Impact Design and the Wicked7 Clause

Karthiga Ratnam
4 min readMar 12, 2021

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. — Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde. An impact-driven category creator and leader in my opinion. Oscar was also a movement marketer. He devoted himself to the Aesthetic movement. According to Britannica, “it’s a 19th-century arts movement with the fundamental belief that art should exist for beauty alone and not to serve political, didactic, or other purposes”.

My favorite writing by Oscar is “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. The line on this “ballad” that stood out for me — Yet each man kills the thing he loves.

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Are we not guilty of killing the thing we love? Not to be dramatic. But by allowing the destruction of our planet are we not “killing” the future of our children and grandchildren.

A few days ago, I wrote about the need for the 4th element in category creation. I talked about the need for an impact design. But the question of accountability is still at large. Even with an impact design how do we hold category creators/leaders/entrepreneurs accountable?

This got me thinking of morals. Our ability to have principles of what is right and wrong.

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Legal contracts have included morality clauses since 1921. It originated to the best of my knowledge after the Roscoe Arbuckle case. Studios such as Universal stated adding morality clauses to contracts.

“The actor (actress) agrees to conduct himself (herself) with due regard to public conventions and morals and agrees that he (she) will not do or commit anything tending to degrade him (her) in society or bring him (her) into public hatred, contempt, scorn or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult or offend the community or outrage public morals or decency, or tending to the prejudice of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company or the motion picture industry. In the event that the actor (actress) violates any term or provision of this paragraph, then the Universal Film Manufacturing Company has the right to cancel and annul this contract by giving five (5) days’ notice to the actor (actress) of its intention to do so.”

This clause has since been used for professional athletes, singers, authors, and employment contracts. Ironically the morality of how the morality clause is invoked by organizations is a huge question mark.

Because of the way this clause is written, the “enforcer” can invoke it for pretty much any behavior they don’t like. The morality clause has given an unfair advantage to organizations. The morality clause has taken the power of the individual and given it to the institution.

Impact design is based on the foundation that “individuals are encouraged to make their own impact

What is the solution?

The solution again lies with us. Instead of allowing organizations/institutions to dictate a morality clause to us, we need to demand a “do no evil” clause of them. Let me explain further.

I recently joined the Wicked7 as a working group member. Wicked 7 is an open-collaboration project founded by Christian Sarkar and Philip Kotler.

As the name implies it’s a list of 7 wicked problems our planet faces. It addresses:

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To me, this sums up the problems our planet faces perfectly. It also got me thinking, what if we can include a wicked7 clause? What if we the individual demand organizations include a wicked7 clause in all their dealings. This includes:

⁃ Employment contracts

⁃ Supplier contracts

⁃ Customer contracts

⁃ Any fiduciary relationship

What this does is starts creating an ecosystem of accountability. We hold each other accountable. Employees hold employers accountable and vice versa. Suppliers hold customers accountable and vice versa. Voters hold elected officials accountable, and so on and so forth. It essentially creates a domino effect of accountability.

As to what the nature of this clause might entail, I am working on it. But I do know it needs to be voluntarily adopted by both parties. It needs to be structured in a way that there is accountability on both sides. It should be interpreted morally rather than legally. It should carry answers to the following questions:

1. Does my category cause the death of nature?

2. How does my category affect inequality?

3. Can my category be used to promote hate and conflict?

4. How does my category address power and corruption?

5. Does my category violate an individual’s right to privacy?

6. How does my category aid in health and livelihood?

7. Is my category inclusive and take into account population and migration?

Not all seven will apply to everyone. And I understand this is not an all-encompassing perfect solution. But if we are able to create an ecosystem for individual impact and accountability, then it’s a start. It is my belief that if we start laying the foundations today, somewhere in the future we will get there.



Karthiga Ratnam

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7