• Matt Arnold

Social Sectors & Brand Management

The Hedgehog concept: Focus on what you’re passionate about, what you’re best at, and your resource engine (a combination of time, money and brand).

A recent coffee conversation with a friend, the conversation focus on brand experience for non-profits. Naturally, the conversation went to the work of Jim Collins and his research on social sectors: “Good to Great and The Social Sectors.” His work is a follow-up/ extension to “Good to Great.” One of the big ideas in the monograph is the importance of brand experience. Brand is not just a for-profit concept.

Collins highlights three areas for making a social or non-profit great – focus on:

  1. What you’re passionate about,

  2. What you’re best at, and your

  3. Resource engine (a combination of time, money and brand).

These are also the components of his “hedgehog” element – a relentless, yet elegantly simple, focus on what really matters for your organization. Based on the concept, foxes know many things, but hedgehogs know one big thing. Hedgehogs can simplify the complex and focus on critical, yet simple principles. Because the social sector doesn’t have “rational” markets for valuation purposes, it is even more important to manage brand identity (emotional connection to the organization and reputation). A winning brand strategy and unique symbolic identity needs relentless focus.

The hedgehog concept of passion, what you’re best at, and the resource engine, align nicely with the quick symbolic identity test I ask clients:

  • Are you symbolically unique?

  • Can you ground that identity, making it real for your constituents?

  • Is it a profitable place to play?

I recommend the Jim's monograph highly. Excerpts can be found at

While the world is complex, interdependent and even intertwingled, you can reduce the chaos by embracing the hedgehog. If you're struggling with the internal effectiveness of your resource engine, your hedgehog concept, or your ability to confidently answer your brand questions, contact Spark Consulting Group at

Spark Consulting Group, LLC.

136 S Dubuque St, Suite 2
Iowa City, Iowa 52240



©2020 by Spark Consulting Group, LLC.

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