Many of us pine for meaning and purpose but feel that the only way to find it is to uproot ourselves from our careers and start anew–maybe in a non-profit or maybe as a social entrepreneur. In assuming we must take that approach, we put so many barriers between us an our meaningful lives.
I’m an advocate for starting where you are. If where you are is in a corporate job, this post is for you. It is about how to align your career with your values. It’s about how to use your position inside a corporation to make meaningful change by being a “social INtrepreneur.”
A social intrepreneur, according to SustainAbility, a think tank and strategic advisory firm working to catalyze business leadership on sustainability, is:
- Someone who works inside major corporations or organizations to develop and promote practical solutions to social or environmental challenges where progress is currently stalled by market failures.
- Someone who applies the principles of social entrepreneurship inside a major organization.
- One characterized by an ‘insider-outsider’ mindset and approach.
- The trick to being a social intrepreneur is to use your insider knowledge and connections to help look for approaches to meeting the company’s needs that are good for society and environment.
SustainAbility, in its report The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, highlights a number of case studies including:
- Bob Annibale who launched Citi’s global microfinance initiative, which focuses on building commercial relationships with microfinance institutions and clients, enabling access among the underserved to credit, savings, insurance and remittance products.
- Sam McCracken who launched the company’s Native American Business, which leverages the power of the Nike brand to drive athletic participation among Native American communities.
- Maria Luiza Pinto has worked to mainstream sustainability training and development into the Banco Real’s management. This has resulted in numerous sustainability initiatives from financing biodiesel manufacturing to offering microfinance services in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
The report offers a number of tips, summarized very briefly here, for people who want to be social intrepreneurs within the corporations they work for:
- Focus on solving a community’s problem not selling the company’s solution
- Use storytelling to engage empathy but build the business case
- Leverage your company’s core competencies and assets
- Work for support from the top of your organization
- Use your company’s existing operating processes–don’t rebuild the wheel
- Work to get your work funded–not just a free-time effort
- Create a coalition of internal and external stakeholders
- Pilot your project and execute it so you have an evidence-based argument to scale it
- Maintain your integrity and be patient
- Share ownership to increase your alliances
I’m not saying that big business is the only or even the most effective way to cause change (I’m not saying it isn’t either). But if you work in big business and you want to help the world and bring more meaning into your life, these methods may help. For more detail, read the full report The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers.
(photo via iqmanagement.ca)