Taking Innovation to the Streets

by Mark Feldman

Joining the powerhouse team of McKesson’s Carrie Varoquiers, Google Giving’s Jacquelline Fuller, and IBM’s Gwyneth Borden, I recently led and participated in a discussion at the Northern California Grantmakers Philanthropy InstituteVisionary Practice: Groundbreaking Ideas in Action.

During the ninety minute plenary session we looked closely at how companies are “Taking Innovation to the Streets,” exploring the execution of social impact strategies, shared value, skills-based engagement and other evolving concepts.  This was not a traditional corporate philanthropy conversation; these companies are testing new ways to do business for the benefit of society, the environment, as well as the bottom line.  Here are 5 activation trends that guided our discussion:

1. Big Issues, Bold Ideas – Companies are taking on big issues such as hunger, human trafficking, clean drinking water, in bold ways. They are bringing their best thinkers and resources to the table to try new approaches to solve these complex problems.

2. Intrapreneurial Leadership – Small groups of intrapreneurs – employees behaving like entrepreneurs within big companies – are leading the charge when it comes to social innovation. They are crossing silos and making things happen, often with limited resources and authority,

3. Integrated Strategies – Leaders are creating the processes and systems to activate bold ideas. They are convening cross-enterprise experts and aligning the strategies and objectives of business units, operations, HR, sales, marketing, CSR and other teams.

4. Leverage – Companies are not going it alone. They are partnering, tapping into new dollars, and unleashing others’ passion and expertise. If the talent can’t be freed up inside the organization, external experts and engineers are being engaged to make it happen.

5. Unified Communications – Initiatives are bound together by shared themes and brands that connect the pieces. Companies take complex ideas and simplify them for diverse audiences in order bring others with them on their journey.

Check out Google Giving, McKesson Giving Comfort, and IBM Smarter Cities to learn more about the panelist’s specific initiatives.

Deep thanks to the Northern California Grantmakers for including me in the Institute and for providing such a great learning opportunity.

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