Social Purpose, Woke-Washing, and Your School

The recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the the advertising, media and communications fields was notable in a number of ways, but perhaps the most salient was the earnestness and seriousness of the Grand Prix awards. Missing, according to this piece by I-Hsien Sherwood and Ann-Christine Diaz in the June 21 AdAge, was any hint of humor, long a staple of the advertising world.

Also notable, and a harbinger of a new sensibility among those in leadership roles, was the speech by Unilever CEO Alan Jope. Jope said that Unilever brands (Unilever is a giant British conglomerate, for those who don’t know) must show social or sustainable meaning and purpose or risk divestment. Going even further, Jope chastised his peers for “woke-washing“–where a company or institution claims to be engaging in specific action to make the world a better place but, in reality, is carrying on as before–saying that the practice is polluting the purpose category.

Jope’s remarks about social purpose and woke-washing prompted me to remember Al Adams’ Independent School article about the public purpose of private education. As holders of 501 (c)(3) tax exempt status, it seems that private, independent schools have a “higher calling” to demonstrate public purpose, else we risk being justifiably painted as schools for the children of rich parents. If called to account for your school’s public purpose, what would you say?

Business and leadership, Governance, Headship  |  permalink

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