The Business of Social Impact: Creating a World Where Everyone Has Value: 2017 Annual Conference

Dorri McWhorter, CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, describes herself as a “possibilist.” Yes, there is a red squiggly line under the word “possibilist” as I prepare this report in Microsoft Word. As I read through my notes and consider Ms. McWhorter’s life philosophy and world view on how we do our work, I decided to add “possibilist” to my personal computer’s private dictionary. Next: Add being a “possibilist” to my list of personal aspirations.

Ms. McWhorter was our featured speaker. She gave a warmhearted and thoughtful presentation addressing how organizations can create social impact by recognizing that everyone has value. There are positive changes that can be made by expressing the value in ourselves and others in our employment, as well as in those we serve. The Business of Social Impact: Creating a World Where Everyone Has Value, a shared program on Monday, June 26, hosted by Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) President Vicki Sipe and Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA) President John Spears, moderated by former ALCTS Executive Director and Program Committee Chair Charles Wilt, drew a large and diverse audience. Ms. McWhorter argued that every business is a social enterprise and has a role to advance society.

McWhorter became the CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in March 2013 after many years in the private sector and eight years on the Y’s Board. She has transformed this 140-year-old social service agency into a 21st century social enterprise, injecting that for-profit “business sense” into a socially conscious organization. She tells us to “create a better human experience wherever you are.” As a middle-manager in a mid-sized academic library, and as a budding possibilist, I was genuinely enthused. Ms. McWhorter gave us other examples of entrepreneurs creating business models that make good in the world (Askinosie ChocolateRumi Spice), all very interesting.

The audience was particularly interested in the Y’s decision to ditch performance appraisals, which they felt were demoralizing and provided no rewards. Instead they moved to considering staff as “possibility partners,” meeting with them weekly, scheduling regular check ins, and having “true conversations” to help meet their goals. Ideas during the question period on how to make that happen included an “empowerment framework”—making an intentional decision for change and then supporting the process. I was impressed with Ms. McWhorter’s practicality and frankness, as well as her good sense of humor.

Ms. McWhorter ended her presentation with us all standing and making a pledge, starting with “Today I serve the world by being my most empowered self.” In one word: inspiring!

A wonderful program to celebrate all things good, including the 60th Anniversary of ALCTS.

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