Turning Product into Progress at Facebook with Emily Dalton Smith

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In this month’s episode, Rachel is joined by the Director of Social Impact Product at Facebook, Emily Dalton Smith. Want to hear how the platform that connects the globe prioritizes impact projects? Listen as Emily and Rachel dive into how Facebook’s platforms drive incredible social impact. You’ll hear how social impact at Facebook began, the decisions that led them to today, as well as how Emily and team think about what’s next. And you wont want to miss some of the epic stories Emily shares about the behind the scenes of making it all happen. 

As people this past year have turned to social media for those intimate connections they used to make in-person, networking apps such as Facebook have taken a leading role in helping ease the temporary transition of our social lives from in-person to on-screen.

However, thanks to changemaker and Director of Social Impact Product at Facebook Emily Dalton Smith, social media has not only become a place to share one’s own life but a social impact space to contribute to the wellbeing of others.

Using the Platform to Inform​

In January of 2020, as Zuckerburg and the other leaders at Facebook began to recognize the inevitability of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Emily’s work shifted from creating software for fundraising to filling the information gaps the pandemic craze caused which she did with the created of the Covid Information Center.

“We’re constantly getting feedback in from our users and community about what they need and one of the things that we heard from everyone… was that people just needed more and better information and they needed it at their fingertips… based on that feedback we decided to create the Covid information center” 

By taking information from multiple expert panels and applying it to the platform, Emily and her team have made the Covid Information Center a learning hub for over 2 billion people and have recently set a goal of helping over 50 million people get vaccinated.

Carving a Niche for Change

Social Impact began at Facebook in 2014 when it became the preferred platform for people to share their videos of the “ice bucket challenge”, a challenge to raise money and awareness for ALS. The amount of donations this challenge raised inspired Facebook to make donations easier and more accessible.

In the over 5 years Emily worked for Facebook, the platform has raised more than 5 billion dollars with non-profit fundraisers alone. 

Helping Amplify Voices and Make Critical Connections​

While fundraising is a huge part of Facebook’s social good, Emily’s favorite impact so far has been the Voting Information Center, a page dedicated to providing information on all things voting during the 2020 election. 

“Helping people make their voices heard has always been something that I’ve cared about and has been part of my personal life since as long as I can remember so being able to help people ... and help them know how to vote safely and get out and make their voices heard is one of the things I’m most proud of.

The Voting Information Center ended up being the longest running information voting campaign and helped over 4 and a half million people register and vote. 

Along with fundraising and spreading information, Facebook does something everyday that is vital to social impact: fostering connections. Emily states that “this is what’s magical about Facebook”. Her team began to encourage these connections with the mentorship program, a product tool that helps mentors and mentees in similar fields find each other. Emily states this program came out of a desire to make getting into certain fields easier; “we don’t want people to have to start from zero”. 

“when you have 3 billion people connected the person you need who has the information you need or the experience you need ... that person is already on our apps and we can help you get connected to them”  

So what’s next for social impact at Facebook? Emily says they will continue to follow their main goal of “helping people unlock limitless potential for good”. This means working on expanding their charitable giving tools by testing ways people can collect physical goods through drives, creating ways to volunteer through the platform, and continuing to work on mentorship and learning products. In addition, they will further their support of social issues with a particular focus on health, civic engagement, equity, and climate change. As Emily states, their focus for the future is helping people “give their time, their talent, or their treasure to a cause they care about”.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about social impact at Facebook and hear the rest of Emily’s story: