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Message from Managing Director David B. Smith

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 Category Education

​David B. Smith, Managing Director, Presidio Institute
Building a new way to solve the challenges of our time

A century of innovation has transformed almost every part of the human experience. It has also created a mind-bending set of complex challenges. Increasingly, there is a call from all levels of society to create solutions that are comprehensive and sustainable.

The Presidio Institute supports the emergence of new ways to address the major social challenges of our time. The issues we face are too large in scope for any one part of our society to effectively tackle alone. In fact, they're too great for anything other than integrated, cooperative effort across all parts of society. We believe that it is only with the active collaboration of corporate, non-profit, and government organizations that we can begin to make significant impact on the myriad of social issues before us.

Research on organizational trends confirms the need for such cross sector solutions.

According to 2012 and 2013 research conducted by Civic50, an initiative that identifies the fifty most community-minded companies in the nation, cross sector partnership is a growing phenomenon nationwide. Nearly 70 percent of companies involved in community engagement report collaboration with the non-profit sector using the skills of their workforce rather than just giving away their financial resources.  Eighty-six percent of these companies report that such engagements have a positive impact on their bottom line. And an overwhelming 96 percent say they evaluate their business program based on the impact of their community engagement programs, signifying the growing reality that supporting social change is a core value in the private sector.

We have seen a similar trend in the public sector.  The economic recovery of the past few years has spurred government to partner with the business and social sectors to solve community challenges more collaboratively.

We're heartened that the emergence of such values is growing. It is fertile ground from which to approach the bottom-line question we seek to answer: how do we shift sector-specific cultures and priorities towards working together for lasting change?

We believe the answer lies in developing a strong pipeline of cross sector leaders – people with the skills to lead the way to solutions serving both sector-specific priorities, in addition to the greater good for all.

To address this, the Presidio Institute has launched the Presidio Institute Fellows program in April 2014, an action-oriented fellowship that equips high-potential executive leaders from all sectors with the skills, networks, and confidence required to apply a cross sector approach to their core initiatives.

To broaden our reach, we partnered with other leading organizations that also explore how best to leverage collective effort, like theWhite House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, McKinsey & Co, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, andBlackRock.

The twenty-four Fellows​ in our inaugural class each entered with an organizational challenge they felt would be best addressed through cross sector engagement. With issues ranging from investing in the educational and career prospects of young adults; re-integrating veterans returning from service abroad; and advocating for new vaccines to fight drug-resistant disease, our fellows represent the diversity of good work that is happening in the world today.

The year-long Fellowship is designed to help participants solve these challenges within their organizations and communities. Fellows engage in intensive leadership development experiences that focus on creative problem-solving, building self-awareness about personal leadership styles, and honing techniques to develop shared goals that encompass multiple agendas.

The elevation of key skillsets and network opportunities within the program are supported by our relationships with some of the most innovative organizations in the world: Google, Tesla, White House agencies, Year Up, United Way, Living Cities, Gap Inc., the cities of San Francisco and New York, and more. Fellows meet with senior leaders within these organizations to learn, teach, and share best practices about the remarkable initiatives that are underway in cross sector leadership development.

Together, we're widening our circle to create an ecosystem that will have the synergy and momentum to take us to a new place in our ability to meet the challenges of our time.

Please join us in the virtual space of this new newsletter, Reveille, as we further our mission by hearing from our partners and fellows on their ground-breaking work. We hope you will learn from their stories as they push the envelope on effective practices toward social change. We also invite you to be part of this dialogue, to lend your stories of success and failure, and to help build this movement together.

Your partner in forging new ground,

David B. Smith

David B. Smith is the Managing Director of the Presidio Institute, and formerly the Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship ​Building on the Presidio's legacy of service and public-private partnerships, the Presidio Institute provides transformational experiences that inspire, encourage, and empower leaders to make measurable, positive impact in their communities. More information about the Presidio Institute Fellowship program can be found at​​​