Brain Gain

Will Gallagher

With economic woe comes talk of ‘brain drain’ - the notion there’s a problem - in fact a vicious circle - in a business sector or even national economy, when good people start leaving. The opposite is also true:  you can tell a sector is on the up as more people climb on board, creating a virtuous cycle to power the sector as it develops, grows and matures.  Perhaps somewhat immodestly for a recent joiner, I think the social sector has got this.

Having spent the past seven years running a business, I have recently joined the social sector; I was attracted by the opportunity to apply my commercial experience in tackling entrenched social problems, and developments in the sector gave me the confidence to believe I could have real impact. I have found that I am not alone.  Whether drawn from the City, strategy consultancy, senior public sector management, think tanks, local government, or through social entrepreneurs themselves, the pool of talent that has joined this sector in recent years is remarkable – and augurs well. Moreover, it is not just those who have finished a successful career in the outside world, but it is also those who are moving into the social sector earlier in their career, working with drive and ambition, looking for professional and personal development inside the sector.

The Shaftesbury Partnership is very pleased to be welcoming an ‘On Purpose’  associate in January, and I have recently been meeting those interested in working with us. Whether they are currently with a major investment bank, a multi-national corporate, or just finishing a course at one of the world’s leading business schools – they all have fascinating track records, draw upon international experience, and communicate a real passion about their social mission.  It certainly feels like we are part of a sector in which the brightest and best want to play their part. Indeed, given the international flavour of the group, the social sector in the UK is definitely attracting talent from overseas, and may well be emerging as a global leader in this regard.

In part, I cite the inflows of human capital as evidence that this space is on the move. Combined with the likely surge in financial resources flowing into the sector from Big Society Capital  next year, the opportunity for social impact is huge.  I note it too, however,  for the responsibility that it confers: the sector must be open to the fresh thinking that new talent and resources bring, whilst retaining its distinctive values and motivations; the sector must develop these pools of talent and resource, so that we don’t just draw from them, but add to them too. Given the clear and present opportunity for the social sector, we’ve got to ensure it achieves its potential. From my perspective as a new member of the team, The Shaftesbury Partnership takes its role as an intermediary in this space very seriously: nurturing human capital, developing institutions and deploying financial capital for maximum impact.

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