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Business can be a force for good: Unleashing Social Impact

Cause co-chairs Donna DeBerry and Grant Oliphant speaking to audience


Businesses with social impact are a force for good

Since May, 2019, I’ve sought to align myself with social entrepreneurial leaders; folks that recognize that commerce offers society the greatest opportunity to make our world better, to be a force for good. Younger generations are challenging businesses to create societal improvement. They demand change that creates long-term benefits for our families, planet, communities, and respects the mental well-being of employees. Business continues to offer the most potential to solve the world’s most vexing problems.

I found ‘my people’ July 14, 2022 when local leaders gathered at the Cause San Diego 2022 invitation-only kick-off reception hosted at the Better Business Bureau Ignite co-working space.

Dozens of volunteers from for-profit and for-purpose organizations alike are planning this much-anticipated September 15 all-day conference at the University of San Diego. Cause Co-chairs Donna DeBerry, CEO of the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce (CSDBCC) and Grant Oliphant, CEO of The Conrad Prebys Foundation, detailed how Cause has the ability to connect diverse leaders in a unique and impactful way. There literally has never been a conference in San Diego quite like Cause!

Detailing the extraordinary potential to connect the energy, heart and soul of the nonprofit industry with the unrivaled innovation of the San Diego business community and in alliance with local government, Cause San Diego 2022 is creating an opportunity to establish a model for all US communities to emulate; creating the potential to put more ‘united’ in our United States. Humans crave authentic connection and with so much brokenness, Cause offers a beacon of hope — an opportunity for healing and collaboration.

“This moment we’re in is one of the most serious moments in modern history” Ms. DeBerry noted, “if you care about society, you will want to change how you’re leading, you will want to shift towards creating a more inclusive workplace that attracts and retains the best talent. What inspires younger generations should be top of mind for all business leaders!”

Deloitte US CEO Joe Ucuzoglu confirmed how important talent is when he stated that “The #1 constraint in running our businesses is the availability of talent. Human capital is the prime source of business value.” The tide continues to shift towards leaders understanding the urgency of investing in their people because, ultimately, they are the true value of a business.

How are we solving the problems for all, not just for some? If a rising tide lifts all boats, how are we best accomplishing this? How can we as business leaders, parents, individuals, make a difference? How can we leverage our unique region and our incredible diversity of thought and industry experience? San Diego is well-known for our spirit of innovation; how can we bring all these forces for good together to affect positive change? We can accomplish so much more when we collaborate and foster effective alliances.

Alan Murray, author of Tomorrow’s Capitalist, Leadership Next podcast host and CEO of Fortune Media, asked in a recent article published by Fortune: How can CEOs lead in this new reality and context of disruption and evolving societal expectations? Leaders are dealing with some of the most disorienting episodes of their careers — how can we all most effectively navigate these unchartered waters?

Mr. Murray postulates “how do we redefine the role of business and the role of business leaders in today’s world?” Cause Founder Parker Pike, Cause Executive Director Larry Kesslin, dozens of volunteers, and some of San Diego’s most influential leaders believe the Cause Conference will start us on the journey of visualizing solutions to this question by bringing leaders together in an intentional way.

Ms. DeBerry and Mr. Oliphant highlighted our regional potential, the spirit of the conference and the unique opportunity Cause offers to start solving the most difficult challenges of our time all while inspiring the next great generation of leaders through entrepreneurship. Perhaps this is where the long-term potential lies — aligning with the values of younger generations who demand a more evolved capitalism construct.

Cause co-chairs Donna DeBerry and Grant Oliphant answering questions

Cause co-chairs Donna DeBerry and Grant Oliphant contemplating challenges our society is facing, resolved that working in partnership, with empathy and kindness we collectively can solve them.

A more recent transplant to our region from Pittsburgh, PA, Mr. Oliphant asked “With the incredible talent we have in San Diego, how can we better collaborate to initiate this difference? I’m all for making a billion dollars but an unhealthy focus on profit can break our democracy, it can break our planet and younger generations know this. How can we collectively fix things?”

Indeed, it’s time to stop agonizing over the challenges humanity is facing and start being part of the solution!

Grant Oliphant closeup

Grant Oliphant advocating on behalf of cross organizational collaboration

Covid devastated 40% of Black-owned businesses. Ms. DeBerry noted that the CSDBCC raised one million dollars and was able to support countless Black entrepreneurs through micro-loans. By collaborating with and enlisting the support of local businesses, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations, the CSDBCC was able to massively support their members. “The San Diego community came together to solve this problem that Black entrepreneurs were facing and in partnership, we all raised $1,000,000! We have a successful history of cross-sector collaboration and Cause San Diego offers our community a chance to bring all of us together, meet other leaders that want to make our community better and ideate solutions that unleash the unparalleled, extraordinary power of entrepreneurship.”


Ms. DeBerry lives by three words: Learn. Leverage. Lead. “I try to always learn as much as I can, understanding the best practices and evolving ideas. Then I take that information that I’ve learned and I try to figure out how to leverage best practices so I can lead better.”

Supporting this aspirational conference are warriors for business CEO Matt Fehling of the Better Business Bureau and Barbara Chodos President and Publisher of the San Diego Business Journal. I’ve gotten to know Barbara through my work which advocates for corporate mentorship, conscious capitalism and a more caring, purpose-focused workplace.

Barb has become an energetic champion of my intergenerational leadership efforts. She was honored at this gathering for the vision she brings to our local business newspaper and to the Cause Conference. Since accepting the leadership reins in 2018, the SDBJ has moved closer to the heart of San Diego business leaders; illuminating an inclusive path towards a more energized, spirited business community.

Author DeLinda Forsythe holding her book standing with Barbara Chodos

Barbara Chodos and author DeLinda Forsythe

I believe many of us are trying to do this thing called life better; with more acceptance, more grace, more heart, less ego. Perhaps we lost our way the last two hundred plus years. Perhaps we didn’t practice capitalism in the most sustainable way, but we now have the opportunity to fix this.

We are on this planet for a fraction of time, how can we make the best use of that time and leave the world for future generations slightly better than how we found it? That ultimately could be the outcome of Cause San Diego 2022; to explore ideas, discover collective solutions and work harmoniously to leave our city a better place to live, work and play.

As we grow our awareness and connect with like-valued leaders in shared purpose — we have a chance to set an example for other communities to emulate. San Diego is well-known for our spirit of innovation and collaboration, diversity of thought — it’s also what made America such an admired nation.

Mr. Oliphant and Ms. DeBerry ended the evening with this message of hope, “We can aspire and inspire our community and each other to be more. People are low on faith, hope, and inspiration — Cause San Diego has the potential to spark that! In partnership we can turn that spark into a flame of inventiveness and encouragement. Join us — become a part of this, if not for yourself than for future generations.”

With the unity of support of the SDBJ, CSDBCC, BBB, and Conrad Prebys Foundation, Cause is designed for exposure, connection and unbridled success. We look forward to bringing San Diego together to learn how collectively we can evolve into the best version of San Diego; a more connected community.

We look forward to seeing you at San Diego’s premiere social impact conference. Learn more about our next one and register at


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