Guest column reprinted from The Raad van Organisatie Adviesbureaus
A motivated group of pioneers
The mission: Pro bono innovation and impact on social issues.
PBLQ Director Henk de Jong, with the directors of BMC, JBR, Lysias, and Mitopics, invited Civic Consulting USA in order to launch the first such partnership outside the US.
The City of Rotterdam joined the private sector to develop an action plan for Civic Consulting Netherlands. The leaders include experts in workforce, resilience, and inclusion.
“Despite all our busy schedules, I want to give something good back to our core business – the society.”Mitopics Director Reinold van Bruggen
The Civic Consulting model has been active in the US for 35 years. Expert consultants work pro bono to create social impact for local communities. In this way, more than $20 million in pro bono projects are delivered each year.
These projects are different from typical assignments, because they require innovation beyond the resources of local government or NGOs.
Alexander Shermansong from Civic Consulting USA shared inspiring examples:
- The City of Chicago struggled with difficult processes for procuring social services from nonprofits. One-year contracts could take a year to negotiate! In just six weeks consultants redesigned the process to cut the time down dramatically.
- In New York State, large companies such as Toyota and Xerox loaned Lean experts to train State employees. As a result, cycle time for processes across departments have been shortened 30% – 80%.
- In San Jose, Ernst & Young and other firms advise entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses.
“Consultants not only bring positive change through this work; they also change themselves, refreshed by working with peers from other organizations on innovative solutions.”Alexander Shermansong, Civic Consulting USA
Our ambition is not small
The Dutch context is different, in particular because governments generally have established budgets for external advisors.
But there are opportunities. As Alexander said, “The Netherlands has a rich tradition in volunteering, and there are social projects that require innovation and new partnerships here too.”
To replicate the success of Civic Consulting in the Netherlands, the group identified a practical path forward:
- Choose a socially relevant and non-controversial topic
- Start small, and then build on successes toward larger, system-wide impact
- Add value for consulting firms, doing something good for employees and building enthusiasm, while making a difference.
“We must ensure projects are fun to join, where consultants can be proud of their work and energized. Within each firm, participants should be competing to get on the project. The involvement of the business community in a city like Rotterdam is big, but it is about converting willingness to do something into concrete actions with social impact – and that is not easy.”Ronald van Rijn, Managing Partner of JBR
A potential first case
Marlin Huygens, Rotterdam’s Director of Work, described the City’s goals. For one, they aim to reduce the number of long-term unemployed people on social assistance benefits. In the context of a changing labor market, this is no easy feat – and thus the need for large-scale innovative and creative solutions.
Local NGOs can play a critical role in achieving this goal, but lack the staff and budget to live up to their potential. Therefore Civic Consulting Netherlands will likely focus on supporting local NGO initiatives. And their impact will be multiplied by aligning with social initiatives identified by the City.
Civic Consulting Netherlands will apply this proven method to work with the City of Rotterdam to scope and launch the first project. The next milestone is a pitch during the international Urban Resilience Summit July 2019 in Rotterdam.