Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together [NOOK Book]


A hurricane strikes a city; terrorists attack a nation; global warming threatens the environment--such problems are too large for any one authority to solve alone. Our increasingly globalized and interconnected world calls for a new type of tri-sector leadership in which business, government and nonprofits work together in a state of permanent negotiation. To be effective, tomorrow's leaders will need to reach across national and sector divisions to form a collaborative ...

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Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together

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A hurricane strikes a city; terrorists attack a nation; global warming threatens the environment--such problems are too large for any one authority to solve alone. Our increasingly globalized and interconnected world calls for a new type of tri-sector leadership in which business, government and nonprofits work together in a state of permanent negotiation. To be effective, tomorrow's leaders will need to reach across national and sector divisions to form a collaborative "megacommunity."

Based on interviews with over 100 leaders from around the world including Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Kenneth Chenault and Richard Parsons, MEGACOMMUNITIES: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together introduces a radically new framework for reaching solutions to today's thorniest problems. Written by four senior consultants from global consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, and with a Foreword by Walter Isaacson, this important book explains how a megacommunity approach is:


In India, a megacommunity battles HIV/AIDS by bringing together both public, private, and civil-sector organizations, including PepsiCo, the Gates Foundation, U.S. healthcare experts, UN development programs, and local NGOs.


In saving the world's rainforests, providers, distributors, sellers, and consumers of lumber team up with local communities, the World Wildlife Fund, and Goldman Sachs.


In changing neighborhoods like Harlem, the megacommunity includes local small businesses, community groups, global companies, and foundations like Bill Clinton's.

"What is required are leaders who know how to identify the vital interests they share with others, who are prepared to seek the benefits from which all can gain," write the authors.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An optimistic handbook for creating promising frameworks for change that balance ideals with realities, the perfect with the good."

Harvard Business Review


"This book provides a much-needed new perspective, demonstrating clearly and concisely the value of a ‘leader of leaders.’"

           —Fulvio Conti, Chief Executive Officer, Enel


"This is one of those rare well-reasoned books that can make a real difference."

—Richard D. Parsons, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Time Warner

"Simply put, these concepts work. We’ll be applying the methods explained in this important book even more ambitiously in the months ahead."

— Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, founder of the Center for Health Transformation

"Megacommunities is a problem-solving action manual for the 21st century."

—Melanne Verveer, Co-founder and Chairman, Vital Voices Global Partnership

"Megacommunities provides a rich foundation to help accelerate the evolution of a healthier and more equitable world."

            — Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

"Megacommunities offers pragmatic advice, born from case studies and the broad experience of many leaders."  

— Curt Struble, Former US Ambassador to Peru

"An insightful and engrossing read, Megacommunities brings creative new thinking to the challenges confronting leaders."

—Admiral (Retired) Sir Ian Forbes, Former NATO Supreme Commander.


"Megacommunities introduces us to a world of complex problems, where traditional economic and financial incentives are not sufficient, where it is impossible for all players to secure their first choice outcome. And where multiple vetoes operate and free riders abound. This world calls for creativity and imagination, the ability to build trust, form alliances and do deals.  Megacommunities also provokes a rethink about how we identify and develop our political, business and civic leaders — people who can think across the boundaries of their own organizations, can communicate, can influence and be influenced, who think in terms of optimizing rather than maximizing, and who, in short, can pilot us from the selfish world of the Prisoner's Dilemma to the collaborative world of John Nash's Equilibrium. "

—Lord Andrew Turnbull, Former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service

"For too long “public-private partnerships” to solve global problems have left out the majority of the public – the four billion poor of the developing world. “Megacommunities” is a bold and big idea that will give the poor an equal voice in global efforts to deal with what they know best – poverty"

             — Hernando de Soto, president, Instituto Libertad y Democracia, Perú and author of The Mystery of Capital


"As the new President and CEO of Common Cause, an organization that works to ensure that the political process serves the public interest, I wholeheartedly agree that progress in business, government and civil society must be attained through citizen-centered multi-lateral solutions. In our near 40-year history of reform work, Common Cause has long believed that engaging a diverse citizenry as well as a wide array of coalition partners is the most effective path to significant change, and Megacommunities captures that well."

—Dr. Robert W. Edgar, President and CEO, Common Cause

"Megacommunities offers unique insight about how modern leaders can deal with the growing challenges and complexities of our globalizing world.  The authors give valuable, common sense advice about how to maneuver large organizations and big ideas through an increasingly networked, connected, more complicated global society.  Any serious leader in business, government and civil society needs to read this work and apply its lessons."

—General John Abizaid (Retired), United States Army and former Commander of the United States Central Command

"As the modern world has become more interdependent and global, the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing society have also grown. The ability to manage highly dispersed people and operations while responding to unusual problems and crises requires new tools and new leadership approaches. This important and incisive book illuminates how the mutual self-interests of actors in private, public and non-governmental organizations can be harnessed to develop shared approaches to dealing with very complex challenges in such disparate areas as economic strength, national security or broad health or environmental issues. The Booz Allen authors’ concept of 'megacommunities' as an organizing principle for managing collaboratively across traditional functional boundaries — and thereby transitioning from a hierarchal management structure to one characterized by networks of networks of experts — has wide applicability. It is a critical new tool for today's leaders – and tomorrow's."

—Denis A. Bovin, Vice Chairman, Investment Banking, Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.

"Megacommunities offers a refreshing, organizational framework to help leaders solve the thorny and complex problems that devolve from technology and globalization.  The book elaborates the networked strength of collaboration between business, government and civil society."

— Richard H.K. Vietor, Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration

"The complex issues of today's world have finally a strategic solution. The post globalized world calls for tri-sector leaders to acknowledge how the traditional sphere of influence and competences have changed and conflicts are even more complex that anyone can do it alone. Megacommunities cuts through the complexity with precise path to leadership."

— Andrea Ragnetti, Member of the Board of Management of Royal Philips Electronics and CEO of Philips Consumer Lifestyle Sector

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230611481
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)
  • File size: 593 KB

Meet the Author

Mark Gerencser is the managing director of Booz Allen Hamilton's Global Government Business; he lives in Northern Virginia. Reginald Van Lee is a senior vice president in the New York office of Booz Allen Hamilton. Fernando Napolitano is the managing partner of Booz Allen Hamilton in Italy. Christopher Kelly is a vice president with Booz Allen and the leader of the Global Security practice; he lives in Washington, DC.

Mark Gerencser is the managing director of Booz Allen Hamilton's Global Government Business; he lives in Northern Virginia.
Reginald Van Lee is a senior vice president in the New York office of Booz Allen Hamilton.
Fernando Napolitano is the managing partner of Booz Allen Hamilton in Italy.
Christopher Kelly is a vice president with Booz Allen and the leader of the Global Security practice; he lives in Washington, DC.
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Read an Excerpt


How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together

By Mark Gerencser, Christopher Kelly, Fernando Napolitano, Reginald Van Lee

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2008 Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-230-61148-1



One of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike the United States—not just in its physical impact, but its influence on human affairs—was Hurricane Andrew. The hurricane's 165-mile-an-hour winds slammed into Florida's Atlantic coast, scattering trees and cars, turning businesses and homes into shattered piles of debris, and rapidly overwhelming local relief efforts. One of the most visible community leaders, Dade County Emergency Management Director Kate Hale, appeared on national television blaming the federal government, who in her mind was supposed to ride to the rescue. "Where in the hell is the cavalry on this one?" she asked. "They keep saying we're going to get supplies. For God's sake, where are they?"

That's the natural response to so many of the complex problems we face these days, whether it's a terrorist attack, an economic crisis, a looming health pandemic, a gradual decline in some important indicator of economic or social health, or the anxieties unleashed by the forces of globalization. We always expect the cavalry to ride in, to save the day like they would in an archetypal Western movie. Thirteen years after Andrew struck, the citizens and civic leaders of New Orleans implicitly asked the same question about the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster: Who was expected to take charge of, first, preventing the floods and, second, rescuing people from them?

Many felt that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to respond effectively to Hurricane Katrina. But despite FEMA's perceived failings, it's a mistake to think that any single agency could completely fulfill the required roles. Indeed, for any complex situation anywhere in the world, it's become obvious that there is no one authority—whether in the form of a leader, an organization, a command operation, or a rescue squad—that can single-handedly save the day. Some other kind of leadership is needed.

And what form might that take? One place to find an answer is in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The hurricane served, as then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush later put it, as a wake-up call for everyone in the state. A relevant article by our colleagues Doug Himberger, Dave Sulek, and Stephan Krill of Booz Allen Hamilton described the resulting impact this way:

Ultimately, Andrew destroyed 126,000 homes, left 250,000 people homeless, wiped out 80 percent of the area's farms, and was responsible for at least 40 deaths. The hurricane also caused more than $26 billion in damage, including $16 billion in insured losses—too much for insurance companies to cover. According to one report, 11 insurance companies went bankrupt trying to cover more than 600,000 claims.

Specifically, it was now clear to Florida's leaders that no government agency could manage this type of large-scale catastrophe on its own.... So Florida moved to a new approach, deliberately involving a variety of organizations—public sector, corporate, nongovernmental (NGOs), and faith-based—in its emergency planning and activities. This meant changing both the planning process and the relationships among these various groups.

The success of this approach soon became obvious. During the severe 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, a series of high-powered hurricanes and tropical storms (Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, and Tropical Storms Bonnie, Ophelia, and Tammy) struck Florida. The state's government, business, and civil organizations quickly mobilized, working together—as they had planned and trained to do—to provide aid for relief and recovery. At the same time, strengthened building codes limited the damage to businesses and homes. Following the 2004 hurricane season, insurance companies received more than $3.6 billion from [a new] catastrophe fund, cushioning the impact of claims they paid for storm damages. Florida still requested federal assistance during these crises, reinforcing the federal government's critical role in assisting during response and recovery. But the federal government was just one of many members of an integrated

[group of organizations, each with] its own particular role and purpose. Consequently, when hurricanes threaten Florida today, its residents no longer expect or require the federal "cavalry" to sweep in and save the day.

This new model for collective leadership stands in stark contrast to the efforts following Hurricane Katrina. And indeed, Florida played an integral role in supporting southern Mississippi and Louisiana during Katrina's aftermath. Within hours of the storm's landfall, Florida began deploying more than 3,700 first responders to the affected areas.

The most important principle to draw from examples like Katrina and Andrew is the need for a new approach to tackling these complex issues, supported by a new model of leadership. Fortunately, such a model is emerging. And where it has taken root, it has had immensely beneficial and dramatic effects. The purpose of this book is to explain the model, show how it can be effective, and give leaders around the world—and citizens and participants—the conceptual tools and examples they need to put it into practice.

The name we give to this model is the "megacommunity"—a name based on the idea that communities of organizations, as vehicles for large-scale change, are both feasible and needed as they never have been before. Megacommunities are not large communities of people; they are communities of organizations whose leaders and members have deliberately come together across national, organizational, and sectoral boundaries to reach the goals they cannot achieve alone. The action planning embedded in a megacommunity goes far beyond many well-meaning (but incomplete) ideas about the social role of business, such as corporate social responsibility, triple bottom-line reporting, or sustainable development. The scope of a megacommunity exceeds that of public–private partnerships that tend toward limited alliances over relatively short-term periods, and typically focus on relatively narrow purposes. Megacommunities take on much larger goals that are ongoing and mutable over time. Most importantly, megacommunities demand a change in orientation from the leaders of the various organizations involved.


Before we begin to outline the megacommunity approach in detail, it's necessary to take a closer look at what drives the situation in which we find ourselves. We need to explore the texture, nature, and sources of these new multi-layered challenges. After all, Hurricane Katrina is only one (albeit still-raw) example of the kind of the elaborate problems we currently face. Large-scale challenges of unprecedented complexity—related to global and national security, economic well-being, and the health and safety of citizens around the world—have increasingly become critical issues for leaders of governments, businesses, and civil society institutions. Some of these issues have high global public profiles, such as climate change, cyber security, preparing for pandemics, and terrorism. Others, such as water scarcity, aging populations, obsolete urban infrastructure, and sustainable energy, are important, but more distant issues. But all are poised to become massive public and private challenges in the next few years. We say "massive" because of certain critical common traits that each of these issues share.

First, these issues exhibit a high degree of interconnectedness and interdependence: They affect people outside the narrow boundaries of a nation-state or an industry. Energy policy in Russia affects natural gas prices throughout Europe; environmental decisions in rural Italy can have a dramatic effect on energy choices elsewhere in Europe.

Second, the complex interactions that define these issues also compound the impact. Surrounding these issues are non-linear forms of activity in which such factors as capital flow, demographics, technology dispersion, energy supply, and emissions gradually accelerate, until they cross a "tipping point" and are experienced as sudden, dramatic shifts in quality of life.

Third, these events abruptly and unpredictably escalate, outpacing our ability to respond. By the time a corporation notices that its customers have perceived a drop in quality; or a city's water system bursts at rush hour; or a pension system becomes manifestly incapable of fulfilling its promises to citizens, it may well be too late to do much about it.

Each of these problems comes with its own set of specific cascading effects, but they've also had a generalized negative effect on leadership. These problems often seem intractable because solutions in the past have backfired or gone awry. As a result, in recent years, galloping frustration and confusion has led to a stultifying crisis in confidence. Leaders everywhere no longer discuss the future with as much exhilaration as they once did. When speaking candidly, they often sound as if they are trapped in quicksand, unable to move forward easily. The methods and tools that helped them succeed in the past no longer work.

Across all three power sectors—business, the government, and civil society—fresh solutions are desperately needed. In multinational corporations, "everybody is frozen," as American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault expressed in our discussions with him. More than ever, the ability to seize opportunities or make a profit depends on unfamiliar and unpredictable factors, such as the reputation of the company's supply chain partners, the stability of local governments in distant countries, and a grasp of changing global trends. But, according to Chenault, a fundamental level of insight is missing. "What has not kept pace in the business world," he says, "is an understanding of how the uncertainty of the geopolitical environment has impacted business."

Governments, meanwhile, have reached something akin to an identity crisis following 20-plus years of economic bonanza in which businesses have had the upper hand. They struggle to play their fundamental role, that of managing the problems of public society. In a world of constant changes and rising pressures, many governments seem unarmed and incapable of intermediating between mercantile phenomena and the common good, and can no longer spend or regulate their way into requisite solutions. "In the past, corporations could depend on the fact that government defined the answers," says Stephen Merrill, formerly the governor of New Hampshire and currently president of Bingham Consulting Group LLC. But now, he says, business leaders are afraid that "government doesn't even understand the questions."

For their part, civil society players are also experiencing a confounding sea change. Civil society, also known as the "non-profit world" and the "third sector," is distinct from government and business. It represents a collection of so-called nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and intermediary institutions such as professional associations, religious groups, labor unions, and citizen advocacy organizations. The civil society sector gives voice to various groups and eases public participation in decision processes. Although expanding communications and the Internet have given these organizations more of a global voice than ever before, the demand for their work has increased commensurately, competition for funding has escalated, and they no longer understand constituents' needs as easily as they used to. "We've had blinders on," says Paul Leonard, former CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. "We need to change course, to become more of a partner and a player; more knowledgeable about the large systems that exist and the role we can play in them."

In essence, and simply, what's affecting most leaders is the fact that problems have reached an enormously new level of complexity. And this new complexity manifests itself on every level, from the local/regional (as in the case of Katrina) to the global—where we leap directly into the mire known as "geocomplexity."

In fact, the realm of geocomplexity is the best place to begin our journey toward the need for megacommunity. The kinds of problems that a megacommunity can solve are most starkly revealed around issues of geocomplexity—in particular, around the issue of "sustainable globalization." As we'll see, there is an imperative behind sustainable globalization that makes the conditions ripe for a new approach, which makes the need for megacommunity solutions crucial.


As Driss Jettou, prime minister of Morocco points out, "there is no one definition of globalization." For the purposes of this book, when using "globalization," we are referring to the increasing interdependence of human activity and trading relationships around the world, enabled by new forms of technology and communications, and by new types of financial connections.

Too often, the media and many policy makers view the current wave of globalization as a totally unprecedented phenomenon in economic history. But as George Yong-Boon Yeo, Singapore's minister of Foreign Affairs, sharply expressed in our talks with him, "Globalization is not new. It's always been part of the cyclical change in human affairs." Since the first humans migrated out of Africa, communities have struggled to balance their need for autonomy against the benefits and risks of contact with others. Great conquering civilizations—the Egyptian, the Greek, the Roman, the Spanish, the British—each established a system of trade for goods, and every one of these systems collapsed as the single empire behind them became stretched too thin, or collided with a stronger military force. Those deep fluctuations continued into modern history. Historians agree, for example, that there was an immense wave of globalization at the end of the nineteenth century, when continental railroads and steamships were made possible by the invention of steel, and when the telegraph, the undersea cable, and the first waves of electromagnetic energy expanded the reach of communications dramatically. This wave came to an end, arguably, with the beginning of World War I and was not relaunched in earnest until after World War II, with the Marshall Plan and the Bretton Woods agreements.

Since then, globalization has been fueled by another wave, that of technology—computers, the Internet, air transportation, logistics innovation, and biotechnology—all of which continues to unfold. This technology boom has resulted in the biggest economic stimulus in history, given the fact that the industrial revolution involved only one-third of the world's population at the time, while the current tech revolution involves a larger percentage of the world's current population of six billion. Moreover, technology allows us to move at a speed that can, in a short time frame, unleash a sudden, violent burst of economic activity in a certain country and/or geographical area, often followed by an equally violent withdrawal of that activity. Such scale and rapidity are unprecedented in history.

Today, flows of people, money, information, and goods around the world are more distributed, more networked, and seemingly random, with dynamic changes occurring at unprecedented speed. Global reach and influence have hit levels undreamed of 20 years ago. And it is important to remember that we are not seeing only a growing number of linkages, but a growing density of linkages among people, organizations, and issues all across the world. For the first time in human history, the number of people living in cities is larger than the number living in rural areas, and the migration from rural to urban is, if anything, accelerating.

While the density of these linkages increases complexity, they afford us incredible advantages—faster decisions, quicker access to information, and an extended set of potential capabilities (that is, new abilities, methods, and tools). The current globalization cycle has also led to profound structural changes: the development of overlapping social networks (such as the professional associations by which business leaders, regulators, and medical professionals seek each others' advice), new rules of law (such as the international treaties governing intellectual property and responses to climate change), and new governance structures (the European Union, North American Free Trade Association, the African Union, the Pacific Islands Forum, and so on). The entire economies of certain countries—particularly developing ones—are based on their ability to participate in the system. India is perhaps the best example of this, with its central role in outsourcing and its technical service industry driving its economic growth. Since 1985, the number of Indians defined as "deprived" has fallen from 93 percent to 54 percent of the population, as 103 million people moved out of desperate poverty and many millions more were born into less dire circumstances.

But as with many things in life, these accelerated changes can also lead to great uncertainties. While economic growth makes developing countries better off on the whole, not everyone is a winner. The increase of economic growth around the planet is already straining the availability of water, energy, and other natural resources. It has accelerated the carbon emissions that are, almost certainly, contributing significantly to climate change. And the ability to reach out across national and organizational boundaries, to exchange information, financing, and weaponry, is one of the critical elements in the arsenal of present-day terrorists. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, exposure to every type of incoming influence—from microscopic biological predators to undocumented workers—has the ability to reach more deeply into local communities with potentially long term effects.


Excerpted from Megacommunities by Mark Gerencser, Christopher Kelly, Fernando Napolitano, Reginald Van Lee. Copyright © 2008 Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Chapter One: An Interdependent World in Crisis,
Chapter Two: Anatomy of a Megacommunity,
Chapter Three: Megacommunity Thinking,
Chapter Four: Initiating a Megacommunity,
Chapter Five: Structuring and Sustaining the Megacommunity,
Chapter Six: Leading in a Megacommunity,
About the Authors,

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