They've been called the 'boundary-crossers', or 'tri-sector athletes' – and many people think they're essential to the transformational partnerships needed to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But who are they, and what skills do they need to have?
Bridging business, government, and non-profit to drive change
The phrase ‘tri-sector athlete’ was coined by Dominic Barton of McKinsey & Company. It recognised that the critical challenges society faces – such as climate change, water scarcity, healthcare and gender equality – can only be solved by business, government and non-profit sectors working together to create lasting solutions.
These kinds of partnerships require people – especially leaders – who are able to engage and collaborate across all three sectors.
As Jeff Seabright, Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever says: "We need new ways of doing business to deliver the SDGs, and purpose-driven leaders who think flexibly and imaginatively about how they can have the most impact. Leaders who can communicate and get things done across different sectors.”
Are you a tri-sector athlete? See which characteristics you’ve got
The six elements:
- A desire to create public value... no matter where they work
- An ability to talk the language of each sector... and to understand what they're being told
- Transferable skills that are valued across sectors, including strategic planning and stakeholder management
- Cultural awareness... including of the differences within and between sectors
- Strong networks... which help build teams and share knowledge
- Subject matter expertise... built up from the perspective of each sector
What did you score?
1-2 – time to start broadening your horizons?
2-4 – you've got the foundations in place – are you willing to learn?
4-6 – could you drive a transformational partnership?