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How Social Intrapreneurs Influence Organizations

People sitting at a table with their laptop computers. A young woman is the focal point. She's looking across the table, apparently speaking. A young man in the left of the image is looking down at something.Don’t underestimate the intraprenuers. When most people think of social innovation, they think of social entrepreneurs. They think of the social entrepreneurs finding innovative new solutions and building companies to make profit while making impact on pressing social challenges. Less celebrated are social intrepreneurs that are diligently working in more established organizations to initiate change. 

Social intrapreneurs are entrepreneurial employees who encourage, initiate, and/or develop a new service or business model to create value for both business and society. Gifford Pinchot was credited to be the first to define the term intrapreneur, defining it as “dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind, within a business.” The concept was built on by the author Guy Kawasaki who called the ability to innovate in large corporations the “Art of Intrapreneurship.” 

Social intrapreneurs may have less fanfare than social entrepreneurs, but they hold the key to the kind of transformational change needed to address social challenges relevant to organizations. They start new programs, allocate funds, and help set the tone of corporate responsibility from the top. The world contains disturbing inconsistencies, and with the status quo, opportunities for profit are on the one hand and the need to transform business to meet humanity’s most pressing challenges are on the other. Social intrapreneurs are indispensable if we are to meet the complex challenges that no startup can fix independently. 

At PYXERA Global, we’ve observed over the past decade the concrete actions social intraprenuers take to affect change within their organizations. They have searched for solutions to pressing challenges while optimizing benefits for their organizations. Next time you find yourself eager to make a difference where you are, consider these three traits to help you influence change within your organization. 

  1. Social intraprenuers encourage authenticity within organizations. Social intrapreneurs encourage organizations to align the aspirational values of the organization with those of its employees. They help organizations develop or maintain standards of corporate conduct that establish a corporate culture conducive to addressing social challenges. Every organization has a set of aspirational values, be they a part of the founder’s vision or aspects of a company’s mission statements. If employees aren’t in congruence with the mission, the mission is stifled and potentially off-putting to external stakeholders. 

  2. Social intraprenuers maximize opportunity for business and society. This means driving economic progress with the greater good of society in mind. Employees, customers, governments, and communities expect the companies they work for and do business with to act with authenticity, transparency, and provide a demonstrable positive return for society. Social intraprenuers develop and execute strategies that help businesses align and execute those strategies. They don’t believe that maximizing income while conforming to societal laws and ethical customs is good enough. Instead, they go further by influencing their business to transform to address the most important issues facing humanity such as climate change and human rights, among others.

  1. Social intraprenuers effectively engage and manage stakeholders. Not only do they know how to communicate within the company culture, they know how to address the concerns of external stakeholders. They are able to create allies and a business case for doing good. They know when to create or reform existing programs. They know the social issues material to the business and work to capitalize on opportunities.

Learn how you can influence within your organization in Candid’s upcoming webinar, From a Cog to a Intraprenuer: How to Lead From Within. The webinar will discuss the ways individuals can make a case for creating social value within established organizations and provide actionable steps for making the case for and initiating new programs around social change within established companies. 

This post is reprinted from the GrantSpace Blog.

Roger BainRoger Bain is director of media & thought leadership at PYXERA Global.

Topics: Nonprofit management Social Intrapreneurs Corporate Social Responsibility Change from Within