Why I work and will continue working with both the private and social sectors.
Ever since I started in the consulting business, I’ve had a combination of social sector (arts & culture, public health, financial literacy, K-12 and higher education, etc.) and private sector (auto, healthcare, financial services, technology, food and beverages, etc.) clients. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The benefits of working in both sectors, despite their vast differences, focuses, and interests, overshadow their challenges. The key has been and remains to be laser-focused on the kind of experiences people want, and then design ways to evoke them.
There has been a lot of talk about how non-profits are adopting models of efficiency and measuring impact, and for years we’ve seen more and more organizations hiring corporate executives to run their operations. But what is not said often enough is that the social sector knows better than anyone how to design and deliver experiences that are meaningful to its constituencies. Yes, a mid-sized museum could learn from corporate America how to measure its return on investment, but the insurance industry could learn also how to evoke the experience of wonder, for example.
Beyond meaningful experiences, corporate America is increasingly realizing that focusing only on its shareholders is a zero-sum game. If corporations want to create the kind of impact that would make them sustainable in the long run, they will have to adopt a more holistic view of all their constituencies and not only focus on quarterly profits. They will have to adopt a regenerative approach, not an extractive one, and the social sector excels at this since it has always had the interests of multiple constituencies in mind. Creating value for users, employees, funders, communities, and the environment, is a complex endeavor that requires multivariate models, and this is where the opportunity lies. Corporations need to learn how to create value for many constituencies since it is now clear that their- and our- futures depend on it.