Consider this situation: an elderly family member asks for your help in choosing between two nursing homes. Both appear to be equal in quality and service, but one is for-profit and the other is nonprofit. Which nursing home do you pick?
You may draw on a few assumptions based on what you know about corporations and organizations, and weigh them with your priorities. For instance, maybe you’d choose the for-profit home because it may go the extra mile to make residents happy to keep a competitive edge in the market. On the other hand, maybe you’ll consider the nonprofit home, concluding that better care will be provided by front-line individuals choosing to work in the nonprofit sector. But can you really be sure of any of these sector-based assumptions?
Professor James Ferris posed this question during a recent Nonprofit Policy and Management class within the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and our class reached the inevitable conclusion:
Sometimes our choices are sector agnostic; we just want to go with the corporation or organization that can best get the job done.
87% of Americans between the ages of 18-39 believe that one person can help change the world- and these folks (mostly Gen Y-ers) sense the artificial divide between sectors. According to the New Sector Alliance—which was founded in 2002 to create solutions to community challenges through cross-sector partnerships– the rise of sector agnostic methods places new demands on institutions across sectors to modify their strategies. Why? Because the next generation of leaders themselves are increasingly sector agnostic.
501(c)(3) status is not required in order to instigate social change, and as social enterprises and social entrepreneurship increase, the values and practices of public, private, and nonprofit sectors meld together, strengthening alliances and just plain getting the job done.
The American Dream has been highly connected to the successes in the private sector and so has entrpreneurship, but a 1999 survey shows that where Gen X college seniors dreamed of working for Microsoft and Cisco, Gen Y college seniors prefer work within the State Department, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps. Is this a problem for a country built on the entrepreneurial spirit? Apparently not. Increasing numbers of Gen Yers are going for social change with fresh ideas, proving that a preference toward big government does not mean less entrepreneurship.
This article has some great statistics on Gen Y’s entrepreneurial spirit:
- Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job.
- Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship.
- 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine.
- 18- to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35- to 44-year-olds.
- And 70% of today’s high schoolers intend start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.
These statistics, combined with Gen Y’s perceived altruism and their desire to develop a sense of where they fit within a global context, outline their interest- also- in the public sector. The combination of Gen Y’s key traits, which connect strongly and equally to both the public and private sector, possibly point toward a growing sector agnosticism.
Gen Yers interested in social change may become leaders who opt for solutions that represent a mix in for-profit and nonprofit practices, such as social entrepreneurship, instigating nonprofit commercial activity, and creating social enterprises. One thing’s for sure: the focus will be on getting the job done- regardless of sector.
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore