Scott Curran: Putting Theory in Action

Story by Dwain Hebda

An education is only as good as what you do with it and on that scale, Scott Curran has made the very most of his degree awarded as a member of the inaugural class of the Clinton School of Public Service.

Curran, a native of the Chicago area was a corporate attorney before attending the Clinton School. After graduating with his Master of Public Service he worked for the Clinton Foundation as a Domestic Policy Fellow before pivoting to a legal role. Over the ensuing decade of service to the Clinton Foundation he became General Counsel, leading the in-house legal team that supported the Clinton Foundation’s work in over 40 countries and 35 U.S. states working on more than a dozen initiatives. Following that, in 2015 he launched Beyond Advisers, a social impact consulting firm that helps companies, nonprofits and social enterprises design, build and grow their social impact initiatives.

Giving back, and equipping others how to do the same, is as much a personal mission as it is a career for the 47-year-old husband, father and entrepreneur.

“We’re supposed to leave it all better than we found it,” he said of his world view and personal mantra. “It is Bill Clinton’s clarion call to impact measurement, ‘Did you leave it better than you found it?’ He used that phrase in our graduation speech of Class One, which I have framed and hanging in my home.

“I typically work with organizations and initiatives that are already doing good and want to do more and do it better. I’m not trying to convince anybody that they should or that it’s good for business; there’s plenty of people out there having that conversation. We’re working with people and organizations who have already accepted that doing good is good for business, good for their customers, good for their talent, good for their communities and the stakeholders they serve.”

Curran’s career path started out routinely enough, earning an undergraduate degree in speech communications and extensive coursework in sociology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Everything seemed to be running to plan until one day, the plan went out the window.

“I was practicing corporate law at the ripe old age of 24,” he said. “Within five years, on a little bit of a whim, I applied to this brand-new program at a still-yet-to-open presidential library in, of all places, Little Rock, Arkansas.

“This was all brand new. Nobody had ever gotten a master’s degree in public service before. There were no alumni. Nobody knew exactly what it was going to be.”

To call the move unexpected is a massive understatement. Curran and his wife were both successful corporate lawyers who were just getting married when he decided to head south. It was a wild, audacious step that for all of its unknowns somehow felt undeniably right.

“It was the concept of the whole thing,” he said. “I was not from the Clinton world. I didn’t have any particular connection or affinity for the Clinton name one way or the other. There were a lot of people who are huge Clinton fans, and I am now, but I wasn’t then. That was not my draw.

“To this day, what excites me most about the Clinton School, and where I think it has the greatest potential, is the concept of professional public service. I think if we focus on what it means to be a professional public servant, to have a master’s degree and maybe eventually a Ph.D. in public service, I think the thought process around that and the conversations it evokes are the win.”

During his time at the Clinton School, Curran completed a Practicum project that established a sweet potato storage and distribution facility in Phillips County to bring value-added agriculture to the Arkansas Delta Region. His International Public Service Project found him working in the Clinton Foundation’s Harlem, N.Y., office and his Capstone project led him to Southern Financial Partners where he assisted in developing economic projects.

Bruce Lindsey, previously the long-time CEO of the Clinton Foundation and now counselor to President Clinton, was an early mentor for the eager Illinois lawyer.

“When the Clinton School was formed nearly 20 years ago, Scott was exactly the type of student we envisioned being interested in the program – smart and accomplished with a unique desire to learn and serve others,” Lindsey said. “Scott did his summer public service project with the Clinton Foundation, and we were so impressed that we hired him full-time after his graduation.

“His career since then has become an incredible example for the type of impact Clinton School students can have, from serving as general counsel for the Clinton Foundation, to founding Beyond Advisers, to pioneering the industry of social impact. Scott exemplifies the potential and spirit of public service leadership.”

Curran doesn’t just let his company demonstrate to clients what a professional public service practitioner looks like, he shouts it from the rooftops in his work as a law professor, subject matter expert, public speaker and budding author on the subject. He said his Clinton School education, and subsequent proving ground with the Clinton Foundation, helped solidify his vision into actionable steps for his clients.

“Something I learned to really fine tune at the Clinton School is to take the extra beat, take the minute, take the moment, take the time to assess the landscape,” he said. “The landscape today is nonprofits act like businesses more than ever before, and businesses are acting more like nonprofits than ever before. In the middle, they’ve birthed this world of social enterprise. It’s not a one-size-fits-all because they’re all different within the landscape of philanthropy and business.

“I’m now on a different mission of my career, which is to elevate and to amplify public service across all dimensions and across all industries. I was a member of the original 16 of that first class at the Clinton School of Public Service, 13 of which graduated, and there have been hundreds more after us and I think we who have public service credentials with an actual master’s degree in public service have to keep asking ourselves, ‘What does that mean?’ I’m still asking myself that, I’m still exploring it. My Clinton School education has never ended. It continues on today.”

Scott Curran is a 2006 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service. Following a decade of service to the Clinton Foundation, Curran founded Beyond Advisers to help social innovators, philanthropists, and nonprofit, government, and private sector leaders design and build their organizations and initiatives to achieve sustainable impact, strategic and operational success, and measurable results.


  • Joseph Dalpiaz on April 3, 2024

    Best wishes as you continue to be an outstanding model of a true citizen of the US where giving of one’s self for the common good must be the norm.


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