take the World 200 list, the constant KPI we ultimately try to rationalize throughout our scoring is what we coin ‘social profit’, in both its individual and collective understanding. Measuring impact is part of that effort to elucidate the dividends of these organizations. And it proves to be a difficult task, even sometimes a foolish one, but a necessary one. Turning anything into a digit is a challenge. That’s true with social good that comes with informal, qualitative, and quantitative components. We never dreamt of doing a job we are not equipped to do and we do support all efforts by thought leaders who aim at measuring their impact with the support of innovative and smart experts and professionals. But we know that we can help touch upon the idea of social profit or social good by stimulating a larger debate. To foster any such meaningful conversation, part of the challenge is certainly to have a common language so we all feel at ease when talking about the challenges ahead and the desire to grow in scale and deliver lasting changes. A term to come to mind would be the Social Good Sphere, and its affiliate, social good organization. We had too many barriers in front of us because of the financial and economic aspects that any organization must deal with. And here we face new revenue models that need to align with each theory of change and operational settings. So, as I mentioned earlier, on our 10 year journey we continuously observe different planets of different colors, sizes…

So could our mission be with all of that in mind? To research, yes. To inform, yes. To share, of course. But also, to make sure that through open debate we would connect the good dots within the Social Good Sphere for them to grow faster. Dots of different culture, nature, and ambitions. So not just a networking mechanism, such as the room-service CEOs of the for-profit world that benefit when paying their ticket to enter the WEF in Davos. We wanted the overall narrative to change to attract more people and more investment, whatever its format: in-kind, donated, invested. So, we had it. That was our ‘system change’ DNA and dream in the next leg of our journey. And this is what we are doing from now on. Our new platform is designed to make sure that the debate will rage in here. That examples of good practices and fair ambition will continue to be seen by more.

How to square all of that into a new brand?

To make it short: Picking the good dots and connecting the good dots. That was about what we were chewing over for weeks and months in 2020, thanks to our off-the-grid time of restricted mobility. We had a ‘dot’ on one hand and a ‘good’ on the other one. So close was the-dot-good to our lips and minds, all so very well constricted in thedotgood.

NGO Advisor has been of good help so far, but we have another challenge that we will soon announce. For now, we will focus on thedotgood, and its ambition is to connect the good dots of the Social Good Sphere and make sure that we can contribute to the lasting betterment of our societies.

We decided that it was exactly what we wanted it to be and have designed that platform to host more debates, more poster-boys, with fewer barriers and less quant à soi.

*You can read the story behind thedotgood inception here.


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