Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change


Measuring Social Impact

Leveraging Business Assets in Nonprofit

Jean Oelwang on what nonprofit management has to learn from the private sector.

The nonprofit sector and private sector have historically operated in vastly different ways, but is this always in the best interest of those involved? Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite, would argue that nonprofit organizations have a lot to learn from the business practices of the private sector if they wish to maximize their impact. Oelwang sees nonprofit largely as a “market of good intentions” that in many cases fails to scale or incentivize cooperation in an effective way. By collaborating with members of the Virgin group such as Virgin Mobile, Virgin Trains, and Virgin Airlines, Virgin Unite strives to demonstrate that socially responsible innovations can bridge all sectors. Oelwang discusses Virgin Unite’s emphasis on core operational sustainability as means for long-term change, and their reasons for choosing a wider scope of impact. Jean Oelwang was speaking as part of the “Social Innovation Through Corporate Responsibility” class at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

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