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Study Group on Tri-Sector Leadership--Spring, 2012

This study group will address the challenge of creating more tri-sector leadership through a series of discussions, informed by illustrative readings and conversations with tri-sector leaders and academics.

Moderator:  Nick Lovegrove, Senior Fellow at M-RCBG; Senior Director, McKinsey & Company

Schedule: 6 study group sessions to be conducted on selected Wednesdays (and one Thursday)
from 4.00 to 6.00 p.m., starting on February 8


The 2008 financial market collapse and subsequent prolonged economic crisis have exacerbated pre-existing tensions between business, government and civil society. This has all too easily deteriorated into a triangular blame game – with each accusing the other of causing the crisis, or of making it worse.

It is now evident that our most fundamental economic and social problems can only be resolved by a concerted effort of business, government and civil society. We have “tri-sector problems” and we require “tri-sector solutions”. We need alignment around a long term strategy for shared benefit, and an institutional architecture for shared prosperity. But this kind of tri-sector approach will only happen if we have tri-sector leadership – and that requires a fundamental shift in skills, mindsets and behaviors. We need more natural empathy between government and business; a common language of opportunity creation; a less adversarial approach to regulation; a shared commitment to innovation; more “collaborative governance”; more sustainable capitalism for the long term.

For this to happen, our leaders will need to be “tri-sector athletes” – a phrase first used by Professor Joseph Nye of the Kennedy School. They will need to be able and experienced in business, government and civil society. But tri-sector athletes will not just emerge – they will need to be developed, trained and nurtured. And they will need to learn from the experience of those select individuals who have previously built tri-sector leadership careers – often overcoming considerable hurdles to do so.

For the fact remains that most government leaders have never worked in business, and most business leaders have never worked in government. The siloed divisions between business, government and civil society remain as distinct as ever – if not more so. Previous research by the Kennedy School suggests that the proportion of government leaders with tangible business experience has actually declined over the last few decades.

This diagnosis suggests that effective governance of our market economy will only come when there are more (ideally many more) tri-sector leaders working together to solve mutual problems and capture shared opportunities. But how can we make that a robust and during feature of our governance system ?


February 8: Why does this matter – the crisis of capitalism?

Round-table discussion, introduced and moderated by Nick Lovegrove, addressing:
* What are the principal challenges facing our system of capitalism?
* How effectively are government, business and the social sector responding to these challenges?
* What changes in leadership experience and capability are needed?
* Is the notion of a “tri-sector athlete" attractive and plausible.

"Creating Shared Value" - Michael Porter, Mark Kramer (January 2011)
"Capitalism for the Long Term" - Dominic Barton (March 2011)
"Global Capitalism at Risk" - Joseph Bower, Herman Leonard, Lynn Paine
   (September 2011)
"How Great Companies Think Differently" - Rosabeth Moss Kanter (November

Slides from February 8 session

February 22: What are the benefits of having more tri-sector leaders? What impact might they have?
* What have been the most important skill transfers between the private, public and social sectors?
* What have been the most tangible and intangible benefits of tri-sector careers?
* How might our governance system benefit from more pervasive and systematic tri-sector leadership development.

Slides from February 22 session

March 8: How do you overcome the obstacles to building a tri-sector leadership career?
* What are the principal constraints?
* What have been the disappointments and frustrations?
* How have they been overcome by successful tri-sector leaders?

March 21: How can tri-sector leadership address the challenge of key sectors:
* Energy and the Environment
* Healthcare
* Financial services
* Telecoms and technology

April 4: How are other countries approaching the tri-sector leadership challenge?
* Are there other countries that are significantly more committed to tri-sector leadership?
* What are and have been the perceived benefits of their approach?
* How have they overcome some of the challenges that we have identified in the US?

April 11: How can policy and practice change to make tri-sector leadership easier and more effective?
* What changes in government policy would make the most beneficial difference?
* How do business and the social sector need to change their mindsets and behaviors?
* How can graduate professional schools change their approach to enable more tri-sector leadership?