• priya k

The Toast Lens

When I first met Toast co-founders, Lisa and Maneka, their passion for creating a space that celebrates diversity of thought and action was positively contagious. With Toast, they want to simplify “how it all comes together to create meaningful impact.” At the heart of the organisation however, is the belief that there is an opportunity for a social-impact legacy no matter who you are or what you do.

Toast looks beyond the binary silos of profit/non-profit, entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship and corporate/corporate social responsibility. These dichotomies tend to distract from how people can contribute to a society meaningfully, across a wide-ranging spectrum. We want to challenge these assumptions by focusing on the collective “Power of Us”: Bringing together ideas, people and solutions that positively impact the communities we work with. Simply stated, everyone has a role to play.

“People are always struck by how different Maneka and I are – sort of like yin & yang.

That is our super power, not just us but the team at Toast. We are a mix of personalities, perspectives & skills coming together to build a legacy that positively impacts future generations’’

- Lisa Rodricks, Co-founder

Toast Co-Founders: Lisa (left) and Maneka (right)

The Toast team is testament to this “Power of Us”. We’re a collective of people with varied skillsets: social impact measurement; CSR management; leadership & employee engagement; brand activation; and gender & diversity strategy. This allows us to meet the needs of clients with a uniquely well-rounded perspective. Our portfolio of service offerings reflects this with a mix of strategic consultancy & implementation support across three key service verticals:

Team Engagement, Social Impact and Brand.

One such service is Impact+. With Impact+, Toast strives to bring the time-tested art of storytelling to the front and center of showcasing impact. The process and product of this service aims to translate clients’ impact stories to the language of an everyday conversation. Whether it’s starting from data-heavy reports, in-depth case studies or logic models, Impact+ will simplify and demystify the most significant stories of change. We do this using a briefcase of assorted tools from social-media campaigns, sharp video bytes and photo-series, among others.

Our first Instagram campaign, the Power of Us - Livelihoods is an example of how our team challenged assumptions around the images that are conjured up when someone thinks of 'Livelihoods'. We suspect that over time, an emphasis on programming jargon unfortunately desensitizes people to the real change that programs may bring. This is what motivated us to work on the Power of Us - Livelihoods. The campaign features different people in a Mumbai neighborhood who were all asked the same three simple questions on leisure, expense and savings. These stories were beautifully brought to life by Fahrinisa Campana, an Associate Partner at Toast whose wealth of experience as a multimedia journalist always finds that unique “lens.”

Maria and Sahiba are two women of the nine people featured in the series. Both business-owners who are directly responsible for their “livelihoods”; but while Maria is on the brink of retirement, Sahiba is full of passionate ambition for her new venture. The full series can be found here.

“After 23 years of running the shop, I will be giving it on leave and license for 11 months. I had a fall recently and the doctors have asked me to rest. All my neighbours and customers are telling me how much they will miss me.

- Maria, veteran shop-owner featured in Power of Us - Livelihoods

“Initially practiced as an architect for about two years with a firm. While in the final year of my studies, I developed a liking for illustration and drawing. That passion kind of stuck with me and I quit the firm and took up freelance projects to explore illustration and graphics. This snowballed into something that I could sustain myself with full-time. I actually enjoy the days when I'm only drawing and not so dependent on technology.”

- Sahiba, Founder, Kalakaari haath featured in Power of Us - Livelihoods

As the campaign page states, “When we think 'Livelihoods', we want to think beyond just jobs and income. While these are critical, we believe that it’s aspirations, both current and future, that drive people and impact their well-being.” By keeping the focus hyperlocal (within a 5-kilometer radius), the livelihoods campaign reminds us of the diversity that defines Mumbai. It also subtly tells us that themes of family, personal ambition and leisure tie us all together.

The Livelihoods series stirred up a range of reactions and valuable engagement both online and offline. One response in particular however, felt like that moment of truth we all at Toast were waiting for: “It asks questions we wouldn’t otherwise. The human element is what levels all of the different responses”. This encapsulated the spirit of the campaign and the vision that fuels the Toast co-founders moving forward.

Priya Kekre is an Associate Partner with Toast Advisory and is based out of Bengaluru.

With the powerful combination of building trust, asking the right questions and discovering meaningful answers, Toast’s vision is to rewrite the stories of change around us. To understand how Impact+ could be tailored to your needs, say hello@toastadvisory.com