Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Good to Great" for the Social Sector

Of all the people to come out and say nonprofits shouldn't be run "like businesses", I might not have expected Jim Collins, author of the seminal Good to Great (2001).

But his recent monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, starts exactly that way.  Business practices, Collins writes, are often mediocre or simply good practices.  And the nonprofits deserve nothing less than great practices--and these are far from limited to the business world.

Collins has self-described as "not an expert" in the social sectors, but many of his readers ("a third or more") come from that slice of the economy; and his basic tenets--Level 5 Leadership, First Who, Then What, Confront the Brutal Facts, The Hedgehog Concept, The Culture of Discipline, The Flywheel, etc.--seem remarkably translatable.

Collins has recently launched a program with Net Impact, my employer until very recently, to test out his new framework.  He'll be working with five teams of grad students on short-term consulting projects where these students will ultimately make recommendations about how a nonprofit near them can move from good to great.

I'm excited to say I've just begun a project of my own, inspired by this initiative, together with a colleague who is helping to run the "Good to Great" partnership.  We're looking forward to providing some recommendations to a local after-school program that is a real community pillar but is confronting questions about its financial sustainability.  It should be great to be at the forefront of this initiative, particularly for the insight I think it'll provide into the needs of educational nonprofits in the Bay Area and beyond.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A verse from my own Bible-of-the-moment

"Finding our own words to tell the story of what is happening around us, and in our own lives, is a fundamental act of self-defense."

-Melissa Everett, Making a Living While Making A Difference