Making Impact In An Era Of Change

Liz Livingston Howard

Director of Nonprofit Executive Education, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University 


Leadership and management are essential to success in the philanthropic sector. Social impact organizations rely on leaders who commit themselves to the mission and to leading efficiently and effectively. As young professionals seek to have impact, they are facing a changing landscape that requires an even broader spectrum of skills to deliver that impact across a range of organizational structures. These young professionals are increasingly pursuing education and training with the intent of meeting their missions in more meaningful ways and reaching broader social impact.


This trend of professional development could not come at a better time. Efficient leadership and management of nonprofits is all the more critical today, when philanthropic organizations are forced to do more with fewer resources (financial, human and capital) and new organizational forms are coming into existence, thus blurring the lines between for-profit and philanthropic ventures, all with the goal of positive global social impact.


Currently, we are witnessing the development of new and progressive industry structures focused on impact. These innovations are creating opportunities to do social good while engaging with capital markets. In the US, one example of this is Benefit Corporations, which are for-profit entities that share an understanding with their shareholders that success should be measured not only by profit, but also by social and environmental impact.


This expansion of institutional platforms dedicated to advancing social good is positive. As social problems across the globe are growing more complex, organizations need smarter and more talented leaders to develop creative solutions. Fortunately, many institutions of higher education are supporting these leaders with degree and non-degree education that provide rigorous, relevant learning opportunities to enhance their skills. At the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, we have always had a commitment to educating leaders committed to the social sector. Today, those learning opportunities engage our senior academic faculty along with outstanding practitioners from across the social impact spectrum with the intent of educating young professionals who are seeking to use their leadership abilities to build strong organizations that change the world.


We are fortunate that there is an increasing interest among young people who want to have an impact in their workplaces, philanthropic organizations and communities. We are living in a global world where the concepts of philanthropy and social impact are evolving in a positive way, engaging leaders across sectors and communities to change the world for the better.