Posts Tagged ‘Social Enterpreneurship’

Doing Well By Doing Good, Part 1 of an Occasional Series

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Governor Weld, Rep. Bradford and Yours Truly

Governor Weld, Rep. Bradford and Yours Truly

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece “Jobless Professionals Yearn to Do Good: Nonprofits See a Flood of Applications With Business and Legal Know-How” showcasing the stories of professionals contributing their time and expertise to non-profit organizations. Some of them lost their jobs through layoffs, while others are attempting mid-career changes. In my case, the genesis of my first business was the marriage of my traditional corporate career with my parallel track of service in the non-profit sector. This story was told in a chapter of More Than 85 Broads: Women Making Career Choices, Taking Risks and Defining Success – On Their Own Terms. (85 Broads is a network association of investment banking alumnae of Goldman Sachs. Goldman’s headquarters are at 85 Broad Street.) Because of its relevance to the decisions many people are making right now, I’d like to summarize it for you.  I am pleased with my choices and as I read the WSJ article, I am glad for having made them. It is much, much easier to build a new business or make a career change proactively when the market is strong than to have to react to circumstances beyond your control.

I began my career as a research associate at the Harvard Business School where I was responsible for writing the case studies used to teach the financial institutions course for MBA students. It was an impressive opportunity to learn about the insurance and banking industries. At the same time, I began what would be a life-long pattern of volunteering my free time to contribute my business skills to important social projects. While working full-time at HBS, I was selected as one of fifteen winners of the Better Government Competition of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy. At that time, Massachusetts was in a fiscal crisis with a substantial budget deficit and the penultimate of state bond ratings, a situation that is depressingly familiar to California residents today. Pioneer sought “armchair governors” who could develop ideas to deliver higher-quality government services at lower costs. Fifteen finalists were selected on the basis of their ideas and invited to develop complete business plans for implementation with access to government officials for research support. Governor William Weld promised to review each one to implement the plan wherever feasible. Together with Representative William Bradford, the ranking minority member of the State Legislature, I developed a business plan to provide homecare services to the elderly at no incremental cost to the taxpayer.

This was a significant contribution because as homecare services are discretionary, they were cut in the early stages of the Massachusetts budget crisis. This gave the frail elderly who needed these services to live independently the incentive to spend down to a level of impoverishment to qualify for Medicaid, an entitlement program. Medicaid would pay nursing home care for indigent seniors at much higher cost to the taxpayer and much lower quality of life for the seniors, who would presumably prefer not to be institutionalized. Imagine the opportunities that exist now for creative solutions to state government problems!