Event: Social Impact Consulting Career Panel
Date: Monday, November 3, 2014
Berkeley-Haas hosted panelists achieving social impact through careers in consulting. They shared their advice and personal experience with using consulting principles and projects on strategy, sustainability, evaluation, change management and others. With Kimberly Wright-Violich as moderator, the panelists provided insight on the challenges of their work as well as the skills that those interested in the field may require to become a successful consultant.
- Gihani Fernando, Manager at Bridgespan
- Rebecca Yael Weissburg, Associate Director at FSG
- Erin Billman, Principal at BluSkye
- Champa Gujjanudu, Manager at PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Sustainability Business Solutions
- Kimberly Wright-Violich, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Tideline Advisors (Moderator)
The rich discussion included information for students interested in working domestically or internationally, with local nonprofits or global corporations. The diverse perspectives provided abundant dialogue about options open to business students interested in consulting for social impact. These are some of the takeaways from the panel:
1. “Change management is everything.” The recommendations you put forth will not be implemented unless people are bought into your ideas at every level of the nonprofit, down to the level where the actual execution of the change will occur. Think about change management from the front end of the process and integrate those strategies into the way you work with the client through each step.
2. “Don’t do strategy TO your clients.” Make sure your clients are invested; at FSG, we look for people who can facilitate conversations and build relationships with our clients rather than just communicate through data.
3. “Clients value specific content knowledge.” Many firms have gone from pure generalist to developing a specialized knowledge in order to be able to consult on specific questions because in the past decade, the notion of a nonprofit having a general business plan has become the norm. You can’t be a co-creator with your client unless you have that specialized knowledge.
4. “Be hypothesis-driven.” Have a point of view at the start of the project as well as when you do the analysis. Figure out which components of the project to prioritize even if the information you are given is incomplete or you are not an expert in the subject.
5. “Strive for specialization across the board.” There’s an increasing need for specialization in a topic area across each key element of the value chain. Top firms are seeking ways to provide the full suite of start-to-finish value change proposition to clients, from sustainable supply chain expertise, to people and change expertise.
Attendees got value out of the session. Here’s what one person had to say:
“The facilitator and panel did a great job providing keen insight and advice that highly resonated with my experience. This will definitely help me on my future while carving out my career path.”
Some pictures from the event: