The Intrapreneur Lab

By Lionel Bodin, Senior Manager, Accenture Development Partnerships

Towards an Ecosystem for Social Intrapreneurs

What is the best way for proven, innovative ideas to achieve sustainable expansion and scale? For many social intrapreneurs, this is the Holy Grail of their business. The successful intrapreneur operates in a supportive environment that includes a combination of innovative and risk-taking corporate culture, strong personal relationships and the ability to tap into the corporate capabilities and resources of the intrapreneur’s organization.

As David Grayson and his team from the Doughty Center highlighted in their report “Creating Sustainable Business through Social Intrapreneurism”, aspiring and early-stage social intrapreneurs need an enabling environment within their company to develop their ideas. Through this internal enabling environment, the successful intrapreneurs manage to embed their concepts into the very DNA of their company.

However, as with any other economic activity, there are a number of external factors with the potential to foster social intrapreneurism. Not only do social intrapreneurs benefit from pre-existing corporate ecosystems, it seems that there is also a growing need to establish external networks of interactions and interventions that accelerate the process of developing social intrapreneurism.

The Intrapreneurs Lab can be seen as a growing element of this wider external ecosystem: creating a free and open space for individuals from various companies – sometimes competitors – to learn from the journeys of similar minded intrapreneurs. The Lab creates both a self-reflective atmosphere for the participants and the dynamics of open collaboration, encouraging participants to look beyond the confines of their own companies. Yes, navigating the system is a key skill for intrapreneurs, but the navigation system may well come from another organization. During the first session of the Lab, I remember many participants and attendees sharing how they discovered what their “classmates” could bring to their ideas and how rarely they had the opportunity to scrutinize their ideas with the business-minded professionals of our faculty. I am sure that these connections will endure far beyond the Lab accelerator period. And it might create unique business-to-business connections and synergies where their concept will merge.

As we look to the future, there is both a need and an opportunity to continue to creatively build the external “Social Intrapreneurship Ecosystem.” Communities are being established, practitioners’ groups gather and collaborate, university courses on the topic are blossoming and new investment vehicles are being designed. As a Lab partner, we are trying to foster the uptake of such initiatives, raise the profile of concepts and to help broker some of these emerging relationships. We believe that “Social Intrapreneurship” needs both a foundational supporting ecosystem as well as visibility from top-level executives. As an illustration, it was also part of the discussions in the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

Ultimately, it is only by a growing number of good, sustainable and meaningful intrapreneurial initiatives that the ecosystem will be become relevant… and this is all what the Intrapreneurs Lab is about.


If you have an idea that won’t go away; an idea that you think could benefit society and your company’s bottom line; an idea you believe in – and would like to participate, give us a call.

You’ll have to persuade your company that you coming is in everyone’s interests – but we’ll do our best to help you convince them (we’re getting quite good at it).

The Intrapreneur Lab is a collaboration between Leadership Laboratories, Accenture and Business Fights Poverty.

Lionel Bodin is a senior manager from Accenture Development Partnerships. He leads operations in Switzerland and France, and drives Accenture’s Social Intrapreneurship initiative.

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