Leadership for Social Change




Excellence – Ambition – Achievement


Two legs good, four legs bad?

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I’ve had a couple of conversations this week about private/public/charity sector.  I have found in all sectors there can be those who do not appreciate the experience, knowledge and insight of other sectors – whether through misunderstanding, scepticism – or suspicion.  

I did a general MBA and can honestly say that studying with people from different backgrounds and contexts was fantastic for our collective learning and development – and has continued to benefit me as I pursue my career in the voluntary and public sectors.  What might be considered a commercial perspective can be immensely valuable to charities, including for service provision, finances and fundraising, and strategy and development.   What might be considered more the domain of the not for profit sector – eg focus on purpose and values, political nous, living with uncertainty – can also be key to success in the commercial sector.  

I have always been of the view (to borrow a phrase) that “what matters is what works” and I am sure you can think of great examples of good practice across the above that can be found in any sector.  Indeed I would go further, if we do not look across sectors for ways of working, we miss out.  But this needs to be done with pragmatism and judgement on what is relevant and would/would not work – not assumptions that one sector’s practice is bad, another’s good. And sometimes an approach from one setting needs adaptation to another – wherever it comes from.

I have worked with corporate partners in many charities and have seen the mutual value of such partnerships – and those business have talked compellingly about the value to their employees and company of such partnerships, particularly in relation to motivation and morale and learning and development through exposure to different challenges and contexts.

Working with social care managers to develop business plans, there were some who resisted the idea “we’re here to care, not to do business”.  There were many who embraced it and found how it could help them prioritise, focus limited resources- and ultimately deliver better for service users.   Working with umbrella charities looking at potential for social enterprise activity, again there was some suspicion but as their understanding grew, they could see how understanding more about marketing and sales, costing and pricing and more could help them do more for their members. 

There is good practice all around us.  Being open and embracing of that will maximise the learning, ideas and resources to apply to the many and various challenges we all face in this turbulent world.