A New Breakthrough in Tracking Social Entrepreneurs

I’ve always valued metrics but remain wary of the extent to which numbers can be used to reveal the whole picture. Hearing about the new Portfolio Data Management System (PDMS) – an online database tracking social entrepreneurs – is proof that there is progress in the effort to measure social impact. A variety of organizations came together for this massive effort: Acumen Fund, Salesforce.com Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Lodestar Foundation, along with programmers from Google. How does the PDMS work? BusinessWeek explains:

A common set of metrics will be recorded for each organization so donors and investors can check regularly and track their progress or spot trouble. Social entrepreneurs will be able to benchmark their results against those for similar organizations around the world.

The system will allow foundations and other donors see what the return on their investment is, and compare it against other similar organizations to see if real progress is occurring. I can imagine that not only will the information be useful to investors, though, but also to other stakeholders – partner organizations, beneficiaries, almost anyone involved the same field who wants to stay informed of the value of programs and money.

Since social enterprises are relatively new entities, standards and benchmarks are not common or shared. A specific metric that one enterprise decides to use may differ with the next. The PDMS offers a solution to the current haphazard situation… Continue reading

Social Intrapreneurs

SustainAbility’s new publication, “The Social Intrapreneuers: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers,” features a case study on Hindustan Unilever’s Shakti project.  SustainAbility defines the social intrapreneur as:

Social intrapreneur, n. 1 Someone who works inside major corporations or organizations to develop and promote practical solutions to social or environmental challenges where progress is currently stalled by market failures.

2 Someone who applies the principles of social entrepreneurship inside a major organization

3 One characterized by an ‘insider-outsider.’

The guide uses Shakti as a “base-of-the-pyramid” case study, with intrapreneur Vijay Sharma:

Hindustan Unilever sought to increase its market share in rural villages with smaller populations, but discovered that no retail distribution network really existed and infrastructure for transport was poor. Responding to these challenges, Shakti was created to provide women with training in selling, commercial knowledge and bookkeeping. Women can then choose to set up their own businesses or become Shakti distributors. These women, in turn, become role models in their communities, catalysts for mobilizing rural development.

At the end of the guide, SustainAbility notes that business cannot solve major challenges on their own and encourages government to develop the necessary policies, and for the citizen sector to create more connections with intrapreneurial organizations.  They are working with the Skoll Foundation and the International Business Leaders Forum to expore the interaction between social entrepreneurs and social intrapreneurs.