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How Can Managers Best Create Sustainable Social Impact?

By Liz Delaney '00

BC’s Mary Cronin, Professor in the Carroll School of Management, and Tiziana Dearing, Professor of Macro Practice in the School of Social Work, have teamed up on a forthcoming publication, “Managing for Social Impact: Innovations in Responsible Enterprise.”  Delaney’s interview sheds light on how this book came about and what topics it will cover.

Q: Tell us briefly about the concept for “Managing for Social Impact.” What is the purpose of the book and who is the main audience?

A: Our goal for this book is to integrate and publish innovative strategies for sustainable, socially responsible enterprise, nonprofit and public sector management from leading thinkers and practitioners. These areas of work have changed enormously over the past few years with a widespread recognition that traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and nonprofit philanthropy are not enough to move the needle on deeply embedded, global social issues. Managing for Social Impact presents theoretical and practical perspectives on core social impact issues such as how global companies interact with their workforce and local communities, how nonprofits move from philanthropy to social capital and capability building, the role of social impact investing and public sector policy in catalyzing economic opportunity, and, importantly, how these efforts are being measured to determine their long-term social impact.  Taken together, the book’s chapters and authors provide an exciting interdisciplinary analysis of what works best to create sustainable social innovation. We hope Managing for Social Impact will have widespread appeal and become a valuable resource for a large audience of practitioners, policy makers and managers who work to create positive social change.

 Q:  Social Impact is an important topic for everyone, but is particularly important to examine from a management perspective.  How do you apply that lens through this publication?

A: That management perspective is an essential aspect of this book and is integrated in multiple ways. Clearly from the choice of title, we decided at the start of the process to focus on managing social impact.

The first section of the book focuses on the demand for sustainable social enterprise, including how managers of global brands and startup companies are rethinking corporate social responsibility from the outside in, opening up their discussions about social impact to community and employees, customers and local nonprofit stakeholders. The importance of balancing management (and financial) realities with diverse stakeholder priorities is a consistent thread throughout the book.  As social impact investment and social entrepreneurship mature, that question of balance becomes vital in these fields as well as in enterprise and the nonprofit sector.  Another critical question that we address is how to measure impact – especially how to get beyond short term metrics to understand the nature and the scope of deeper, systemic changes in a community or group of stakeholders who are impacted.  Measuring long-term impact is challenging.  Our introductory chapter presents an integrated management/social framework that we hope will expand current thinking on how to assess returns on social innovation.

Q:  The book touches on a broad array of social impact activities. How is it organized and how did you go about identifying contributors?

A:  The book touches on our interdisciplinary approach to the topic and our shared belief that addressing critical social impact issues requires an integrated, multidisciplinary strategy. In planning the book’s structure, we selected broad themes, such as Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility, Making a Business Case for Sustainability and Social Justice, Creating Social Impact Investment Ecosystems, Measuring Impact and Building More Livable Cities.  Then we brainstormed the leading organizations, managers, researchers and practitioners in each of these areas and identified possible chapter authors. We are extremely grateful to our authors who took time from their demanding positions to write such insightful chapters and case studies.  These contributions are what make Managing for Social Impact such a substantive book.

Q:  As you are compiling and editing the chapters, what has most surprised you and intrigued you?  What have you learned in the process?

A: One very positive and intriguing aspect of this process is the dedication and commitment of our authors to completing their chapters. We think that’s directly related to the shared sense we all have that this book is needed, and will be a valuable resource for so many managers and practitioners. Their work is consistently focused on critical social questions. We’ve learned something new from each author and chapter.  

Q:  What is your timeline for publication?

A: We sent the completed book manuscript to Springer, our publisher in July.  We are hoping that Managing for Social Impact will be available in print by the end of 2016. 

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