To win the race for a more sustainable world, it will take an ecosystem of actors to create the solutions our planet needs. For the past 20 years, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) has trained social entrepreneurs around the world. While our fellows do outstanding work, they can’t solve the biggest challenges on their own.
Enter: the social intrapreneur, the close cousin of the social entrepreneur. Social intrapreneurs tackle major social or environmental problems from their desks across the country.
Canada’s companies, government agencies, universities, colleges, and other major institutions abound with social intrapreneurs. SSE Ontario’s Social Intrapreneur Fellowship (SIF) offers these office-based changemakers access to the training they need to align their dreams for a better world with their employers’ goals.
On January 14, as part of the SIF 2016-17 program, SSE Ontario teamed up with RSA Canada and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada for a very special learning event, the first-ever Intrapreneur Challenge.
For the Challenge, SIF students had an opportunity to reframe obstacles as opportunities by applying their intrapreneurial skills (e.g. negotiating the system, design thinking, and relationship mapping) to a real-world problem. Think Dragon’s Den meets Top Chef meets SIF.
In this specific instance, the students were asked: How can WWF’s Living Planet @ Work (LP@W) program help its “green intrapreneurs” drive sustainable practices at work? LP@W is an innovative program of WWF that provides the strategic guidance, green business ideas, free tools and support to empower and engage employees so they can drive sustainable practices in their workplaces.
With over 1,400 green intrapreneurs, the WWF program was launched in 2011, and RSA came on as the lead sponsor in 2016. RSA’s collaboration with WWF is rooted in the insurance company’s commitment to environmental protection. Friends of SSE will be quick to notice that RSA is also the lead corporate sponsor for SSE Ontario.
Mark Edgar, RSA’s Senior Vice President for Human Resources, explained how the relationships with WWF and SSE are rooted in the company’s founding 300 years ago by social entrepreneur Charles Povey. The company has always been committed to helping communities manage risk.
As the effects of climate change make themselves felt in a riskier world, it will be social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who help communities navigate and adapt. Recognizing this key fact, RSA’s internal champion for WWF and SSE, Paula Bernardino, Communications Manager, Corporate Responsibility & Engagement for RSA, brokered the relationship between the two charities.
LP@W Manager Adrienne Lo offered Intrapreneur Challenge participants several compelling reasons big business and employees need to be part of the equation for progress: in Canada, there are more than 16 million people in the workforce, who collective make over a billion business decisions each day. Environmental and social sustainability will require the active participation of these important stakeholders.
With their challenge in hand, SIF students set to interviewing LP@W’s sponsors, staff, and green champions for data they could weave into a solution. Joining the activities for the day were LP@W green champions from companies including Bentall Kennedy, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Ontario Lottery & Gaming, Procter & Gamble, and RSA.
Under the guidance of senior professional coaches Robert Bolton, Kathryn Cooper, Brina Ludwig-Prout and Tony Pigott. the students formed into three teams (Team Panda, Green Team, and We are the Champions) to make low-cost, high impact, and immediately implementable recommendations to the LP@W program. We are pleased to report that many of these proposals could be adopted in the coming year, as WWF and SSE committed to exploring longer-term collaboration as both organizations move Canada toward a more sustainable future.
Executing the Intrapreneur Challenge was a logistical challenge in itself. We had 16 Students, 5 Green Intrapreneurs, 4 Coaches, 3 Partners, 3 Social Entrepeneurs, 3 Staff, 2 Volunteers, 1 Student Mentor, 1 Videographer, and a baby! And somehow it all came together. If that doesn’t give us hope, nothing will.
For photos of the Intrapreneur Challenge, please visit SSE Ontario’s Flickr page HERE.