Microsoft, social enterprise and last-mile innovation

Microsoft is providing seed capital for 12 social enterprises through its Affordable Access Initiative, a program that aims to leverage last-mile innovation in emerging markets.

According to initiative's director, Paul Garnett, the idea is to support low-cost, practical, high-impact, and scalable approaches by empowering local entrepreneurs with funding and access to peer resources. They're designed to increase connectivity for the 60% of humanity who are outside the digital loop. According to Garnett, local entrepreneurs not only understand local needs, they have the expertise to create new technologies and business models to meet market conditions.

Video source: Microsoft

-- Catalysts


Measuring economic, social and environmental impact 

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is a global organization consisting of members that support small and growing businesses (SGB) in emerging economies.

A central element of ANDE's work involves promoting the measurement of the impact that these businesses have across multiple dimensions -- economic, social and environmental -- and it has developed it's own core set of metrics to track the development of the SGB sector. ANDE also recommends that its members adopt IRIS, a catalog of social, environmental, and financial performance metrics for impact investors from the Global Impact Investing Network.

We are interested in ANDE's efforts to foster common, transparent measurement definitions, and share its belief that these can improve not just credibility but overall business performance as well. For a closer look at how ANDE and its partners are using metrics to support value creation, I encourage you to read this SSIR article that postulates:

"For metrics and evaluations to create value for us, individually and collectively, we must do two things:

  1. Integrate impact metrics with financial and operational ones. Integrated metrics can help organizations develop better products and services, improve resource allocation, and build more efficient and impactful businesses.
  2. Implement targeted, actionable evaluations that are useful to multiple stakeholders and fit with collective learning agendas. Such evaluations will build on existing knowledge; break down big questions into manageable, answerable pieces; and put the answers back together to inform strategic decision-making for enterprises and the sector at large."

Image source: ANDE

-- Clara Shen


Responsible Business Forum -- Presentations and Case Studies

The forum we recently hosted with Oxford's Said Business School started with the question, "Can a company do well by doing good?" We were driven to approach this with discipline and real world data, supplemented by the experience and viewpoints of executives with responsibility for profit and sustainable performance.

We are pleased to make the case studies and presentations from that forum available, and hope this information can inspire new ideas and business models.

The Forum was based on a series of cases that describe specific examples of the ways in which companies have attempted to adopt responsible approaches to business. Responsible companies in this context satisfy two criteria: (a) they expound explicit purposes or values that reflect objectives beyond pure financial performance, and (b) they demonstrate a serious commitment to implementing them through their ownership, governance, leadership, and management practices. These cases were presented in three sessions:




  1. Driving purpose from the top down. In this session companies pursue value-driven work via a mandate from leadership, integrating social practices through the business from the top down.
  2. Purposeful finance. In this session the featured case studies are focused on building the business through increasing financial inclusivity and access to banking. The session also looks at ethical investing and how to use investment to improve the lives of those living in poverty.
  3. Driving purpose from the bottom up. The case studies in this session are experimenting with innovative social programmes via business piloting, feeding information back into the main business to influence change from the bottom up.

Images source: Said Business School

-- Catalysts


Culture and the digital workplace

There is a great deal of activity focused on the growing digital environment -- businesses, strategy consultants, technology experts and academics are exploring how to function effectively in this rapidly-evolving landscape. Yet unless your business is a startup, these new strategies, operational processes and technical solutions must be implemented within an established business, meaning that the culture of your organization is an important factor to consider.

Shimrit Janes from the Digital Work Group wrote an informative piece last year that quite succinctly describes the relationship between culture and the digital workplace. In particular, she notes that the success or failure of new collaboration tools and other digital initiatives can vary from one company to the next due to the alignment (or lack thereof) between the new ways of working and the existing culture.

Through the research carried out so far, a truism has emerged: an effective digital workplace is one that mirrors the culture of an organization.”

Interestingly, this end result can be reached via two distinct paths. The first is by taking an approach to the digital workplace that aligns with existing culture, though there are cases where this is just not possible. So, a second viable approach is the counterintuitive one of building a digital culture at odds with the existing culture in order to precipitate a "values crisis" that leads to positive cultural change.

In both cases, the author recommends taking the time to understand your existing culture(s) before embarking on new journeys. With this understanding of existing values and practices, the right digital "interventions" can be planned and executed.

-- Bojan Angelov

Shimrit Janes

Mars and Others Share Findings on Why Doing “Good” is Good for Business at Oxford’s Said School of Business

Mutuality has been at the very heart of Mars since Forest Mars, Sr. first articulated it as the objective of the business. Last week, Mars, and partner Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, sponsored an event that brought companies together to share how businesses that create mutual benefits for themselves and others can be more successful than businesses focused only on profit.

More than 500 business leaders, policy makers, NGOs, students and faculty came together at the Responsible Business Forum, a joint partnership between Saïd Business School and Mars, to learn more about what determines, or undermines, a responsible business. Leaders from Mars—including Mars Catalyst Managing Director Bruno Roche, Mars Global Chocolate President Jean-Christophe Flatin, Wrigley Global President Martin Radvan—were joined by Oxford faculty and leaders from other like-minded companies, to share case studies and insights that explore how companies can and are seeking to adopt more responsible businesses practices.

Ian Burton, Regional President of Wrigley Europe, Jay Jakub, Senior Director of External Research for Mars Catalyst, Yassine El Ouarzazi, Demand Lab Director for Mars Catalyst and Clara Shen, Emerging Market Director for Mars Catalyst, were among the Mars leaders who presented case studies. Importantly, the case studies and perspectives across businesses also showed both successes and failures as sources of learning. The partnership between Mars and the Saïd Business School dates back to 2014, when the two first joined forces to explore the potential for building new business models based on mutuality.

Jean Christophe Flatin opened a panel on “Business Perspectives” about how mutuality guides Mars Chocolate’s actions and plays a central role in the challenges we face in the cocoa sector.

“There is no chocolate without cocoa. Cocoa is a very fragile crop that has barely modernized in the past 400 centuries and it is grown by single family farmers,” said Jean-Christophe. “The business challenge is the gap between worldwide consumers of great-tasting chocolate and single family farms in some of the poorest areas of the world. To protect and nurture our business we need to be transformation agents of this crop and go beyond traditional business boundaries.”

Wrigley President Martin Radvan also shared with the group how mutuality has been an ever-present part of his 30-year career journey.

“It certainly has been a journey,” said Martin. “From the start it was my experience as an Associate and the experiences I got to have seeing the impact business can have just by doing business. I’m proud and personally humbled by the initiatives I’ve seen over the course of my career but we are just scratching the surface, and I’m passionate that the journey continue.”

Mars Catalyst managing director Bruno Roche spoke about the role of business in repairing the world and the importance of developing a new management theory and training a new breed of business leaders.

“Business is one of the strongest forces in today’s world to emancipate people and communities and to address environmental issues,” said Bruno. “We are excited by the first insights that show that Mutuality can be managed rigorously with simple metrics and can drive superior business performance holistically. But this is just the beginning…the intent going forward is to continue to research this topic and create a broader platform where other companies and academic institutions can share their learnings and experiences — in a spirit of humility and learning from each other — to advance the collective understanding of how to drive mutuality in business.”

-- Gabrielle Braswell

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