On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI), a cross-sector program that aims to bring universities, corporations, nonprofits and government together to affect positive social change. The initiative is spearheaded by Bill Novelli, a Distinguished Professor of the Practice, former CEO of AARP, co-founder of Porter Novelli and founder and former president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. I can’t imagine a better shepherd for this type of collaborative effort and look forward to watching the initiative take shape over the coming months.
The launch event featured a panel discussion on cross-sector collaboration with representatives from business, the nonprofit sector and government. Here are some highlights from the discussion.
According to Darell Hammond, CEO of KaBoom! and author of the forthcoming book KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, social problems don’t emerge from just one sector, so neither will the solutions. He offered an inspiring approach to social problem solving: people should dedicate their careers to solving a particular issue and take advantage of opportunities to further that cause across all sectors. In this regard, we will no longer define our professional identities by sector (I’m in business, I work for a nonprofit, I work for the government), but by issue area (I work to end hunger, I solve access to clean water, I create sustainable supply chains). Having loyalty to an issue, instead of an employer or sector, will create organic cross-sector collaboration and allow individuals to look back on a career of service regardless of occupation.
Reggie Van Lee, Executive Vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, and author of the book Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Chall..., remarked that all the resources we need to solve social problems already exist, but if we try to take a siloed approach, the right resources won’t be allocated. Collaboration across sectors is the key . He offered three steps to ensure the collaborative effort succeeds:
- Identify the problem as a shared issue with a common vocabulary. Find the points of intersection across sectors.
- Assemble the right stakeholders and define who plays what role.
- Prioritize program management to ensure that the collaboration continues.
James Mahoney, Global Public Policy and Corporate Communications Executive for Bank of America, asserted that CSR is here to stay. We may see fads within CSR, but the overall push to create positive social good through business will sustain. CSR is not about doing good for good’s sake, however, but must make sense for the corporate partner on a true business level. For example, in the economic downturn and recovery, Bank of America has reached out to its clients to better understand what they need to survive financial constraints and grow. They overwhelmingly replied that they need less uncertainty. The response helped Bank of America set priorities to liaise with government and community leaders on economic growth and job creation strategies. The CSR efforts grew directly from client needs.
As the Deputy Representative for Global Partnerships at the US Department of State, Jim Thompson sees the impact business can make in international development, especially by investing in technology, platforms and networks in developing economies. He also sees companies creating globalization strategies that take a longer-term view and are tied to real development outcomes. One example Jim cited was the Partners for a New Beginning initiative, a cross-sector collaboration that fosters private sector investment in challenging regions like Tunisia and Libya.