A Simple Yet Radical Approach to Social Impact

"No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it." - Albert Einstein to The New York Times (1946)

In 2008, I jumped off the proverbial "cliff" and started my own social impact practice. Since launching Pellegrino Collaborative, I’ve had the good fortune of working on many inspiring projects with organizations across the corporate, nonprofit, and academic sectors.

However, last fall, I found myself at a crossroads, thinking about closing up shop and going back “in house.” I thought I could be more effective within an organization. I missed being part of a consistent team. The resources and job security were calling...

...and then the election happened and I had an epiphany.

Over the years, I’ve partnered with some of the most talented minds tackling social change. Our collaborative efforts were of a conventional nature, generally ad hoc, driven by the stated needs of any given project.

Then it hit me—conventional approaches were no longer the answer—for our clients; for us, as consultants; and most importantly, for developing sustainable solutions to daunting social challenges.

We had been doing what Einstein said wouldn’t work, trying to solve complex problems with the same kind of thinking that created those problems. We had unintentionally been perpetuating outdated models for approaching transformational change—informal, diffuse collaborative models; traditional agency models; independent consulting models. 

What if we looked beyond convention and built a new model that employed a systems-based approach? A model that had the ability to consider the whole client, the whole consultant, and the deep complexities of the challenges at hand? What if we took the best of those traditional models and left the rest behind? 

Earlier this year, we did just that. My colleagues and I joined forces under one umbrella to form a social innovation and strategy practice that integrates a multidisciplinary, dedicated group of impact experts; a highly-responsive, yet lean infrastructure; and a fertile environment for nimbly catalyzing ideas and actions.

By employing this model, we’re able to:

  • Bring multiple lenses and a deep bench of expertise to bear on complex social and organizational challenges, seeing beyond conventional solutions.
  • Offer our clients what they want: tailored, experienced teams; comprehensive, cost-effective services; flexibility in how they work; and effective, lasting results.
  • Scale sustainable change by transferring knowledge to our clients and society.
  • Free our consultants of the demands of traditional agency models—or the stress of going it alone—to focus on delivering results, while being a part of a cohesive team. 

As impact consultants, we’re constantly encouraging our clients to consider the whole system in which they operate. At Pellegrino Collaborative, we’ve decided to take our own advice with this simple yet radical approach.

Thank you, Mr. Einstein.