For over 20 years, we’ve worked side-by-side with the people, organizations, and foundations who are building a more just and joyous society. And in that time, we’ve seen a gap widen between how nonprofit leaders, staff, and supporters often want change to happen—and how it actually does.
Building a more just and joyous society takes real, system-level change. Which can feel daunting. Or, with a few shifts of perspective, it can feel exciting—possible, even.
We see three big perspective shifts that create contours around a new, necessary kind of conversation about change. One that we have as a studio, and one that influences how we partner with our clients.
1. We expect immediacy, but change is gradual.
The changes that have shaped our modern society—the movements for civil rights, voting rights, and LGBTQ+ rights, to name a few—took generations. And we’re still fighting hard to protect and build on them today. Building a just and joyous society is a long game that rewards persistence.
2. We expect simplicity, but change is complex.
Persistence alone won’t address the root causes of systemic issues like health inequity. Nor will a single-minded, inflexible approach to taking action. In response to complexity, we have to stay attentive and resourceful, evolving strategy and tactics as new windows for impact open. Adaptability will help us channel strength and persistence toward their greatest effects.
3. We expect heroes, but change is cooperative.
In the long, complex story about building a more just and joyous society, it’s tempting to think of ourselves as the protagonists, especially if our leaders, our people, and our supporters expect that from us. But the issues we aim to change arise from big, powerful systems—and, if you think about it, so do we. Each person, organization, and foundation has unique strength. And the more we can connect and pool those strengths to center change, versus centering ourselves, the more prepared we’ll be to meet systemic issues with systemic solutions.
We can build a more just and joyous society. But it takes persistence, adaptability, and collaboration. And it takes multiplying that across a network of people, organizations, and foundations who know their unique strengths and are willing to share them to reach a common vision for something better.
That’s who we partner with. We use strategy and design to help nonprofits change the conversation about what’s possible. Because, in our view, that’s what sparks and sustains real change—not by manifesto, but through honest, open, purposeful conversation. One that starts between a nonprofit’s leadership and its staff. And then emanates out to invite support and promote partnership, shifting over time as the network grows and adapts to reach their vision.
In this way, though, we think nonprofits have been underserved by their branding partners. Nonprofit brands have never been more prepared to take the stage (digital or otherwise) and proclaim their bold ambitions. We are not in shortage of boldly proclaimed ambitions. And yet, to quote Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president and Hyperakt client, “Our extreme challenges remain extremely unsolved.”
So, it’s time to think differently about change. It isn’t immediate—it’s gradual. It isn’t simple—it’s complex. It’s not just for heroes—it’s cooperative.
And it’s time to think differently about how branding can help nonprofits who do the hard work of change. It isn’t about creating heroes with manifestos. It’s about helping nonprofits spark, shift, and sustain conversations about what’s possible within their teams and across a network of supporters and partners.
When we do that, we can meet systemic issues with systemic solutions. And that’s what we mean by branding for a more just and joyous society.
If you’d like to explore how your organization’s brand can change the conversation, let’s talk.
This essay is by Deroy Peraza, Partner and Sruthi Sadhujan, Senior Strategy Director at Hyperakt, a purpose-driven design and innovation studio that elevates human dignity and ignites curiosity. Originally posted in their newsletter, Insights by Hyperakt.
Illustration by Merit Myers.