Three books by business thinkers may well re-frame this old discussion. The first, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins, is that rare thing - a book written by a business expert that argues that business may not be the best model for improving the nonprofit sector.
The second, Disrupting Class: How Innovation will Change the Way the World Learns, is by Clayton Christensen, the reigning guru on innovation and institutions. It is interesting because it look beyond the usual discussions about schools in cities, schools in rural areas or even schools in the U.S. to ask broader questions about education in a network-based, global society and economy. Following on the heels of Sunday's story in the NYT Magazine on schools in New Orleans, which showed the enormous possibilities and challenges of re-creating an entire school system, the ideas are particularly relevant. It may be of particular interest to those working on new learning institutions, innovating with digital media, and building/proposing/promoting education beyond school walls.
The third, Redefining Health Care, by strategy guru Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg takes on the role of competition, altruism, and policy in delivering quality health care. I think it is worth the read because it recognizes the ways each of these sectors - public, private, and philanthropic - have contributed to our current crisis.
My next book review - Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey, due out from Bloomberg in January 2009. --- CORRECTION: Money Well Spent comes out on November 12, 2008 - officially launching, along with NYT special Giving Section, Giving Season 2008.