How can businesses foster an enabling environment that unlocks the potential of social intrapreneurs to drive commercial and social innovation?

Join us for a live written discussion with a panel of experts to discuss creating conditions for social intrapreneurs to thrive

Live Panel

Date 20 June, 10-11am EST (3pm-4pm UK) ADD TO CALENDAR


As more and more companies commit to using their core business to help meet the Global Goals, the spotlight is falling on social intrapreneurs – those talented individuals working inside organisations to generate and develop innovative ideas for projects with social impact. Like social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs need a healthy ecosystem to survive and thrive.

Research, led by Business Fights Poverty, The League of Intrapreneurs, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CEMEX, and The BMW Foundation with collaborative input from over 90 intrapreneurs, uncovered four key areas which are vital if intrapreneurship is to scale. The aim: to unlock and boost inclusive business approaches and models.

This online discussion will explore the four key components of the internal Intrapreneurship “ecosystem” as uncovered by the research: Purpose beyond Profit, People as Change Agents, Power of We and the Generative Pipeline. The discussion will question why not more inclusive business propositions are reaching market and scaling and why supporting intrapreneurs at a systemic level could assist this.

During the discussion, experts will share their first-hand experience of scaling and embedding intrapreneurship into their businesses. You will have the opportunity to add your own experiences and challenge the latest thinking.

For more detail on the research please take a look at: ‘The Intrapreneurship Ecosystem: Creating the Conditions for Social Innovation to Flourish in your Company’, and for more information on DFID’s wider programme, Inclusive Business Boost.


Clive Allison, Global Director, Innovation & New Business Models, Unilever

Gib Bulloch, Intrapreneur in Residence, Business Fights Poverty

Paul Ellingstad, Interim Director, Social Innovation, Pearson

Florencia Estrade, Strategy & Partnerships, The League of Intrapreneurs

Daniel Fernandez Alvarez, Social Innovation Associate, Barclays

Tom Harrison, Technical Director, Business Innovation Facility

Deborah Kaplan, Global Head, SAP Executive Digital Exchange, SAP

Hamzah Sarwar, Global Insight Lead, RB

Danielle Walsh, Director, Future Cities & New Industries, HSBC

Moderator: Tatiana Bessarabova, US Engagement, Business Fights Poverty


Q1. How can companies create a supportive environment for social innovation ideas to be generated, tested and taken to scale, while serving their core business interests?

Q2. What are the primary challenges that companies face when attempting to stimulate social innovation?

Q3. What are some of the examples of how companies are working to proactively embed social innovation into their businesses at a systemic level?

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Hello and welcome to Business Fights Poverty online written discussion. This event is part of the Inclusive Business Boost series funded by the UK Department for International Development.

Please add your own comments - you need to be logged in - which you can do via the top right of the screen.

We’ll be starting the discussion in a few minutes!

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As we start the live portion of today’s discussion, I would like to invite our expert panelists to introduce themselves.

Deb Kaplan from SAP is on.

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Hi! I am Florencia @ League of Intrapreneurs.

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Hi I am Tom Harrison, Technical Director of the Business Innovation Facility (BIF). We recently created Inclusive Business Boost which brings together research from 5 different organisations on inclusive business and MNCs, including the topic we are discussing today.

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Looking forward to a great discussion.

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Hi folks,

Delighted to be part of this discussion. I’m a recovering intrapreneur who spent 14 years trying to create a consulting guerilla movement within Accenture. I left 3 years ago to write a book about the experience:

“The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a corporate insurgent”. It’s a fairly tongue in cheek romp about the ups and downs of taking on what I term the corporate immune system.

I’m currently doing a bunch of things to try to support the growing movement around social intrapreneurship and am honoured to be the Intrapreneur in Residence within Business Fights Poverty.

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Hi everyone, i’m Hamzah Sarwar. I’m a One Young World ambassador and global consumer insight lead at RB. My background is in insights and marketing. Ive been actively driving social innovation projects with RB in Indonesia along with other intrapeneurial programmes alongside my day job. Im living through much of what is written in the brilliant ecosystem report and excited to share experiences. Thank you for the invite.

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Hi everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here today! My name is Daniel Fernández and I run the day to day of the Barclays Social Innovation Facility, an incubator for intrapreneurs at Barclays that supports the launch of new products and services by connecting the purpose, profit and people’s agendas.

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Hi there. I’m Paul Ellingstad, interim Social Innovation Director at Pearson-- the world’s learning company! Delighted to be a part of the conversation today with this stellar cast of intrepreneurs!

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I lead SAP One Billion Lives - SAP One Billion Lives is SAP’s flagship purpose-driven platform for social impact, employee engagement and customer innovation. It was founded on the belief that SAP is uniquely positioned to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges through the best we have to offer, our people, our technology and our resources. Our bold ambition to improve one billion lives is realized through social innovation and shared value.

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Welcome everyone! Our first question today is:

Q1: How can companies create a supportive environment for social innovation ideas to be generated, tested and taken to scale, while serving their core business interests?

Congrats on this new role Paul. Enjoying it so far?

Loving it, Gib! Teodora is on maternity leave, so a great opportunity with a fantastic company! :slight_smile:

This is the research question at the heart of Inclusive Business Boost. While this is framed as a ‘how’ question, one thing I am learning from looking across all the research is that we can’t always separate the ‘how’ from the ‘why’.

Most of the reports suggest that companies need to connect ‘purpose’ with a range of measures that make this purpose real for their employees. This may mean that inclusive business needs to have unique performance metrics and investment criteria for projects that deliver against the company purpose. This may be different than what we might call ‘business as usual’. Another school of thought is the key is to create a compelling commercial case for inclusive business. The practical issues that companies are struggling with will then be addressed without changing the company’s KPIs.


To unlock the value of social innovation, corporations must overcome processes and mindsets that get in the way of change – we call this “corporate cholesterol.” Innovation culture is required to address these challenges. This means fresh thinking, new competencies, collaboration amongst diverse teams, and putting breakthrough experience at the center of the business. To enable this change and help create a supportive environment for social innovation ideas to be generated, companies are adopting a strong sense of purpose. Companies that do this can find new ways to generate ideas from employees, customers, suppliers and partners that can lead to new products, services and business models for impact. Employees engage with customers and other stakeholders daily. With the right ecosystem in place - internally and externally, they can identify social innovation opportunities related to the core business.


A1: I might take a slightly different tack on this one. I’ve long felt that too many of us as business professionals are suffering some kind of ADD – we’re so busing doing that we don’t have time to stop and just ‘be’. We’re human beings after all, not human doings! This mind state is not at all conducive to social innovation and reimagining the role of business.
The other challenge is that we tend to operate within a fairly cocooned environment. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the idea for a non-profit consulting organisation that became Accenture Development Partnerships came during a one year sabbatical in the Balkans. As someone once said, if you want people to think out of the box, they must first live out of the box.


A1: It starts with people. People have to feel empowered and given space to think. They have to believe that they will be heard and their ideas listened to irrespective of their functional role or seniority. So it begins by companies building an inclusive culture where ideas can be incubated, treated with care without scrutiny and worked up into something meaningful.

It’s about flipping the lens and saying how do we build a solution that can genuinely benefit society but also create shared value for the organisation. This doesn’t always have to be in financial ROI but also other forms of interest such as building partnerships with government, reputational equity and creating a culture that others gravitate towards.

This moves us towards a ‘return on purpose’ measurement system. Holistic impact measurement is critical to prove to some boardroom dinosaurs that this work can accelerate business value not detract.

In terms of testing / taken to scale - i think there needs to be more freedom to trial models without this obsession of ‘scaling it to the masses’ so quickly. I think more time needs to be spent refining ideas and co-creating with local communities before trying to replicate regionally and internationally.


I would actually reframe the question slightly: “How can social innovation create a supportive environment for ideas to be generated and taken to scale that support serve core business interests, which happen to include planet and society as well as profit?” :wink:

This is really about thinking differently about role of business and society… so #leadership and #culture are the name of the game, and social innovation is one of the new(ish) ways of thinking about business’ role in and impact on planet and society.

To do this is a blend of ‘tone at the top’ with board, CEO (kudos, @johnfallon for active leadership here ), and executive team; grassroots engagement (and leadership) from employees, partners and customers; AND don’t forgot about the ‘middle’. Far to often, change hits the wall ‘in the middle’, so clarity of purpose and active engagement of hearts & minds is equally important amongst the proverbial ‘middle management’, too.

Beyond culture, this is also about process, #systems-level thinking, and #perseverance. For purpose to thrive in a business and to ultimately benefit society takes more than an ad hoc or short-term approach. Social innovation is still (sadly) regarded as more about ‘doing good’ rather than smart, transformational business model and way of doing business. Creating Shared Value is over a decade old now, but this and other innovative models for transforming how we do business (with society and planet fully accounted for in the model) are still maturing and evolving.

@Pearson has the privilege of working and collaborating with some great people and organizations who embrace and drive new business model thinking and help to make it a reality. In addition to Business Fights Poverty, DFID, Business Innovation Facility, I want to acknowledge and commend our strategic partners at TIL Ventures (@MilanSamani, @ErikSimanis, Tom Manuel) for the continued, successful collaboration on our TMI (Tomorrow’s Markets Incubator) initiative