Monday, March 13, 2006

Blindspot: Peter Drucker

As a humble, humble student, I enjoy coming upon blind spots in things I think I should have heard about and have totally missed. Peter Drucker is certainly a good example. I just read my first article today, mostly because, for some reason, many articles and books I have been reading over the past few weeks tends to quote and reference him...a lot! (No, I never took a management class, but there should have been lots of cross-over in my public policy MA.) He was rather prolific, so I better keep reading.

As one who digs into the terminology of the nonprofit/third/volunteer/civic sector, I found his description of the "social sector" in the The Age of Social Transformation (first published in The Atlantic Monthly, November 1994) to be something easily digestible.

We still talk of these organizations as "nonprofits." But this is a legal term. It means nothing except that under American law these organizations do not pay taxes. Whether they are organized as nonprofit or not is actually irrelevant to their function and behavior. Many American hospitals since 1960 or 1970 have become "for-profits" and are organized in what legally are business corporations. They function in exactly the same way as traditional "nonprofit" hospitals. What matters is not the legal basis but that the social-sector institutions have a particular kind of purpose. Government demands compliance; it makes rules and enforces them. Business expects to be paid; it supplies. Social-sector institutions aim at changing the human being. The "product" of a school is the student who has learned something. The "product" of a hospital is a cured patient. The "product" of a church is a churchgoer whose life is being changed. The task of social-sector organizations is to create human health and well being.

I will not touch that comment about the product of a churchgoer, but I take issue...

The concept of well being, while squishy, is something I hear more and more about. I think I will come back to "well being."

If anyone has thoughts on, arguments for/against or general insight into Drucker, do share.


albeo said...

social sector... nice definition, would be perfect but for all those animal welfare charities... damn them!

Pavlusha34 said...

Nobody said that well being didn't include my gold fish and your hamster.