Reducing inequality and accelerating real, meaningful and widespread inclusive growth are the most urgent challenges of our age. The World Economic Forum recently launched the Global Challenge Initiative on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion to engage all stakeholders – governments, the private sector, experts, civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs – in the design and implementation of scalable solutions. In addition to supportive policy frameworks enacted by governments, private sector action across all industries is indispensable.
What form should that action take? Social innovation – innovative, practical, sustainable, market-based approaches that benefit society, with special focus on the vulnerable — offers an answer. As “the voice of social innovation”, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has championed the concept and practice of social innovation for the past 15 years. The Schwab Foundation’s global community of founders and chief executives of social enterprises – for-profit and non-profit organizations created with an explicit social mission – demonstrate how such approaches and methodologies can create life-transforming impact.
But what about multinational corporations? Do the tools and approaches of social innovation apply? As this report demonstrates, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Global and regional companies are vital contributors that can take the practice of social innovation – and the enduring social impact it creates – to scale.
As a central effort in the Global Challenge Initiative on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion, the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation offer this report as a “how to guide” for companies to create social and business value. Drawn from a series of workshops and interviews with more than 35 executives from leading companies, and guided by the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation, this guide offers an action framework for companies to embed social innovation within their businesses.
The report begins by articulating the “why:” why social innovation is becoming an increasingly relevant strategy for companies to pursue in today’s shifting business landscape. It then showcases the “what”: what social innovation strategies and business models look like, what the range of opportunities are, and what business benefits companies can derive from pursuing them. Finally, the report drills down into the “how”: how did companies turn intentions into action? How did they identify opportunities aligned with their long-term business strategy? How did they identify partners, design metrics and devise internal structures to deal with “business as unusual”?
The menu of approaches and framework for implementation showcased in this report can serve as an inspiration and a valuable reference for many more companies to embed social innovation practices into their business strategy and operations.
Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Katherine Milligan, Head, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship provides unparalleled platforms at the regional and global level to highlight and advance leading models of sustainable social innovation. It identifies a select community of social entrepreneurs and engages it in shaping global, regional and industry agendas that improve the state of the world in close collaboration with the other stakeholders of the World Economic Forum.