Cartography: Rotterdam

March 23, 2016

Cartography[n.]: Mapping, review

This is part one of a short series of the insights I gathered throughout my field visits in the Netherlands and Belgium. Fair to say that I got a snapshot – rather than deep insights – into the sector of social enterprise support. Nevertheless, I have gathered some of the learnings and highlights from the trip which will be presented in this four-piece-series.

Enviu

Visiting Enviu was a great kick-off to my visit in the Netherlands. I loved learning about their crowdsourcing/co-creation approach to sourcing social business concepts – the big upside having a large pool of diverse ideas to solve a specific challenge. These concepts are then filtered, adapted, tested, filtered and adapted again. I think this has enormous potential for Enviu at the very beginning of the support pipeline for social enterprises. There probably is room for streamlining their crowdsourcing platform – I had trouble finding it and knowing how to get involved.

If you want to draw a crowd, you need to make it easy for them to find your platform. Click To Tweet

As Wouter said: “We are not a platform provider for crowdsourcing projects.” and I agree. But I wonder how this can be professionalized to streamline processes and increase efficiency. After all, if you want to draw a crowd, you need to make it easy for them to find it. Be aware that the interview with Wouter was focused on only one of their programs when in fact they offer much more than what we could cover during those two hours. Pop over to enviu.org to learn more about what they do!

Outside Inc.

A spin-off from Enviu, Outside Inc. aims to ignite social innovation within the corporate sector – quite a lever for large-scale change. Outside Inc. refers to their concept as CSE – Corporate Social Entrepreneurship. Rather than defining new territory, I would probably stick with social intrapreneurship and contribute to this discussion (see Ashoka/Forbes, Echoing Green, BMW Foundation), but that’s just me. After our interview and my research in CSE, here is what I have been mulling over:

As opposed to Corporate Social Responsibility, CSE is defined by Outside Inc. as maximizing positive impact (not minimizing negative ones), being part of the core business (rather than separated), and creating stakeholder value (instead of responding to stakeholder expectations), to name a few.

CSR vs

To me, this is a simplified juxtaposition. I know that we often use those to draw a line, emphasize a comparison, highlight differences. But instead of presenting CSE as everything that CSR falls short of, I would suggest giving credit where it’s due and emphasizing where CSE adds value to the well established concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (see the works of Archie B. Carroll, Dirk Matten & Jeremy Moon, etc. over the last decades). I believe CSE creates a different kind of value; one that enhances a company’s competitiveness and innovation potential. It may actually complement a company’s CSR efforts and become one of the tools in creating sustainable value. If companies abolished their CSR departments and replaced them with nothing but Corporate Social Entrepreneurship, I doubt it would fly.

CSR meets corporate social entrepreneurship - a path for sustainable business? Click To Tweet

I look at it this way: CSR helps define an ethical corporate conduct and culture, CSE is a method to spur corporate innovation; if that innovation adheres to the ethical values of the company – even better. By the way, I am not entirely sure what defines the “Social” in Corporate Social Entrepreneurship, but let’s assume Outside Inc. has an eye on that.

In short, to me, CSR and CSE are a great match – rather than opposites – for companies that want to create sustainable value in an triple-bottom-line world.

Despite the quarrels of definition that I am having with myself here, I do believe there lies great potential in Outside Inc.’s model of spurring innovation for greater good through co-creating with companies. I would love to hear more about the actual learnings from running the program and find answers to questions such as:

  • How do you effectively involve the right kind of employees and coordinate tasks of the CSE program with their daily job responsibilities? Do co-workers have to fill in for jobs that fall of the edges of program participants?
  • What kind of commitment is required from corporate leadership and employees, how can one influence the other?
  • How do you arrive at a “Central Challenge” that all involved parties perceive as such, and want to work on?
  • What does the company really get out of it? There must be tangible outputs (new products & services) as well as intangible ones (impact on company culture, learning, enhanced collaboration). How does that compare to their initial expectations? How can this process be assessed and managed?
  • What are the transaction costs in running this program for the different parties? What kind of friction develops and how does it impact the success of the program?
  • And since we are talking about success – how is it assessed in terms of company value, employee satisfaction, greater societal value? How can sustainability of the program outcomes be guaranteed?

Some of these questions seem to have been addressed in Outside Inc.’s CSE Lab #1 in May this year. I look forward to seeing what #2, #3 to #50 come up with and wha we can learn from Outside Inc. as one of the pioneers in this area.

Again and still, corporate intrapreneurship, or CSE, has strong potential in building a bridge between social entrepreneurship and the corporate sector. I look forward to meeting more support organizations that work in this field to search for answers to my questions!


Cartography: Amsterdam

Cartography: Brussels

Spotlight: Isabelle Coppens

What drives you?

To make a difference for people who want to start their own projects.

Biggest SocEnt trend have you seen over the last 5 years?

Sharing Economy.

What are you currently reading?

Hoe ik verander by Shirine Moerkerken

Background

Isabelle holds a masters in entrepreneurship and new business venturing. During her semester in Boston she got a first taste of designing social enterprise models. “It was at Babson College that I used the business model canvas for the first time.”. Back in the Netherlands she started organizing events for social and healthcare professionals and realized that she wanted to do more than the event side of things: ”I was inspired by the work these social entrepreneurs were doing, I was sharing their enthusiasm. But spreading this attitude within the company I was working at at the time was hard. It took me a long time to convince them that Social Entrepreneurship is the new normal, that profit mustn’t be the only driver. Fighting the battle made me realize just how important Social Entrepreneurship was for me. I decided to change careers and joined Outside Inc. in February 2015.”

twitter @belle_215

Outside Inc.

Corporate Social Entrepreneurship

My conversation with Isabelle Coppens from Outside Inc. began during my visit at Enviu – we realized we had too much to talk about and would follow up a few days later via skype. I prefer in-person interviews; Social Venturers is about the people, as the name suggests, and even though a lot of my client work happens via skype – or maybe because of that – I love the opportunity of meeting people in person and in their environment whenever possible.

Outside Inc. facilitates Corporate Social Entrepreneurship and initiates startup acceleration programs together with partners. Our conversation focused on the former, it’s not too often that I meet Social Venturers keen on working with corporates to create value. I was curious to learn more.

Intrapreneurship as R&D

Their concept basically reflects what I have learned to be intrapreneurship: identifying entrepreneurial individuals within a business and developing innovative solutions within and for the company they work for.

Social Intrapreneurship - generating innovation in-house with the resources available. Click To Tweet

I think intrapreneurship is a great tool for business development. I am convinced that it offers a great opportunity to foster a company’s competitiveness by developing products and services co-created by the team members that have close and regular customer-contact. It allows a business to generate innovation and new approaches in-house with the unique set of resources available. The costs are relatively low; little need for external consultants who don’t know your business and/or culture to begin with; solutions are developed by team members who have a strong buy-in and can see a project through. That said, why doesn’t every company run intrapreneurship programs as part of their R&D?

Defining the Challenge can be a challenge in itself. Click To Tweet

Outside Inc. for example, runs a 30-day program stretched over a time period between three to nine months depending on the client and nature of the project. Their four-step approach is adapted to the client, the team, and existing entrepreneurial culture. Outside Inc. facilitates identifying a social challenge as an opportunity and potential intrapreneurs with whom they go through a process of ideation and pre-selection of possible solutions. In step two, the intrapreneurial teams refine their concepts through bootcamp sessions, coaching/mentoring, business plan development and building networks around their business ideas. With a fine-tuned business case the teams run against each other during demo day securing internal buy-in. Outside Inc. helps the the winning solution(s) in scaling their concepts through growth and networking support.

The costs of Intrapreneurship

A straightforward affair. What are challenges in implementing such programs, I ask. “For companies, defining the Challenge can be a challenge in itself. Clients identify an issue they want to work on. Once we start working with the larger team, we sometimes realize that the real cause of the issue is entirely different. In that situation it can be difficult being open to solutions since leadership has a pre-conception of what the solution should look like when, in fact, the teams on the ground have a different sense of how to approach the issue. We do a lot of mediation.”

OutsideInc.

Outside Inc.’s 4-phase Intrapreneurship process

So there it is, one of the core challenges of intrapreneurship – allowing mindsets to shift to create something new and innovative in an existing context – from coming up with new approaches to implementing them, and all the change that comes with it. It sounds like a painful process for the intrapreneurs and I believe the challenge for facilitators like Outside Inc. lies in managing all stakeholders while staying true to their social mission and creating innovation.

Social Intrapreneurship: shifting mindsets to create something new in an existing context Click To Tweet

At the same time, I imagine it to be an exciting process seeing old patterns and beliefs broken. Once Isabelle and her team have their first client testimonials, they will probably have to go through a few cycles of evaluation and testing to see how this mindset-shift can be facilitated and become less painful for the parties involved.

Even though intrapreneurship is not for every company and every product/service, I believe it is heavily under-utilized. I have come across similar approaches to enabling social innovation within companies left and right. I am curious to see how enablers such as Outside Inc. stay true to their social mission when working with corporates, and how sustainable this innovation is once the enabler has gone home.

twitter@SideInc

outside-inc.nl