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What is the Small Actions Framework? (A Unique Social Responsibility Approach for Small Businesses)

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Written By Tanya Quinn


Updated: March 27, 2024

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In a previous blog (What is Small Business Social Responsibility), I shared my thoughts on where Small Businesses fit into the overall picture of Social Responsibility and why I felt that a new definition was needed for Small Business Social Responsibility.

As a quick recap, while doing research to create Small Actions Greater Good, the lack of tools and even a definition for Small Business Social Responsibility shocked me. So, I created my own:

Small Business Social Responsibility Definition: A commitment to contribute to social good by acting as or making changes to your small business beyond your standard business operations.

However, as I alluded to at the end of the blog, simply creating a definition is not enough. The new definition summarizes how I believe social responsibility can be applied to Small Businesses. However, a definition alone does not provide guidelines and tools for implementing social responsibility. 

A new approach was also needed that would make it easier and more effective to do social good: the Small Actions Framework.

A Program is Not the Best Place to Start for Small Businesses

In my last blog, I stated that “Small Business Owners don't NEED to create large programs,” at least not to begin with and maybe never, depending on the business.

I used the term “Program” deliberately. A Program, as defined by the Project Management Institute, is a “group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.” In terms of social responsibility, that means creating one overall Program to embrace Social Responsibility with multiple individual projects that are developed and implemented in coordination with each other.

Creating an extensive program has definite advantages – especially when the benefits intertwine. Corporations and large businesses that are just embracing Social Responsibility can jump straight into creating a program as they have the resources and staff available to handle the effort. 

Sounds great, right? 

However, it's unlikely that many Small Business Owners will decide to formally embrace Social Responsibility and then go from no or very little activity to creating a detailed Program with multiple Projects.

A Simpler Approach for Small Business Owners

So how can Small Business Owners implement Social Responsibility? And how can they do this while still managing every other aspect of their business?

To answer that question, I stepped back, considered how Small Businesses operate, and created a unique signature approach to Small Business Social Responsibility – the Small Actions Framework (SAF).

The SAF is a five-step small business social responsibility approach for Small Businesses developed from existing and proven Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and guidelines uniquely designed for Small Business Owners to ensure that every socially responsible action you take is:

  • Efficient – to minimize the amount of time and resources required for the action.
  • Effective – to maximize the social good impact AND the business benefits of your action.
  • Sustainable – to incorporate potential outcomes of your action into your overall business operations and to continually review and improve your overall efforts. 

Step 1 – Enhance Your Understanding

Step 1 of the Small Actions Framework introduces four foundational concepts that must be understood before any work begins.

Concept #1. What is Social Responsibility?

Before starting any efforts, it's important to make sure that you understand the background and purpose of social responsibility overall, including: What does it truly mean to do “social good” and how is that related to a business? How was social responsibility originally founded, and how does it apply to both corporations and small businesses? And finally, are there any common misconceptions that may be holding you back from getting started or doing more social good?

Concept #2. Why Do You Want to Do Good?

As very busy small business owners, what is the likelihood that you will complete something you don't truly feel motivated to do? Slim to none. It's important to step back and consider your reasons for doing good to ensure that you dedicate the time and resources to make the necessary changes.

Concept #3. How Can You Take Action (Categories of Actions)?

Before deciding how you want to do good, you need to understand how many different ways you can do good. And it's often WAY more than you realize. To make it easier for Small Business Owners, I organized potential actions into four overall categories and 17 subcategories. The same organization is used consistently across the Small Actions Framework training and the resources available on the Small Actions Greater Good website.  

Concept 4. How Can Your Actions Benefit Your Business?

Social Responsibility is not just about doing good. It's about doing good that also contributes to your business' growth. Unfortunately, this component is often left out of consideration by many business owners—sometimes intentionally! If you are someone who is hesitant to connect your social good to business benefits, please read the separate blog article “Social Responsibility in Small Business—What’s Holding You Back?”

However, to ensure that your actions contribute to your business, you need a better understanding of potential benefits. You can learn more about these potential benefits from another blog post, “What Are the Potential Benefits of Social Responsibility?“.

Step 2 – Define your Overall Approach

Every Small Business Owner will have a different amount of time and resources to dedicate to Social Responsibility, and their dedication may also shift over time.

The Small Actions Framework defines three different approaches to Small Business Social Responsibility to accommodate different needs and provides guidance on how to implement each approach in later steps.

Step 3 – Effectively Optimize Your Actions

After learning the foundations for the Small Actions Framework and the different Small Business Social Responsibility approaches, Step 3 focuses on the key factor that makes this Framework unique. You'll learn a formula for connecting your actions to your core business elements and ensuring your actions benefit your business as much as possible (i.e., making them EFFECTIVE).

The Framework is based on a core belief—that as a Small Business Owner, you must be successful to do social good. The more successful your business, the more social good you can do. If your social good effectively benefits your business, then you can be more successful and, therefore, do more good. It's an ongoing, mutually symbiotic relationship.

To learn more about what I mean by effective, you can also read another blog post, “Doing Good is Good Business (IF You Do It Effectively)“.

Step 4 – Efficiently Plan and Execute Your Actions

In Step 4 of the Framework, you'll learn how to plan and execute your actions using tools specifically designed for each type of action and your social responsibility approach. By doing so, you can save time and resources while doing the most amount of social good and generating the desired impact for your business.

Step 5 – Sustainably Maintain, Improve, and Expand Your Efforts

And finally, in Step 5 of the Framework, you'll learn strategies to evaluate the outcomes of each action and how they may fit into overall programs. Audit existing actions to identify opportunities for improvement, and adopt a consistent long-term communication approach. By consistently measuring and evaluating the impact of your actions, you can identify areas for improvement and make changes as needed.

Do You Want to Learn More about this Small Business Social Responsibility Approach?

If you are interested in learning more about the Small Actions Framework, you can take an online course, hire me as a speaker for your group or organization, or hire me as a coach to directly help with your Small Business. Learn more here.

About This Content

This article is part 2 of a 7-part series that introduces foundational concepts about Small Business Social Responsibility, Small Actions Greater Good, and the Small Actions Framework. Links to these articles are provided below.

  1. What is Small Business Social Responsibility?
  2. (This Article) What is the Small Actions Framework? (A Unique Social Responsibility Approach for Small Businesses)
  3. How Can You Do Good as a Small Business? (Categories of Social Responsibility)
  4. Why Should Businesses Be Socially Responsible? (Or More Specifically Small Businesses)
  5. What Are the Potential Benefits of Social Responsibility?
  6. What’s Holding You Back? (Social Responsibility in Small Business)
  7. Doing Good is Good Business (IF You Do It Effectively)
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Tanya Quinn, Founder of Small Actions Greater Good

About Small Actions Greater Good

Small Actions Greater Good provides education, resources, and training to make it easier for Small Businesses Owners to do more effective social good that benefits their business, makes them proud of their efforts, and inspires others (also known as Small Business Social Responsibility).

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Founder of Small Actions Greater Good

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