Eric Clayton: The League of Intrapreneurs United

By Eric Clayton, Ashoka Changemakers

The League of Intrapreneurs United

A new force for entrepreneurship is stirring within established corporations: the social intrapreneur. They help businesses innovate from within by fixing their sights on social change as pioneers, while at the same time keeping their hands on the steering wheel as pragmatic leaders.

Like social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs seek to make a positive impact in the social or environmental spheres by leveraging creativity and innovation. But unlike social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs tackle their projects from within big businesses, bringing the power of the corporate world to bear on some of the world’s most pressing problems

Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, and Accenture are creating something even more powerful than the work of individual social intrapreneurs innovating within their companies. They are building a League of Intrapreneurs by convening a global competition, The League of Intrapreneurs: Building Better Business from the Inside Out.

This competition has been seeking 15 men and women from around the globe that are working to transform the businesses they work in, and the society in which they live. We applied our true and tested criteria for evaluating entries, assessing their level of innovation, social impact, and sustainability. We adapted these criteria to the emerging field of social intrapreneurship, looking through the lens of innovation for the corporate world.

Now, after a global search, it is time to announce the competition finalists. Here is a taste of what our search yielded:

Building Credit, Building Relationships

Imagine a small-scale entrepreneur in Brazil who is trying to develop a new enterprise, but is constantly hindered by obstacles to accessing financial services. Tribanco, the financial arm of the Martins Group, one of Brazil’s largest distributors, is addressing this problem by giving financial training to these kinds of small enterprises.

By providing better access to the financial system, “retailers are better able to serve their customers, the majority of which are lower income individuals living at the base of the economic pyramid, which helps them increase earnings and grow,” said Aparecida Morais, Tribanco’s director of human resources.

This ensures that lower income individuals are able to build the credit they need and to expand their businesses in sustainable ways. It allows for long-lasting and profitable relationships, for both Tribanco and these small, growing companies.

The Coffee Calendar

Suppose you are a coffee grower in Nicaragua whose family goes hungry in the three to eight months between harvests, known as “los meses flacos”—the thin months. Recognizing the essential role coffee growers play in the supply chain, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters devoted time and resources to understanding the various factors at play at the household level.

“This focus at the household level is innovative because we have supported solutions that take into consideration the unique factors that influence each family’s circumstances surrounding their challenges with food security,” said Rick Peyser, Green Mountain’s director of social advocacy and supply chain community outreach.

Individualized plans were enacted to help each family, and included activities such as food preservation and nutritional education. These partnerships lead to healthier families and more stable supply chains.

Mobile Address, Global Reach

What if you wanted to launch a new enterprise in one of the world’s biggest slums? This difficult task becomes even harder when a would-be business owner lacks a street address.

“An address can enable local stores to rise above poverty by connecting their business to a larger market,” explains Sacha Carina, global program manager for the delivery company TNT Express.

By combining TNT’s delivery service with Vodaphone’s mobile payment system (Mpesa), mobile phone locations become addresses, and business owners can send and receive vital goods to grow their enterprises. And by using Mpesa, money can securely exchange hands once goods have been successfully received.

The Next Step

The following intrapreneurs are finalists in The League of Intrapreneurs: Building Better Business from the Inside Out competition—and they are changing the world with their innovations. Now it’s your turn. Visit and vote for the most innovative, most sustainable, and most socially-conscious solution:

  • Interface – Can Carpet Save Our Seas?
  • Virgin Atlantic – Sustainable fuel solutions for aviation
  • TNT Express – Slum Logistics: mobile based addresses for slum areas
  • PepsiCo – Food for Good
  • Standard Chartered – Adapting commercial finance structures to benefit Ghana’s small-scale farmers
  • Tribanco – Expanding training to the value chain
  • GSK – Low-cost diagnostics for Africa
  • Unilever – The Lifebuoy Way of Life: Saving Lives with Soap
  • Green Mountain Coffee – Fighting Hunger in the Coffeelands
  • Leroy Merlin – leroymerlin.communities
  • Microsoft – Kinect Bridge
  • GSK – A nutraceutical to improve vaccine efficacy in developing countries
  • Syngenta – Thought for Food: Mobilizing the Next Generation to Feed 9 Billion People
  • Shell – EMPOWERing Innovation culture at Shell using meditation
  • TES-AMM – E-junkyard, bridging formal-informal sector toward integrated e-waste management
Editor’s Note:

This Social Intrapreneurship Interview Series is brought to you in partnership with Ashoka Changemakers

When “business-as-usual” is no longer good enough, who do you call? Social intrapreneurs are becoming instigators in the race towards a new kind of economy. These changemakers are developing innovative and scalable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems ranging from health to education to environment from within some of the world’s largest companies.

To help grow this tribe of changemakers grow, Ashoka, the world’s largest organization of social entrepreneurs, has teamed with Accenture as the convening sponsor to run a new competition that seeks creative fixes for business and society: “The League of Intrapreneurs: Building Better Business from the Inside Out.” The best 15 entrants, announced on February 18th, will form the inaugural League of Intrapreneurs.

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