2013-03-19

How The Impact Of Collaboration Led One Man From Wall Street To The Millenium Development Goals

Jeff Walker was a successful investment banker who focused on giving back while in finance, but then left the industry to give even more of his time, hoping that his collaboration with younger social entrepreneurs would send ripples of giving back throughout the world.

Jeff Walker is the former chairman of CCMP (the successor of JPMorgan Partners) and philanthropist whose approach to giving is tied to his practical spirituality. Known for integrating business strategies with the nonprofit world, his charitable influence has reached renowned charitable initiatives. Collaboration is his mantra; his career on Wall Street taught him that managing your ego enough to work with others not only makes you more efficient but also increases your creativity and impact.

Throughout his career, he’s devoted 20% of his time to help nonprofits. After leaving the world of finance in 2007, he started an entirely second career, one that focuses 90% of his time on giving back. Whether by offering his advice on the boards of nonprofits, starting his own organization, or mentoring young social entrepreneurs, Walker believes collaboration will change the way we give and that as we help each other, we will begin to understand collaboration on another level and the ripples will form. As the ripples increase and more people understand connection in this way, we will reach a collective goal of efficiency in giving and our generous efforts will become more creative and scale.

Walker’s career in finance began at Chemical Bank (little did he know that eight mergers later, his CEO and leadership team would go on to become JPMorgan’s surviving management). As one of the few MBAs at the firm, he took advantage of his unique position by drafting a business plan for their first for their first internal venture capital investments. This project resulted in a 25% rate return per year for 25 years and invested in the likes of JetBlue, Petco, Guitar Center, and Office Depot. “Along the way I continued to be involved in partnerships in venture and private equity deals and every time I did that, I had a whole different relationship with other people and it opened up a set of experiences that allowed me to step beyond the deal to a more fulfilling experience.”

Using this idea--that by connecting open-minded people you can inspire new ideas and intensify connection to your community, ultimately magnifying impact--he began experimenting with collaboration in his nonprofit work.

Working with nonprofits for years exposed him to a frustrating problem; most nonprofits don’t know how to effectively allocate resources for technology. To find a solution, Walker got together with his friend Jerry Colonna to create NPower, which matched nonprofits that need technological assistance with IT-centric volunteers. The organization brought Microsoft, Cisco, JPMorgan, Accenture on board to provide computers and servers, the Robin Hood Foundation became their initial network of nonprofits and their connections from the corporate world sourced the IT volunteers. Today, NPower has helped facilitate the donation of 25,000 hours of service, exemplifying that when problem-solving collaboratively you can accomplish measurable impact and make others more efficient.

Another example of collaboration yielding impact is Walker’s work with the Millennium Development Goals. He signed on as the chairman of Millennium Promise, to collaboratively implement a community-focused strategy throughout African villages. By forging the worlds of politics, business, and nonprofit they’ve significantly reduced maternal mortality, prevented malaria by distributing bed nets, and increased HIV prevention education. "I’ve seen that time and time again, when you set up a connection to people to causes and ideas that they are passionate about and they can join with others, it enhances their lives."

This is the latest post in a series on generosity, in conjunction with Catchafire.

And Walker has bigger ideas: What if we began matching people who wouldn’t traditionally be involved in partnership but can benefit from each others resources? For example a retired 50-year-old looking for a purpose with a 20-year-old student whose youthful drive needs experience and connections to result in social impact. He says: "It’s logical to connect people with the knowledge and networks who want to give back, with people who have the energy, excitement, and passion to give back.”

Today, for instance, he is working with a young woman named Maggie who adopted 42 children, set up an orphanage and the Bamboo School in Nepal. With technological advancements lowering barriers to connection, Walker can provide Maggie with advice and financial support from across the globe in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago.

Walker is now preparing the release of his book (co-written with Jennifer McCrea), The Generosity Network, in October. The book will explore real life examples of how to deepen relationships and increase our generosity to achieve, “An ever-giving but also receiving relationship, if you just continually give, it’s an empathetic reaction and you drain yourself, but if you’re in an environment where it’s iterative and others are continuing to feed that positive energy and you’re giving to them, you’ll get more out of it.”

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1 Comments

  • Reed Edwards

    Walker is clearly onto something.

    There's a massive gap between those looking to offer services, and those who desperately need it. I think there are two elements to go along with closing that gap though.

    A) How can you (as a NPower or Catchafire) become ubiquitous enough to bring about the desire within people to offer their services? Many people haven't tapped into the notion that they want to do good. They've maybe repressed it, or decided it's too 'time commital' or simply don't know that they can have an influence given their time/money. A huge component of this is helping them recognize their internal desire to help, then offering them the convenient avenues to broadcast that. And...

    B) How do you get the people in need to tap into / utilize those established channels (like a NPower or Catchafire) to broadcast their need? How do you reach the IT-centric people to broadcast their services, but also the nonprofit in Africa that needs IT help to broadcast their need on the same channel? Do they even have access to these channels? 

    The fragmentation is more than evident and the causes incredibly noble - the question remains can we efficiently connect the two and drive them to the same virtual meetup to make this happen...