This post kicks off a blog that will explore the evolving relationship between the public and nonprofit sectors, with a particular focus on how institutions in each sector are working together—or struggling to do so—in order to fund and deliver human services. I will put my cards on the table at the outset and share three premises that will serve as the foundation for this blog:
The next decade will witness the United States groping towards a fundamental and unavoidable fiscal reckoning at the federal, state, and local levels of government. This shakeout will both spur and be driven by intense political conflict, and a successful resolution is by no means certain.
Those nonprofits that have over the years come to rely on government as their primary source of funding will find themselves strapped in for a painful and exhausting ride in the course of this reckoning, especially the human service nonprofits that effectively serve as the frontline tenders of the safety net for the most vulnerable members of our society.
To sustain and advance their missions in the years ahead, these nonprofits will need to rethink their basic operating models and make a series of difficult choices. The one bit of good news is that there are emerging examples and a rich tradition in the American voluntary sector that these organizations can draw upon as they navigate the sea change in government funding.
I will flesh out each of these premises in subsequent posts, but in the remainder of this first one I’d like to outline some aspirations for how this blog will take shape.
In recent years, as the diversity of Bridgespan’s team and breadth of experience have expanded and—more importantly—as we have continued to appreciate the power of new forms of media as well as the broad range of perspectives and needs of the social sector we serve, our approach to research and publishing has evolved. We are more open and indeed determined to share works in progress with clients and other leaders in the field in order to co-create knowledge that better serves our collective missions. In these exchanges, we want to listen and learn as well as share and guide. And we realize that individual voices can often be more engaging conversation partners than an entire firm.
This blog is one manifestation of our evolving approach. In writing and hosting it, I will endeavor to provide an engaging statement to question ratio. I see myself doing something of a Tom Sawyer job here – both provoking and inviting you all to participate such that we all end up whitewashing the fence together!
Also, while I am a partner at Bridgespan and this blog will be hosted on our site as a means to advance our organization’s mission, please don’t assume that I am sharing a consensus point of view on behalf of my colleagues. Indeed, if I play my cards right, I expect that I will end up provoking comments and contrary perspectives in guest posts from my partners in addition to those coming in from outside readers.
Thanks for your forbearance with these introductions. I hope you will be checking back in regularly as we get started. My plan is to be posting daily. In the meantime, allow me to leave you with a short clip that encapsulates the intended spirit of this enterprise.