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Social Impact at FSG: Do More Than Consult

I have always been excited about the principles we outlined in our 2011 book “Do More than Give.” So much so that I often wonder how these principles apply to actors beyond philanthropists, including governments, NGOs and lately, our very own FSG. Indeed, I think “Do More Than…” applies to any actor trying to be catalytic.

For example, if you’ve been following FSG in the last few years, you will have noticed that we’re increasingly organizing our thinking, writing, consulting and field building around four approach areas that we believe are critical to creating large-scale change: Catalytic Philanthropy, Shared Value, Collective Impact and Strategic Evaluation. As we work with partners around the world to explore and implement these approaches to change and to bring new insights to the field, I can’t help but notice that we’re following the principles of “Do More Than Give:”

  • Commit to your Cause: Our cause is to discover better ways to solve social problems and we have found our unique calling in deepening knowledge and practice in the four approach areas we believe are so critical in solving challenges in education, health, development and the environment.
  • Advocate for Change: We are not content with just implementing these approaches with 100 client organizations each year. Rather, we are constantly out in the field so that together with key partners we can actively change mindsets across all sectors so that the four approaches can take hold, leaning on a variety of advocacy tools.
  • Blend Profit with Purpose: We are organized as a nonprofit - or social enterprise if you will - meaning that our economics and our mission are inextricably linked. Every dollar we earn and spend is designed for purpose, whether it is helping a single social sector actor strengthen their strategy so they can better impact their constituencies, or inspiring the hundreds of nonprofits, for-profits and public sector agencies that engage with our ideas and knowledge tools in any given year.
  • Forge Nonprofit Peer Networks: If there is one thing that all four approaches have in common, it is the idea that you cannot have impact in isolation. There is always someone smarter and more experienced than you that should be part of the solution. So it is with FSG, too. We are actively forging networks and communities of practice to deepen knowledge and practice and enable actors to learn from each other.
  • Empower the People: In our case, the “People” are the social change actors in all sectors that we’re seeking to support. As such, we rely heavily on their input when we develop new field building papers, workshops, tool-kits, etc. We actively seek this input before we create new knowledge and actively seek critical feedback from consumers of our work so that we can improve. Indeed, we even go out of our way to get input from people that are critical of our thinking, because we know this will sharpen and strengthen our ideas.
  • Lead Adaptively: Having said above that we’ve committed to four approach areas, we are not in the business of rigidly applying these to every situation. Indeed, we appreciate the complexity of solving social problems and thus we bring an adaptive mindset to every client situation and knowledge development opportunity. If in three years we’re still talking about the four approaches above in the exact same way, we’ve done something wrong.
  • Learn in Order to Change: In doing all of the above, we know that we have a ton to learn. More than a ton. Humility is actually the only way to “Do More Than …”. So we cultivate learning agendas around all of our approach areas, which help us to improve knowledge and practice on an on-going basis. Moreover, we take our learnings and create so-called actionable knowledge that we share with the field at large.

As we increasingly “Do More Than Consult” we hope that any actor out there – even if not a philanthropist – is also inspired to “Do More Than …” and embrace the principles above for their own work. The possibilities are endless: “Do More Than Teach;” “Do More Than Govern;” “Do More Than Heal;” etc.

Valerie Bockstette

Former Managing Director, FSG