Published 8 months ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Here are three lessons social-impact leaders can learn from Ellie — the 14-year-old protagonist in “The Last of Us” — for dealing with these increasingly challenging times.
Lately, the radical right’s attacks on personal freedoms, inclusive education
and other so-called “woke” policies seems to be mushrooming. Those of us on the
side of progress, don’t despair; this will not be “The Last of
Us.” We need only look to Ellie — the
14-year-old video game hero turned star of the hit HBO series — for
inspiration to light the way. Here are three lessons social-impact leaders can
learn from this spunky teen in what might feel like the end of times.
It’s not uncommon for those of us working in social-impact communications to
wake up in the morning and crisis-binge our newsfeeds. Consider the current
moment: A federal judge in Texas will soon rule on whether to ban
Mifepristone — an FDA-approved drug that has helped facilitate safe and
effective abortions for the last 20 years. In addition, Walgreens has caved
under GOP pressure and announced it will no longer dispense Mifepristone in 21
states — including some where medical abortion is still legal — prompting states
including California to cut
with the pharmacy chain.
This continued chipping away of our reproductive
is sharing airtime with news out of Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis
has mandated that public universities drop all diversity, equity and inclusion
And in Tennessee, a new bill passed banning public drag
Conservative legislative gains such as these can leave those of us at the
helm of social-justice campaigns feeling overwhelmed and thinking: All this hard work can't be for nothing. So, what can we do?
Be like Ellie: Recognize that you can’t take on infected zombies, armed militias
and cannibalistic cults all in one go. If Ellie teaches us anything, it’s that
we can punch above our weight — but only when we focus on
one thing at a time. Some days, it might feel like the only thing you can
accomplish is what’s right in front of you. And that’s okay. Trust your
instincts and your inner Ellie fire. Swearing like a sailor is also worth a try.
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In today’s social-impact consultancies, project assignments comprise the
majority of the year’s engagements — which means that if we’re doing this right,
our contact lists are growing by the quarter. Take a cue from Ellie's unique
relationship management style and stay fiercely loyal. Of all the clients
you’ve worked with; you probably have many Joels (Ellie’s guardian). So,
when one of them is recognized in the media or on LinkedIn, take the time to
send a note. A heartfelt congratulations from past collaborators helps maintain
ties with your favorite changemakers. Even if there was tension during the
project or conflicting strategies, don’t let that stop you. Time and distance
can yield clarity — allowing all parties to share mutual respect in the fight for
The nice thing about maintaining relationships in the social-impact space is
that when we’re faced with tragedy such as the recent earthquake in Syria and
or yet another mass shooting here at home, you could find yourself in a position to help. You might have close contacts in relevant issue areas whom
you can call and brainstorm ways to support their work. Impromptu Zoom
meetings in critical moments could lead to some of your most rewarding and impactful campaigns.
Readers of Sustainable Brands®, we don’t need to tell you that this is
hard work. It requires compassion yet resolve, strong points of view yet
unflagging humility. And when the headwinds get Wyoming-strong — when more
discriminatory legislation passes or when more Black authors get pulled from
public school shelves — you might feel so discouraged that you question whether
you can do as Joel says and keep finding something new to fight for. Here’s the key: Sometimes you just need to
take a beat and page through your dog-eared joke book. Even on days when you
need to be on high alert, when your journey feels interminable, when the perils
of your project lurk at every turn, give your brain a break. You’ll come back
restored and ready to work. It’s times like these when every social-impact
consultant must ask the hard question: What did the green grape say to the purple grape?
(Breathe, you idiot.)
Published Mar 13, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET