Dip into Corporate Social Innovation

“As the financial and ecological systems weaken and stresses build, human nature dictates that we try to do more of what worked in the past. We focus even more on the conventionally defined bottom line. Stuck in a hole, we continue to dig, despite clear signals that radical change is needed.” (The Future Quotient, 2011)

When it comes to leading practices in CSI, partnerships are key. At Ontario’s first Social Innovation Summit, Ros Tennyson, Founder of the Partnership Brokers Association broke down the important aspects of brokering successful cross-sector partnerships. Informed by years of work in the corporate sector, her video here and adjoining slides are an analysis of what is possible with the right approach.

SiG has an ongoing interest in supporting effective partnerships for Canadian social innovation. The value of partnerships informed a key part of the design for the Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation.

One company walking the talk on partnerships is Danone; the French food products multinational partnered with Grameen Bank to develop a yogurt business to improve diets in Bangladesh. Looking from the non-profit side, an organization like Net Hope also engages multiple corporations in the development of large-scale solutions in the developing world. Have a look through a profile of Net Hope’s model for the use of partnerships and engagement with the corporate sector. Although reminiscent of corporate social responsibility, it is a move in the direction of greater commitment.

Danone also hosts an annual Social Innovation Lab to seek input on how they can be more socially innovative. Lab approaches are increasingly being used by multi-sector, multi-stakeholder partnerships to test solutions and interventions. Companies that engage in this activity express a deep commitment to being part of transformative change. They commit more than money; they devote time and expertise towards a system-wide solution.

However, there is more to learn about how transformative corporations can be, some of which, is yet to be truly tested.