Workshop on Corporate Social Innovation 

EVPA Conference in Warsaw, 29. - 30.11.2018

If we want to reach the Sustainable Development Goals we need more social innovation at scale and corporates should and can play an important part in driving this type of innovation. At the EVPA Conference in Warsaw, we demonstrated, together with Erik Childerhouse from Avanti Communications (UK), Manuela Pastore from Böhringer Ingelheim (Germany) and Wim Verbesselt from Colruyt (Belgium) how companies do exactly that by utilizing their core business expertise to develop services tailored to the needs of marginalized people in close partnership with NGOs.

The potential is huge – there are estimates that achieving the SDGs would open-up US$12 trillion of market opportunities in sectors such as food and agriculture, energy or health and well-being, according to the Business & Sustainable Development Commission.

Yet, it is easier said than done. We at Beyond Philanthropy, have been working with corporate clients who sought support to strengthen their corporate citizenship and social innovation capacity. There are several principles we identified as being critical if you want to be successful in that regard:

  • Collaboration: within the company (flat hierarchies) but also with external stakeholders (NGOs, public entities, other companies if possible) – in fact we see that as a maker or breaker for success as corporates need the expertise and entry points to civil society organizations
  • Defining the core. Is it just about selling more or also about a higher goal (often referred to as purpose), e.g. do you simply want to sell high-speed internet connections or is there a true passion for a connected, global world in the company? What drives your company?
  • Closely linked to the focus of your CSR, social innovation activities – is there a focus and is the focus linked to the core business / mission?
  • Making sure to leverage all resources: financial, HR, in-kind etc. and really tapping into the social innovation assets within the company: the employees
  • Building clear structures, processes and responsibilities and embedding incentives to participate, enhance innovation (execution, implementation)
  • Measuring your successes, impact (business as well as societal)