You may already be familiar with social intrapreneurship and have seen some examples of it in action. Now, a new project by CSR Europe, a membership-funded organization of European companies sharing best practices in corporate social responsibility, will attempt to consolidate the concept.
“We decided to launch the European Social Intrapreneurship Programme (ESIP) in order to learn more in terms of what the companies are doing to foster social innovation inside their own organizations,” said project manager Alice Pedretti. “It’s still not very well-known and mainstream the concept of promoting the innovation coming from your own employees: employee-driven innovation.”
“We are based in Brussels so we have a close link also to the European Commission. The European Commission is actually working quite extensively on the topic of entrepreneurship and recently they started also to focus on employee-driven innovation with a particular focus on the social aspects,” adds Pedretti.
The ESIP is part of CSR Europe’s initiative called Skills for Jobs, which aims to tackle the issue of unemployment in Europe. It was launched last April and revealed last December at the Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona, where participants from previous years have indicated interest in the topic of social intrapreneurship. Approximately 100 participants representing 30 companies including IBM, Vodaphone, BBVA, and Danone attended the latest conference.
CSR Europe had conducted preliminary research of their members and found that roughly 40 out of 70 corporate members are actively trying to foster employees’ participation in idea development and employee-driven social innovation and innovation in general. At the same time, most respondents did not identify the activity as intrapreneurship, so it remains a disjointed topic of discussion.
A challenge for CSR Europe will not only be to breed a common ground for social intrapreneurship but to help companies create an enabling environment that will foster it. The BMW Foundation has offered to partner up on the ESIP, as well as Ashoka, a supporter of social entrepreneurship more recently demonstrating interest in social intrapreneurship.
Previous research has shown that the environment inside companies is a challenging one for social intrapreneurs as companies aren’t fit for dealing with ideas that push organizations from the status quo. It’s not uncommon to hear social intrapreneurs having to battle to get their ideas implemented. Esther Sarsa Ezquerra, Danone Spain’s Sustainable Development Manager, is one of them.
“She really had to fight the internal establishment to have the project approved, to have the financial contribution from the company, etc.,” said Pedretti. In 2011, Danone Spain and the Ana Bella Foundation, supporting women survivors of domestic violence, began the Social School for Women Empowerment project, helping women become independent, empowered, and equipped with skills for employment.
What’s clear is companies are showing that they want to embrace intrapreneurship. The remaining question is how. CSR Europe, the BMW Foundation, and Ashoka will attempt to answer that question as they plan to carry out activities such as workshops and webinars throughout the year.
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