Social Sector

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Social Innovation

We help foundations, philanthropists, NGOs, businesses, social entrepreneurs and investors to drive change by becoming more innovative, strategic, and effective.

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In a world beset by economic disruption and political upheaval, as well as by the enduring problems of famine, poverty, and disease, there has never been a greater need for fresh thinking.

Social innovation is about applying new approaches, refining existing practices, and bringing powerful tools to bear in solving the world’s most pressing social challenges. Our work seeks to harness the power of collaboration between businesses, governments, nonprofits and social enterprises to address these challenges more effectively, and on a wider scale.

What we do

McKinsey undertakes more than 200 social innovation projects every year. We help donors, foundations, and agencies to develop and implement strategies for their philanthropic work, and support corporations in their efforts to become more strategic in their social engagement.

Our reach and resources are second to none. We bring broad global experience and relationships, a global network of talented people, distinctive expertise and capabilities, and purpose-built tools and methods.

In the past five years we have served 15 of the top 25 US foundations, collectively responsible for more than $30 billion in philanthropy, as well as leading nonprofits in more than 100 countries worldwide.

How we work

Our work has three main strands:

Shaping social-sector organizations

We help leading and emerging social-sector organizations and individual philanthropists to define their strategic roadmap and create the right organization and operating model to achieve their vision. We also work with family businesses to develop social impact strategies for their companies and their families. In one recent project, we helped to design a new organization to build a platform for a compelling global voice on girls’ education.

Advancing corporate social engagement

We work with companies to define and improve their social engagement strategies to secure greater impact for their businesses and for society. We help top global corporations—and many more national and regional enterprises—to reinvent their philanthropic approaches to better align with their business strategies and capabilities.

Developing innovative approaches and tools

We develop practices and mechanisms to enhance social innovation, including financial models, prizes, advocacy models, and tools for assessing impact. In the past year, we have helped cities design new competitions on improving resilience and finding innovative solutions to urban challenges.

To build our knowledge and contribute to the global debate, we take part in sector-shaping discussions, carry out in-depth research, and publish articles and reports. Recent publications include our article “Beyond corporate social responsibility: Integrated external engagement” and our report Innovative development financing.

More from this practice


Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool

The Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool is a free online tool that helps non-profits assess their operational capacity and identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Meet our people

Lynn Taliento

Lynn Taliento


Latest thinking


What social-sector leaders need to succeed

November 2014—Chronic underinvestment is placing increasing demands on social-sector leaders. New research suggests ways they can meet the leadership challenge.more

articleGaining strength through philanthropy: How emerging-market families can make a difference

Gaining strength through philanthropy: How emerging-market families can make a difference

May 2015—In this article, we discuss trends in philanthropy in emerging markets and offer five strategic questions for families looking to improve their chances of making a difference.