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Intrapreneurship: 
The Art of the (Im)possible

 

"The greatest agents for sustainable change are unlikely to be [social entrepreneurs], interesting though they are... they are much more likely to be the entirely reasonable people, often working for large companies, who see ways to create better products or reach new markets, and have the resources to do so.” 

The Economist review of The Power of Unreasonable People [1]

 

Business should solve social and environmental problems – that much has become evidently clear over recent years both in terms of press coverage, demands from customers, demands from investors and demands from employees. Historically, the remit for creating this kind of impact fell within the CSR departments of companies. However, social intrapreneurship (and the social innovation it brings) adds ‘people’ and ‘business’ capital to the ‘social’ capital CSR alone provides. More specifically, it provides people, management, and financial ‘do well’ rewards to a company, alongside the social ‘do good’, under an approach which could be summarized as “doing well and doing good, doing good by doing well and doing well by doing good”.

Social intrapreneurship itself is a methodology to both deliver solutions to social and environmental problems within business and enhance the benefits the company sees as a result. So what is ‘social intrapreneurship’? The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs defines social intrapreneurship as “a process by which we can convert social problems into business opportunities by delivering sustainable solutions which aim to profitably-do-good.” And why is this important for social impact? The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require at least two per cent of world GDP to be mobilized every year by a variety of stakeholders. A significant share – likely more than 50 per cent – of this financing, “can and should be mobilised by the private sector”[2] and for each year we miss this target the percentage of GDP required for the remaining years to 2030 increases.

 

Given that the private sector has the greatest opportunity to support the achievement of the SDGs, this then leads us to a view that business must solve social problems because it is the sector with the greatest potential to support the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. The private sector is the only sector which has the resources, and ability to mobilise these resources, to address social problems at sufficient scale to solve them in a sustainable way. A lot of companies do now realise this ‘must’ for social impact, but it is not always clear howbusiness can solve social and environmental problems.

Social intrapreneurship provides a powerful answer to this question, unlocking multiple benefits for business in the process. Social intrapreneurs can be seen as key change agents to deliver social impact and, up until recently, this was an unrecognised and undeveloped channel for the delivery of the SDGs. Social intrapreneurship means businesses can solve social and economic problems.

 

Given that social and environmental problems are something business should, must and can solve through social intrapreneurship programmes, then social intrapreneurship can be seen as potentially the most powerful undeveloped frontier for positive social and environmental impact. Young people, and young professionals in particular, can lead this change and, indeed, are the ones most likely to. [3]

Intrapreneurship is a mindset, whether social or not, and this mindset can be trained by virtue of sharing the 'tricks of the trade' combined with direct 'experiments' out in the field. As intrapreneurship can be trained and is vastly beneficial on both an organisational level, and for the intrapreneurs themselves, it makes sense that intrapreneurship training is something for companies to invest in in order to develop a culture of intrapreneurshipwith the many associated benefits this brings (see my previous blog post on the business case for social intrapreneurship).

 

Through intrapreneurship you can work on things that you care about which, when combined with corporate scale, can lead to some pretty incredible results; truly making the 'art of the impossible' the 'art of the possible'.

Tim HeardCo-Founder, MD @ Circle of Young Intrapreneurs

If you wish to chat more about how to foster a culture of intrapreneurship in your company then please do get in touch.

If you wish to know more about social intrapreneurship specifically then check out Circle of Young Intrapreneurs

 

Tim Heard

Tim Heard
Co-Founder, MD @ Circle of Young Intrapreneurs

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