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“I’m a believer in the often cited expression to ‘never waste a good crisis.'”

While the world is still trying to adjust to a new normal, the current economic crisis has, like financial crises before, ironically become the fertile soil upon which social impact organizations and initiatives rise. 

These organizations were born for this, bringing viable solutions to problems other businesses can only partially address. The organizations I spoke to are affecting change to meet current needs while looking ahead to keep pace with evolving societal structures and demands.

They are the ones ready with an answer to the unthought-of questions and able to lend time-tested support.  

This is a time when real leaders surface, including those here at Impact Hub who are deep in the fight to help those who can’t. 

While the hallways at Impact Hub are more quiet than bustling, Michael Lake, CEO & Founding President of Leading Cities, has become a steady fixture.  His vision is to not simply strike a match in this COVID darkness but to pave the way and shine a burning light to the other side.

This is how Leading Cities is forging the way amidst the trenches.

  1. In light of the pandemic, what do you think are the specific challenges for the city of Boston and surrounding areas? 

“Cities around the world are grappling with the devastating and tragic impacts this global pandemic has taken—especially in urban centers. From economic downturns, to housing issues, to education, to health, of course, this struggle is real and it is affecting families of all backgrounds. Though, as we have seen right here in Boston, some communities are even harder hit than most. Once the health risks are overcome, cities and the people living and working in them will have a long road to recovery and though it is hard to say if it might be better or worse or neutral, the certainty is that whenever “normalcy” returns, it won’t be the same as it once was. Some temporary remedies have been put in place to help us get through this difficult time, but eventually those policies will expire and there will be the aftershock of this pandemic. 

We have seen it happen already with unemployment funds being reduced, but one of the specific challenges that worries me most is what happens with housing. Sure there has been a moratorium on evictions, but that doesn’t mean the evictions list is not adding up until such time that the moratorium is lifted. In the end, families will face homelessness.” 

2. How is Leading Cities working to turn the tide, meet these challenges and bring solutions to Boston and her residents?

“As an organization, we are bringing solutions from around the world—emerging technologies, innovative approaches and proven policies—to assist the city. A policy we introduced to Boston from Lyon, France almost a decade ago is now being used to offer metered parking spaces to local restaurants and cafes to create outdoor seating. In our AcceliCITY program, a global smart and resilient city accelerator+, we have just run a pandemic-focused track and awarded $25,000 to Carbon Upcycling, which is not only sequestering carbon, but developing nanotechnologies that create antimicrobial properties for better, more efficient, lighter-weight face masks. We are also working with startups that have developed air purification systems for outdoors as well as indoors and another startup that uses blockchain to track and secure the shipment and authentication of medical supplies.”

3. What are some leadership insights you can offer to other organizations to prevent crisis paralysis?

“Crisis paralysis is real and it can be so damaging in one’s personal life or for an organization. I am a believer in the often cited expression to ‘never waste a good crisis.’ The underlying sentiment and truth of that statement is that every crisis has both positive and negative impacts. My insights regarding this is to not overlook the positives, no matter how overshadowed they may be by the negatives. By identifying the positives, we unlock new opportunities, discover unforeseen potential, and can aspire to even greater outcomes. That being said, good leaders are able to do this while also addressing the negatives and being understanding, adaptive, and empathetic to the hardships that are created.”

4. What has been an eye opener for you that has been birthed from this crisis?

“On a more positive side, a silver lining in all of this is that we have a newfound commitment to providing quality and affordable childcare to every parent(s). All those parents who could afford childcare throughout their child’s life never understood how difficult it is to truly balance childcare and work. Now, we all have an appreciation for how hard, if not impossible that can be. This is an issue that has made it tragically difficult for single parents, less financially sound families, etc. to build a career that might help them build wealth and a better future for their family. I can only hope that this shared experience all families have faced with limited to zero childcare has opened our eyes to how unjust and damaging the lack of childcare can be for a family trying to provide, sustain and heavens forbid… get ahead.”

Mike is proof positive of what it takes to be part of Impact Hub.

It takes spirit.

Social impact isn’t a location or an event. It’s a cause that burns one into action even when you’re the only one on the battlefield.  Because social impact is still a job to be done and this pandemic cries out that we still man our stations of commitment to serve, to help….to be the change.