How to have an impact

For a few years I have run a 3-month internship programme for people who want to gather evidence of having had an impact and be able to talk about that in job interviews. Having worked with over 30 interns there are some clear trends in behaviour that I’ve seen hold people back from having an impact. For example, the expectation that someone will have the ideas and tell you what to do.

In a world suffering from climate change and inequalities there is no time to be shy and wait for someone else’s solutions. I recently told this to a group of interns and the next day one of them told me ‘I’ve told all my friends - we don’t have time to be shy’. She realized how she was about to spend a big chunk of her career being shy!

I will regularly (whilst travelling especially) take a piece of paper and sketch/list/document ideas to address the places I am stuck. There is no process to this beyond letting myself write any idea and trying to keep focused on a question I have set myself, for example – ‘what needs to happen for an event to be sustainable?’.

In 2018, I submitted a conference paper on how to live life with the viewpoint that the world’s challenges have been or will be addressed. It completely shifted my viewpoint and I realized that if I keep thinking from the perspective of ‘this challenge needs to be fixed’ I’m probably going to spend lots of time trying to tell people what they should do. Telling people what to do isn’t empowering for anyone. Finding stories and connections that inspire people to think differently about the actions they take is going to lead to a greater impact. Realising that is what got me in action on writing these stories!

Audio EpisodeKaty Carlisle