The power of blurred borders

I knew things had changed when a friend who works in international development posted Mark Parker’s response to Trump’s immigration ban to social media.

Her statement said it all: ‘Never thought I would say this…But rock on Nike’.

Yes, a former skeptic of the private sector had started to see that it can be a force for good. 

We’ve just lived through 2 weeks of the Trumpocalypse. It would be easy for us all to get bogged down with all of the bad news that we read in the headlines every day. 

But I am actually feeling very hopeful. Something has certainly shifted, and I like where things are heading.

We now know that we cannot rely on the government to solve some of the world’s biggest and scariest problems. And we know that the third sector is limited, to a certain extent, by human and financial resources.

But the past few weeks have proved that business and society are becoming ever more integrated. And the barriers between the traditional sectors (business, government, and NGOs) are becoming ever more blurred.

This is the Fourth Sector.

One of TIE’s advisors, Gib Bulloch, has been talking about the Fourth Sector for years. He explains it as a cross-sector convergence that creates powerful collaborations and redefines the boundaries of traditional sectors.

In this 2014 article, Gib provides some wonderful examples of what this collaboration can look like, and how the Fourth Sector can address complex global problems both pragmatically and innovatively:

  • In an ambitious global partnership, Save the Children and GlaxoSmithKline have been sharing expertise and resources to help save one million children worldwide and the charity has a seat on the company’s R&D board.
  • One of the world’s largest restaurant chains, a mining company, and a soft drinks manufacturer have joined forces to tackle malaria and helped create the United Against Malaria movement.

Also, recently, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, joined the movement of scientists and rogue government employees tweeting real and terrifying facts about climate change. And over the years they have contributed to a variety of advocacy efforts – funding the dam removal documentary DamNation, investing in solar panel projects, and last year donating all of its $10 million in Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups.

The past couple of weeks have also seen companies like Starbucks, Lyft, Google, Facebook, Airbnb and many others taking actions against Trump’s immigration policy and travel ban.

The difference that these companies have made over the past couple of weeks is tremendous. Yet, it’s just a tiny example of what can be done when companies, people and organisations go beyond their borders and work together.

Business can and should be a part of the solution to create the necessary change towards a shared vision of humanity. We truly believe this is the way forward and we are proud to act as a bridge between sectors, helping them realise their true potential.

Here is to blurred borders and building bridges.

xPhilippa and the rest of the TIE team


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