Daniel Edwards on rebuilding thriving life in overlooked communities

Last month’s Conquer For Good: Connect talk featured Daniel Edwards of Movement KC, a real estate development company whose focus is rebuilding life in overlooked and forgotten communities. Daniel and his wife, Ebony, dive deep into what makes neighborhoods function better and turn that into a community empowerment initiative where they strive to create the best community possible, starting in East Kansas City. Check out his full talk below.

Why Conquer for Good Means Hope

WRITTEN BY MARK O'RENICK

When the Will & Grail team decided to launch Conquer for Good earlier this year, the goal was simple.  Let’s get people together to hear and learn from stories of people driving social innovation and purpose-driven business initiatives that are making a positive impact on lives, communities and the world. We knew good things were happening, the stories just get lost in the chaos and the rat race of life.  

We are fortunate enough to work with, consult and advise lots of organizations and businesses who are working to balance purpose and profitability - working to do good and do well.  We see their efforts in all stages of development - from the inception of ideas and the struggle to get traction to growth and expansion to optimize their positive impact on a global scale.  

It is through this perspective that we identified three forces that can change the world - entrepreneurial innovation, enterprise scale and an egalitarian sense of good. We have also seen the blurring of lines with how the three sectors work and work together - for profit, nonprofit and government (including education). The evolution of our world bases on these factors and blurring of lines is leading us toward something incredibly powerful - a new mindset that looks for a balanced approach to money and meaning. The recognition that we can’t chase profit at all costs.  But also that we need to use capital and resources in the most efficient way possible to optimize impact in solving social challenges.

From the launch of our Conquer for Good event in March of 2017, we received incredible feedback from attendees, and from the Kansas City community who helped us spread the word. We’re planning Conquer for Good 2018 now and will release information shortly.  But that’s not enough - because there are too many stories to share and too much momentum to be lost if we don’t continue the conversation and collaboration between folks interesting in putting into action the conquer for good mindset  So we launched Connect in August, to provide a monthly gathering to listen and learn from folks advancing social and purpose-driven businesses and organizations.

To say the first three Connect events have been insightful and inspiring would be an understatement.  The three speakers all come from different paths.  The organizations they’re building and leading are focused on different ways to drive positive social change.  The stories showed different approaches and different needs to bring time, talent and treasure together in the form of a business model that is sustainable and scalable.

We’ll share in a future edition of Catalyst the collective insight that we can all gain from the stories told by Brent Lager of UncoverKC, Emily Moon of By Grace Designs, and Doug Cowan of Community Services League.  

What we can tell you is that all of them, to the core, are driven by passion for what they do, a deep faith that they are doing work that matters, and it’s all driven by love for people.  

We’ll be releasing soon, to accompany the video of their talks, an interview with each speaker. One question we ask is what the term conquer for good means to them.  Their answers point to why we started Conquer for Good - to talk about doing good in the hopes of putting the world on a better course for the future.  

As Brent Lager said, “Conquer for Good means hope. There is so much to lose hope over in the world that if we want to survive the pain and evil, we must overcome it with happiness and good.” Well said.

We invite you to learn more about Conquer for Good at www.conquerforgood.com - and please let us know if there are stories we should share or you have ideas to make the experience even more powerful.  

Q&A with Will & Grail co-founder Mark O'Renick

We sat down with Will & Grail co-founder and president, Mark O’Renick, to get his perspective on the progress of the company since it officially launched on April 1, 2016.  

So before we start, Will & Grail is an interesting name. How did that come about?

We decided in late 2015 to bring two agencies together, Salva O’Renick which was launched 20 years previous, and Salient, a boutique brand agency founded by Brad Lang. The three of us, Dan Salva, myself and Brad, knew that if we were going to work, we wanted to do work that mattered. We saw the incredible opportunity that core purpose had in driving brand connections - from employee recruitment, retention and performance, to customer acquisition and loyalty, community engagement and more. With this in mind we formed a new company and went through a strategic branding process. What came out was Will & Grail, which reflected the both the ideal - or grail - that we can balance profitability and purpose in organizations and the fact that it takes determination - or will - to get there.  

The television series Will & Grace is making a comeback. Has anyone connected that?

We’ve had a few folks comment on that. One funny story is we were receiving a proclamation from an economic development organization for our investment in promoting entrepreneurship. It was chock full of “whereas Will & Grail” statements, and near the end the gentleman reading it said, “whereas Will & Grace” which he quickly corrected and everyone got a good laugh. When I was asked to say a few words, I did a fake news mention that Debra Messing was an investor. We should probably follow through and ask.

So Will & Grail is driven by purpose. How does this manifest itself in what you do?

First, we’ve defined it deeper by stating that we want to be a catalyst for intentional change that makes a profound, positive impact on lives, communities and the world.  In all of our research, we haven’t found a standard definition of what organizational purpose looks like. So we developed it and adopted it to define the impact we want to have. Purpose is defined as both your reason for existing and your reason for doing.  If we exist to be a catalyst for change, we have to do things to make that happen. We’ve modeled a research mechanism called Brand Believability® to help organizations understand how people view their brand with respect to being purpose-driven. We’ve taken our brand development processes and evolved those into a Brand Innovation Process to help organizations transform how they define themselves and build brand experiences to bring it to life. We also launched Conquer for Good to promote conversation, connectivity and build community around the idea that we can balance profitability and purpose. Plus, we’ve continued to research and build a foundation to educate people on the potential and process for bringing purpose into their organizations. Being we’re less than 18 months into this transformation, we’re making great progress.

What are the biggest surprises you’ve encountered in this journey?

For starters we’ve learned how deeply this is engrained in who we are as human beings. People are intrigued and inspired and looking for how they can make work more meaningful - recognizing that money drives the impact they can have if it’s used for good purposes. We’ve also been surprised at how receptive people are to engaging in conversation about how we can come together to drive creative collaborative change. And speaking of change, we’ve seen how powerful a methodology like design thinking can be to help organizations understand and visualize how they can transform what they’re doing. Change comes with risk, and design thinking helps people iterate through a process of making change happen. It also starts with empathy - really understanding the people that will be impacted by the change you’re designing so you see things through their perspective. There’s a great organization, The Arbinger Institute, that provides great perspective on this in their book, The Outward Mindset.  That mindset is key to changing behavior in a way that sticks - and aligns with our view that purpose is having a profound, positive impact on lives, communities and the world.

What’s next for Will & Grail?

We have to tell the story of the potential that a purposeful mindset has to make organizations better, more relevant and more successful. In doing that, those organizations will make the world better.  We’ll work with the right organizations with our brand innovation process. It really does make the process of building impactful brand experiences easier.  We launched Conquer for Good in April of this year with an annual event. In August we added a monthly Connect series to keep the community connected. We’re looking to expand this to other cities, hopefully two more in 2017 and more in 2018. There are people doing innovative things - entrepreneurial things - in every city.  We want to help people engage with those stories and hopefully inspire them to do something to make a difference.  

Thank you for your time.  Is there anything else people should know?

I’m really inspired by the movement of people looking to create change for the better.  It’s not easy, because society paints a picture of success that focuses a lot on monetary things. We see three forces that can change this - entrepreneurial innovation, enterprise scale and an egalitarian sense of good. This is happening, and we’re really knew at this on a grand social scale. But we’ll get there, and hopefully we’ll play a role in making that happen.