Big Problems Need Big Solutions

If President Bill Clinton is indeed now returning to the Harlem-based office of the Clinton Foundation to "help turn good intentions into real action and results," the winner will be cross sector solutions for the sector.

The Clinton Global Initiative has provided the most prolific and visible examples of this new trend to bring public, for profit and nonprofit players together boldly to address significant social challenges globally.
Consider the announcement made in Bethlehem, West Bank on May 22, 2008 of an agreement signed to "create a new type of risk insurance product to meet the needs of the Palestinian business community, encourage investment, and sustain and create jobs. The idea was born on the plenary stage at the first Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in September 2005, and taken to the next level at the 2007 CGI Annual Meeting.

Through the agreement, the Palestinian Political Risk Insurance Project (PPRI) will establish a facility funded by public and private capital that will include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII), an independent nonprofit organization initiated by the Aspen Institute. PPRI will provide affordable political risk insurance covering trade asset damage resulting from political violence.

It takes a set of skills and relationships, and a certain degree of confidence, to do these deals and make them work. It's a combination that is taken for granted by some of the newer entrepreneurs entering the sector, but that is out of reach of many traditional organizations in the nonprofit sector.

Cross sector collaborations are new enough that few examples exist for study, let alone successes for emulation.

One source of new research, according to Harvard Business Review's, June 2008 edition (not available free on-line) is a new book: Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together by Mark Gerencser, Reginald Van Lee, Fernando Napolitano and Christopher Kelly.

According to the article, "the authors -- a quartet of Booz Allen Hamilton consultants -- argue that a host of heavyweight global problems (involving, among others, the environment, energy policy, and threats to human health and security) can be solved only by harnessing the power, creativity, and insight of the three sectors working in concert. These collaborations, they write, require structures "in which no leader or institution is necessarily in charge, and yet a healthy, prosperous, effective environment exists in which issues are addressed and complexity is reduced."

The article notes, however, that "hardly a megacommunity exists that has fully realized its mission. This dearth of practical experience accasionally leaves the reader awash in too much theory and too little street cred."

As to street cred, we'll be watching CGI this summer. Their first cross sector initiatives started three years ago. Borrowing the view from the venture capital industry that effective investments take three to seven years to show substantive results, if properly conceived, managed, and resourced, we should be seeing some interesting results soon.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 8:00 AM, Jun 24, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Economic Development | Philanthropic Strategy | Scaling Philanthropy | Permalink | Comment