I recently watched a TED Talk delivered by Charmian Gooch, co-founder of NGO watchdog Global Witness. TED describes Gooch as an “anti-corruption activist”—and that is exactly what Global Witness does, investigating and uncovering the blights of corruption and conflict.
Using specific examples of countries like Equatorial Guinea, Gooch exposes the governmental corruption tied to conflict, inequality, and environmental degradation, and pronounces how that corruption is associated with global financial institutions. In a powerful statement, she asserts that the “engine of corruption is driven by our international banking system, by the problem of anonymous shale companies, by the secrecy we have afforded big oil, gas, and mining operations, and most of all, by the failure of our politicians to back up their rhetoric, and do something really meaningful and systemic to tackle this stuff.” Corruption has multiple implications for the people, the system, and the environment; and it also stems from multiple roots.
While Gooch discussed corruption in a globalized context and transparency laws, I was struck by how interconnected private and public systems are on a regional, national, and international scale. She hinted at a concept that I am generally fixated on: how nonprofit organizations, public policy, and private corporations can work together to deliver profitable and socially responsible results.
Too often we get wrapped up in our own bubbles. Business leaders stay on Wall Street while activists stick to K Street. We criticize our politicians for not reaching across the aisle, but the entire system—not just government—is damaged by self-isolation. Development that is sustainable and profitable, good for the people and for the planet, can only be made through conversation and cooperation.
It is great to see female leadership (and leadership, period) in creating solutions to society’s most challenging issues, like corruption. Charmian Gooch is one example, but the approach illustrated by this NGO watchdog is not the only way to go about it. Global Witness and the intersection of international banks, government, and NGO affairs are just one case of how the private and public sector intertwine.
There are private sector solutions to problems that nonprofits want to solve. There are policies that are good for CEOs and average Joes, for entrepreneurs and for the ecosystem. We don’t have to choose. But we do have to compromise, work together, and recognize that there is more than one bottom line. In this game, nobody wins unless the players work together.