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Why Every Nonprofit Needs to Incorporate Business Structures NOW with Joseph Imbriano
Joseph Imbriano is the founder and CEO of OmniKai, a transformational coaching agency that helps leaders around the
world overcome crises, build sustainable organizations that shape a better tomorrow..
OmniKai helps social impact companies, non profit organization, small businesses and startups, simplify, systemize, hire the right teams, and communicate their vision so that they can turn their vision into real sustainable impact.
Joseph has been helping leaders in crisis since 2003, working all over the work, in China, Africa, Australia, Latin America, and here in the USA.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: It’s another great Tuesday. Our guest today is Joseph Imbriano.
Joseph Imbriano: How are you doing today, Hugh?
Hugh: Where are you located today?
Joseph: I’m in Denver. I just moved to Denver after several years of living and working abroad.
Hugh: Denver, Colorado. I am in the Appalachian range in Virginia. We have the smooth old mountains, and you have the young mountains. I used to live in Colorado Springs, so I know a bit about Colorado.
Joseph, we have some important stuff to talk about today. Tell our listeners. Some are watching live, but some listen afterward. Tell them about who you are and how you’ve come to do what you’re doing now and why.
Joseph: I help organizations through a crisis. I have been doing it for 16 years, since 2004. How I started that wasn’t planned. I fell into the opportunity, realized it was a strength I had, realized it was something organizations needed, and I ran with that. I have worked at the organizational level. I have worked in the government level, serving in the Department of Homeland Security doing critical infrastructure. I have also served doing disaster responses around the country as well as working with nonprofit organizations around the world.
The beauty of crisis is recognizing it’s an inflection point where we can figure out what is wrong, how we are unaligned with our purpose, what we need to do better, and the beauty is that the time is of the essence. We make decisions and commit to things faster in crisis than in static times, in times of peace. I am trying to take that here to Denver and create impact at scale in organizations, in businesses with social impact, and at the government level so we have this three-pronged force trying to create better impact in our community and the world.
Hugh: Let’s go back to defining what is crisis. Give me a particular or sample situation that would define crisis. Out of all the nonprofits I have worked with in 32 years, many of them think they are in crisis because they don’t know how to cover payroll next week.
Joseph: There are people who confuse crisis with fires, these small-term fires. Those are crises, but the crises I concern myself with are the mid- to long-term crises. How is an organization moving toward its purpose? Crisis to me is a lack of orientation. Large enough that the efforts of the organization are not helping achieve its purpose, not helping do the things that the donors have entrusted you with the money to do, and not helping solve the problem on the ground. The opposite of crisis is the strategic alignment between your purpose, what your donors are funding you for, and the problem in the community you are trying to improve.
Hugh: You are the first guest in six years who has bene upfront about this crisis thing. We have had a lot of really good experts. I think there is crisis that we know about, and there is crisis that we are not aware of, and there is crisis we are in denial about. Would you want to comment on that? Am I wrong?
Joseph: You’re exactly right. Oftentimes, as we move forward in an organization, the leadership focuses on what they know, or what they think they know. They haven’t prepared the organization for what they don’t know, and for all those uncertainties that happen with every decision the organization makes. That’s why it’s important to build an organization with structures that can make the organization dynamic to solving what we know, what we don’t know, what is about to happen, and all the outcomes of the decisions we make. I totally agree with that.
Hugh: Everyone working on social impact, whether it’s a nonprofit or a for-profit. We learned through one of our interviewees that the alternative for nonprofit is for-purpose. They all have their origin stories that drives them every day to turn that vision into a reality. Talk a little bit about your vision. What does this organization look like here? We are all growing our organizations to their next place of fulfillment. How do you see your vision and mission, and how do you see them taking place? Give us the name of your organization. What is the origin of that? That is a lot of questions. See if you can address those.
Joseph: It is. I’ll go one after one. Let me know if you have another one. I love questions, so don’t worry about it. OmniKai has two meanings. One is the professional meaning, and one is the personal meaning. Both coincide in one name. the professional name, I took it from two different languages. “Omni” means “always” in Latin, and “kai,” part of “kai-zen,” is the art of continually improving. It is vital in every organization: to learn to get past challenges and to incorporate that into future opportunities, and those challenges that come along organically.
Personally, Omni still means ever, but Kai is the beginning of the name of Kailash, which is a mountain that is one of the holiest mountains in three big religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It’s in western Tibet. I took a nine-month pilgrimage to that mountain. That pilgrimage transformed my life. It’s also reminding me to remember my roots, to remember what is important to me, and using that as the baseline for everything that I do.
Hugh: Ultimately, your vision for OmniKai. Give us what it’s about and how you manifest that.
Joseph: It’s about impact at scale. For the last several years, I have been helping individuals actualize themselves, figure out their purpose. I help businesses and organizations do the same. What I am trying to do now is take that art to the macro level, think and help organizations prepare decades ahead so that the impact we have isn’t just short-term, but mid-term and long-term so that we’re not only resolving crises that are happening now that need to be resolved now, but also preventing crises that happen later. My company is purpose-driven. Once the purpose is defined, the business structures fall down. They cascade very nicely because we have that North Star. Because we have that North Star, we know what we want and we don’t want in the organization. That is the goal: to create purpose-driven organizations that have business structures in a way they can create impact over time in a way that impacts everyone across generations. I am really thinking not only in tomorrow, but in generations.
Hugh: We have people who are in purposeful organizations, who have a good heart and a vision for impacting people’s lives. Many times, people are goodwill, but short on some of the skills, and they have a team around them who are short of the skills on motivating or implementing change or transformation on the team to accomplish what they want. What are some of the business skills they need and maybe haven’t thought about or considered that they should have from the start?
Joseph: First, not all visions are purposes. Visions can sometimes be wide and an umbrella. If we are trying to build something, it needs to be something that is achievable over time. First, turn your vision into a purpose that everyone can rally underneath.
Second, make in your head, because I am assuming you are talking about just at the beginning of the organization. Or are we talking about once it’s built?
Hugh: You can choose either one. What I was thinking was you were intervening after a group has already started. I wanted to go back and think about if somebody hadn’t started yet, what are some of the things they should think about? Maybe they didn’t think about it, and they need to think about it now. It might be a reboot or a restart. Either way, it’s starting a new chapter or starting out from scratch. We really have to think about what’s missing. Start with either.
Joseph: If we had to start it all from the beginning, the three pillars are purpose—something that is achievable and is different from mission—organizational structures that can get you there, and then what does the team look like? Many organizations start out where the owner or founder is part of the business, but we need that person to be the leader who can see ahead. How can you build a team that can turn the vision into reality, the purpose into reality from the start? That requires looking mid- to long-term. It also requires a sense of humility and understanding in recognizing there are things you can’t do on your own. It will take time and effort and patience on the visionary’s part to go through those what might seem to be tedious steps to setting up the organization for success.
Hugh: If you don’t do those “tedious steps,” you are really sealing your fate in failure. We are social entrepreneurs at heart. We have the entrepreneurial spirit, which is the shiny object syndrome. We want to go where we think we ought to go rather than having a system to follow. Let’s go back to the sound bite you gave us. Purpose is different from mission. If you think about the writing of Napoleon Hill, all of the 500 leaders he interviewed had what he called definiteness of purpose. They were clear about their long view. Also, I’ve heard quoted, I’m not sure where, but we like to tell leaders are those who live in the future. Like the hockey players know where the puck is going to be, not where it is. Speak a little more about the differentiation you see between purpose and mission.
Joseph: Mission is where everything in terms of achieving a goal, in terms of turning a vision into reality, oftentimes when you ask someone their vision, they paint a picture as to what they want the world to look like, where they want the puck to be. A purpose is more of a motivational speech on how we are going to get there. Those two intersect at what I call a North Star. To get to this vision that is the new world, we need to strive for this purpose. To strive toward this purpose, we need people who are focusing daily on building what it takes to turn that purpose into that vision. You need three.
Yesterday, I was working with a client. She gave us her vision. It was beautiful, expansive, and transformative. When you turn it into how you are going to do it, it’s difficult for visionaries to be operators and people who can turn it into reality. If you are a visionary, that is your strength, but understand that turning it into reality requires different sets of skills. Surrounding yourself with operators, with people who love to get into the trenches and figure it out themselves, build, test daily, that makes a team, and it’s a team that turns that vision into reality, into an organization that has impact.
Hugh: It takes time to turn that ship around. Many good-intended people don’t really know how the operational side works. Visionary people are not necessarily tactical.
Russell has been having some Internet problems, so I suggested he hit a hammer. Maybe that’s the problem though. The questions are in the chat screen, Russell. Joseph and you are both in Denver today. Joseph is speaking our language. Russell has finally gotten some airtime. He has gotten through the Internet of mystery in here. Russell, you’re the one who brought Joseph to the show today. Thank you for that.
Russell Dennis: Greetings. It’s nice to see you both. It’s been an interesting morning with my signals popping in and out. I’ve had some Internet outages, I guess. Welcome, Joseph. I thought he was a great fit, and I love the stuff you’re doing. That’s why I invited him here.
Joseph: I appreciate your having me here, Russell. This is a great conversation. We need to have more.
Hugh: Our tentacles reach out even to Denver, Colorado. Russell, we have talked a little bit about the work of OmniKai. I have learned to say that, as well as Imbriano. I’m Southern. We have our own language and our own way of saying that. I may say it wrong to you, but it’s right to us.
Russell: His vocab is coming together.
Hugh: We have our own pronunciation and grammar rules. That’s how we fly. Joseph, what is the most important thing that you bring as an outside resource? We are focusing on the nonprofit sector. Any kind of nonprofit sector, whether they are working in an organization or membership association or community service organization, what is the most important thing you bring to the table to help them cut through these barriers we are talking about?
Joseph: What I’m really strong at is recognizing what is missing in the current picture, and then tying it to the strategic picture the organization has, and then going down to the tactical level that it’s important at and implementing it there. I have this conceptual way of looking at things. Everything becomes a 3D model, even an idea. I can look at it and see what you want and what is missing, and how we get there. How do I communicate that and make everyone understand how it fits into the bigger picture? The added benefit in organizations that are helping out communities that need to improve sooner rather than later is dealing with all of that in uncertainty. Something over 16 years of doing this has been really helpful for the organizations that require this transformation.
Hugh: 16 years. Whoa.
Hugh: That’s a lot. I’ve got double on you, but I’m triple your age. I won’t say the thing, Russell.
Russell: Okay, good.
Hugh: I’m going back to your comment on the tedious work of doing the planning and articulating what the purpose and mission are. We have people tell us, “I don’t have time to do a strategy. I’ve got too much work to do. I don’t need to think about these business principles. That works for business, but this is a nonprofit.” How do you respond to that?
Joseph: I don’t come from the business world. I have lived in the business world, I have lived in the government world, and I have lived in the organizational world. This isn’t about business versus nonprofit. This is about people, and this is about turning a team into something that creates the purpose, that vision you want to see the world to be in the future. It’s substituting the right question, which is “How do I make this work with all the tools available to me?” for the wrong question, which is easier to respond to, “Do I think business should be part of nonprofits?” No. That is a short-term way of thinking that has long-term consequences. How do you unravel that?
If I had a problem that requires changes that may be business in one sense, that may be Buddhist in another, that may be sports-related in another, but these three tools will help me turn this into a reality, then to me it makes total sense. It’s breaking away from this weird dichotomy, this weird tension between the business world and the nonprofit world, and saying, “Hey, there are things all of us have learned as we all go out and build things. What can I use to make my purpose happen? What can I use to have impact in my community? What can I use to turn my donors’ money into real change?”
Russell: That’s a common set of questions. When we talk about organizations and address nonprofits, we are simply talking about a tax structure. The real question is how can I deliver more value doing what I’m doing in a better way? How can I deliver it more efficiently, more cost-effectively? How can I provide better service? It’s a question of setting up systems when you look at it that way. Why is it that nonprofit leaders have so much difficulty crossing into what’s just generally systems thinking? What is the point of resistance there?
Joseph: It’s an interesting question that has different answers depending on who you speak to. Sometimes, I think it is the systemic thinking that business has no place in nonprofit. That is an argument that people are having that negatively impacts the organization’s success. I think it comes down often to how we come to a problem and what solution we have. Is it with the heart? Is it from the visionary? Or is it from the operations side, in terms of systems and structures? This isn’t a tension that only exists between the two worlds, but it exists within business and government, where a visionary says, “This is what I want,” and the operations person says, “This is how we get there,” and they look at each other going, “Wait, what?” because they are speaking different languages.
First, it’s being distracted by a tension that really doesn’t exist. Second, it’s this lack of a common language between visionaries and turning it into reality. Third, there are these competing goals between what the donors want, what the organization wants to achieve, and what the community needs. When you pull all that in, it becomes a difficult, tangled mess to solve, unless you can align the needs of what the donors, organization, and community needs, and just ask what it is that will get me there, and do it.
Russell: It’s all that relationship-building and understanding your audience. That is the key with nonprofits. You have so many customers as it were. They have different needs and values. But at some point, there is an alignment in that vision and moving toward that seems to be the trick a lot of people have. What are some of the things that leaders can consider that will help reduce some of that resistance or back off of some of that fear trying to balance all of those priorities?
Joseph: Clarify what it is you want to achieve. That does not mean the vision. Clarify what it is you want to achieve. Break it down into periods where you can achieve it. A six-month goal, a 12-month goal, or a two-year goal.
Create metrics that can show growth. That will be helpful not only to communicate to the community, but also the donors. What you are trying to do is measure how effective your organization is in creating the change that it’s there for.
From there, get rid of all those other things that don’t align to these goals. Those shiny objects we may have picked up, those pet projects that are taking our time and energy, those need to go.
Third, create the proper systems and processes so that everyone from the leader of the organization all the way down to the volunteer who may be right there in the thick of it all, on the streets, they understand their place within the purpose and the goals. Also, they understand how everything they do fits into the larger thing. By creating communication structures, everything can be passed off in a way where there is no miscommunication. Creating technological systems can ensure that things happen when you’re asleep, but movement is still happening. Automating things like ordering and supply chain management, delegating out your weaknesses to people who are stronger in them, that helps create a structure that can thrive without the leader constantly looking in and seeing if everything is okay. If everyone knows their place, there is trust and communication, and there is a singular purpose and goal, it’s a lot easier for an organization to be effective.
Finally, it’s getting the right team together. It’s turning the organizational mission or the donors’ mission into a unified goal, a team goal, so everyone has buy-in. Everyone is willing to get up every day and fight for it. Every challenge is looked at as a step forward toward that goal, not as something that is a fire that has to be tended to.
Those are a few steps right off the bat.
Russell: If people are more motivated to do things to eliminate pain and gain something, that’s what Tony Robbins says, it’s remarkable. What is important from the sound of it is many of the Key players are involved in the process of looking at that vision. Leaders set the table for that. What are some of the best ways to make sure you are connecting the dots in that sense, in getting the right people on the bus, so to speak?
Joseph: If they are already there, and it’s a question of miscommunication and misaligned priorities, it’s time to get everyone in the room and say, “This is what it looks like the interests of the donors are. This is what it looks like the organization is trying to do. This is what it looks like we are actually doing. There is a deviation between these three. How do we get together and create a unified goal?” This is often the best time to reach out and hire a mentor or a coach because that outside perspective can be helpful, particularly if there are these competing interests that are contradictory.
Second, it’s rallying everyone under that same vision, that same set of goals. What you want is buy-in from everyone. It’s a difficult conversation, but it’s one that is so necessary. Like you said, if you don’t have your table set, you won’t be effective. Your impact won’t be as great as you want it to be. You’re not going to be able to achieve your goals in that same sense.
Russell: Common goals are pretty critical. How you get there may differ a little bit. People have different talents and skillsets. If everybody agrees on the overarching purpose of what you are trying to accomplish, you’re there. If you don’t have that agreement, you have problems. If you have disagreements on how to get there, you can work around that. People have better ways. I think the best leaders are able to leverage that talent from people who have it and say, “Here is where we want to get to.” It’s deciding on what needs to be measured and how to measure that. What are some of the things that you do to help people determine what to measure, and create tools that are easy enough to use and understand so that they can be implemented into the work of the people on the ground delivering the services so that they can both function and still collect the data they need?
Joseph: Once the purpose is figured out, once the goals are agreed upon, it becomes much easier to figure out how to measure those goals. People are operating on different levels. People’s outlooks need to focus on different levels. There are some people who need to focus on today’s metrics. Some people need to focus on 10-15 years from now. It’s making sure that the goals we set and things are measured are consistent with the role that each person and each team plays. A leader often says, “This is our goal. Where are we going? This is our time frame.” What does that mean? Breaking it down across the levels of their organization so everyone knows what their goal is, and how it fits into the bigger goal into the bigger goal. After that, it’s a question of putting those processes into place and communicating that.
Russell: Everybody has key performance indicators, no matter what type of structure they are running. Talk about some of the key performance indicators that are necessary for any type of organization. What are some of the most common mistakes people make around measuring those?
Joseph: Usually, the return on investment is the biggest one. But the problem is if the investment isn’t defined, you have a lot of problems because how can you gauge a return on something if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve? That exists across all organizations. You are getting money from funders. How do you turn that money into maximizing your impact, using the talents you have? That’s what it is. By unpacking what the goal is, defining it, and establishing what those KPIs are, you can then take and look at the return on investment. Those break down into a lot more KPIs. At the leadership level, most people we are talking with here are at the executive level. Understanding the power of just that one thing, ROI, can cascade into making your business that much more effective.
Russell: That return on investment, ROI, return on impact, return on influence, return on inspiration. There is a lot of returns that are folded into that, and things that really ought to be measured. Sometimes it’s important to talk to the people we are serving when are building these services because that is how you find out what is really important to them. What is it they need in the context of what you’re delivering? Are you delivering something in a way that is not being done anywhere else? What is unique about it? What’s different? Where does it fill in the gaps with what else is available?
Joseph: I completely agree. One problem I find too often is that there is a priority of funding over the interest of the donor that funds you. An organization is looking for money, but they don’t really understand what the donor is asking in return. You find that what was clear before as you start taking more donors’ money without truly vetting and making sure they are aligned with your organization, it can be much harder to gauge impact because you are fighting between these interests. One of the key pieces of advice I give too many leaders of organizations is always make sure that you understand the interest, what the donor wants. Because if it doesn’t align with you, it’s not worth it in the mid- to long-term. It will backfire and create a lot of anxiety and organization confusion that you don’t need.
Russell: What would you say are probably the most common disconnects you’ve seen in terms of what donors want and what the organization is trying to do?
Joseph: Donors don’t get a sense of what is happening on the ground. The first disconnect is where the money is coming from, which is largely from places of wealth or organizations that have the money. Where is it going to help? Areas that are underprivileged and are lacking the same infrastructure that those have. The idea that it could be more heart-driven. I just want to help. Or politically-driven. But that doesn’t translate to the person who needs clean drinking water or malaria vaccines or other things. That is the first disconnect. That is why you as a leader need to be in the middle of that and make sure you can draw a straight line between the interests of the donor all the way down to the interest of the person you are helping. That is the first one.
The second disconnect is actually from the leader upward to the donor, which is this isn’t free money. Not only are there interests, but you as a leader have to turn that money into impact within the systems of your organization. Not depending on donors as a constant set of funding, but understanding that it’s hard to get, and accountability is key. The donor says, “I give you money,” and the leader says, “Thanks.” The donor is saying, “I give you money because of this.” Many leaders take the money and go, “Okay. Let’s just do it.” But they have no sense of accountability or metrics to measure that return and make it more cost-effective.
There is a two-way disconnect that can become very dangerous, not only because of that relationship, but for the people on the ground who need your help. They don’t get those services at lower cost, at higher impact, and in a way that helps them change faster.
Russell: That’s critical. This is a relationship. Everything is built around relationships. That involves constant communication. That involves a lot more than a phone call saying, “Thank you, “and then 6-12 months later, ‘Hey, we’re back. We could use more cash.” It involves more than that. Talk a little bit about the cycle of relations and some of those critical touchpoints that can help prevent these breakdowns.
Joseph: The first meeting is important. We just talked about that. As you say, you have to keep that relationship alive because it’s not only a transfer of money, but it’s also a transfer of mission. It’s their commitment to give you money. It’s your responsibility to show you how what they are doing is having an impact on the ground. That’s in the business sense. In the organization sense, having those frequent meetings to say, “We used X amount of money to do this project. We think it’s amazing. Here is a small video clip of someone on the first day of this project in Haiti distributing clean water. This is what you’re doing.” Connect the money to the mission in a visual way so the donor is bought in, too. Many people in the organizational space are leading every day with their hearts, so speak to their hearts using organizational structures and methods, saying this person was helped because of this.
Second, it’s all about relationships on the people level. Go out, have coffee, have weekly phone calls with your donors. How do I explain this? The interest is at the beginning. If you were the donor and I was the leader, and you just gave me money, there was this interest, and I accepted it. That changes over time. The situation on the ground changes over time. What you want is to combine forces and try to do a better solution to solving the problem on the ground, to having that impact. Recruiting that donor as a potential solution, as a person who can come up with better ideas is a no-brainer. It’s their money. They are invested. If you keep them invested, then they are bought in, not only financially, but in terms of constructively solving the problem.
Hugh: Joseph, you probably have seen nonprofits with a great vision that don’t attract funding. What are reasons that groups don’t attract funding they need?
Joseph: A lot of times, it comes to what’s in the grant. A few things. 1) They say what they want the vision to be, but they don’t say how the donor can follow them.
2) This is something that is crucial for every single person looking for money. Introduce your team. Show the donor who it is that is going out every day turning that into a reality.
3) Show that you understand the challenges. Say these are the counter forces that can prevent us if we don’t take these paths.
4) Be vulnerable. What I mean by that is say what your organization is strong at, and say what you are trying to do to bolster your organization.
5) Tie everything to the donor and the community. I have seen many proposals that say, “We want to do this, and we need money.” It has to be, “This is the impact we want to have, but with your money, this is the impact we will have in six months, 12 months, etc.” Always bring it back to the impact instead of saying we can’t do this without you. It’s not a telethon. You are trying to create a relationship for a problem that will take years to solve.
Russell: This makes the non-ask event very important, too. You are putting the donors and the people getting the services in the room together. In that vein, the way that you manage those relationships, it really works well because you have them recommending each other. There is no more noble and powerful testimony than that. It’s part of that nurturing process. It’s a journey with the donor. First, you have to actually attract people, bring them into your cause, and nurture them. From one time, that first donation is critical. You establish them, thank them, and show them that impact. Over time, you want to nurture them and grow them to establish a consistent power. As time progresses, looking at larger donations. It takes time. The key is to retain them. Some of the stats I’ve seen, that’s been about 55%. I haven’t looked at any recent ones. 55% is nearly half of them leaving. What are some things that organizations can do to make sure they are doing a better job of retaining donors?
Joseph: Do a better job of maximizing the money they gave you to creating that impact. If you can demonstrate month over month real, measurable growth toward your goals, then you are telling the donor that not only do you agree in mission, but your organization is the one best capable of carrying it out. That is something I see lacking in a lot of organizations. That is why I say the money isn’t free, and it’s not always a faucet that keeps coming on. You have to make the case. If you can turn your vision, and this is at the beginning, when you are starting an organization, into a vision of you and all the donors, and then you, the donors, and the team, and show demonstrable results, and be proud of that accountability, then how could the donors look somewhere else to carry out that mission? It’s focusing on those relationships.
Russell: What we’re talking about essentially is what I call social profit. It’s money, but it’s people, too. This is where storytelling and good financial recordkeeping need to blend and be melded in a way so that you are telling a story that explains where the money is spent and impact is made. That is where storytelling comes in. A lot needs to come together at that point. It’s keeping that open dialogue and reaching out to people. I want to hear from some more frequently than others. It’s figuring out the rhythm between the donors and the organization, but paying close attention to what people are getting out of it. You always have to ask your clients for what you can do better who are getting the services.
Hugh: Wise words indeed. Let’s talk about the C word. How can nonprofits improve collaboration with private sector and with local and federal governments? What do you have to say about that?
Joseph: I’ve seen it in all three areas, sitting at the government side, the business side, and the organizational side. It’s fascinating that something that should be obvious still is a point of contention, and there is not enough collaboration between the three. I think it comes down to these camps that are formed within the three. For whatever reason, they are preventing people from crossing over. Not recognizing they are three different camps that can contribute three different types of resources into solving a problem with three types of funding. Instead, they look at it like this is mine. I see this working at Critical Infrastructure Policy. I see that responding to Hurricane Harvey. I was in disaster response for 83 days.
To try to break that back, untangle that, it comes down to recognizing that we need all three. Recognizing that the languages that each speak is different. Understanding that demonstrating value is the best way to get the seat at the table. Demonstrating value is the best way of getting your voice heard at that table. Finding areas of collaboration in a way. By demonstrating storytelling, showing the problem on the ground, recognizing the people who are trying to solve it don’t have their ears to the ground, connecting that story in a way where everyone at the table recognizes you can’t say no to collaboration. I find that works well in a crisis. Hurricanes were happening. All sorts of industries were sending resources down. There was that. But in times of peace, in times of civility, there isn’t. But even in times of crisis, what is lacking is a central coordination. I think each side doesn’t want to give up decision-making control to the other. There is still this contentious 20th century way of looking at each of the three, not recognizing that we need each other to solve these problems. To do that means all three have to make certain changes because the crises we are trying to solve are greater than the turfs we are trying to protect.
Russell: We are moving into a new age. I think some of this frustration you have talked about is showing up in the form of new types of entities, new types of organizations, profit-making entities with social missions and other types of organizations. They are taking on all sorts of different forms. Do you think we have reached a time where we have to tear it down, come up with a new type of structure that integrates all of the best of the three sectors: government, private, and public? Is this the time to look at a new structure? Are we going to see more of these types of businesses going forward?
Joseph: Yesterday was the time to find new structures. I think that because leadership now grew up in the time of that contention and frustration, it’s hard to get them to start making the changes to the structure. At the same time, like you said, there is a lot of younger people in their 20s and 30s who didn’t grow up with that structure, don’t carry that frustration, so they are starting these new for-profit enterprises and other structures that are effective as well, and even more effective. The challenge, the opportunity I’ll say, is getting leaders to recognize the opportunities that come when everyone collaborates by removing that frustration, recognizing that as you say, we are in a new age. Many of those structures were built for a different age, for a Cold War-type age, for a post-World War II age. It’s time to make sure our structures align with our current reality and aren’t built to solve yesterday’s problems.
Hugh: I think the social benefit sector can take the lead in redefining how we relate to each other, how we work with each other, and how we change systems. Certainly, we are seeing a lot of signs in today’s world of those systems being broken, or they have evolved to where the framers of the Constitution haven’t really thought about. I think the work we do in the nonprofit sector is more important than it has ever been in history. We have to bone up on our skills and beef up our ability to do the work we said we’re going to do. We need to replicate Joseph so he can work all around the country.
We appreciate you sharing your wisdom, which is far beyond your calendar years.
*Sponsor message from EZCard*
Joseph, what thought would you like to leave with people?
Joseph: We are in a time that has a great opportunity. Nowhere that I remember has the entire world started focusing on impact and looking at things like purpose. We are in a moment where we may have wanted to be in 20 years before now. This is an opportunity. So let’s learn. Let’s clarify our purpose. Let’s learn and build from the tools of other organizational structures. Let’s find a way to turn our vision into goals, and our goals into reality by building those structures, by collaborating with the government and the private sector, by removing any ego, having the humility to ask when you need help. I believe that these next 20 years are a period of opportunity unlike any other. I am happy to be a part of it. I am happy to know there are people like you who are also working hard to change the world in a way that is positive.
Russell: Thank you for your brilliance. We really appreciate you coming by and sharing those insights. These are the types of fresh young minds that I am comfortable leaving the world to when I am not here. I am appreciative of that.