INVESTING IN SOCIAL INNOVATION:
Harnessing the potential for partnership between corporations andsocial entrepreneurs
Jane Nelson and Beth Jenkins
One of the key leadership challenges of our time is to find new ways to harness theinnovation, technology, networks and problem-solving skills of the private sector, in partnership with others, to support international development goals. And to do so in amanner that makes sound business sense, and does not replace or undermine the role of government. Business leaders have a growing interest, both in terms of risk management and harnessing new opportunities, to get engaged.“
Partnering for Success: Business perspectives on multi-stakeholder partnerships”The World Economic Forum, the International Business Leaders Forum, and the CSR Initiative,Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, January 2005.
The growth in corporate responsibility and social entrepreneurship represents two of themost exciting social trends of the past decade. Around the world there is increasedawareness of the potential to harness the core competencies, assets and resources of corporations in helping to find new solutions to complex social and environmentalproblems. At the same time, there has been a dramatic growth in awareness of, and supportfor the crucial leadership role played by social entrepreneurs – individuals who applyinnovative, entrepreneurial, performance-driven, and scalable approaches to solving societalproblems, and who often act as bridge-builders between different sectors, communities,institutions and/or cultures.Yet, with a few notable exceptions, relatively little analysis has been done on the linkagesbetween these two trends and between the corporate leaders and social entrepreneurs thatdrive them. This is especially the case in developing countries where there are bothenormous development needs and great opportunities for increasing engagement betweencorporations and social entrepreneurs.This chapter looks at some of the innovative alliances that already exist in both developedand developing countries. It suggests a conceptual framework for thinking about thedifferent ways through which companies can support social entrepreneurship focusing on:a company’s core business operations in the workplace, marketplace and along the valuechain; its social investment and strategic philanthropy activities; and its engagement inpublic policy dialogue, advocacy and institution building. The chapter outlines the‘business case’ for how such alliances can help companies meet their business goals andsupport their corporate values. And it offers a set of recommendations for business1