Smart data, and lots of it. Brian Beachkofski, SF’ 12, and John Grossman, SF ’12, are leveraging it to improve the human condition. Beachkofski (senior director) and Grossman (co-president and general counsel) work for Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc. The nonprofit consulting firm evaluates extensive sets of data to guide governments, social service agencies, and private funders in building social programs that successfully address critical challenges.
The innovative “pay-for-success (PFS)” social service model works this way: A government agency identifies a critical social need—chronic homelessness, for example. Then, funders like banks or charitable foundations provide upfront capital to a high-performing social service provider that can help meet that need. If the providers achieve predetermined outcome levels, as verified by an independent evaluator, the government repays the private funders’ initial investment. Third Sector, a leader in developing PFS initiatives, serves as a facilitator and advisor to all parties in the process, using data as the basis for modeling the project and projecting the benefit to the at-need population.
One example of the success of the PFS model is a Third Sector project in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Beachkofski, Grossman, and their team partner with nonprofit and government agencies to reunite families with children who have been placed in foster care. The children originally were removed from their homes because their families were struggling with domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness. Data indicates that such children spend significantly longer lengths of time in foster care and suffer the loss of consistent caregivers.
Using a PFS model, the county government partners with a local nonprofit service provider to support these fragile families with access to housing, mental health, and other social services. As a result, they are reuniting families faster and improving lives while creating greater accountability for government spending.
Regulation is generally considered a dirty word in the realm of big energy. “Regulation stifles innovation,” is a common mantra throughout the industry. But David Parkin, SF ’12, has a different perspective. When Parkin worked for a natural gas startup earlier in his career, innovations related to carbon footprints and renewable sources didn’t figure into his strategic vision. “There’s a bit of irony in my current position,” says Parkin. “Here I am with the UK’s largest natural gas provider in a strictly regulated environment, and I have to be more nimble and innovative in my thinking than when I was with a startup.”
As Director of Network Strategy for gas distribution at National Grid UK— a government-regulated energy monopoly—Parkin, has to innovate within the confines of comprehensive criteria. “Our performance,” Parkin explains, “is measured by the security of the supply, affordability for consumers, and the extent to which we are minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. We have to balance all three within an eight-year price control structure. Regulators set our revenue based not on what we spend to provide natural gas service but on what we achieve for our customers on those three criteria.”
This recently established regulatory framework exerts a strong influence on National Grid’s entrepreneurial thinking. “Historically, we were driven by the same imperatives propelling most large companies—minimize expenditures and maximize revenue,” says Parkin. “Now, we have to identify and develop innovations that deliver beneficial outcomes across several performance metrics through an eight-year cycle.”
Many associate the African continent with political volatility, but while it is the tension that makes headlines, peace and progress reign in many countries on the world’s second largest continent. Kofi Annan Foundation Executive Director Alan Doss points to nations like Liberia and Sierra Leone as reasons for optimism. Doss is encouraged by the fact that those nations have recently elected leaders according to a peaceful and transparent process. “These officials have come in with the confidence of the people,” he says. “Now they have to build productive partnerships—locally and globally—to produce the sustainable results their citizens are expecting.”
Doss observes that nations like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast only recently have emerged from periods of terrible violence and enormous human suffering. “To create a dynamic of sustainable progress,” he says, “they need to rebuild sound governance and avoid slipping back into conflict.”
If Doss understands African challenges, it’s because he has devoted much of his career to the continent, promoting peace, sustainable development, and human rights. Before taking on leadership of the Geneva-based foundation established by Kofi Annan, SF ’72, Doss was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and head of the peacekeeping mission there.
One of the world’s smallest countries, Singapore is also one of its great economic powerhouses. That dichotomy is frequently referred to in the business press as the “Singapore Miracle.” Often voted the best global city in which to do business, Singapore has a state-of-the-art infrastructure, a well-oiled and corruption-free bureaucracy, and a forward-thinking environmental policy that has made the country one of the world’s greenest places to do business.
Kiren Kumar, SF ’12, Director of InfoComms & Media at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), says that Singapore is determined not to become a victim of its success. Over the last 50 years of Singapore’s independence, he says, it has attracted investment and jobs by being cheaper, better, faster. “We were a perfect host for many companies’ manufacturing headquarters. But we’ve also been aware of the fact that we can’t maintain this particular value proposition indefinitely.”
One of Kumar’s jobs is to change how Singaporeans look at Singapore. “We’re proud of what we’ve achieved,” he explains, “but there’s a risk in becoming too comfortable in the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves—especially when the pace of change in our region is accelerating so rapidly.”
Of all the continents on Earth, Africa is particularly blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and resources. Often, it is heralded as the cradle of civilization. There is no dearth of human talent in any sector of this, the world’s second largest and second most populous continent. But for all its vast potential, Africa seems to be beset by the greatest number of challenges, one of which is the war on drugs.
Kofi Annan, SF ’72, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, questions whether Africa should be waging a war on drugs—or a war on the war on drugs. At least as that war has been fought for the last generation. After years of witnessing the escalating drug crisis, Annan, a native of Ghana, is convinced it should be the latter. “The ‘war on drugs’ strategy, which focuses heavily on the suppression of drug shipments, has not enabled West Africa—or any other region of the world—to meet and overcome the drug threat,” he said recently in an official statement.
Pointing to a United Nations report that estimated cocaine trade through West Africa at $1.25 billion a year, Annan notes that the sum is higher than the combined government budgets of several countries in the region. The situation, he says, threatens to corrode institutions and the culture itself, undermining economic progress and democratic practice in a region that has only recently emerged from decades of violent conflict and instability. “The region’s political and security institutions are struggling to respond to these threats,” he points out, “and are not always well equipped to mount adequate preventive measures.”
The inability to adapt to a rapidly changing competitive landscape has doomed many seemingly unstoppable business giants, observes Eric Jones, SF ’05, executive assistant to the Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations Vice Admiral Charles Michel.
“Sustaining the effectiveness and agility of a large enterprise is a continuous challenge in any realm,” Jones says, “but a large government organization like the U.S. Coast Guard faces additional hurdles.” While most mariners hope they never need the help of the Coast Guard, he notes, “We must be prepared to perform to our full capabilities at any time of day and every day of the year in unpredictable, and often perilous, conditions.” And that’s before taking into account the continual external forces at play, like terrorism, transnational organized crime networks, climate change, the fossil fuel renaissance, and the need for greater maritime governance because of an expansion in global trade.
Lynn Dovey, SF ’02, Associate Deputy Chief Executive at the Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand, is forging a new path in the delivery and funding of social services, and governments around the world are following suit. Dovey’s goal is to create an investment strategy for social services that will ensure that every dollar spent delivers maximum value to constituents.
New Zealand’s social development activities, like those in most countries, are geared toward the care and protection of vulnerable children and young people, employment, income support, social security services, student loans, and social housing assessments.
“We use a significant portion of our discretionary budget to contract services from not-for-profit and for-profit providers,” she says, “and like social services agencies around the world, we haven’t always known how to measure the outcomes for individuals and families. To put it another way, we don’t always understand the return on our investment.”
Autonomy is so 20th century—at least in terms of governing nations. A half century ago, governments were relatively independent entities. They could make fairly autonomous decisions about their nations’ economic futures. MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer, a noted economist, sees a new world order today in which individual governments no longer enjoy the same kind of economic independence they once had.
A world economy, Scharmer explains, is one in which capital accumulation proceeds throughout the world, while a global economy has the capacity to function as a single unit “in real time on a planetary order.” A world economy has existed for five centuries, he points out, but a global economy has been in place for only the last two decades, driven by new infrastructures built on advances in information and communication technologies.
It’s common to criticize many of the world’s mega-organizations for being resistant to change, but reinventing large organizations—across borders, across cultures, across governments—can be a daunting feat. Nevertheless, the World Bank Group, with 188 member countries, is tackling an unprecedented reinvention in an effort to boost the organization’s impact.
As the Middle East North Africa regional manager for the Trade & Industry Competitiveness Program of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, Hazem ElWassimy, SF ’09, is on the front lines of the historic transformation at the World Bank Group (WBG). For the last two decades, he has been working for and with multilateral organizations and government entities to generate investments and spark innovations that help countries modernize and expand economic opportunities.
For a small land-locked country, Switzerland leads the world in a number of impressive metrics. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world, for example, and both Zürich and Geneva rank among the cities with the highest quality of life. It’s also one of the most generous nations on earth with a philanthropic tradition that reaches back generations. In fact, the country boasts one of the highest per capita densities of charitable foundations on the planet—roughly 12,500, by one recent estimate. For Swiss Vice General Consul and swissnex China Executive Director Pascal Marmier, SF ’08, that rich philanthropic tradition is something to be treasured—but also challenged.
Marmier offers his country’s early adoption of public-private partnerships, or PPPs, as a case in point. “In Switzerland, PPPs represented a significant advance over traditional individual and foundation-based philanthropy,” he says. “PPPs enabled individual funders, as well as science and innovation agencies and universities, to expand their impact using the established infrastructures of government entities. Private foundations achieved greater democratic legitimacy as a result of public involvement, which increased the breadth and influence of their undertakings.”