Emerging Possibilities: Adapting Carol Sanford's Stakeholder PENTAD for the Nonprofit and Public Sectors


  • Kathleen Gibbons Saybrook University
  • Marty Jacobs Saybrook University


Carol Sanford, stakeholders, stakeholder engagement, nonprofit sector, public sector, living systems, sustainability, resilience, cultural evolution, strategic direction, capacity building, work redesign, critical systemic thinking,


The nonprofit and public sectors are constantly challenged to create greater impact with fewer and fewer resources. The recession of 2008 has resulted in less funding for both sectors and increased demand for their programs and services, pushing many organizations to the brink. With the likelihood of change in the current state slim, nonprofits and public agencies are eager for new approaches that will enable them to create greater value from existing resources in a socially responsible manner. This paper introduces one possible tool, which was adapted from Carol Sanford’s stakeholder pentad introduced in her book, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success. Sanford’s pentad is intended to shift a business’s focus away from measuring success based purely on financial returns to one of a quintuple bottom line centered on developing relationships with the following five sets of stakeholders: customers, co-creators, earth, community, and investors.

Author Biographies

Kathleen Gibbons, Saybrook University

Kate Gibbons, LCSW is a scholar, practitioner, trainer, coach, and consultant with practical experience in facilitating system change and organizational transformation in human service systems. Kate has spent more than 20 years implementing measurable outcomes for businesses and organizations within the human services field, implementing statewide system reform efforts in ten states in behavioral health and child welfare systems. Kate is a PhD candidate at Saybrook University studying organizational change and systems theory in the Department of Management and Leadership. She currently resides in Albuquerque, NM and holds an Independent Clinical License in social work in New Mexico and Hawaii.

Marty Jacobs, Saybrook University

Marty Jacobs is currently a doctoral student in Organizational Systems at Saybrook University. Her research interests are in transformative and organizational learning in multi-sector transformational change, as well as complex adaptive systems and system sciences. She has been teaching and consulting for twenty years, applying a systems thinking approach to organizations. Marty has served on a variety of nonprofit, professional, and school boards over the past twenty years and has also written for The Systems Thinker, Vermont Business Magazine, American School Board Journal, Leverage Points Blog, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, and Confident Voices for Nurses on topics related to organizational learning, leadership, systems thinking, workplace culture, board governance, and community engagement.