Development of the Corporate Intrapreneur

Development of the Corporate Intrapreneur

CSR Leadership Lessons from Guatemala
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Developing the Corporate Intrapreneur - #CSR Leadership Lessons from Guatemala -The Acacia Group
Monday, March 29, 2010 - 12:30pm


While corporate social responsibility initiatives continue to be explored – there is continued emphasis on the finished output, e.g.  the marketing campaign, measurement and compliance.  What is not evident is the development of internal processes that, at the risk of using a new cliché, embed CSR into the DNA of the organization.

Bill Gates talks of “creative capitalism” – whereby “more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities” and companies that embrace this will experience more success than those who seek profit at any “cost”.  This former classification of companies focus on social entrepreneurship, or, as James Austin points out, they have working within their ranks , intrapreneurs. These are individuals who are focused on an internal organizational transformation that brings the company to a more aligned and advanced state of CSR and can address the personal instincts of –empathy and generosity, passion and ambition.
The Acacia Group’s focus in the highlands of Guatemala has led us to partner with the fantastic work of  Ashoka fellow, Greg van Kirk. Greg operates a series of companies that focus on developing economic capacity within the region by working with locals in developing products for market, or creating an educational network to support the literacy needs of indigenous people. As described on their site, Social Entrepreneur Corps  is a social enterprise that leads innovative and dynamic international internship, volunteering, consulting and insight travel programs. While primarily focused on student interns, the partnership with Acacia allows for more mature learners to participate and to have a hands-on learning experience with social entrepreneurship and ongoing leadership development. Another example of his entrepreneurial approach is his work with the Scojo foundation (renamed Vision Spring), where his assistance with the development of eye glass sales in Guatemala was highlighted in the NBC Nightly News (Click here for video). Here, instead of just handing out donated glasses, the Vision Spring works with local budding entrepreneurs who wish to move to independence by establishing business and management skills – and do so by selling the glasses for a low cost to those who need them.
So, what can budding leaders who are interested in CSR learn from Greg, and his social entrepreneurs in Guatemala? They can learn how to be emerging intrapreneurs – they can, in the words of Austin learn to show the following traits.
“CS Intrapreneurs have the following characteristics – they are internal champions, continuously advocating for the integration of social and business value as a central tenet for the company. They are good communicators, particularly articulate about the rationale and importance of the transformation….They are creators of innovative solutions: new resource configurations, actions and relationships…They are catalysts for change, who inspire and create synergies in the work of others. They are coordinators, able to effectively reach across internal and external boundaries, mobilizing and aligning interests. They are contributors – team players who enable other groups. Finally, they are shrewd calculators; cognizant of the realities of the corporate environment, they are cost-conscious and mindful of the bottom line.”
Greg  van Kirk is all of these things and provides those who wish to learn the opportunity to develop their own intrapreneurial skill set leading to robust and internalized CSR strategies.
Have you seen or experienced the embedding of a social entrepreneurship mindset into an organization’s CSR strategy? Or, within an individual? - Who are your examples of leaders who understand that people and planet come first – and profits can follow?


Dave Harrhy
The Acacia Group
@dharrhy - twitter