Domestic Violence Is Not a Game

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Fan interest in the NFL has reached a fever pitch with the upcoming Super Bowl, however, many eyes have been fixated on the league all season, and not just for the love of the game.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson became notorious for their actions off of the field, but are not the only players in 2014 to be charged with domestic violence crimes. Four other players were charged with domestic violence, not including those whose crimes against women were categorized as assault. Since the start of 2015 alone, there have also been two cases of domestic violence– making domestic violence the number one cause for arrest among NFL players.

Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to publicly address both Rice and Peterson’s criminal activity in a timely manner led to an absolute PR nightmare for the NFL.  For a league that has had numerous domestic abuse charges filed against some of its players over the past few years,  it’s almost unimaginable – and certainly inexcusable – that there was not an existing domestic violence policy in place. The NFL’s failure to hand down timely and fair punishments to these  players  disrespects  the game and its fans, makes a mockery of its campaign to attract more female fans, and calls attention to the reactive and self-serving nature of the league. Not good for the game.

Clearly, domestic violence and sexual assault against both men and women is not limited to the NFL. In actuality, the rate of domestic violence and rape cases among NFL players is less than that of the general population.  The news is not so encouraging on our college campuses, where recent reports of abuse and violence against women and men have exposed a toxic environment where violence and sexual abuse is frequently brushed aside – and sometimes even facilitated. Having recently graduated college and compared notes with my friends at other schools, it seems that only recently have colleges and universities revamped their programs on sexual education, bystander intervention, and emotional support for victims to be relevant to today’s society. And when penalties are meted out for the abuser, they are frequently slight and well after the fact. Moreover, imposing policies after an assault is important but does nothing to fix the real issue at hand, the misconception that assault just happens.

As one of the greatest sports leagues in our country, the NFL has an opportunity – and arguably an obligation as a corporate citizen – to change the way our nation addresses sexual and domestic violence from grade school on. The new policy enacted in August is an important first step, but the league has miles to go before they win my vote of confidence.

It is my hope that in 2015, the NFL will take advantage of the opportunity sitting in front of them and set an example for the rest of the country on how to handle sexual and domestic abusers. Indeed, no person – no matter how many touch-downs they’ve scored, or how many tackles they had in college, or how popular their fraternity is – is above swift and fair punishment.  It’s time for the NFL to go on the offensive and take proactive – not reactive – steps over time towards changing the way we perceive assault and combating the current environment that permits the violation of our basic human rights.

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— Lucie Dufour, Associate, Tiller

Kids and Grief: What Other Cultures Can Teach Us

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Photo Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

It’s undeniable that the loss of a parent or sibling is a life-altering event. In a New York Life Foundation survey from a  few years back, most Americans (58%) who lost a parent or guardian growing up said that the experience was “the hardest thing (they’ve) ever had to deal with.”

Hard as it is for a child to lose a parent, it’s even more challenging here in the United States, where we really haven’t developed the cultural or institutional tools and understandings to help children cope. Or as the comic strip character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Obviously, the way children are allowed to grieve can make a critical difference in how well they cope and adjust.  The problem is, in the US, grief is typically a private process that happens behind closed doors. After funeral services and a few days of condolence calls, grieving families are expected to “move on.” In the case of a grieving child, that typically means returning to school where kids spend most of their waking weekday hours.  Unfortunately, America’s schools are woefully unprepared. Small wonder that among school-age children, grief often manifests itself in poorer academic performance, social withdrawal, and new behavioral problems. Educators want to help, but lack the training or resources.

So much of this is cultural. We are a grief-averse society. We want mourners to move on with their lives and ignore the implications of sending children back into educational and social systems that don’t provide proper support or outlets for expressing their grief.

In contrast, other societies openly incorporate mourning and remembrance into social constructs and educational settings which ultimately helps children express feelings, integrate the experience, and move forward. Here are but two examples.

Dia de Los Muertos is an annual Mexican holiday with Aztec and Catholic roots during which mourners are afforded a grieving ground to celebrate and remember the lives of lost loved ones. Families build beautiful, brightly-colored altars honoring those who have been lost, allowing the spirits of the deceased to live on in communal celebration. The loneliness and isolation that grieving American families experience is absent at these celebratory, colorful festivals.

In the Maori culture of New Zealand, public expression of grief is actively encouraged. Children understand the meaning of grief and of the life cycle from a young age through ongoing recognition of ancestors via carvings that carry legends and stories that live on generation to generation.

For all of our sophistication and knowledge and technology, we remain painfully and woefully behind the grief curve. It’s time for a more open, positive conversation – most importantly for our kids’ sake. Maybe looking at other cultures is a good place to start.

Photo Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

– Lindsey Jordan, social worker and Tiller consultant

Going Green: A Personal Perspective

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As a new year begins, it’s time to be honest with ourselves – how many of us actually followed through on our 2014 New Year’s Resolutions?

If the answer is “not me,” don’t worry; I didn’t either. Did I learn to play the guitar? Nope. Did I limit myself to three Mac and Cheese meals a week? Absolutely not!  But for 2015, I think I actually found a resolution I can keep for an entire year.

Like the majority of Americans, I’m making a “green” resolution for 2015. I am only going to run the dishwasher when it is completely full, and not just when my Giants mug is dirty. As I found out with my Mac and Cheese pledge, counting carbs is incredibly challenging. I’m hoping counting carbons, will be a little less so.

I’m not alone in making such a resolution. According to the results of Tiller LLC’s third poll on Americans’ feelings and attitudes towards the environment, six in ten Americans will make a green resolution for 2015.  That compares with 49% of Americans in 2007 and 53% in 2009, suggesting that going green is more top of mind than ever before.

Encouragingly, whether or not they make a resolution, better than eight in 10 Americans (83%) said they plan to look for more opportunities to “go green” in 2015.

What is this emergent green fervor all about? From my perspective as a Millennial, the factual evidence regarding the decline of our environment is impossible to ignore. Fingers crossed I have at least another 50 years on this planet, and I don’t want to spend it breathing in pollutants and wading through litter on the street.  I don’t want to be the last generation who has seen a polar bear, and I don’t intend on letting any of those things happen while I am still kicking. Millennials are an educated generation with an in-depth understanding of technology. Technology that has shown us the ice caps are melting, the ozone is depleting, and the coral reefs are dying. While we Millennials are hypersensitive to the condition of our environment, we aren’t the only ones concerned.

Our survey also revealed a cross-generational concern about the environment and Americans’ increasing concern over global warming and widespread belief among most survey participants that the condition of the environment has worsened during their lifetime.  There is also concern about the next generation. Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed that leaving their children a “cleaner, more sustainable world is/will be one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent.”

As Tiller president Jim Marren said: “It’s all too easy to let environmental issues accumulate and pass the problem on to future generations. But we are paying a price even now for poor environmental stewardship and that toll will only grow over time.  Encouragingly, Americans understand that unless we, individually and collectively, make a concerted effort to protect the environment now, we will damage our world in ways perhaps impossible for our children to repair.”

So looking to make a difference in 2015? You can start by checking out Tiller’s “Ten Small Things You Can Do Now That Make A Big Difference” for your 2015 green resolution. Ideas are as simple as unplugging appliances when you aren’t using them, using cruise control, and, my personal favorite, not rinsing your dishes – Mac and Cheese included — before you put them in the dishwasher.

Check out tillerllc.com for the full findings from our 2014 green survey and for Tiller’s “Ten Small Things You Can Do Now That Make a Big Difference.”

Photo Credit: Corbis

— Lucie Dufour, Associate, Tiller

“In most high schools today, you can take Woodshop or Auto, but not a class on investing.”

Americans are in the red when it comes to financial literacy – and the need to have the topic introduced into school curricula nationwide is even more evident than ever.

In a recent global PISA survey of 18 nations, United States teenagers ranked only in the middle of the pack when it comes to financial literacy – well behind such nations as Belgium and New Zealand. Only 9.4 percent of American 15-year-olds demonstrated strong understanding of a wide range of financial terms and the ability to describe potential outcomes of financial decisions – knowledge that researchers say is essential in meeting urgent financial challenges like saving for retirement or staying out of debt.

The public overwhelmingly agrees that we need to address the deficiency – now. According to a 2013 poll sponsored by Bank of America, 99 percent of adults believe it’s important for high schools to teach students about personal finance.

Though the drive to get financial curricula into schools has been halting, several organizations have developed highly successful outside-the-classroom models for empowering young Americans with the skills and confidence necessary to build secure financial futures. Examples include the Voya-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge, PwC’s Earn Your Future program, Ariel Community Academy and Schwab MoneyWise initiative.

For the past 5 years, the Voya Investment Challenge (formerly known as the ING Investment Challenge) has offered teenage girls the opportunity to build and manage a diversified, real-time $50,000 portfolio, in the process earning invaluable, hands-on asset management experience and other financial literacy skills. The bank’s program assessment reaffirms that such early-education programs not only provide immediate financial empowerment, but also encourage teenagers to become life-long savers and investors. Parents of the participating girls have been learners as well, saying they’ve picked up new saving and investing knowledge from their children.

But how can we better “institutionalize” financial literacy education? There have been some advances in school boards introducing economics and financial training into curricula. This year, for the first time, all 50 states and the District of Columbia include economics in their K-12 standards, according to the Council for Economic Education’s 2014 Survey of the States. But only 19 states require a course in personal finance to be offered.

A dearth of teaching support – and, more fundamentally, lack of a well-defined consensus on how to measure success – remain impediments. Only one in five teachers feel qualified to lead a personal finance class, according to a University of Wisconsin study. And even with enough qualified instructors, personal finance concepts are not part of standardized tests, which seemingly makes their inclusion in curricula less urgent. Given that educational practices are set at the state level, lack of information and agreement on the success of financial teaching methods has made states and their education cautious to commit.

Now that the first step towards national financial literacy has been taken – acknowledging the need – it is time for unified effort to put in place firm educational requirements. Financial literacy must become a staple in the classroom alongside subjects such as science and history, and at the very least, a portion of the math curricula. If all states and all schools are not incorporating financial education, then it will not be considered an essential topic, and will most likely fall by the wayside. The positive benefits of out-of-school programs are undeniable, so why wouldn’t we allow every child the chance to succeed financially in their future?

Video Credit: Financial Literacy: Mellody Hobson at TEDxMidWest via YouTube

 

Ad campaign empowers customers to Always embrace acting “Like a Girl”


What does it really mean to run “like a girl?”

As some 48 million viewers of a recent ad campaign by Always Feminine Products have seen, when the question was posed to teenage girls, they responded by flapping their arms, making wobbly strides and showing strained facial expressions. Yet when younger girls got the question, running like a girl suddenly meant running as fast as you can.

Always struck a nerve with the release of their new campaign by challenging the all-too-common notion that doing something “like a girl” constitutes an insult. The video also helped focus awareness on a larger issue: Once girls enter puberty their self-confidence plummets. In fact, according to an Always study, more than half of girls experienced this drop in confidence at the start of puberty; confidence also takes a significant hit at the start of middle school.

Through this campaign Always has become more than a  feminine products company. They have become an advocate for female empowerment — for, as their video highlights, girls entering puberty and beyond, their target lifetime consumer, urgently need guidance and support in breaking through harmful gender stereotypes and building a strong, confident sense of self.

Always, and Pantene, with their recent #ShineStrong campaign, are prime examples of effective advocacy marketing — an ongoing dedication to aligning the deeply held interests of a company’s consumer base with the organization’s core business strategies.

By taking up the issue of female empowerment, both Always and Pantene are signaling their interest in helping customers grapple with one of their most fundamental concerns. As Dove Soap’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” proved, when you adopt a long-term focus on issues your customers really care about, the impact can be both social and financial.

This year marked the 10-year anniversary of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, dubbed one of modern marketing’s most talked about success stories by the Huffington Post. As of June 2013, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches ad was the most watched online ad ever, with 163 million global views, according to Unilever. The ad also topped the Cannes YouTube Ad Leaderboard and won the 2013 Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Dove’s decade-long commitment to tackling issues critical to their consumer base has challenged — and arguably altered — society’s preconceived notions of beauty. Research on the campaign’s tenure conducted by Harvard psychologist Nancy Etcoff found that, today, more women than before are defining “beauty” according to a broad range of qualities extending beyond physical appearance.

What’s more, Real Beauty is helping to build Dove’s bottom line. In the 10 years since the campaign launched, Dove sales have increased from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, according to a PR case study conducted by News Generation.

Will Always’ campaign help change the stereotype of what it means to do something “like a girl?” Only time will tell. But in the meantime, we believe that all companies focused on serving girls and women have an opportunity to understand even better — and communicate even more forcefully — what it takes to build and sustain the critical sense of empowerment that can make such a difference in the lives of their customers. No question that the need is there — and the bottom line will show it.

Video Credit: Always #LikeAGirl via You Tube

As impact investing gains traction, many investors now seeking their opportunity

“A movement is afoot.” –The U.S. National Board on Impact Investing (NAB)

That’s how the NAB – a group of leading investors, academics and organizations focused on US domestic policy for impact investing – recently characterized today’s growing flood of capital toward investments that generate beneficial social and environmental impact as well as financial return. It’s an investing sea change, as investors deploy the global markets to help “scale solutions to some of our most urgent problems,” the NAB wrote in a new report.

The concept of impact investing isn’t new – in fact, the NAB traces its roots back to private and public sector efforts beginning as long ago as the 1950s. But the potential for private capital to affect the public good today is drawing more attention than ever. What’s more, evidence is growing that it’s far more than a movement only for the deep-pocketed or socially conscious, with even “mainstream” individual investors actively looking to invest for impact. The investment trend is almost certainly gaining force from rising public focus on the effects of climate change: Witness only the 250,000 people who thronged the streets of Manhattan on September 21 calling for action as the United Nations prepared to convene its own climate summit.

Yet, market data also suggest that though interest is palpable and growing, many investors are still struggling for a way in.

The market’s growth is undeniable: A survey of major fund managers and investors by JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), released earlier this year, found $46 billion in impact investments under management, up nearly 20% from the prior year. Impact investing as a genre remains modestly sized, relatively speaking; McKinsey estimates that such investments currently represent just 0.02% of the $210 trillion in global financial markets. Yet key players, among them the Monitor Group and the Rockefeller Foundation, believe the market could grow as much as 10 to 20 times within just a few years.

Principled support is helping drive the trend – a 2013 study by the World Economic Forum found that millennials consistently ranked impact performance as their primary investment criterion, ahead of return. At the same time – a 2010 survey of 4,000 investors by Hope Consulting found that just 12% had any experience with impact investments, even though almost half were interested in them. Similarly, in a survey (subscription required) of more than 1,200 investors we conducted with Allianz Global Investors, 85% said their advisor had yet to recommend an environment-related opportunity.

Advisors who answer the call can be confident that investing for impact can readily co-exist with a focus on return. Indeed, the World Economic Forum found that 79% of impact investors are targeting market rates of return. And a JP Morgan/GIIN survey of 125 large impact investors found that, for 91%, their investments were meeting or exceeding their financial expectations.

Impact investing is no flash in the pan – it is indeed a movement, with a sense of purpose, committed followers, and increasingly robust resources. Yet, according to the JP Morgan/GIIN study, impact investors cite “a shortage of high-quality investment opportunities with track record” as the market’s most limiting feature today. That suggests there’s a considerable opportunity to expand the market’s product set – and more widely communicate the genre’s powerful characteristics – for both managers who offer impact investments and advisors who can effectively counsel investors on how to use them. More and more, investors want to invest with impact front-and-center alongside other deeply felt goals – and it seems likely they’ll reward both providers and advisors who can show them the path.

–Jim Marren, President, Tiller, LLC