In Honor of the Boston Tragedy

I, like most, am deeply saddened by the Boston Marathon tragedy. While most of us look at tragedies in the negative way that they really are, the positives are that: 1) we strengthen our relationships and communities, 2) seek to assist families in need, 3) and begin dialogues about the direction of society. Today, I had the honor of talking to NBC NEWS 4 Anchor Melissa Carlson about how we really see a stronger sense of community and strengthened  relationships emerge as a result of tragedy.


An event like this deeply impacts us because we think about that 8 year-old boy & think of how it impacts his family, his school, his friends. That creates a sentiment that makes us behave more altruistically. As we have seen with funds being established to assist the Richard & Corcoran families This was a random event at a massive event that anyone could be in attendance. When we begin to feel like it could have been any of us or that we can’t comprehend senseless death/tragedy , we want to change the nature of society. We think it can happen any where to any one of us. That makes us all become vigilantes in a way. Tragedies help strengthen and form communities. Some resources for anyone wanting to help those impacted by this tragedy:

New England Patriots‘ The Kraft family announced it will match $100,000 in donations to support marathon tragedy victims. patriots.com/donate

New England Patriot‘s defensive captain Vince Wilfork has a Text to donate campaign: “Text VINCE to 50555 to donate $10 to the Vince Wilfork Foundation all proceeds usntil end of the month will benefit victims of Boston bombs.”

Can’t get to your office on Boylston Street? Workbar is offering office space, free access to Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, and warm cups of coffee.

The Tavern in Framingham will hold a fund-raiser on Wednesday, April 17 from 3 p.m. until closing.

Source and additional resources can be found at: http://www.boston.com/news/source/2013/04/boston_marathon.html

Sex & CSR

Many economists and thought leaders predict the economic convergence of emerging market nations, population growth and increased rates of natural resources consumption will impact capitalism and the global environment. Michael Porter captures some of this thinking in his concept of “shared-value” creation. Issues like deforestation, species extinction, poverty alleviation, population growth and the scarcity of natural resources will require collaboration within, and across, industry sectors to ensure that the interests of civil society are fully factored into solutions. In a world of scarcity, companies will have to be more inclusive and work with each other, governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society, especially women and youth.

Global Population Projections (University of Michigan, 2001)

If we examined creating shared value principles in the corporate sector to address poverty alleviation and population growth, how would we reframe these issues? Population growth is dependent on a very simple factor. Sex. Birth rates in resource rich countries are dependent on economics. Having adequate resources determines if and how many children you will have. In resource constrained and limited countries, some of the other indicators of poverty are: health, educational opportunities, and mortality rates that informs birth rates. The lack of resources does not prevent people from having children. Female disempowerment and displacement plays a role.

When economic convergence occurs for the emerging markets, we will also more likely see some of these indicators change. When women have legal protection against violence, property rights, and protection against discrimination in the workplace, they are more likely to enter into the labor market and have more power to determine whether and when they will have children. Men are more likely to agree to have fewer children when women are working outside the home and earning money. In addition to female participation in the labor force, other measures are also important, including empowerment and education of women and availability of clean water and healthcare.

Strengthening public-private partnerships: NPO as laboratory

By nature of our “non-financial performance” and “hustling” to raise funds, nonprofits are innovative. The areas that I think we possess strengths are in our human resources and strategic planning models.  In HR, we manage a variety of skills, intergenerational talent, personality types, and career goals. We attract talent that is driven by community impact and passion. The most rewarding aspect is the learning process that occurs as a result of the mix of talent that produces a more enhanced strategic planning process. Process re-engineering can occur at any point of our strategic planning process. It often feels as though we’re in a cyclical process of redesigning strategy to optimize social impact, constantly.

The strategic planning process that I have found to be effective is one that:

  1. Assesses the connection between individual personality types and organizational culture and how they affect implementation and execution. When managing the diversity of interests among our volunteers, employees, consultants and interns, it is important to be introspective about how the individual’s strengths and limitations contribute to the organization. In order for ideas and vision to be executed, an assessment of how each person compliments each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the current and future practice of the organization matters. In general, we have low turnover rates. We retain our employees by the leadership models we create.
  2. Includes diverse, intergenerational, and multidisciplinary talent in your planning process to enhance innovation. Having the correct balance of innovators and implementors within teams means that you have a variety of thought leadership. The best ideas emerge when you have convergent and divergent opinions. The strength of the organization rests on the ability to align its processes with its core practice. When we are serving women and youth, we make them a majority of our planning bodies and team. We create the structures that are aligned with their needs. It’s a bidirectional dialogue because it informs our practice, lives, and the change we aim to make in society.

Nonprofits are experts in creating social impact. We purposefully address gaps and weaknesses in society. We create and re-create programs to be responsive to those barriers and do our best to remove them. We all have countless success stories about the impact we have had on the people we serve. We develop methods to demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs. We redesign processes when they are inconsistent with its intended impact.

Strengthening public-private partnerships: Behavioral perspective

While much of my career I have been focused on disease behaviors (risk and protective factors) and healthcare consumption patterns, I have always been fascinated by human behavior and social well-being in general. In healthcare there are very specific pathways to healthcare consumption.  This is most evident in the HIV system of care.  HIV interfaces with other disease areas (mental health, cancer, heart, renal, etc.) across the spectrum of disease. In the US, the system of care, access to treatment, prevention and education are robust compared to other countries.  We have more real and perceived choices. However, that perception becomes more restrictive when we look at the rates of infection and transmission of disease (i.e., disproportionate rates for communities of color, concurrent diagnosis amongst vulnerable populations, fragmented care, and health disparities among women and youth).  The idea of choice becomes what is available (i.e., local health clinic or center of excellence) and perceived convenience (i.e., access or proximity). If we perceive choice as what is available, selection will be based on what the confines of that perception are. This is a simple observation  in a very complicated area, I know. In reality, human needs are complicated and decision-making factors are equally complex.

What are the factors that lead to decision-making about brand preference? Based on what I have learned in practice about consumption, it includes: selection choice; previous consumption patterns; brand perception/reputation and experience.  The factors that are most salient are experience and perception/reputation. When these two components are positive, brand loyalty is established. Patients will seek care and refer physicians that they have better experiences with, which builds the reputation of that healthcare setting and individual care provider. The same can be applied to a  dining experience, because it is service-based.  This basic framework has been applied to other areas of consumption to better understand how decisions are made.

Can this be a process that is similar to what is occurring for CSR? Is the idea robust, yet fragmented? Is the marketing of CSR fully inclusive of some of the finer details? Is it comprehensive cross-functional planning (multiple departments, multiple disciplines, metatheoretical)?

Strengthening public-private partnerships: NPO perspective

I have been in the healthcare nonprofit sector for the last 14 years of my career and have noticed significant trends as a result of the current economic climate.  First and understandably, the economic impact on foundation’s portfolios resulting in a shift in nonprofit annual financial planning. Secondly, federal funding resources have also been re-prioritized resulting in more restrictive financial planning and in some cases mergers/closures for some nonprofits.  Does this mean that  nonprofits focused on healthcare were poor planners? Were we not able to trend and project quick enough? The answer is yes and no. Nonprofit’s main concern is service-based social impact. Our aims are to promote health and well-being, individually and socially. We seek to achieve this above all else. Since this is our focus, projecting revenue is of critical importance. On the other hand, federal funds are difficult to plan for. For example, federal funding commitments are awarded for multiple years and agency’s re-compete for that consistent source of revenue. If federal funding  distributions  are re-prioritized and  the commitment is significant, nonprofits find themselves at a planning disadvantage.

Many smaller to mid-size nonprofits simply don’t have the capacity (whether it be human, financial, operational, or all of these elements) to adequately plan. Nor does executive leadership have time to innovate a quick enough strategy to adjust for that significant revenue loss.  When I consider the capacity and financial needs of nonprofits, I think about the strengths the corporate sector possess. Which leads me to think about the corporate sector’s role and corporate social responsibility. In what ways can the corporate  sector fulfill some of its aims to create corporate social responsibility? How can we build better public-private partnerships that serves to measure social impact, optimize revenue sources, address social disparities, and promote responsive branding?