Kevin McCall
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Kevin McCall

President & CEO, Paradigm Properties and Paradigm Capital Advisors

The slogan of Paradigm Properties and Paradigm Capital Advisors is: "Building Relationships, Assets, Community, Capital. Building by Building." That also captures the essence of Kevin McCall's approach to social leadership. For McCall, real change is effected by the give-and-take of relationships—not the one-way effort implied by the term "charitable giving." And to build that community, he uses the real brick-and-mortar structures of his Boston-based real estate business.

Building Impact—Literally

Like major cities everywhere, Boston faces challenges in education, public safety, housing, and opportunities for young people. McCall wanted to do something about it, but his visionary idea didn't crystallize until a woman selling pies for charity approached him for permission to distribute flyers in his buildings. From that chance encounter, McCall realized that, through his business, he had an opportunity to make it easy for people to mobilize for the benefit of their local community, right from the convenience of their workplace.

In 1998, he created a program called "Community Connection," which connected more than 20 nonprofits with the tenants of buildings owned or managed by Paradigm, to organize building-wide charity events that would make a difference in the local community. He was astounded by the success of the first project, a drive to collect professional attire for job trainees who couldn't afford it. More than 300 suits were donated. "I knew right then that people and companies were not as involved in the community as they would like to be or could be," he says.

Efforts like these were formalized in 2003 with the founding of Building Impact, a nonprofit organization that expanded beyond Paradigm to engage other real estate firms as well. Today, Building Impact facilitates community service for more than 500 companies and 18,000 individuals in over 50 buildings, with 100% of proceeds channeled to its Nonprofit Partner Network. In all, 14 communities in the greater Boston area are touched by the activities of the organization.

Doing Well by Doing Good

Grand Circle Corporation Chairman Alan E. Lewis, himself a leader in corporate social entrepreneurship, has long believed that social action is also good business. Building Impact's success is a case in point. Building owners pay an annual fee to the nonprofit, which then organizes its charity events. The chance to engage in service is seen as a benefit to building tenants—which, of course, is a good corporate strategy in the real estate business.

While he appreciates the benefits that Paradigm enjoys as a result of his social activism, McCall also finds rewards beyond the bottom line. He credits his older brother, who has Down syndrome, with instilling in him the desire to make a difference. "Growing up, I saw Chris wake up every day with a smile on his face, and an eagerness to share the world," says Kevin. "Despite being cast as an 'other' in society, Chris could enhance people's lives." In contrast, Kevin recognized early on that he was, in his words, "a privileged white guy with a good education who came from a good home," and felt the need to give back—and to help others integrate service into their lives. Deeply committed to issues of civic engagement, youth leadership, and social justice in urban communities, McCall also serves as a board member of the Boston Center for Community & Justice, the Boston Museum, MetroLacrosse, and Hearth, Inc., as well as several other advisory boards.

Something else he learned was that those who receive also give back. And that's why he insists on calling his vision corporate community engagement—not philanthropy, or charity, or altruism.

Grand Circle Foundation Corporate Citizenship Award

Whatever you call it, McCall is widely recognized around Boston as a model of social leadership. On September 10, Boston Business Journal sponsored its annual Corporate Citizenship Summit, an event that honors charitable contributors, provides information on initiating or sustaining a philanthropic mission, and offers opportunities for networking and discussion.

At the year's breakfast summit, Alan Lewis presented McCall with the Grand Circle Foundation CEO Social Leadership Award in honor of his role in spurring greater community involvement in Boston. Established by Alan and Harriet Lewis in 2007, this award recognizes local business CEOs who show outstanding dedication to corporate citizenship and philanthropy. The $25,000 annual prize must be used by honorees to help make a difference—either for a charity or their own social initiative.

"It takes guts to really look our inner-city problems in the eye, guts to consider a new future, guts to come up with solutions, guts to confront the naysayers, and guts to roll up our sleeves to help," Lewis says. "Harriet and I so deeply believe that leadership is the answer, we created this award to honor a CEO who has guts, is passionate about social change, and has proven that they have made a difference. Kevin McCall is that kind of leader."

With Building Impact, it's clear he knows how instill leadership, too.