Community Symbol Helps Entrepreneurs Make Powerful Impact Through Storytelling
Martin Ricard is a community activist, journalist, and digital communications specialist. He is founder and chief content creator of Community Symbol, a digital communications service that works with mission-driven businesses and nonprofits committed to advancing racial equity and social justice.
In an increasingly polarized society, engaging people’s empathy is critical to making progress on complex issues. Martin specializes in storytelling — creating compelling content and an online presence for clients dedicated to social, political, and environmental causes. He helps these organizations build audiences and amplify their messages of diversity, inclusion, and hope.
In this conversation, The Kassan Group founder Jenny Kassan talks with Martin about how Community Symbol is contributing to a more inclusive, regenerative economy.
Jenny Kassan: With technology constantly evolving, how do you stay true to your business’ foundational principles while also being flexible enough to meet the shifting challenges of the day?
Martin Ricard: My business is an Internet-first business for a reason. Everything is becoming much more integrated with the web and technology. The conversations and movements that start online are now influencing everything else in the real world, for example, what happened following the murder of George Floyd. At the same time, I realize the tools I’m using to help my clients grow their online presence might be outdated a few years from now. So I’m always trying to listen to the streets, especially those who are on the other side of town (i.e. liberals and conservatives), to figure out the best way to do storytelling that works for an always-changing 21st-century audience.
JK: Recent social movements aimed at equality have had a dramatic influence on business practices. Do you see that reflected within the social entrepreneurship space?
MR: I’ve seen some real signs of hope by building connections within the social entrepreneurship space. One of the best examples of collaboration I’ve seen recently was the Shift conference I attended in 2021. It was organized by a lot of the same people who put on the SOCAP conference, but it was a smaller group of folks attending, there were a lot more people of color involved in organizing the event, and the organizers gave a wide variety of businesses equity in the event—which is something I’d never seen before. So by taking part in the efforts to promote the event and get people to participate in the conversations, we were all able to benefit from a social impact standpoint and a financial standpoint. That’s what a regenerative economy looks like to me.
JK: Your work supports changemakers who seek to make a direct, positive impact within neighborhoods and communities. To what extent is social entrepreneurship “borderless” in your view?
MR: I can’t wait for the day that I get to work with a social entrepreneur from another country. I don’t think we realize how huge this movement is. Based on what I’ve seen, social entrepreneurship is popular in Australia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, South Korea, and a number of other non-U.S. countries. To me, that means social entrepreneurship is borderless because the issues (and the solutions) are universal. In all our countries, people have lost trust in the government and traditional institutions to fix the social, political, and environmental problems that are affecting our world. I truly believe that social entrepreneurs have the solutions that are needed to restore that trust and revive our hope in humanity.
JK: What is your theme song as a social entrepreneur?
MR: “Say Her Name (Hell You Talmbout)” by Janelle Monáe.
Martin Ricard has more than 15 years of media experience across the journalism, public relations and social media industries, and his expertise is in developing effective communications strategies that help entrepreneurs and changemakers build their teams, get funding and grow their audiences online. Martin received his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and his master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Learn how Martin has helped other mission-driven businesses and nonprofits succeed at https://communitysymbol.com/case-study.