Creating Enabling Environments for Social Impact

Like entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, social intrapreneurs are more likely to succeed within a healthy innovation ecosystem. The League of Intrapreneurs and Business Fights Poverty together with DFID have launched a research challenge to understand the conditions for success and provide practical tools and examples for companies seeking to up their game on delivering the SDGs.

We have developed a ‘living framework’ to begin codifying the intrapreneurship ecosystem and have started compiling case examples into which we plan to deep dive to learn more about what’s working, not and what more is needed. This framework draws on decades of experience from our community developing social innovation and intrapreneurship inside major corporations around the world.

a living framework

Internal Factors


  • Metrics Beyond Financial
  • Distributed Decision Making
  • Mechanisms to Share Risk

leadership & strategy:

  • SDGs Integrated with Core Strategy
  • Senior Leadership Engaged & Accountable
  • Signals & Calls to Action from Leadership


  • Structured Innovation Process
  • Incubators & Accelerators
  • Mechanisms for Integrating & Scaling


  • Recruitment
  • Rewards & Incentives
  • Skills Development
  • Access to Resources & Tools
  • Intrapreneurial Know-How
  • Knowledge Sharing


  • Clearly articulated and engaging
    purpose for the company beyond profit.
  • Individual employees have strong sense of purpose.


  • Permission to Experiment & Fail
  • Encourage & Reward Collaboration
  • Sandboxes: Places to Explore / Develop Ideas
  • Success Stories of Social Innovation / Intrap.
  • Support for Immersive Learning
External/Internal factors

networks & partnerships:

  • Divergent Thinking
  • Research & Insights
  • Collaborators
  • NGO Partnerships
  • Learning Communities
  • Access to Mentors

financial capital & investments:

  • Innovation Funds
  • Patient / Risk Capital
  • “Slack” Resources
  • Investment for Long-Term

technology innovation:

  • Advancement of new technologies
  • Access to technologies
  • R&D investments
External Factors

customers & markets:

  • Burning Platforms / Disruption
  • Access to Markets & Customers
  • Community / Customer Engagement

policy & advocacy:

  • Enabling Policy Landscape
  • Punitive Policy
  • Governance Models (B-Corps)
  • Advocacy for Policy Shifts

We have begun testing this framework with our wider community of intrapreneurs and subject experts to understand gaps as well as how we might usefully apply the insights from such a framework to help teams and organizations create thriving social innovation ecosystems. In particular, we recently convened a group of 25 innovators from across a range of multinational corporations, academia, the armed forces and a number of intrapreneurs-at-large in the beautiful surroundings of Eynsham Hall, Oxfordshire.

The purpose of the workshop was to draw on participants’ collective experience and insights to identify key elements of a supportive enabling environment and to learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Participants shared case examples showcasing both successes and failures, and various models of intrapreneurship support were explored in an effort to understand what is needed to move on from individual examples of success to engendering more systemic change.

Photo by Ketan Amin of Soulphotography
Photo by Ketan Amin of Soulphotography

We share this framework and these initial cases in the spirit of collective learning and invite you to join us to share your insights – successes and failures – and questions. Together, we hope to strengthen our institutions to be fit for purpose for the 21st-century challenges we face.

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