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Cover of The Intersector book on the left; photo of Dan Gitterman on the right.Bookmark This is a feature that highlights new books by College of Arts & Sciences faculty and alumni, published the first week of each month.

Bookmark This graphic features the words "Bookmark This" in blue type with a little blue open book in the lower left corner.This month’s featured book: The Intersector: How the Public, Non-profit and Private Sectors can Address America’s Challenges (Brookings Institution Press, June 2021), edited by Daniel P. Gitterman and Neil Britto.

Q: Can you give us a brief synopsis of your book?

A: Many people tend to think of the public, nonprofit and private sectors as being distinctive components of the economy and broader society — each with its own missions and problems to address. This book describes how the three sectors can work together toward common purposes, accomplishing much more than if they work alone.

With the nation reeling from multiple challenges, more than ever the United States needs these sectors to collaborate to address what might seem to be intractable problems. Cross-sector collaborations and partnerships are more crucial than in the past as the country tries to recover from the economic, health and broad social dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when trust in institutions, both public and private, is at an all-time low, cooperation among the sectors can be a confidence-inspiring approach to addressing public problems.

Q: How does this fit in with your research interests and passions?

A: As a professor and chair of public policy, my students kept asking how the sectors can work together to solve problems. As I looked for resources for my students, I came across and became the senior adviser to a small New York City nonprofit called the Intersector, which studied best practices in cross-sector collaboration. This led to a new public policy course (PLCY 394) called “The Intersector.”

Q: What was the original idea that made you think: “There’s a book here?”

A: As I taught the course, there were limited readings to assign. This led to proposing a book project to the Brookings Institution Press where both scholars and practitioners would share knowledge and experiences in the field of cross-sector collaboration.

In the book, we bring together experts in the field to review these collaborations, identify emerging practices and demonstrate how cooperation among these sectors is relevant to their core missions.

Q: What surprised you when researching/writing this book?

A: We discovered that so many of our most intractable problems — including the pandemic and the economic recovery — will require cross-sector approaches. I am excited to bring this perspective to our undergraduate, graduate and pending new undergraduate/MPP degree students.

Q: Where’s your go-to writing spot, and how do you deal with writer’s block?

A: This project was a pandemic project. For all the challenges of teaching on Zoom, it also left time for a book project. With so many different contributors, I have made a ton of new Zoom friends and colleagues.

Daniel P. Gitterman is Duncan MacRae ’09 and Rebecca Kyle MacRae Professor and chair of public policy in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences. He is a senior adviser to The Intersector Project at the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation.

Neil Britto was executive director and co-founder of The Intersector Project, now an initiative of The Aspen Institute, and is an adjunct professor at New York University.

Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff and president of the University of North Carolina System, wrote: “As the contributors to this volume make clear, by working together and establishing the mutual respect needed to trust each other, public, private and nonprofit sector leaders can solve many of the nation’s problems. The possibilities for public good emerging from such collaborations are almost limitless.”

Nominate a book we should feature by emailing Find previous “Bookmark This features by searching those terms on our website and add some books to your reading list by checking out our College magazine books page.


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