A Multisector Approach to Societal Impact
- The vast complexity of today’s challenges requires a multisectoral approach to solutions.
- Trisector innovation involves identifying resources from private, social, and public sectors and assembling them in ways that meet aligned interests.
- Business schools can teach today’s students about multisector models so they can become more impactful, well-rounded leaders tomorrow.
Jens Molbak: [0:12] When you think holistically about society in general, there's over 500 trillion USD of assets that have been built across the globe. They've been built by companies, they've been built by governments at all levels, and by non-profits. That's the balance sheet of the world.
[0:26] I like to think of them as almost like LEGO blocks. My background is Danish, my parents immigrated, and I used to play with LEGOs as a kid. You can imagine your private sector resources being a big box or bucket of LEGOs, call them all yellow color, let's say, in different shapes and sizes.
[0:41] Your social sector resources could be a bucket of green LEGOs in different shapes and sizes. Your public sector resources could be yet a third block, let's say red LEGOs.
[0:50] With trisector innovation, we encourage people to reach into all three of those different buckets, grab different shapes and sizes, and reassemble them in ways that can be powerful with aligned interests.
[1:00] That's what I did when I built CoinStar. We're also helping many other early-stage companies and, frankly, later-stage companies do the same things. Companies are often surprised at how powerful the resources might be that they may not have thought to access before.
One of the powers of trisector innovation is its ability to not only transform businesses and other organizations, but, at scale, we think it can harness resources to drive progress on the issues we care about in society.
Jemilah Mahmood: [1:15] I think most businesses now are taking sustainability quite seriously. They realize that they have to because of certain regulations around ESG and so on. The non-profit sector is a huge sector, it's hundreds of billions worth.
[1:36] It's really important for businesses to engage with this sector. They not only understand how communities and societies function, but they're also the people who will actually drive change, whether it's policy shifts, whether it is activism, human rights, that will impact business as well.
Business schools have a role in participating and supporting humanitarian and development action.
Molbak: [1:58] We think that one of the powers of trisector innovation is its ability to not only transform businesses and other organizations, like government agencies and non-profits, but, at scale, we think it can harness resources to drive progress on the issues we care about in society.
[2:14] If you think about the UN SDGs, there are 17 global goals, things like hunger, housing, food, and there are amazing resources that we have across the sectors. Yet, we haven't leveraged everything that we can pull together to do this.
[2:27] If business schools can teach trisector innovation and encourage the adoption of trisector models, we think we can make incredible progress in society and, importantly, think that business schools can train the leaders to know how to do these things in their own organizations.
Mahmood: [2:42] I think business schools have a role in participating and supporting humanitarian and development action. We know that when there is a crisis, it will impact businesses, and businesses will also be impacted by crisis. It's not about keeping your eyes shut and saying, "This is not going to happen to me." It will.
[3:08] We've seen it with the pandemic where not just people are impacted, but also the economy, businesses, social cohesion, everything. It was the great equalizer. Everybody was affected, whether you come from a rich country or a poor country. The issue at hand, though, is that there's a very different culture in both the business and the humanitarian development sectors.
[3:34] It doesn't mean that they can't collaborate. What needs to happen is for all of these different entities to align to a common goal. That is about ensuring that people have a right to live with dignity and to have access to health and other human rights that we all are fortunate enough and privileged enough to be able to have.
What we're advocating for with trisector business models is models that could have both very formal relationships like that, but we often find they can be very informal.
Molbak: [4:00] There are really interesting and powerful movements that we've used to help drive impact. We've had things like CSR, NESD, and public-private partnerships.
[4:11] What we're advocating for with trisector business models is models that could have both very formal relationships like that, but we often find they can be very informal.
[4:21] People can simply borrow or use resources in different sectors to pull them all together. They often don't require a contractual relationship or a consensus around the table. I'll often say that governments might have a really interesting database that's open access. Non-profits might have a particularly trusted relationship with a particular community.
[4:41] A business might have a distribution system or a network of trucks. Often, pulling those resources together does not require formal relationships, which we found to be quite powerful.
It's very, very important to recognize that the problems we have at hand, the complexity of issues, the colliding threats that happen, all require a multisectorial approach.
Mahmood: [4:51] The humanitarian sector can teach the business sector a lot about risk management, about thinking on their feet, about listening better to communities. The business sector has a lot to offer the humanitarian and non-profit sectors on systems, on innovation, on strategic thinking.
[5:12] There's a lot of things that both parties can actually benefit, and, therefore, it's important. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it's very, very important to recognize that the problems we have at hand, the complexity of issues, the colliding threats that happen, all require a multisectorial approach.