When we talk about the contribution of youth-led innovation to sustainable development, our minds usually run to brilliant young entrepreneurs who have set up successful startups, or young digital activists who are using the potential of ICTs to foster greater civic participation and democratic debate in their countries. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there is no single way to harness youth skills in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The pathways we need to embark upon to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call on young professionals to translate their expertise and visions into all sectors of our economies and societies, including those that are not traditionally associated with sustainable innovation and long-term thinking.
A traditional business models come under increasing pressure from disruptive technologies, a volatile global economy, and unprecedented social and environmental challenges, large businesses in particular must be ready to confront their many path dependencies and embrace new value-creation models, if they want to remain relevant in rapidly changing world. Creating systems that empower young intrapreneurs within their ranks to contribute to sustainable corporate innovation is a powerful means of doing so, and it can help these firms create lasting value for shareholders, customers and communities at large.
In order to realize this vision, private companies should be ready to leverage and invest in the skills of their young employees, whilst simultaneously encouraging a mission-oriented approach to innovation that puts sustainable development at the core of corporate operations. At the same time, the public sector and young people themselves must also step up. Where do we begin?
At SDSN Youth, we have decided to find out by partnering with The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs (COYI) and supporting the publication of ‘Social Intrapreneurship: What It is, why it matters and what it means for you’. This is an excellent Report which seeks to provide timely insights on the value that social intrapreneurship delivers to businesses and communities, in order to inform the strategies of all stakeholders involved in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
As we move towards including a full chapter on social intrapreneurship in our recently announced 2018 Youth Solutions Report, Tim Heard, Co-Founder of COYI, will help us explain why young intrapreneurs have a critical role to play in transforming our economies for sustainable development.
By Tim Heard, Co-Founder, The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs
It is now just over 2 years since David Spears and I launched The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs as a movement designed to inspire, guide, develop and deliver purpose-driven business ideas from social intrapreneurs inside corporate organisations globally.
During this time, it has become increasingly clear that the lack of accessible, detailed literature on social intrapreneurship, and particularly a lack of credible case studies, is holding back the social intrapreneurship movement as a whole. This Report is designed to rectify that literature gap and, hopefully, assist in making social intrapreneurship a mainstream movement.
What has also become clear is that there is enormous potential in this movement, not just to make the world a better place but also for companies, for customers, for colleagues and for social intrapreneurs themselves. The ability to do well and do good, to use your career to make the world a better place, to have that nice house, nice car, nice life...AND have clear value, purpose and meaning has never been higher. I have never seen anything else in my life with such overwhelming clarity - the opportunity here must not be missed and it is social intrapreneurship which can be the conduit to meet this opportunity.
Further to this - now that we have reached a degree of maturity as an organization, with over 6000 members across over 80 countries, supported by 22 circle chapters around the world - we feel that we are, perhaps, best placed to answer this literature gap given we have been drawing directly on the experiences of our social intrapreneurs out in the field all over the world. This report seeks to explore a number of core topics:
- An ‘off the shelf’ business case for having an established social intrapreneurship programme within a corporation - this is a must read for all senior managers looking for a better way of operating
- A clear answer to the question of why people would want to take on a social intrapreneurship project on top of their day job
- The (huge) potential for social impact provided by using business as force for good
- Top tips for how to deliver directly from the frontline
We also frame this through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given that the SDGs require business involvement to be achieved, and the fact that social intrapreneurship is, as we see in the report, the best methodology for companies to create social impact, actually social intrapreneurship can be seen as the key enabler for the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.