This week, a Millennial Generation friend who works in London's non-profit sector e-mailed me with a heartfelt and lamentable frustration. "I am so tired of badly run charities. I no longer seem to fit. I am looking to move into the private sector and come back later on."
The knock on non-profits, charities and governmental aid agencies ranges from badly-managed to corrupt. In some social entrepreneurial quarters it is all but chic to trash talk non-profits.
Typically, an unfavorable comparison is drawn with the private sector which, we are led to believe, is bristling with paragons of efficiency and market responsiveness. Ignoring whether or not a non-profit, with its larger, intangible and more ennobling mission, "should" be run like a for-profit enterprise, the orthodoxy is a wrong-headed urban legend.
Lehman Brothers, AIG, British Petroleum, the LIBOR scandal, too big to fail, government welfare checks, not to mention (wink, wink) subsidies for Big Tobacco, Big Oil and the Romney Olympics. Let's just agree that some private sector enterprises are very well-run. Some are not.
On the other side of the ledger, we can fact check Columbia professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz's claim that "one of the sectors in which the United States is still most successful is higher education and... all of its first-rate universities are either state-owned or non-profit." Again, some non-profits soar. Others sputter.
A pioneering, innovative, well-managed, client-responsive company, non-profit enterprise is the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, led by Dean Yuwei Shi.
Shi is the educational architect of Frontier Market Scouts, a field classroom in social change. Jointly developed and managed in partnership with Sanghata Global and Village Capital, the program trains up compassionate, capable students into talent scouts and investment managers to work in low-income and weak-capital regions of the world.
Shi is a self-described "rational contrarian." He warns against the bogus image of the lone entrepreneur who single-handedly invents, builds and scales game-changing social enterprises. "Build teams to fill in your talent gaps," he teaches.
"Look for the crowd that shares your goals. Be a social learner."
"Don't go with a big ego. Go with big meaning for yourself."
For my frustrated friend in London, and for the thousands of young professionals looking for a graduate education grounded in a globalized world, check out grad schools that, like Yuwei's Frontier Market Scouts, ditch ideology and dig idealism.
"Don't fixate on a particular theory of change," cautions Yuwei. The world doesn't need non-profit OR for-profit solutions. It needs the solutions that work.