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Develop products previously unimagined, reach audiences never touched before and surpass your less innovative peers with lighting speed—all through corporate social innovation (CSI). Many of you may be wondering “Exactly what is corporate social innovation?” In a nutshell, it’s when companies find innovative solutions to complex social and environmental problems … or, put more simply, it’s about converting challenges into opportunities.There are many reasons corporations are shifting their business models to focus on social responsibility. The benefits reach further than just making the world a better place. These businesses are seeing improved operational efficiencies, greater profits, an increase in innovation and enhancements to reputation and credibility. If you’re looking to incorporate a social innovation strategy into your business model, you may want to keep reading for some tips on making it successful.

Five steps to success with social innovation

According to experts on the subject, there are five key ingredients that are necessary to achieve success with social innovation:

  1. Purpose: Step one is to define your business around a societal need. In a sense, it’s taking what you do and altering that definition to include a purpose. For example, a company that makes food may restate its purpose to improving nutrition. Newly framed purposes should be promoted companywide. Imprint company iPad® cases, laptop cases or sleeves with your new commitment and distribute them throughout the company to drive home your message.
  2. Defined need: Step two is to outline a well-researched, data-driven need your organization will address. The key here is to dig a little deeper—the need you’re addressing needs specifics. So, instead of addressing world hunger, you may aim to feed the mouths of 3.5 million children. The specifics allow you to make your case and measure your progress. Promote your goal internally on banners and posters to ensure everyone is aware of what you’re trying to accomplish.
  3. Measurement: As the saying goes, what matters gets measured. Case in point, measurement needs to be part of your defined strategy from the get-go. Not only should the impact of your efforts be measured, but they should also be tied to your business’s bottom line. Frequently update employees on your progress and celebrate successes. Morning doughnuts, a company-wide lunch or a thank-you tin filled with goodies are all great ways to show praise.
  4. Partnerships: Successful social innovators often seek assistance from global partners, entrepreneurs and agencies. Partners can add value and expertise in all areas and at all stages of social innovation.
  5. Innovation-enhancing structure: Remember, the key here is innovation. Successful social innovators structure their business to situate, measure, shield and protect social innovation at all costs. Whether you start by setting up a fund or go full-force into formulating an entire department dedicated to social innovation, make sure the concept is lived, eaten and breathed by all.

For more information on social innovation and how to successfully incorporate it into your company’s business model, check out our Blue Papers®.


Pickus, Katherine. “The Critical Role Of Leadership In Driving Social Innovation.Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 Dec. 2013. Web. Retrieved 03 Mar. 2014.

Social Innovation.” (n.d.): n. pag. 4imprint.com. 20 May 2014. Web. Retrieved 17 July 2014.

Pfitzer, Marc and Bockstette, Valerie. “Five keys to corporate social innovation.Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.




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