The FSG Experience, the Second Decade

While we write and speak about “better ways to solve social problems,” we rarely write about ourselves. Stack it up to our love of ideas or a dash of humility – we’re more likely to share the newest idea related to school turnaround than what goes on behind the scenes at FSG. Yet, one of the questions I’m asked quite often by recruits, clients, and friends is: “what’s it like working at FSG?”

I’ve been away on a two-month sabbatical and came back just in time for our all-staff retreat celebrating our 10 year anniversary. The retreat, the time away, and the addition of 23 new FSG colleagues in 2010 provide a fresh perspective on FSG in its second decade of work. So, what will it be like working at FSG in the years ahead?

  • Creative: It’s Day Two at our retreat and already we’ve seen a video presentation about Catalytic Philanthropy starring two of our consultants as animated avatars. An hour later, 75 of us are worked up about a new board game that our Geneva office has invented on Creating Shared Value. The board game format fires up our competitive juices and, in a fun way, reveals the distinctions between this idea and traditional Corporate Social Responsibility activities.Similar creativity is penetrating our daily work. We’re adding videos into our client presentations. Some offices will receive a make-over to increase team-based collaboration. And we’re rethinking the way we disseminate our ideas – beyond white papers – to inspire action.
  • Well-Rounded: Ten years ago, it was difficult to recruit people who had both strong consulting skills and frontline experience with the social issues we encounter. We are a much stronger firm today with the addition of colleagues who bring skills and experiences on a broad range of issues relevant to our work. Meet Sebastien Mazzuri, a former medical doctor and McKinsey consultant, who exemplifies the multiple life experiences of an FSG consultant.Like in 2010, we expect to grow substantially this year. The fresh faces will re-make our firm with multiple perspectives, languages, and approaches to problem-solving.
  • Courageous: These new recruits are not constrained by old ways of looking at problems. They are optimistic and quickly see the logic in moving away from “isolated impact” to more Collective Impact approaches, for example. Yet, the field may not always agree with these new approaches as they conflict with long-held paradigms about social change. We believe that the stakes are too high to let discomfort preserve the status quo. While Authentic Engagement has always been a treasured firm value, we are more comfortable speaking truth to power for the sake of social change.
  • Global: Increasingly, our work, clients, ideas, and staff are more international. Last year, we were hired by the Banque de Luxembourg to help foster more formal philanthropy in Luxembourg. Our growing global development work, particularly in the area of agricultural productivity in developing countries, builds upon our engagements with Nestlé, Syngenta, and Firmenich. In the next month, we will have teams conducting research in Brazil, Tanzania, India, and Mexico for two pharmaceutical clients.Perhaps most intriguing on the global front is our increased activity in India. We just completed a Shared Value project with the Godrej Group, a well-established company with 25,000 employees. We are partnering with the Indian School of Business on a ranking of top philanthropic givers in India. We still have much to explore but the learnings in India are already influencing how we think about scaling social innovations, the role of new philanthropists, and environmental sustainability in emerging markets.

As much as we hope to make change, our firm has been profoundly changed by our clients, partners, new staff members, and the new approaches to problem-solving we learn about every day. We look forward to sharing and revitalizing the FSG experience with you during this next decade.

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