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Outcome of last ebbf meaningful hangout and invitation to the next one dedicated to moral leadership

ebbf meaningful hangouts are becoming and increasingly popular way for like-minded people around the world to enjoy online meaningful video conversations around topics that are relevant and useful to them.

Below you can find a summary of the last ebbf meaningful hangout we enjoyed, where people from six different world time zones enjoying asking and sharing experiences about the topic of “social innovation, enterprises as a source of social good”.

You can click here to book your place for the NEXT ebbf meaningful hangout dedicated this time to moral leadership, why is it increasingly relevant and how can I apply it in my life? – taking place on Tuesday 25th of June at 20:00 CET.

Below you is the summary from the last ebbf meaningful hangout:

Question to François Couillard, the author of the ebbf publication “the promise of social innovation, enterprises as a source of social good”: in the book you wrote, we found out how important it is to find the right partnerships across different for profit and non profit fields, how to you create the right partnership? Where do you find the right partners?

Answer: the way to find the right partner very much depends whether you are a small social innovator or a large organisation, so finding partners is a function of where you start from. Too often social enterprises are arising without the right knowledge about business principles they don’t have the right culture, the financial resources or the understanding of how the marketplace works they do have a good idea but then struggle to take it forward to the next level and truly achieve social innovation. That is where they should partner with more experienced business partners and thus achieve an effective solution.

There is no single way to find the right partner, it all starts with identifying where you need help and where you can offer value and starting by a unifying common purpose that both entities wish to achieve.

Question: where do you see more development in social innovation, is it stronger in the for profit or the non profit sectors?

Things are evolving also in the basic definition of enterprises that currently too strictly define and create a false dichotomy between for profit or non profit new legislation to incorporate as a non profit that can have a for profit partnership is arising and allowing new forms and new partnerships to arise but this is currently only happening in some countries such as in the UK or Canada or some States in the US.

Blurring those boundaries will allow a new hybrid to emerge, allowing both the for profit to think in a more useful to society vision and non profits to become more effective and efficient in achieving positive change.

Question: reading the book and gaining a deeper learning of what social innovation is was an eye opener

This – social innovation – is a new word, new terminology and it got me thinking about the business versus non-profit which I still view largely as a dichotomy and reading the publication it was surprising to see the different ways in which social innovation is emerging and the near future evolution of its application. Reading examples of how for profit ventures are now dealing with social issues of today and seeing new corporate ways of perceiving the value of people and of their innovation was most interesting.

Question: who is pushing social innovation?

Traditionally social innovation is driven by the not for profits – they need money to bring solutions, they are in an increasingly competitive world and need to generate revenues to sustain their work. The novelty is that the business side of the spectrum is joining in, to broaden the scope of responsibility to bring in social good Danone has joined hands with Yunus and the Grameen Foundation not only to improve nutrition of young people but also to create local Bangladeshi production and distribution of nutrition goods which connected to children educational projects and encourage them to go to schools to both learn and be nourished.

This concept of shared business is a another trend with for example Adidas developing with local producers in Africa a cheap bottom of the pyramid shoe that allows people to travel more safely and avoid feet health issues that restrict people’s mobility and opportunities.

Question: we hear about the kinds of companies and organisations pushing social innovation but is there a specific kind of individual, a profile of person that is more keenly promoting social innovation?

Valerie Davis shared her PhD research on collaborative leadership as an emerging model of leadership that is encouraging social innovation. How to charactize these collaborative leaders? They have competencies of a leader in a traditional sense, but additionally they talk about another set of competencies – virtues. They create, expect and live trust and humility and social justice as a purposes and aims of their work they have all the competencies of leaders today but have that next layer of working at different level that makes them unique and very much sought after in companies that wish to innovate and create strong teams co-crearting in a positive direction.

Question: Alena Emilova commented how she has just ended a class in her master program on talent management and was shown case after case study confirming  how socially oriented for profits are much more successful so why is it that more companies don’t embrace this social innovation model?

CEOs of companies do not all read these surveys nor having their pulse on new trends and very busy and focused on the shareholder quarterly numbers. Most organisations are trying to find out what CSR is about, what sustainability is. So now this new term of social innovation has arised and many leaders are totally confused and unsure on how to proceed and therefore prefer to stick with what they are familiar and comfortable with. They are not looking for yet another thing to figure out on top of your normal business and that is where you need some enlightened leader to lead the way.

Question: what if in my organisation there is no such enlightened leader?

If you cannot find one such leader then it may well be up to you to show the way forward, to inform of the process and to take away the fair by explaining and sharing cases that worked. Bringing change from inside your organisations means pushing barriers to bring new values to corporations and bringing these topics into every day conversations in the organisation.  Showing the opportunities they can bring and how a fast evolving world is not stopping and allowing old isolated management style to continue and instead requiring a new collaborative and socially involved leadership.

Johann Wong from Canada offered the example of the London (Ontario) innovation non profit created to advance prosperity by fostering cultures of innovation:

innovation is a fancy word for change but based on the character of people and having hundreds of conversations with various stakeholders in the community values / ethics / morals / principles it’s what your grandmother tells you then we talk about culture and dynamics of culture every organisation has a vision, a mission values statements but very few walk the talk.

self awareness and creating alignment

but even before we get that we get to the notion of the “culture of contest” from chaos and complexity and competition and coopetition (Samsung and Apple) and to get people thinking we all know we are in the information age and collaboration but what are we all working towards?We think the technology is the answer to everything but as a group of people what is our common vision; when we have a common vision we can reach cohesion.

if you try too small objectives it gets locked into one silos e.g. just education programsif the objectives are too big e.g. bring olympics to London Ontario then it does not work eitherso it is important to find the right level of collaborative action that unites different for profit and non profit stakeholders that has a systemic level.Another key element is to find the human beings, the natural collaborators who help the way forward and put them in the key positions of the process.

“collaboration only works when there is cohesion towards a larger common and worthwhile vision”

Question: What are other ways of creating collaborative dynamics?

The organisation I am working for is made up of medical professionals who work in the field of imaging and attracts people who like to work together, they are “masters of collaboration”. On the other hand there are physicians who compete with one another because of the system they operate in. so I am finding other professional groups who want to imitate the collaborative dynamic and understand why it works so well in our area. They first key item seems to be the perception of a non-threatening environment, one where people do not want to get credit, but “only” enjoy helping collaboration to happen. People in that positive dynamic are willing to let go of getting personal recognition and instead thrive with the collaborative success that inevitably arises and attract more people to it.

Question: paradoxically I seem to find that the passion in a non-profit world where I operate get in the way of collaboration, how can that be avoided?

It does not matter where eyou are or how purpose driven you are, specially in a purpose driven organisation people want to make an active contribution and sometimes detaching of your own personal idea of what a the contribution should be and instead find the common way forward.

Mingling with people with the right collaborative attitude also rubs off, for example working in spaces of innovation and change such as the HUB network you feel yourself immersed in an entire world that is moving in the right direction of social innovation. There social innovation is the norm but it normal that outside those areas it is not so comfortable.

Question: how to do you start the implementation of social innovation in very for profit oriented organisations?

For example in the board meeting of our organisation I first took the conversation towards the need to create financial self-reliance. So I started with a real, concrete and material need that made people want to achieve the goal and keep focused. And only then introduced new ways to achieving that financial self reliance with non-dues related avenues e.g. social innovation and social enterprise but the starting point was financial and not social .. then taking them towards social innovation.

It is human nature that people are more equipped on focusing on problems and finding the pain point and you can either live and cope with it and fixing that problem then you can introduce new ways of achieving solutions and draw people in within their comfort zones.

Question: in terms of social innovation it seems to me that impact investing was a good idea but did not take off, is that so? Why?

Actually I think it is taking off, even the largest bank in Canada has 2 10 million dollar impact investment funds and several initiatives and microcredit is a form of impact investment one of the reason it is taking off is after 2008 the financial sector went down significantly and they were looking to diversity in new areas such as this one the main frustration is finding social innovation that can scale up – relatively easy to find something “local” but scaling up and having people that they have a sound business plan

Question: how can you dare to be a social innovator in environments that are risk averse? How do we get better at this inherently innovative process?

There need to be found creative tension between qualitative and quantitative achievements. Enjoying the learning from failing fast and reiterating, making that an asset and mentioning it as such. People are increasingly eager to try and experiment as so many issues are arising and new solutions seem like the only way forward unless you wish to a rock in the rapids that will soon swipe you away. 

It is also about measuring, providing indicators of success and creating new indicators that effectively show social impact. For example going to HUB Ottawa I witnessed the creation of their annual report achievements, standards but also at all their failures and they list them in their report: what can we learn from those failures?

But need to be a strong operators, people who have demonstrated they can run operations, specially in non profit where too often great thinkers great visionaries operate without an excellent level of operational skills of actually getting things done

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