Leading into the Future XIb: Holding the Center While Innovating and Opening Boundaries
The growing role played by the intersect organization in contemporary life is found in all four sectors of most 21st Century societies (and certainly in the United States). (1) public for-profit(corporations, utilities), (2) private, for-profit (closely-held businesses, partnerships), (3) public, non-profit (government and other tax-collecting and expending organizations) and (4) private, non-profit (human service agencies, advocacy organizations, philanthropic organizations and foundations). While 20th Century America was filled with big business and big government, the days have passed in which these two sectors (private/for profit and public/nonprofit) dominate the American economy. Solutions to most of the pressing problems of Postmodern America no longer will be coming from either big business or big government—at least not in isolation from the other sectors. Much of the action in the near future will come from partnerships and consortia comprised of organizations from all four sectors. If Americans look for solutions in any one sector, they are likely to turn to the Intersect. They are likely to invest their trust in peculiar organizations that can readily move across traditional boundaries but also exhibit the troubling ambiguity that is inherent in the flexibility and adaptability of the Intersect.
Often the intersect organization involves organizations in two or more of these sectors. For example, an innovative California community college district operates a geothermal greenhouse project in cooperation with one of the counties in its region, funded by the California Energy Commission grant. This college also owns an environmental refuge outside its district, which has been deeded with the provision that certain structural maintenance be observed and that it also be used for instructional projects. Another California institution—an urban hospital in Northern California—began as an elitist institution that primarily served upper class clients. Its founding doctors remained splendidly isolated from the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s; however, as this institution enters the 1990s, the isolation could no longer hold up. The boundaries fell. Government regulations dictated what kind of patients must be served by the hospital. The state of California mandated that certain measures be taken to make the hospital earthquake proof.
This hospital suddenly became an intersect organization. It was now both private and public, receiving funds from both individual patients and government subsidies. It also became both a service organization and a business that must break even (if not turn a profit). Like the college in New York State that runs a roller rink or the human service agency in Illinois that provides corporate services, this hospital had to find a way to generate revenues while retaining its commitment to the provision of quality health care services (the center had to hold). With passage of the Affordable Care Act, the intersect challenges became even greater for those leading this hospital and those leading virtually every other hospital in the United States.