Origins of the Social Impact Initiative

Famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, organized citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Whether it’s a competition on a local level or on this year’s Miss America stage, candidates vying for the job of Miss America are expected to be a difference-maker — someone destined to change the world through their Social Impact Initiative (SII).

The roots of the SII run deep through Miss America, originating with the candidate platform, which was developed in 1989. The platform, like talent, helped to differentiate the Miss America organization from other pageant systems, but it also gave contestants the ability to advocate for a social cause while serving as a titleholder. In 1990, the first-ever platform issues covered causes like improving education for minority students, volunteerism, organ donation, and discrimination.

With the Miss America 2.0 reboot, introduced in 2018, the platform transformed into the Social Impact Initiative, increasing the focus on candidates changing the world for the better.

“We are no longer a pageant,” then-Chair of the Board of Trustees Gretchen Carlson said at the time. “Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment.”

“Miss America’s new mission statement is: ‘To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women,” Miss America’s CEO at the time, Regina Hopper, said. “We want more young women to see this program as a platform upon which they can advance their desire to make a real difference and to provide them with the necessary skills and resources for them to succeed in any career path they choose.”

Each year’s Miss Utah candidates choose to focus their efforts on causes ranging from social media safety to elderly care, inclusion, STEM, civic engagement, service, mental health, and the arts.

On a local level, each Miss Utah candidate has spent at least a year in her community, educating others on and advocating for her Social Impact Initiative. For some, the SII is a lifelong passion; for others, it is a recent discovery that sets them on a path of lifelong learning. 

Among many other things, candidates involved in the Miss America Organization strive to be difference makers, voice lifters and cause supporters. And each, in their own way, is working to fulfill Margaret Mead’s goal to change the world.

Written by State Board Member, Jackie Hicken Bohls for the 2021 Miss Utah Competition Magazine.