UNO March 2016

The CSR Manager, a social intrapreneur

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Everyone who knows me and knows how I work knows that I am a social intrapreneur. In fact, throughout my entire career, ever since I graduated and took charge of the family business, I have regarded myself as an intrapreneur.

I am passionate about doing great things that have an impact on people’s lives. For the last 8 years, I have practised this in every aspect of my profession.

When my President or CEO asks me what my job is, I say that I am paid to break comfort zones. To influence others so that they do their work increasingly well, always bearing the people in mind whenever they make a decision.

We are people who work in a large organisation and who have the freedom and resources to develop and change projects that create value for the company and for society

But what is a social intrapreneur? One formal definition might be that we are people who work in a large organisation and who have the freedom and resources to develop change projects that create value for the company and for society. I like the definition given by my colleague Rahul Raj, another First Mover Fellow at the Aspen Institute: ‘Social Intrapreneurs find new ways to improve the world and make money. They succeed by delivering against these two seemingly divergent goals, and that is what makes them unique: they embrace paradox’.

Social intrapreneurship is in itself a mental state. It is a way of being and acting that has led me to learn much in recent years. I would like to share what I have learned with you.

IMPACT

The first one is the ambition of having an impact. Social intrapreneurs do not accept reality as it is. We want to transform it. And we want to do it from within. The Irish Nobel Prize winner and thinker Bernard Shaw said ‘the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man’.

07_1That is the feeling you get when you put forward an initiative to support the creation of jobs from a bank, or when you propose that the bank should speak transparently and clearly to its customers. A straightforward bank? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

To have a strong impact, social intrapreneurs identify outstanding challenges for change in relevant issues. These are projects that are aligned with our values. Disruptive projects that thus involve taking risks. Social intrapreneurs dream.

STRATEGY

The second lesson is the need to have the suitable strategy. We create a new way to rethink the challenge, displacing restrictions. We look for the relevant data. We ‘prototype’ fast, and make mistakes early on. We learn, and as soon as we visualise a solution, we share it with the key people to include it quickly and hone it together.

In the case of transparency and clarity, it was crucial to obtain evidence that showed that they were the basis to create the perception of a responsible company and promote greater customer recommendation.

Nothing can stop social intrapreneurs until we achieve our dreams. We get there, one way or another. Social intrapreneurs persevere.

NARRATIVE

The third lesson is the power of narratives. We create a narrative that moves people and is meaningful. A narrative that leaves no one indifferent. It connects with the purpose of the organisation and brings it alive. And we take this narrative wherever it’s suitable.

For this reason, in my opinion moving from CSR to responsible business is crucial. Highlighting the huge impact generated by the business on people’s lives. We should be able to translate the balance sheet and the profit and loss account from euros to people. Item by item.

We dream, we persevere, we connect, we mobilise. That’s what social intrapreneurs are like. Those are the CSR Managers needed by our organisations

As my friend Loreto Rubio says in her great book Os necesitamos a todos (We Need You All), social intrapreneurs don’t communicate, we connect.

RESONANCE

And the fourth lesson is resonance. We always seek everyone’s involvement as together we climb faster and better.

That is where mobilisation starts, creating a great coalition for change, where the real protagonists are ‘the others’. This movement is fed by quick wins, visibility, and recognition. Social intrapreneurs mobilise people.

We dream, we persevere, we connect, we mobilise. That’s what social intrapreneurs are like. Those are the CSR Managers needed by our organisations.

Antoni Ballabriga
Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA. President of DIRSE / Spain
Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA. His mission is to ensure that the bank systematically places people at the centre of decision-making processes. President of DIRSE, the Spanish association of managers of CSR. CEO of Momentum Social Investment, an impact investment fund led by BBVA to support the growth of social companies. Antoni was the president and founder of SpainSIF, the Spain Social Investment Forum. He holds a degree in Business Administration and Management and a MBA from ESADE. He lectures on a regular basis at ESADE. He has also taken postgraduate courses on strategy and corporate social responsibility at the Harvard Business School. Antoni is First Mover Fellow at the Aspen Institute in the USA. [Spain] @aballabriga

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