How can businesses encourage and support social innovation in their organisations, and what are the benefits of doing so?

Live written discussion with a panel of experts to explore how businesses encourage and support social innovation in their organisations, and the benefits of doing so.


LIVE Panel

Thursday 13 April, 10am to 11am EDT / 3pm to 4 pm BST | ADD TO CALENDAR


For some businesses wishing to increase the social value they deliver requires innovation. It could be about innovating new products or services, opening up new markets or changing an existing practice or process. Managing change can be challenging. Maximising social and commercial outcomes simultaneously adds complexity. Social enterprises, as a distinct commercial model have been around since the 70s, whilst the idea of social innovators within businesses pivoting their organisations to deliver social and commercial value has been around for more than a decade. So what have we learnt since then? How are businesses accelerating social innovation within and outside of their organisations? and why isn’t social innovation mainstream yet?’

A live written discussion with a panel of experts to explore these issues and the implications for business action.


  • Filipe Alfaiate, Adjunct Associate Professor, Impact and Sustainability, Nova School of Business and Economics
  • Alam Bains, Head Of Partnerships, MovingWorlds
  • João Maria Botelho, Researcher NOVA Business and Human Rights and Environment Researcher and Board Advisor, NOVA Green Lab
  • Joana Castro e Costa, Executive Director Nova SBE Leadership, Impact Knowledge Center
  • Abir Chowdhury, Sr. Manager - Development & Fundraising, Ashoka University
  • Yaquta Fatehi, Program Manager, William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan
  • Lindsey Huahuamull, Ensena Peru, Generation Global & Learning Planet
  • Chioma Izuwah-onyekwere, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Teresiah Kaberia, Innovation and Special Programs, The Youth Cafe
  • Amber Kiani, Director of Organizational Research and Development, XRSI - XR Safety Initiative
  • Likam Kyanzaire, Head of Voice,
  • Dejan Markovic, Head of Innovation, Youth Business International
  • Shodigul Mamadyorbekova, Rural Development Advisor
  • Clara Medeiros, Member KidsforSDGs and Climate Science, Brazil & Learning Planet
  • Flora von Michel, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Sherif Muçalla, Researcher
  • Oyin Olufayo, Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld
  • Tolu Seun, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Himanshi Singh, Sr. Manager, Development & Fundraising, Ashoka University
  • Edward Stevenette, Education Project Manager, Learning Planet Institute
  • George Warren, Executive Coach

Moderator: Katie Hyson, Director Thought Leadership and COO, Business Fights Poverty


  1. How can businesses encourage and support social innovation and what are the benefits?
  2. What are some good examples of businesses that have implemented social innovation in their operations?
  3. How can we work better together to encourage and support social innovation in businesses?


This is a text-based discussion which remains open, so please do continue to share your insights.

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Hi everyone my name is Likam, I am Head of Voice at Enabled.You a tech platform dedicated to nonprofits and social innovation. I am also a writer/journalist with multiple publications like Immigrant Muse and excited to talk with you all.


Hi everyone. I’m Yaquta Fatehi, and I work as a program manager at the William Davidson Institute at the U of Michigan. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

In our discussion, I will focus on including gender-inclusive practices within business operations and value chains to unlock social innovation; and what companies can gain – both financial and social benefits – from this. Looking forward to engaging with all of you!

Hi Everyone. I’m Dejan Markovic, I am Head of Innovation at Youth Business International. I’m very much looking forward to the session and I’ll be focusing on my experiences from the NGO and large corporate spaces and the insights I’ve gained from those. I look forward to discussing this exciting topic with you all. If you would like to connect, you can find me here LinkedIn

Olá, I am Joana Castro e Costa, writing from Portugal in an amazing campus by the sea - Nova School of Business and Economics - a top-ranked triple crown accredited business school leading in areas such as entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability. Within the school, I am the executive director of the Leadership for Impact Knowledge Center and coordinator of the partnership Social Equity Initiative with “la Caixa Foundation” and BPI. Feel free to contact me via LinkedIn. Looking forward to the discussion.

Hi Everyone,

I am Alam and I lead Partnerships for MovingWorlds. MovingWorlds operates a Global Platform that convenes partners from all sectors to build a more sustainable, equitable, and just economy by empowering social enterprises. I manage our Corporate Programs, working with amazing partners such as SAP, EY, F5, and Unilever to help achieve their ESG, Sustainability, and Employee Engagement goals. If you’d like to connect with me, you can find me on LinkedIn. Looking forward to the discussion.

Aloha! I am passionate about unleashing the power of business in their sustainability and impact journey.
About me:

  • Adjunct Professor at Nova School of Business and Economics with a focus on Sustainability, Leading Enterprises in Emerging Economies, Integrating Business Purpose with Financial Performance, integrating ESG impact in business models.
  • International Expert with a 20+ years track record with in-depth experience in 35 countries in the sustainability and impact ecosystem advising Governments, Companies and Impact enterprises.

Happy to connect in

*** Hello All, I am really looking forward to this Online Written Discussion today - we will start with the first question in the next few minutes. Feel free to introduce yourself in the mean time ***

***Welcome - our first question to explore today:
Q1. How can businesses encourage and support social innovation and what are the benefits? ***

Hello, everyone. My name is Oyin Olufayo. I am the founder of Gesego Games, a game company driving innovative approaches to bridge the gap between people and development through educational games.
Also, I am a Global Youth Ambassador for Their World Organization. In this discussion today, I will focus on how innovative approaches like what we do at Gesego and other successful business pratices drive social innovation.
I look forward to engaging with you all. Kindly connect with me on LinkedIn. Oyin Olufayo.

Hi Everyone,

I am Teresiah Kaberia, I am the Innovation and special programs Officer at The Youth Cafe. Looking forward to giving insights on youth-inclusion in social innovation practices within a business operation to tap into the success of the business operations. Looking forward to engage with you all.

  1. It starts at the top. Seeing the leaders discuss, explore, prioritise and promote pro-social ideas and decisions will cast a beautiful beacon throughout the whole company
  2. Walking the talk. Weaving in a heartfelt commitment – as opposed to lip service – to environmental, social and sustainable causes, and holding each other to account
  3. Think creatively. Imagine everyone’s future grandchildren are sitting around the boardroom table. What would they say? Keep an empty chair to represent Mother Nature.
  4. Operate your business in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Having worked in both the corporate and NGO space I will share my perspective from both.

Based on my experience working at, and with, large corporates, I see the following as critical success factors for encouraging and supporting social innovation within businesses.

Executive leadership and embedding in wider strategy

Senior management support and accountability is critical. Embedding social innovation in the organisation’s overall vision and purpose and communicating that widely throughout the organization has a big impact in terms of enabling social entrepreneurs to get things done. Senior management support needs to be genuine and not just lip service in order to get wider buy-in. Employees can quickly spot if that’s the case and if there is no underlying commitment. Moving beyond words and into goals and priorities is very powerful. It’s very telling when you look at what KPI’s businesses are focusing on and measuring.

I believe the first step is to truly recognize the benefits of social innovation: For companies, social innovation is not just a good thing to do. There is a business case for pursuing social innovation. There are a number of measurable business benefits – reduced costs, increased profits, strengthened supply chains, more innovation, new revenues, and legitimized license to operate. For some companies, it is a tool to respond to risks that will affect their business in the visible future.

Provide Focus

Simply having a vision and strategic intent is great; however, without focus it can lead to a lot of uncoordinated and unfocused energy. Providing focus and direction without being overly directive will make it easier for social innovators to generate ideas and define projects and overall support decisions making. SDG’s and long-term trends are a great place to start as well as thinking about where your organization can make the biggest impact as a business. Focus can also include product and service lines, industries and categories, geographies, customer segments, value chain, and channels.

Mindset shift – away from CSR/charity and towards innovation engine

Tackling social challenges provides new opportunities for businesses to explore areas outside of their core business lines, geographies, and customer segments. Developing solutions that meet the needs of new markets and customer segments requires new approaches and strategies. These can be hot beds of innovation and the learnings and insights could be used and transferred to other business lines. This requires a mindset shift as to how social innovation should be perceived within an organization.

Investing in culture, capabilities, and structures

Businesses should be aiming to build a supportive environment for all employees, not just the obvious intrapreneurs. You never know where great ideas will come from and a lot of the time it’s not from the obvious places. Also, how a business innovates has to be considered - people, processes, challenges, incubators, accelerators, open innovation platforms etc. all should be viewed through a social impact lens. Social innovation needs pathways to occur and flourish. Linking strategy to capabilities and structures along with goals and priorities demonstrates real commitment and moves social innovation away from the fringes and to the mainstream.

As a researcher in the gender lens investing space, I’ve found that unlocking innovation can occur when businesses apply a gender lens and incorporate gender inclusivity into their operations and value chain. These can generate financial and social benefits for the business and the community. Companies should first start with understanding where to incorporate gender-smart activities such as recruiting women in their value chain, developing products and services for women customers, etc. This exercise can help unlock innovation by understanding women’s behaviors and preferences and applying new solutions to maximize financial and social benefits.

Collaboration and co-creation

Creating partnerships, particularly strategic and long-term, is an excellent way to drive innovation. By bringing together the skills, capabilities, and resources from different organizations to innovate and to solve a common problem you can greatly increase chances of success and make progress faster and more efficiently. When it comes to forming partnerships you should also include NGOs, non-profits, academic and public organizations. Also, being part of and contributing to the creation of a broader ecosystem focused on social innovation can help provide broader support for everyone and provide pathways to share and learn important insights and experiences.

Executive Support: The support of the CEO and senior management is critical to ensure that social innovation initiatives take center stage and do not remain “one-off projects”, is closely linked to company strategy, and are able to mobilize support from across the company.