ChangeSprout Inc., a benefit corporation headquartered in New York, provides digital advocacy tools to progressive organizations around the world.
In 2017 many of our organizations dealt with shifting political climates, both in the U.S. and around the world. At ChangeSprout, we continued to support these organizations – and progressive movements generally – through our work on the ControlShift toolset. In the face of regressive politics, people around the world became more involved and more committed to working for positive change. Through ControlShift, we helped organizations to harness that energy and bolster progressive ideals.
Additionally, in 2017 ChangeSprout launched our latest product: VisitThem. VisitThem is a tool that connects individuals with their U.S. federal representatives. Using VisitThem, progressive organizations can quickly and easily create campaigns encouraging their members to take in-person action at Congressional town halls and district offices. VisitThem is a continuation of our commitment to empowering regular people and expanding the tools available to progressive organizations.
As 2018 begins, this annual report is an opportunity for us to reflect on the past year, assess our impact, and formulate plans to increase our impact in the coming months.
GENERAL PUBLIC BENEFIT
Selecting a Third-Party Standard:
For our 2017 annual report, we continued to use B Lab’s B Impact Assessment. B Labs is a leader within the benefit corporation community, and their assessment is one of the most highly regarded third-party standards. By continuing to use the same assessment that we have used in previous years, we can track our impact over time. Additionally, because the B Lab provides tips for improving our impact, we can easily create a roadmap for the coming year.
Pursuit of the General Public Benefit and the Extent the General Public Benefit was Created:
At the time of our incorporation, ChangeSprout decided to pursue a general public benefit, which is defined as a “material positive impact on society and the environment.” As a software provider, we work to provide this positive impact primarily through our support of the ControlShift toolset and VisitThem.org.
General Public Benefit
Each of our tools is built to empower regular people to change their communities. Through VisitThem, we have connected hundreds of people with their federal representatives and made it easier for U.S. organizations to direct their members to visit Congressional district offices and town halls. By asking their members to lobby their representatives, organizations can turn their members from political observers into empowered advocates.
In addition to VisitThem, our main product, the ControlShift toolset, allows our partners – advocacy organizations around the world – to empower their members to take the lead in online campaigning. Through our software, users can easily begin organizing around the issues they care most about, with the ongoing support and expertise of professional organizers.
We believe that the movements we support are made stronger and more authentic when they are led by people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and professions who decide to become advocates and leaders in their communities. While a bit abstract, we believe that empowering regular people, and helping them to become effective leaders and champions, is a public benefit of its own. The past year has been a time of uncertainty in many countries around the world, and many people have felt powerless in the face of new political regimes and heightened conflict. Our product aims to increase individual empowerment, which can help transform uncertainty into action and feelings of powerlessness into lasting change.
From a more concrete perspective, our partner organizations and their members work on a wide range of local, national, and international issues. Here is a small selection of the member-led campaigns that we have helped to power in the last year:
In New Zealand, ActionStation members pressured the government to pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill which requires all rentals to meet a minimum standard of heating and insulation. With at least 1,600 deaths attributed to cold and damp houses each year in New Zealand, ActionStation members came together to pressure New Zealand’s new Minister for Housing to take action. The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill was the second piece of legislation passed by the new government.
In Australia, Sorcha and the Victorian Trades Hall Council worked to battle wage theft at a popular Australian restaurant chain. After reporting long hours, no breaks, and underpayment of wages, Sorcha and her supporters pressured the chain to pay up.
In the United Kingdom, 38 Degrees members worked to prevent the closures of two specialty cardiac care hospitals. In all, 26,000 supporters campaigned to keep the hospitals open.
In Ireland, nearly 105,000 Uplift members came together to block the transfer of a maternity hospital to an order of nuns with a government-recognized history of child abuse.
Here in New York, after a Syracuse-based restaurant suddenly closed, the employees used Coworker.org to launch a campaign to get their back pay and severance pay. Nearly 5,000 Coworker.org members came together, and the restaurant’s whole team was paid.
The campaigns created on our toolset deal with a diverse range of issues, including the environment. We also work with organizations that are specifically dedicated to environmental protection, like Greenpeace and 350.org.
Through 350.org, we support the Go Fossil Free campaign, which is working to divest colleges, universities, cities, and churches from fossil fuels.
Through our partnership with Greenpeace, we support 11 national/regional offices, which are located on every continent. The Greenpeace offices work on a variety of issues including reducing the consumption of plastic, increasing the use of renewable energy, and protecting groundwater.
The results of ChangeSprout’s 2016 assessment, as compared to the previous two years, are below.
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DISCUSSION AND PLANS FOR IMPROVEMENTS
In the last year, our total score for governance and the percentage of points earned increased. The governance section of the assessment is broken into three parts: mission & engagement, transparency, and governance. While there are opportunities for improvement in the first two subsections, it is unlikely that we will be able to improve our governance score. The majority of the governance points are predicated on the legal structure of the company – requiring the company to have a board of directors or be a co-op. It is unlikely that we will implement either of those changes. To improve our score in the other two parts – mission & engagement and transparency – we will work on:
- Establishing and promoting a forum for feedback, questions, and complaints, where all feedback is publicly available.
Our total points and percentage earned in the workers category increased in the last year. Since our last assessment, we have implemented 360-degree employee assessments and have worked to encourage employee training opportunities. The changes we can implement in the next year are:
Establishing a formal plan for employee bonuses.
Continuing to promote employee training opportunities, both for personal and professional development.
Both our total points and our percentage earned in the community category have decreased since last year. As a distributed team with employees that primarily work from home, our community is spread across multiple states and countries. Nevertheless, areas for improvement in this category include:
Working to increase diversity in our suppliers.
Encouraging employees’ volunteer activities through incentives and paid time off.
Our total points and percentage of points earned in the environment category increased in the last year. While the B Impact Assessment has tried to increase its support for remote teams, many of the questions in this section continue to deal with the organization’s efficiency and conservation efforts at its headquarters and office space. We are a fully remote team and do not have corporate office space. While many of us do work from shared coworking spaces at least semi-regularly, we do not have a way of tracking our individual energy or water usages. Without a means of tracking consumption, we are also unable to formulate specific targets or plans for decreasing consumption. However, in the next year we hope to make a few changes, including:
Written policies encouraging environmental conservation in home offices.
Increased education around environmental best practices.
We have increased many of our scores in the last year, but we still have room for improvement. In reviewing our report from 2016, we did not implement many of the changes we had highlighted, but we are renewing our commitment to increasing the public benefit and hope to enact many of the outlined improvements in the coming year.
COMPENSATION OF DIRECTORS
Nathan Woodhull is ChangeSprout Inc.’s only director. His full-time position has an annual salary of $110,000.
Nathan Woodhull, founder of ChangeSprout Inc., is the only shareholder.