Email this review


A best practices methodology for combining public, private, and philanthropic resources to confront complex social challenges.

Buffett (40 Chances, 2013) and Eimicke (The Effective Public Manager, 2007, etc.), faculty colleagues at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, combine their extensive experiences in multi-sector partnerships with rigorous scholarship in this book. They construct a five-point framework for establishing, managing and evaluating collaborations among governmental, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations. Their combined experience is extensive: Buffett, the grandson of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, has directed the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, overseen U.S. Defense Department stabilization projects in Afghanistan and Iraq, and advised cross-sector policy in the Obama White House. Eimicke serves on the advisory board of the Central Park Conservancy’s Institute for Urban Parks and was formerly New York State’s housing “czar” and New York City’s deputy fire commissioner for strategic planning. They explain social value investing as being derived from the value-investing approach popularized by the elder Buffett, which seeks to identify overlooked opportunities in which the market has undervalued worth. Investing for social value yields long-term rewards by improving lives, they assert, creating healthier, better educated, and contributing members of society. The first two chapters trace the evolution of cross-sector partnerships and author Buffett’s journey from philanthropist to policy advocate. The framework’s five areas of concern are process, people, place, portfolio and performance. The authors devote a chapter to each, followed by an illustrative case study. Examples address how biometric identification is enabling telemedicine across India, and how data mining reduced fire deaths in New York City. To illustrate what can go wrong, they provide a cautionary chapter on the multipartner preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

They effectively bring theory into practice as they discuss creating accountable processes, meshing organizational cultures, gaining stakeholder buy-ins, managing capital across different sectors as a portfolio, and developing performance metrics. Throughout, they emphasize doing well by doing good, and they conclude: “Even more important than how we measure success is how we define success to begin with, because that dramatically affects our intentions, our actions and our results.” The authors model the collaborative principles they espouse. Although individual bylines appear on alternating chapters, the style and tone is seamless. Good organization, clear prose, the inclusion of supporting details, and authoritative analyses make their arguments easy to read and accept. The case studies are deep dives; casual readers may skim the minutiae, but the primary audience for this work will appreciate their thoroughness. Despite covering highly complex subjects, the authors keep jargon to a minimum. Lay readers should encounter little difficulty until the performance section, which introduces mathematical formulas to explain the Impact Rate of Return, a method of calculating social investment impact in tangible terms. However, it’s precisely these equations that prove social value investing a workable discipline—not merely a fuzzy dream of do-gooders.

A must-read resource for professional practitioners across the domains of public policy, economic development, corporate governance, and philanthropy.

Pub Date: May 29th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-231-18290-4
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


NonfictionREAL IMPACT by Morgan  Simon
by Morgan Simon
by Guy Spier
IndieCOLLABORATION NATION by Mary Scott Nabers
by Mary Scott Nabers