Juliette de Bastard


The intrapreneur, the new changemaker !

The last decade has seen the rise of the social entrepreneur. Will the next decade see the rise of social intrapreneur?

Last fall, Ashoka Changemakers partnered with Accenture to launch the League of Intrapreneurs competition to seek out the people, ideas, and projects within traditional for-profit enterprises committed to positive societal change as Walmarts, the BPs, and the Toyotas.

What is a social intrapreneur?

Social intrapreneurs are becoming instigators in the race towards a new kind of economy. These changemakers are developing innovative and scalable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems ranging from health to education to environment. But unlike social entrepreneurs, they are innovative from the inside of some of the larger companies.

According to the Economist, the greatest actors of social change are more likely to be employees of large companies because they have, thanks to their environment, the ability to see new market opportunities and to mobilize resources to create better products. Intrapreneurs have a positive impact on their business and for the world

Paul Polak, social entrepreneur and founder of International Development Enterprises, a company that produces low-cost solutions for small farmers, explained that big business is an important tool in the fight against poverty. Those who lead these changes within these firms are named social intrapreneurs or "corporate social entrepreneurs".

The intrapreneurship is a recent phenomenon that emerged in the early 2000s with the debate on corporate social responsibility and the role of employees. It is the result of global market failures, increased expectations of businesses’ role in society, and a shift in personal values and motivation to build more sustainable business structures.

In 2008, SustainAbility has produced a report, the first study about social intrapreneurship, which interviewed twenty different social intrapreneurs multinational corporations.

The rising social Intrapreneurship?

Promote innovations that change the rules of the game in a business is never easy, and often even more difficult when you fight the problems, such as the fight against climate change or poverty-are not always understood or connected with the business strategy. While these individuals have the drive to make great changes, their journey is filled with challenges. Social intrapreneurs typically work as the lone wolf and play the role of social intrapreneur in addition to their day-to-day tasks. Though the light has switched on for them and some of their colleagues, many describe their companies as slow-moving and simply aren’t “getting it”. The numbers do not lie: they show that social intrapreneurship may be short-lived. Four years after the report by SustainAbility launched a little less than half of the interviewed social intrapreneurs remain in business.

Still, those who have gone through a light bulb moment tend to remain committed to the idea of aligning social and business values, and have moved on to other roles. For example, Sharma now works atGlaxoSmithKline to improve health standards of rural communities and Vermeer directs Duke University’s Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment to accelerate progress towards a sustainable energy system.

What are the benefits to society?

The report revealed that the social intrapreneur think there are many advantages for the corporation when it comes to projects that align societal needs and business value: creating new revenue streams, expanding core capabilities into new areas, fueling innovation, enhancing brand equity, retaining talent, or achieving competitive advantage in new markets.

"The result is not immediately obvious, but it is important to have a presence in these markets," said Orlando Ayala, who led the Microsoft Unlimited Potential initiative that promoted technology affordable for people to low income and is now vice president of emerging markets in the company.

There are other examples of social intrapreneurs:
- Vijay Sharma Shakti project led to Hindustan Unilever to train and support women entrepreneurship in India
- Dan Vermeer, who worked on Coca-Cola Global Water Initiative to develop solutions to water scarcity.

Regarding the support of the League of intrapreneurs, about 100 candidates participated in the competition so far. Only the 15 best submissions will form the first class of the League of Intrapreneurs, becoming a member of the elite World Changemakers. These presentations will also receive media recognition and press. In addition, candidates will be presented in a publication as worl intrapreneurs with innovative solutions. In this league, the top four will be featured on the blog of Fast Company, Co.EXIST and receive advice from Accenture Development Partnership to strengthen their work. You have until March the 8th to vote!

Competitive solutions may include those that target:
- Product innovation: socially and/or environmentally responsible product development
- Supply chain: innovative approaches to enhancing supplier or producer welfare; reduction in social or environmental footprint
- Human capital: processes or systems to harness employee talent and skills for corporate changemaking
- Business models: new models for reducing the environmental footprint of consumption and increasing social prosperity

Accenture and MicroWorld have their own partnership to developp intrapreneurship spirit ! Other firms has their own plateform with MicroWorld with the same goal.

Source : Social Entreprise Buzz and Changemakers