By Craig and Marc Kielburger
In Central Australia's sprawling outback, Mark Glazebrook met a 15-year-old boy straddling a bike -- a typical teen pose but for the gas can strapped to his face. A sniffing epidemic had ensnared local aboriginal youth in the spring of 2002, and Glazebrook travelled from Melbourne to help.
He wasn't with a non-profit. In fact, as BP Australia's corporate social responsibility manager, Glazebrook worked for big oil. It might have been his company's fuel the kid was sniffing, so his first thoughts went to product design.
"I thought, 'Why couldn't we turn our technical skills into a technical solution?'" he told us.
Today, people don't just want a job, they want a calling. Millennials hold out for jobs that satisfy personal values (moving back in with mom and dad in the meantime). And mid-career professionals delay retirement in favour of career makeovers with purpose. After years on the clock, who wouldn't want to help change the world at their day job?
At the same time, most workers can't risk their steady income to start a social enterprise or renounce materialism and move to Calcutta to volunteer. Many professionals have mortgages or kids who insist on being fed regularly.
Social intrapreneurs like Glazebrook maintain job security and use the resources of large companies to tackle some of the world's biggest problems. They protest from within, while on the payroll. This is the best of both worlds at work -- with personal, social and economic benefits.
Glazebrook and his team leveraged the core competencies of the business to solve an entrenched social issue. Engineers spent six months grappling with technical issues, and the result was Opal, a fuel low in aromatic hydrocarbons that made it impossible to get high from its vapours. Gas sniffing plummeted by up to 94 per cent in the outback region. And in 2013, the Australian government voted to make the use of Opal fuel mandatory in remote areas across the country. In addition to saving lives, BP cornered the rural market.
Meanwhile, in rural Kenya, Vodafone executive Nick Hughes noticed that although millions of people didn't have bank accounts, everyone owned a cell phone. Many small business owners simply carried wads of cash to distant suppliers, a dangerous practice.
Vodafone wasn't eager to gamble its R&D budget on an entry into Africa's banking sector, but Hughes pushed past the resistance to create M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer system. Subscribers store or send money via text message, make transfers, and even pay their children's school fees from remote areas. M-Pesa has been hugely profitable, and has even spurred small business growth in rural regions. In 2014, 87 per cent of Kenya's $55 billion GDP flowed through its services.
As social intrapreneurs gain traction, global support networks like the League of Intrapreneurs are popping up to teach you "How to Change the World and Still Pay Your Bills," according to one blog post.
Social intrapreneurship has crept into Canada more slowly than in Europe or the U.K., but nonetheless, it has arrived. The League of Intrapreneurs recently launched a Canadian chapter, a professional network to support agents of social change at the office. Several organizations offer fellowships for intrapreneurs with a social conscience, including Engineers Without Borders Canada and the School for Social Enterprise Ontario.
Corporate social change can come from the bottom up, but if it still seems overwhelming, try smaller gestures. A volunteer committee that gives back outside the office will improve the well-being of your colleagues. Ideas for energy conservation, recycling or improved efficiencies would be better managed with a dedicated green team, and would save the company money. Taking on leadership positions to tackle social issues will boost your job satisfaction and earn the respect of other leaders.
Become a social intrapreneur and be the change you wish to see at work.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.
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As a successful investment banker, Rachael Chong was dissatisfied with her opportunities for giving back in a meaningful way. She soon swapped the corporate world for the nonprofit one, founding Catchafire, an organization which helps professionals volunteer pro bono services to nonprofits without quitting their day jobs.
With an extensive banking background, Rhoden Monrose left his position at Citigroup to make the finance industry more socially responsible. He founded CariCorps under the belief that business professionals could both do well and do good. Through CariCorps, Monrose teaches millennials how to have socially responsible finance careers. Millennial members are provided with free technical and professional skills and motivated to be involved in charity and community service while working on Wall Street.
With a degree in applied mathematics, management & accounting and previous employment at finance bigwigs such as Deloitte and Touche LLP and JP Morgan & Associates, Ben Keesey was on the corporate track. But a trip to Africa changed his course -- Keesey now champions the cause of those affected by the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the LRA conflict through the nonprofit Invisible Children.
With a degree in economics from Harvard already under her belt and an M.B.A. in progress, Jessica Matthews seems primed for Wall Street. However, she's used her business expertise to found Uncharted Play, a social enterprise that uses technology and playful activities to help solve real-world issues. One example is SOCCKET, a soccer ball that converts light into energy while you play. The sales from SOCCKET help provide children in need with reliable energy access.
Patrick Dowd was an investment banking analyst for J.P. Morgan when Occupy Wall Street broke out. He remembered the positive model for youth mobilization and protest he had experienced while helping with the Jagriti Yatra train journey as a Fulbright scholar in India. Dowd eventually quit his job and pioneered the Millennial Trains Project, a nonprofit which takes millennials on crowd-funded train trips across the country. While aboard, youths participate in seminars and workshops and explore America's social opportunities and challenges.
Formerly employed by McKinsey & Company, Alejandro Gac-Artigas leapt into education with the 2011 launch of Springboard Collaborative. The Philadelphia-based organization has helped narrow the literacy gap for 642 children by providing teachers and parents with skills to incentivize learning and reading over the summer break. Gac-Artigas was motivated to found the startup because he was frustrated by the "summertime reading losses in elementary school that account for two-thirds of the achievement gap in high school."
Krishna Ramkumar was a senior associate with the Boston Consulting Group before founding Avanti, a collection of learning centers in four Indian cities. Avanti mentors students from low-income high schools in science and math. Last year, 6,000 students applied for the program's 150 available spots. The India-based organization makes college a more accessible dream for students from economically disadvantaged schools.
For five years Tinia Pina worked a variety of positions in the finance sector, including as a consultant, analyst, and investments accountant, before founding Re-Nuble, Inc. As a sustainable startup, Re-Nuble, Inc. takes excess food from restaurants and recycles it, using the organic nutrients to create renewable energy and organic fertilizer. Pina has expanded the organization, bringing plant-based nutrients to consumers who seek more accessible and less expensive sustainable food.
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