Research shows that companies engaged in causes are seen positively by customers.
Many companies also encourage their staff to provide pro-bono mentoring to entrepreneurs as a way to contribute to society. But this opportunity could be extended significantly, creating marketing assets, whilst growing in-house talent.
We created a leadership development programme called “Activist Angels” that exposes staff to social enterprises, ventures that align their social and environmental purposes with their financial objectives.
In this programme, we upgrade mentoring connections into potential investment – or lending – opportunities, and encourage participants to think about the way they could be an integral part of the world’s sustainable development as investors, as opposed to just doing good “on the side”.
The difference between a mentor and an investor is the level of risk involved and how much personal values and social capital (let alone financial resources) can be put to the test.
When staff undergo such a development programme, they get exposed to thriving, vibrant emerging businesses, new relationships, and a chance to contribute and learn about challenges of different business models, and social or environmental impact challenges. This open innovation opportunity is challenging mainstream business references, aligning personal passions with professional experience and is more likely to grow their talent and accelerate the staff’s own innovation capability.
In one of our programmes, the head office’s foundation trusted each participant with a micro-loan to finance an early-stage woman social entrepreneur.
We noticed that staff, after the training,
1- talk more across silos, connect social and environmental impacts with business decisions
2- think differently about the way they engage with their clients, and are more open to state they do use gut feeling and instinct in their work relationships.
3- re-assess their professional choices, their attitude to risk, and also the way they make life decisions.
4- learn to look at challenges from a “futures thinking” point of view (“What if…”) rather than only looking at external benchmarks and past performances.
5- learn that being an angel is about validation and reassurance too, that investing in others is about investing in yourself.
Learning to invest in social enterprise is not just about “giving back”, or supporting a different asset class, it’s about totally integrating the way you live, with the way you work, and your future impact.
Servane Mouazan is the founder and director of Ogunte CIC, the organisation that supports women social entrepreneurs.
Know more about Ogunte Activist Angels Development Programme, a combination of face-to-face and remote sessions for business professionals developed in collaboration with our associate Bonnie-Foley Wong from Pique Ventures.
More on Ogunte CIC.