Increasing Corporate Social Impact in the Bay Area and Beyond: Q&A with Alfredo Mathew of Earn & Learn

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Up next in our thought leader series leading up to the Innovations in Corporate Social Impact summit on 10/30, is our conversation with Alfredo Mathew, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Earn & Learn. Alfredo creates the business development pipeline for earned income and social impact investment to scale and grow the sustainability of the organization.

Alfredo shares his insights from over 20 years of experience as an educator and business development professional, adept at building public and private strategic partnerships to close the equity gap.

Why is corporate social impact an important topic? 

The challenges we face today from affordable housing, to climate change and income inequality are the result of a strained social fabric. These are regional challenges that require cross-sector partnerships to solve.  Creating the problem on one side of the house and partially funding solutions on the other side of the house is no longer an acceptable way of conducting business.  The big challenges we face today require companies to rethink their approach to sourcing materials and talent, energy consumption, and compensation.  Partnerships that drive social impact are essential to making the world a better place, and a more prosperous and healthy planet is good for business too.

How do senior leaders in large companies view corporate social impact?

Social Impact is a nice to have, not a must have.  The primary focus of all large successful enterprises is growing the business.  Unfortunately, social impact is largely seen as a CSR or D&I initiative, divorced from the core business operations of the company.  I’ve seen many CSI initiatives as an add-on, not a primary focus of the organizational culture.  Still, there are so many great champions in organizations big and small who bring their passions to work, and they are the key to creating positive change.  Shifting social impact from philanthropy to a strategic imperative of an organization is the goal, and it requires senior leaders to make it happen.

How can Silicon Valley companies contribute to a more equitable economy and better support underserved populations? 

Silicon Valley is home to the most disruptive and innovative economic revolution our planet has ever experienced.  It encourages world changing ambitious projects, and celebrates the cult of entrepreneurship.  I appreciate the audacity of the culture to challenge the status quo, but I question the belief that progress should inevitably lead to inequality.  81% of the SV tech workforce was born outside of California, which simply means that the talent driving the innovation economy is not coming from our schools and may not be investing in our communities for the long term.  In order for California to have a more equitable economy the underserved populations currently being forced out of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose need to be invited to stay. 

We need real career pathways with investment from industry to develop local talent pipelines into the high-growth, high-wage, high-demand jobs that pay a living wage… which in the Bay Area is approaching $100k a year.  Blacks and Latinos do not need philanthropy.  They need social and economic capital to create businesses, and real access to the workforce through apprenticeship models and other approaches that value skills over college credentials.


What opportunities are available for those who want to partner with a company that is dedicated to increasing social impact? 

Champions are everywhere, but Silicon Valley being what it is, it’s competitive out there.  I was once given the advice your dream has to be big enough to get people’s attention, and once you have it you need to consistently under-promise and over-deliver to keep it.  Companies and high achieving individuals are always looking to maximize their impact. Deliver value consistently and build relationships meant to last, and they will!


What will help companies drive more social impact? (For example, additional senior leadership support, other?)

I believe we need more diverse leaders in positions of power in our society.  We often here that representation matters, and companies want their organizations to reflect the ethnic and gender diversity of the communities they serve.  Globalization makes this complicated to achieve, but if we truly want to drive more social impact we need to do a better job of recruiting, retaining and promoting talent from underserved communities.  I believe companies will focus more on social impact if they felt a deeper commitment to the communities they are impacting.  Representation does matter!