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Leveraging Corporate Talent to Scale Social Innovation

02 June 2022

By

Swati Jetli

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4 min read

The world is facing some of its greatest social, political, economic, and environmental challenges today. In the next few years, developing countries like India will be disproportionately vulnerable to threats such as health issues, natural catastrophes, and the effects of climate change. India may lose anywhere around 3-10% of its GDP annually by 2100 and its poverty rate may rise by 3.5% in 2040 due to climate change alone (source-Overseas Development Institute).

On the brighter side, the social innovation ecosystem to address the issues, has been rapidly growing over the past five years with increasing support from incubators, networking platforms, technical expertise, industry linkages and access to markets and – finance mobilization –from government, impact investors and the private sector. The country needs all stakeholders to work together to reduce the inter generational effects of climate change, which would inadvertently affect the country’s poorest communities. This article explores how corporate volunteering and the social entrepreneurial landscape can work together and leverage each other’s strengths for greater impact.

Role of corporates and challenges faced by social innovators:

The CSR law under Companies Act has propelled corporate India’s financial contribution to the social sector landscape in India, and with CSR growing at 15% annually in the past seven years, this contribution is expected to increase in the coming years. However, one area that remains untapped is the potential of corporate volunteering. Unfortunately, most of this continues to be limited to traditional volunteering e.g. planting trees or teaching children during a specially curated ‘volunteering day’ that does not enable or empower social enterprises in the long term. The enthused participation by corporate volunteers at such events points to us that there is a need that corporate employees have, to be socially engaged and to give back. Most organizations are increasingly engaging with their employees for community programs that goes beyond a day’s activity in an underserved community.

Going beyond the realms of traditional volunteering, Swiss Re Foundation’s Shine program attempts to leverage the skills and knowledge capital of corporate employees to address the needs of the social entrepreneurship community. While the needs of the social entrepreneurship community vary across organizations and individuals, a few need areas that have been commonly visible are the following:

  1. The social entrepreneurship landscape solutions are backed by solid domain expertise and a proof of concept, however it becomes challenging for the social entrepreneur to convert it into a self-sustainable business proposition.
  2. It has been difficult for social innovators to convey the purpose and the intended impact of their work to impact investors and funders.
  3. The capacity and management of a social enterprise becomes a challenge as the organization expands.

 
There is a need, now more than ever, to bring stakeholders with diverse skill sets and experience, to innovate and ideate on sustainable solutions to address real-life challenges, and bridge the resource and technical gap among social innovators for them to scale their impact footprint.

Keeping the need of the social entrepreneur community and of corporates, Shine, a social leadership development program, was piloted in 2018 in Swiss Re Bangalore. The Swiss Re Foundation envisions to build resilient societies with a firm belief that technology enabled social entrepreneurship, will be the key lever in not just providing innovative ideas & solutions for our social and environmental issues but also in scaling and sustaining social impact.

The intent was to recognize and nurture social innovators creating impact in the focus areas – natural hazard & climate risk management and access to health – while facilitating a cross-learning platform for Swiss Re colleagues to become partners in social change. Shine addresses this gap by providing the entrepreneur with a team of 8-9 Swiss Re employees with diverse skill sets vis-a-vis strategic planning, financial modelling etc. Together as a team, the cohort goes through an immersive 6 month learning journey, guided by highly qualified business and leadership coaches. They work on the entrepreneur’s challenges and come up with an ambitious plan to scale, articulating the value proposition & last-mile impact for all concerned stakeholders. The program concludes with a pitch to a panel of experts determining eligibility for a grant of INR 2000000 to execute the plan.

The entrepreneurs supported in the past have reiterated that the key value they get by interacting with employees is the access to highly skilled resources that challenge them and bring in a business lens to their solutions. For the employees, this experience translates to one that is transformational- enabling them to first hand experience the complex issues on ground.

The Shine model has been replicated within the Swiss Re Foundation to three more countries – Slovakia, Switzerland and the USA with plans to expand to four more by 2024. For interested early-stage social entrepreneurs, Shine Bangalore’s 5th edition is accepting applications till June 12,2022. More details available here. You can check out past Shine entrepreneurs’ impactful work here – PurePaani, BeeBasket, SunBird Straws, HydroGreens.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Swati Jetli

Senior Corporate Volunteering Manager at Swiss Re Foundation

Swati holds a bachelor’s degree with honours in Commerce and a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology. She has cross industry exposure, having worked in organizations like HSBC, IBM and Capgemini. Most of her experience has been in Human Resources, where she has led several global and local programmes in the areas of employee engagement, leadership development and diversity and inclusion. She joined Swiss Re in 2015 in HR Business Partnering and moved to the Swiss Re Foundation in 2020.

Swati leads Swiss Re Foundation’s regional social entrepreneurship programme, Shine, in Bangalore and is responsible for replicating Shine in other Swiss Re locations in collaboration with local Swiss Re teams and external partners. She also manages their community engagement activities in Bangalore and oversees the employee volunteering programmes in the Asia Pacific region.

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We see social investment as a continuum that encompasses everything from philanthropy and venture philanthropy to impact investing, CSR and sustainable investment. We call this the “Continuum of Capital”.

We see social investment as a continuum that encompasses everything from philanthropy and venture philanthropy to impact investing, CSR and sustainable investment. We call this the “Continuum of Capital”.

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