Understanding Social Intrapreneurs and their impact on the future of business

 

Joanna Hafenmayer speaking at Social Intrapreneurs Workshop at Impact HUB Zurich, supported by Accenture and Syngenta

Joanna Hafenmayer speaking at MyImpact’s Social Intrapreneurs Workshop held on 5. November at Impact HUB Zurich, supported by Accenture and Syngenta

 

Social Intrapreneurs have been around for a while – but we don’t really understand the term yet – it’s not even in the dictionary.  So who are they really?

 

Magicians? Visionaries? Do-gooders? Just smart business people?

I guess they are all of the above and more.

Wikipedia and The Aspen Institute describe them as ‘business innovators who integrate profitability and social values while working inside major organisations’, going on to say ‘they understand the interdependency of business success and the long-term health of society and find opportunities to drive both’.

 

An Employee

First of all, Social Intrapreneurs are employees of an organisation, in most cases of a company. They were hired based on their skills and experience and usually have a recognised, time and energy consuming job.

Often, it’s a line position with nothing “social” in the job spec.

 

A Human Being

Secondly, Social Intrapreneurs care about societal issues – be it based on business risk perception, a business opportunity or because they simply care as a person.

They feel the need and see an opportunity to address those issues within the framework of their company (so not by donating money or by starting a charity).

 

An Entrepreneur

Last, but not least. That means that Social Intrapreneurs don’t wait for orders, don’t have excuses for lack of action and they would rather ask for forgiveness than permission.

They are willing and able to change things and they take risks.

 

The benefit of cultivating social intrapreneurship

When this combination comes together within a smart person who is respected within their company, magic can happen. Businesses look at opportunities in ways they never thought of before. They see how they can be profitable and improve the world we live in.

To help organisations understand the benefits better, some organisations and individuals around the world have defined the characteristics, the role and the potential of social intrapreneurship.

  • Sustainability’s 2008 report shaped the term in the ‘The Social Intrapreneur
  • The Aspen Institute runs probably the globally best development program for leading intrapreneurs -and defines them. The First Movers
  • Gib Bulloch’s provides a great definition in his TEDx talk: ‘Be the change you want to see in your organization’

Now we can begin to see that it goes far beyond the ‘social’ attributed to the title.  In fact, that is why we like to call them ‘Impact Intrapreneurs’.

 

 

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