EMBRACE: The synthesis of a year of learning about the creation of social value through Corporate Social Entrepreneurship

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It is said that the history of Humanity is the history of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Knowledge is built gradually and thanks to the teachers who preceded us.

In the EMBRACE project last year the famous statement has been fulfilled to perfection. The experience of numerous stakeholders and companies from different European countries in the field of innovation has allowed us to deepen the concept of CSE, broaden our initial definition and explore new avenues of research. The final aim of this long process is the design, creation and implementation of a European-wide training curriculum that contains the key contents for tackling CSE.

The Corporate Social Entrepreneurship is, as we have shared on other previous occasions:

Corporate Social Entrepreneurship (CSE) is ‘a way of doing business’ so that all staff in any given organisation (public, private or third sector) are fully aware of their role, responsibility and contribution to the sustainable socioeconomic enhancement of their organisations and the communities in which they live and work. The CSE process includes: creating an enabling entrepreneurial environment, fostering corporate social intrapreneurship, amplifying corporate purpose and values as well as building strategic alliances in order to solve economic and social problems and to promote the success of emerging innovative business strategies.

This definition has been refined and strengthened by the project partners through the study of secondary sources, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. A very novel technique of semantic pattern analysis called Horizon Scanning Mechanism has also been employed.

Some of the main results obtained by the EMBRACE partnership this year have been:

  • A total of 19 focus groups (two in each partner country) and 63 interviews (7 in each project partner country) were conducted in the research on learning about CSE in HEIs.
  • A review of secondary sources from 34 European and non-European countries was carried out, and from these 75 CSE policies, initiatives or practices were identified or related to our object of study.
  • A total of 25 interviews with CEOs with direct knowledge of CSE and 16 interviews with experts were carried out in the research of the companies’ experiences.
  • A total of 492 examples of processes, procedures and practices were identified through the Horizon Scanning Mechanism (a NLP or natural language processing tool that analyses texts and written speech to extract key terms) collected from news stories, articles and magazines.

Thus, from the experiences of others we have learned that, although CSE is still a relatively new concept in terms of training opportunities, there are already hundreds of practises within companies that have been implemented for some years. 

Furthermore, some of the common traits of CSE practices are: that the learning to be given has to be experiential (learning by doing); that there are benefits and these should be taken into account in the ability to tackle and manage scarce human resources and funding; that every company should stress the importance of having a network of stakeholders and that there should be a strong internal commitment in the organisation.

Some of the key-issues for CSE promotion are:

  • SPECIALIZATION. Organisations need to be specialised in their own area, in the area where they are strongest 
  • Take advantage of the EXPERTISE of the employees. The expertise of the company’s employees and other management areas should be exploited.
  • GOOD COMMUNICATION FLOWS. There must be effective internal communication and promotion strategies between the different levels of the company.

In addition, some of the biggest challenges identified by managers and experts were

  • To find a business model that balances social and economic values, as it must be sustainable, even if it aims at social impact.
  • In order to achieve sustainability and balance, it would be necessary to measure the impact. At the moment, there is no well-established criterion for a quantitative measurement of social and economic areas, as the creation of social value is difficult (though not impossible) to measure.

Of all the companies identified, 5 have been selected as leading players in generating good practices. And one of them is a Spanish company, Telefónica, which is firmly on the way to implementing Corporate Social Entrepreneurship processes and working to achieve that balance we mentioned between financial sustainability but with the creation of social value.

The results obtained so far confirm the need to keep on digging and looking for training paths in those areas where CSE is not yet robust enough. The new year 2021 brings us a chance to assimilate all the results and learning generated and to continue working on the development of the EMBRACE curriculum.   

The Future is Social.

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