Senior Fellow in Social Innovation
Since 1992, Neil Smith has been co-founder and managing partner of SmithOBrien, a management consulting firm, whose pioneering work in corporate responsibility/sustainability strategy, risk assessment, measurement and values-based systemic change has transformed the behavior, practices and financial performance of some of the country’s largest and oldest companies. Neil led the firm’s corporate responsibility strategy development and measurement services and Social Network Analysis practice before recently retiring.
He was a founding partner of innovation, measurement 21st century (im21), which specializes in the use of Social Network Analysis and mapping and on-line facilitation to produce inclusive stakeholder collaboration and communication in order to accelerate innovation, problem-solving, and corporate responsibility/sustainability.
SmithOBrien clients have included Calvert, Chiquita, Gillette, Starbucks, Symantec, Aon Hewitt, Covidien, Duke Energy, among others.
Neil brings a unique combination of skills and experience. He has directed nonprofit organizations for low-income and working-class communities, published weekly newspapers, and advised the senior leadership teams of global corporations. As a consultant and sometimes executive coach, he has helped corporate leaders recognize the business value of seeding and sustaining an organizational culture of respect, inclusion, accountability, ethics, etc., while integrating progressive operational practices and tying environmental, social and financial performance to their business strategies, market leadership and long-term shareholder value.
Neil now applies his expertise (10-20 hrs/mo) in helping smaller fund managers ($100M-$200M in assets under management) drive capital to place-based, growth-stage social enterprises ($10M-$75M in revenue), to assess whether there internal culture and practices are aligned with investors’ own values and are at the core of how the business operates. This includes working with asset managers to better inform their selection process, including defining clear and measurable success criteria and the probability of achieving it.
In collaboration with experts in place-based investing, he is developing a new cross-sector framework to measure the medium- and longer-term results of different social enterprises—in the same community and portfolio and linked by a common change strategy and key indicators and metrics—working collectively to reverse the systemic conditions in rural and urban, low-income communities of color that have allowed for disparities in income and asset building, housing, education, food security, community infrastructure, public policy, etc.
Neil also coaches social entrepreneurs on doing the right thing in how they manage a company’s growth, and in effectively leveraging its social mission as a key differentiator from competitors who don’t have similar social/environmental goals and transparent accountability standards.
He has been a mentor to inner-city entrepreneurs, participating in Entrepreneurs for All, an accelerator based in Lowell, Mass., and is on the Board of Interlock Media.
After moving SmithOBrien from Boston to New York City in 2005, Neil was a part-time faculty member at The New School University’s Milano School for International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy and previously, an adjunct professor at “Leadership for Change,” a graduate certificate program at the Boston College Carroll School of Management that prepared MBA students to become effective and responsible local and global change agents.
He has authored journal articles and books and contributed to many others, including Transforming Sustainability Strategy into Action (Wiley, 2005). A lifelong sailor, he authored Shopping for Safer Boat Care (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 1997), which examines the environmental and health effects of more than 100 marine products.