At the end of May, EADA hosted the ground-breaking conference Cross mindsets: How can the corporate world accelerate the impact of social businesses?, bringing together business leaders from top companies and pioneers in the not-for-profit sector. The event was carried out in collaboration with social entrepreneurship leader Ashoka, and among the invitees were EADA’s full time International Master and MBA students.
The debate focused on the role of companies in transitioning to a more fair and sustainable society by engaging and enabling purpose-driven stakeholders, like social enterprises, in achieving their goals. Participants learned how private companies can help social entrepreneurs scale and amplify their impact by building bridges across and becoming “resource providers”, offering expertise, transferring knowledge, technology, funding or even network to support their mission.
Special attention was given to the direct benefits of these relationships for companies including additional sources of innovation, platforms to engage with their community and more engaged workforces supporting social initiatives.
The debate analysed systemic change and provided tools for participants to address the sustainable development goals though multi-actor engagement, with presentations from:
- Dr Federica Massa-Saluzzo, director of EADA’s Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation
- Pablo Santaeufemia, founder of Bridges4Billions: An online, low-cost, highly interactive incubator equipped with data visualisation technology designed to give universal access to entrepreneurial ventures.
- Ana Dubois, Director of the Ashoka Support Network Spain: Ashoka collaborates with EADA, and is a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship. Among its more than 4000 social entrepreneurs around the world, there are 2 Nobel prize winners.
- Carles Navarro, General Manager at BASF: BASF is the world’s leading chemical company, combining economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility.
- Marc Gomez, President and CEO of ABB Spain and Portugal: ABB is a pioneering technology leader, striving to balancing economic success, environmental stewardship and social progress.
According to Mr Navarro of BASF, employees can be an excellent resource for implementing systematic change. “Use the employee base to scan the multiplicity of possible collaborations, as employees usually have the best ideas and if you involve them the likelihood of success is much higher,” he says. “The combination ‘resources and backing from the top’ and ‘drive and implementation from employees’ works very well.”
Both Mr Navarro and Mr Gomez agreed that in order to create a valuable collaboration with social enterprises, it is critical to ensure that the company’s purpose is clear: beyond profits, what specific and challenging global challenge is our company helping to address? Once this is clear, understanding with whom and how to tackle the challenge become easier. According to the speakers, the identification of the company’s purpose is the key to successful cross-sector collaboration.
The presentations provided unique insights on how companies and NGOs are doing their part to make a positive impact on the world around them. During the conference, attendees were challenged to identify key aspects of this impact in break out sessions:
- The factors that reduce the chances of a collaboration between the social sector and corporations for systemic change.
- The factors that increase the chances of a collaboration of this type.
The conference was designed to allow for constructive cross-sector discussions on systemic change. Participants also had the opportunity to meet and interact with managers in the field of sustainability and business impact. “Credible efforts to address large societal challenges like economic inequalities and environmental degradation must be put forward by a group of diverse actors; one company alone – no matter how big it is – lacks the diversity of resources to address these challenges,” says Dr Massa-Saluzzo, director of EADA’s Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation. “This event brings together these actors and starts a conversation on how they can join forces to achieve systemic change and tackle large societal challenges.”