In the coming weeks and months, governments will deploy unprecedented trillions of dollars to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. These efforts to revitalize economies with unprecedented public spending will be paid for by generations to come. These investments are necessary, but decisions on how to spend response, recovery, and stimulus funds will shape the future, and offer us a stark choice — attempt to prop up an outdated system, the flaws of which have been exposed, or build back a better economy.
ACCELERATING THE EMERGENCE OF THE FOURTH SECTOR.
“We are at that very point in time when a 400-year-old age is dying and another is struggling to be born — a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced.
Ahead, the possibility of the regeneration of individuality, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another, and with the divine intelligence such as the world has never dreamed.”
– Dee Hock,
As countries start to rebuild their economies, most if not all will aim to go back to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” But we know now that an economic system that prioritizes short-term financial gains at the expense of the well-being of both people and the planet is not a sustainable option. As governments, multilaterals, and other actors develop recovery plans, it is essential to “build back better” by addressing the underlying systemic challenges in our economic architecture.
Much progress had already been made toward this before the COVID-19 outbreak. Numerous innovations to upgrade different aspects of the system have been introduced over the past decades, combining the best of the three traditional sectors, and giving rise to a fourth sector of the economy.
Conventional businesses have been broadening their missions to prioritize social and environmental purposes, while nonprofits and governments have been adopting market-based approaches to scale their impact, shifting towards a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable economy.
To transition from what has been an emergent and organic process to one that is intentional, a group of partners and allies who for years have been at the forefront of systems change initiatives are coming together to accelerate the growth of the fourth sector globally.
The aim is to not just rebuild, but to upgrade the economy with an updated structure that will facilitate sustainable growth and improve resilience to future shocks — including pandemics and climate-related crises — creating desirable futures for society and the planet to thrive.
This may seem a bold agenda, but it has been decades in the making.
To enable the fourth sector of the economy, governments can begin by recognizing the mosaic of for-benefit or purpose-driven organizations as a distinct (and diverse) class of entities, and scale them by creating a tailor made supportive ecosystem, including targeted policy and regulation, capacity building, financial markets, accountability measures, incentives to engage in the co-creation of the sector, and more.
We want to unleash the power of purpose-driven organizations to enable us to build back better. By creating a supportive ecosystem for the fourth sector of the economy, we can rise to the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable world.
We encourage everyone to take part in this effort. If we each do our part, together we can realize this bold ambition and create a stronger and more resilient economy that benefits all.
PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS.
The COVID-19 FOURTH SECTOR RESPONSE is a collective effort driven by leading individuals and organizations in policy, business, investing, academia, social innovation, and civil society who have come together to harness the growing fourth sector of the economy as pathway for social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Convinced that going back to business-as-usual is not an option, we have organized working groups to strategically identify opportunities for collective engagement and catalyze change by leveraging our capabilities, experience, and resources. We are working to enhance knowledge, advance policy, raise awareness, connect stakeholders, build capacity, and help ensure that the trillions of dollars being deployed for recovery from COVID-19 are used wisely to harness the fourth sector's capacity to drive urgently needed solutions at scale.
Join us now to help rise to the challenge of this unique moment to build a better economy for people and planet.
The Fourth Sector Group serves as the secretariat for this effort, in partnership with Dalberg.
The rise of a new sector.
A fourth sector of the economy has been growing over the last decades at the intersection point of the three traditional sectors of the economy. The emergence of hybrid business models that leverage market-based approaches to deliver social or environmental benefit is blurring of the boundaries among public, private and nonprofit sectors…
A growing and diverse class of enterprise pursuing social and environmental aims as their primary purpose.
“For-benefit” or “purpose-driven” are generic terms that refer to a wide range of emerging enterprises with a primary commitment to social and environmental purpose, while earning revenues by selling products and services. These hybrid business models are creating a new fourth sector of the economy. Now more than ever, we need to build a supportive ecosystem for for-benefits to unleash their power to address the world’s most pressing challenges…
Legacy "3-sector thinking" and the lack of an ecosystem.
The growth of the fourth sector is constrained by legacy "three-sector thinking." This perpetuates the lack of a coherent and cohesive supportive ecosystem for the sector — including policies and regulations, financial markets, measurement and reporting standards, among other enabling conditions...