2013-04-10

Co.Exist

The League Of Intrapreneurs: 4 Changemakers Making A Difference Inside Big Companies

Working to reshape how big companies do business for the better is incredibly difficult, but it can also have a much larger impact than starting your own tiny project. These four winners of Ashoka and Accenture’s League Of Intrapreneurs have managed to make big changes inside their organizations.

Ambitious social entrepreneurs can make a big impact on the business world, but so can intrapreneurs--those changemakers working inside big companies to make a difference from the inside out. This week, Ashoka Changemakers and Accenture announced the winners of the inaugural League of Intrapreneurs. This group of four social intrapreneurs, all of whom work at large for-profit companies, are building big projects inside their companies--and now they’ll receive pro bono consulting services from Accenture to expand their ideas even further.

Mandar Apte of Shell

Apte is what Ashoka calls "the intrapreneur’s intrapreneur." In order to breed innovation among Shell’s staff, Apte created EMPOWER, a program that helped employees nurture their innovation skills through meditation. In under a year since launch, over 500 employees have attended introductory EMPOWER sessions. The result: one survey of approximately 200 participants found that 96% of respondents believe they now better understand what’s blocking their innovation-creating abilities. Shell has also received inquiries from a number of other companies about implementing the program, including Oracle, Google, and Cisco.

Aparecida Teixeira de Morais of Tribanco

Teixeira de Morais, director of HR and training at Tribanco--the financial arm of a large Brazilian distributor--knew she had to do something when another employee suggested that the company may soon stop financing small and medium-size businesses. That’s an especially big deal in Brazil, where only 64% of the "economically active" population has access to banking services. Her solution: developing a suite of training products to help Tribanco support micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

These days, Tribanco educates employees on things like credit risk analysis and retail management. In turn, they teach retailers how to access credit and get a Tricard (a private-label card that lets retailers give credit to their customers).

Graham Simpson of GlaxoSmithKline

Simpson of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) first realized the power of getting a correct medical diagnosis while volunteering in Africa. The child of a colleague in Kenya died of anemia--all because it was too difficult to make it to a health care center for a diagnosis. Simpson was so struck by the situation that he spoke to the head of R&D at GSK and began working on cheap, accurate, paper-based diagnostic kits that could be used by untrained health care workers in humid developing countries.

GSK (along with partners Johns Hopkins University and Jhpiego) is in the process of developing multiple tests, including one that screens pregnant women for complications like pre-gestational diabetes and anemia.

Sacha Carina van Ginhoven of TNT Express

The final winner of the competition, Carina van Ginhoven, works at the international courier delivery services company headquartered in the Netherlands as Global Program Manager, Innovation. Van Ginhoven decided to take on the problem of slum businesses, which often don’t have formal addresses where they can ship and receive items. After collaborating with other TNT employees and slum residents in Mumbai, India, she found that the biggest challenges were in enabling secure payments and recognizing locations.

Van Ginhoven’s collaboration led to the realization that cell phone locations can be connected to TNT’s global logistics network--so eventually, business owners in slums could bypass the street name system altogether, instead using their mobile devices as a location signifier. Mobile phones can also be used (and in many places, already are) to transfer money via the M-Pesa system.

Read more about the intrapreneurs here and stay tuned on Co.Exist, where we’ll be talking to each one about their projects and how they made them happen.

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