We’ve Moved!

August 1st, 2015 by Admin

Christopher and Gregg are no longer blogging here.

For Christopher’s latest writings, see his columns on social innovation for the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer entitled “Doing Better at Doing Good.” Follow him on Twitter: @cgergen

For Gregg’s latest writings, see his Triple Crown Leadership blog posts. Follow him on Twitter: @gvanourek

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Impact Key to Parterships

January 3rd, 2010 by Admin

Originally posted in The Washington Times on December 30, 2009.

By Christopher Gergen and Aaaron K. Chatterji

The recent political wranglings in Washington over health care, financial regulation and the stimulus package often have devolved into simplified arguments over whether bigger government can improve health, economic and social outcomes. The more practical debate might be how to make government smarter and more effective in its cooperation with corporations, nonprofits and foundations to deliver social impact.

The public-private partnership model has taken hold across several areas of the government, including the U.S. Department of Education, creating tremendous potential for progress but also presenting new management challenges.

Take President Obama’s new initiatives to spur innovation in education, beginning with a $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. The fund will distribute grants to start or expand research-based innovative programs to help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students. Individual schools or school districts can apply, but it’s expected that a chunk of the investment will go to entrepreneurial organizations that are partnering with school systems to provide high-quality intervention. There also is the condition that 20 percent of the amount is matched by a private-sector partner – increasing their commitment to education reform…(read more)

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Nonprofits Plan for the Worse

December 20th, 2009 by Admin

Originally posted in The Washington Times on December 16, 2009.

By Christopher Gergen and Aaaron K. Chatterji

Even as the economy shows glimmers of recovery, a recent survey by the nonprofit consulting firm Bridgespan reminds us that the social sector has been particularly hard hit by this recession. The survey results, while sobering, also provide important management lessons for social, business and government leaders.

First, the numbers. Among the 100 responding organizations, 93 percent said they were experiencing the effects of the downturn – up from 75 percent last year. A reduction in charitable giving, foundation grants and government cuts also has taken its toll, with 80 percent of nonprofits saying they are working with less funding this year and 48 percent reporting that they are eating into their cash reserves to make up the deficit, up from 19 percent…(read more).

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Rating Social Investments

November 24th, 2009 by Admin

By Christopher Gergen and Aaron K. Chatterji.

Originally posted in The Washington Times on November 18, 2009.

Industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions sometimes can spell trouble for socially minded consumers and investors. As firms become larger and competitors become scarce, incentives can weaken to offer quality products at competitive prices and maintain socially responsible business practices. However, the recent consolidation of one industry, socially responsible investing, could deliver several benefits to those who care about social impact…(read more).

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Urban Farming a Fertile Idea

November 4th, 2009 by Admin

Originally posted by The Washington Times on Wednesday, November 4, 2009.

By Christopher Gergen and Aaaron K. Chatterji


Across our city landscapes, an age-old idea is redefining community development. From Detroit to Durham, N.C., the concept of “urban farming” is becoming common among urban planners and social entrepreneurs. The goal of urban farming initiatives is to take vacant plots of land in underused parts of our cities and convert them into productive farms. (Read More…)

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Finding the Proper Scale

October 21st, 2009 by Admin


The U.S. Department of Education recently unveiled a $650 million fund to support innovation in America’s schools by supporting local programs with a track record of raising student achievement — as well as investing in programs that show promise.

The logic is simple…(read more)

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Katrina, Rita Victims Housed

October 7th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, October 7, 2009.

There are two reactions when one sees something that is not quite right in the world: make a mental note and keep on moving or stop and try to fix it. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit four years ago, Liz McCartney and her boyfriend, Zack Rosenberg, drove from the District to New Orleans to see how they could help.

At the time, she was running an area after-school program and he was a criminal defense attorney. They ended up in St. Bernard, a parish just outside of New Orleans. As Mr. Rosenberg says, “We were grossly unprepared for what we saw.”

“We just wanted to pitch in and help out,” Ms. McCartney recalls. “I naively thought that six months later, you’d see all kinds of progress. [But it] looked like the storm had just rolled through.”…(see more).

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Dropout crisis in focus

September 30th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, September 23, 2009

Nationwide, it is estimated that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. This is nearly 1-in-3 – or an average of 7,000 students per day. These numbers are even more devastating among minorities; almost 50 percent of black and Latino students don’t graduate on time.

The costs of this epidemic are tremendous. According to the Cities in Crisis 2009 report, in the 50 largest U.S. cities, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000 – significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Nationally, high school dropouts are the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last 30 years.

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the class of 2006-07 will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Furthermore, dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, rely on public programs and do without health insurance than those who stay in school.

Clearly this is not just an education problem – this is a community problem. So what are we doing about it?

One initiative worth paying attention to is the dropout campaign being waged by America’s Promise Alliance. Founded in 1997 by Gen. Colin L. Powell and currently chaired by his wife, Alma Powell, the organization is a cross-sector partnership of 300 companies and nonprofit, faith-based and advocacy organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

They have turned their attention to the nation’s dropout crisis, and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have hosted more than 35 dropout summits in cities across the country. The summits are designed to bring together city leaders, citizens and student advocates to develop workable solutions and action plans. This has led to important community building within these cities, and these communities are starting to share their activities with one another as a spirit of cross-collaboration helps drive this work forward.

Leaders from 12 of the participating cities gathered in the District last week to talk concretely about how they can deepen their work in their respective communities. Prior to the meeting, each city team published a short description of its on-the-ground initiatives.

In New Orleans, for example, 30 community organizations have come together to create the New Orleans Kids Partnership. With the intent of letting no child slip through the cracks, the organization provides wraparound support for students up to age 19 in designated schools, with a focus on () (read more)

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Healthy Habits Promote Happiness

September 10th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, Wed., September 9, 2009

As the health care debate rages, from presidential proclamations to angry shouting matches at town-hall forums, some provocative developments overseas warrant our attention.

No, we’re not talking about whether some countries have mastered health information technology or resolved the infamous public-versus-private debate. Rather, we’re talking about Britain’s new “happiness czar,” Bhutan’s goal of pursuing “gross national happiness” (GNH) and an Australian elementary school’s new multimillion-dollar well-being center.

As common sense indicates, there’s a link between health and happiness — one that flows both ways — and it’s too important to ignore as we tackle health care reform.

First, the unhealthy facts:

Compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has below-average life expectancy (78.1 versus 79.0 years) and above-average infant-mortality rates (6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, versus 4.9). About 44 million Americans younger than 65 were uninsured last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And the costs? U.S. health spending is expected to reach $2.5 trillion this year – more than the entire gross domestic product of all but five other nations, and more than eight times what we spent in 1980. That tab is expected to reach an astounding $4.4 trillion by 2018, according to the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care.

The reasons are complex, but one big factor is lifestyle, from smoking and inactivity to obesity. The United States has the highest obesity rate of all OECD countries, with 74 million obese Americans age 20 or older. Among children ages 2 to 19, 12 million are obese. Childhood obesity is the top health concern among U.S. parents, topping smoking and drug abuse.

According to a 2007 survey, 32 percent of females and 18 percent of males in high school had not engaged in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the previous week. More than 47 million Americans smoke, with about a fifth of high schoolers reporting current tobacco use.

In a fascinating multiyear study of health and longevity, explorer and educator Dan Buettner chronicled the secrets of “blue zones,” places on the planet where people — including Sardinian sheepherders and Japanese grandmothers — live longer and healthier lives. In a National Public Radio report on his work, Mr. Buettner offered four tips for increasing life expectancy… (continue reading)

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Quantity vs. quality in work, life

August 15th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, August 12, 2009

As the summer wanes and Labor Day looms, we would do well to take stock of our working lives. After all, on average, the working American spends 93,000 hours at work over a lifetime. And with the national unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, those who have work are wise not only to thank their lucky stars, but also to make the most of it. Those on the sidelines are smart to be proactive and creative in setting themselves up for gainful employment.

What’s mostly lost in the unemployment statistics is that many Americans are in the midst of a reframing process when it comes to their outlook on work. Americans take the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world. On average, we receive 14 days of vacation per year. And we don’t even take the time we have. According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans leave 439 million vacation days unused every year (an aggregate total of 1.2 million years), and more than a third of American workers take fewer than seven vacation days a year.

According to writer Steve Rushin, “In England [where workers get 24 vacation days], leisure and pleasure rhyme. In the United States, leisure rhymes with seizure.” He cites studies that correlate taking vacations with a reduced risk of death from heart disease for men and less depression for women. Although work hours declined steadily in the industrialized world between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, men today report working 100 more hours a year than in 1976, and for women it’s 200-plus more hours. Yet a recent Salary.com survey revealed that workers admit wasting about a fifth of their time on an average day gossiping or surfing the Web.

Of course, what matters most isn’t the quantity of work but the quality of work and our productivity. One recent trend is the “results-only work environment,” which gets people out of “workaholic” mode by letting them leave the office when their work is done.

That quality of work hinges on some interesting things these days. In the past, one could rightly expect compensation, prestige and promotion to lead job seekers’ priorities. Not so today. According to a 2007 survey by consultancy BlessingWhite, 4 in 10 respondents indicated work that challenges or stimulates them is the most important factor in choosing a job, and 2 in 10 indicated they are primarily looking for work that satisfies their personal values, while only 7 percent indicated that a move “up the ladder” was their top priority. Currently, the traditional notion of a “career path” is falling by the wayside for vast swaths of the citizenry.

Today’s shrewd organizations look to brand the employment experience they offer with meaning-filled pizzazz. For example, at CLIF Bar, employees are paid to work out during the workweek and are supported by full-time trainers on staff, not to mention sabbaticals and incentives for going “green” at home and in their commute. At Ernst & Young, employees are paid to volunteer – and get to use their specialized talents and skills in the process. (read more…)

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