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



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 multisector 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 higher 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 are 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 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-231-18290-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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