Coro Strandberg

About Coro Strandberg

Coro Strandberg is Principal of Strandberg Consulting, a leading consultant specializing in achieving social value through the marketplace using tools such as finance, procurement, hiring, capital projects, business models and other leverage points. She is a past Chair of Vancity Credit Union and Vancity Community Foundation where she helped catalyze Vancity’s pioneering social finance work in the 1990s and 2000s. www.corostrandberg.com

Dear Universities, Show us what you’ve got!

Note: This blog was originally published on RECODE and was reposted with permission of the author.

Photo from York University

We live in a volatile, uncertain and complex world. With threats of climate change, rising income inequality, social unrest, resource scarcity and ecological degradation predicted to affect society’s progress, leaders and the institutions they run must play new roles to realize a sustainable future.

Breakthrough innovation is essential, requiring paradigm shifts and pivots in how we operate and function as a society.

Advanced education institutions – universities, colleges and polytechnic institutes – are ideally positioned to accelerate and scale the transition to a just and sustainable world. They already significantly contribute through their traditional teaching and research functions. Now we need them to intensify their efforts to tackle global challenges by going beyond teaching and research. Institutions must embed their social mandates into everything they do including within their administrative roles, capital projects, physical assets, and relationships.

Fortunately, community engagement is a burgeoning area of practice within advanced education. Myriad departments, centres and projects are involved in this nascent field of practice, with individual professors and institutes working with community partners on critical issues.

Problem:

Despite a plethora of activities and pockets of great practice, a strong and strategic institutional commitment is often lacking. There is an absence of a narrative or framework that recognizes their importance, and that motivates, accelerates and scales social innovation – and celebrates its social impact.

Solution:

Mobilizing institutions to contribute more holistically and consistently to social innovation and the communities they support starts by taking a community lens to an institution’s assets. These assets, or instruments, can be multi-purposed to achieve greater community impacts than their conventional counterparts. Investment for financial impact? Great. Investment for social and financial impact? Better. Procurement that achieves price, quality and convenience goals? Necessary. Social procurement? Better. And on, and on.

This is already happening.

SFU and McConnell Foundation commissioned me to write this report on “Maximizing the Capacities of Advanced Education Institutions to Build Social Infrastructure for Canadian Communities” to understand the state of play in which institutions harness non-traditional assets (including but beyond teaching and research) to contribute to social well-being. As shown in this diagram, institutions are starting to embed their social objectives into their financial, physical and relational roles alongside their traditional research and education objectives.

This paper identifies no less than thirty such opportunities available to institutions. There are likely more. Check out this one-pager for the preliminary list.

To use the examples above, note these investment, procurement and hiring initiatives within BC institutions:

  • Social Investment: Simon Fraser University set goals to reduce the carbon footprint of its investment portfolios by 30 percent by 2030 – in line with Canada’s national climate commitment. UBC’s investments include $265 million in social housing and another $117 million in greenhouse gas emission reduction projects.
  • Social Hiring: University of Victoria has an Employment Equity Plan with a goal to improve the participation of members of designated groups such as Indigenous Peoples, Visible Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in all jobs and at all levels where they are under-represented.
  • Social Procurement: The grounds and gardens at Vancouver Community College are maintained by Mission Possible, a maintenance company that employs inner-city residents and assists those with employment barriers to reach their full potential.

Academic institutions are also developing solutions-generating social infrastructure such as social innovation labs like Radius and thought leadership platforms like Clean Energy Canada. These innovation hubs are mobilizing talent, resources and relationships to ideate, test and scale essential societal solutions.

Notably, the private sector has much to offer the post-secondary sector on its social innovation journey. This guide for companies on social hiring, social procurement, living wages and social innovation can be easily tailored to advanced ed. Equally, companies seeking to embed their social purpose throughout their operations will be fast on the heels of educational institutions, learning and scaling their successes within their for-profit business models.

The public and private sectors have much to learn from each other. All post-secondary institutions are inherent drivers of social progress: the time is now ripe for a community pivot. The complexities of this era call for advanced education institutions to reconceive conventional assets and instruments to serve an even higher purpose.

We have no time to lose. Universities: show us what you’ve got!

For more insights on maximizing the capacity of advanced education to build social infrastructure, read this paper.

 

Corporate Social Innovation: a new business value driver

Editor’s Note: This blog appeared first on LinkedIn, November14. It is republished with permission by the author, Coro Strandberg.

Around the world there is a growing consensus that a company’s social role goes beyond meeting legal requirements, complying with ethical standards, creating jobs and paying taxes. Increasingly consumers believe that companies and brands must actively lead social change. And with the recent adoption of the Global Goals, the 193 members of the UN have made clear that the vision of a sustainable world requires everyone to do their part: governments, businesses and individuals. In response to people’s changing expectations, the world’s most innovative companies are building social value right into their core business strategies, not only to address poverty and other problems in their communities, but also to improve workplace relations, gain market advantages and grow profits faster. In my last social post, I explained how transformational companies are supporting social enterprises through innovative buying strategies to diversify their supply chains, unlock creativity and connect more closely with their customers. In this post, I focus on the importance of Social Innovation, the most transformative of the four core corporate strategies that I explore in detail in my Social Value Business Guide.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.41.32 AMThe tool for transformational and social purpose companies to foster commercial and societal success

The business community has the unique insights, expertise and resources needed to create game-changing solutions for more inclusive and humane societies. They do so through a “social innovation” process that involves doing business in ways that create business and social value. Social innovation is when companies improve conditions and profits by applying a social lens to their business models, products, services, processes or relationships. It is a new approach to value creation in which firms bring their unique set of corporate assets (such as their entrepreneurial skills, business acumen, resources and ability to scale) to create solutions to complex social issues, linking the firm’s success with societal success. In tandem with social outcomes, these companies create new customer value propositions that their competitors cannot see, giving them a competitive advantage that reduces costs and increases revenues and profits. Some companies go even further on this continuum and become a social purpose company, coupling their growth with a commensurate increase in social good.

The challenge and opportunity for companies is to find social concerns that intersect with their core business functions and create collaborative partnerships with other companies, governments and like-minded civil society organizations in order to harness each party’s unique strengths and address issues together. It involves pivoting business competencies to test, prototype and scale new business ventures that generate social value for communities and the broader society such as reducing poverty, homelessness, underemployment, skill shortages, poor health and nutrition, obesity, income inequality and social exclusion.

In turn businesses gain a number of important benefits depending on the social issues and strategies they pursue. The range of business benefits may include improved productivity and brand differentiation, as well as new and deeper insights into customer segments, new products and services, secured access to supplies and resources, enhanced employee recruitment and retention and increased market share through new and more loyal customers.

Social Innovation involves a shift in perspective in how a company contributes to community and social well-being. Whereas traditional companies contribute to social causes through donations and other charitable endeavours, social value businesses make investments in new ventures and enterprises that value social impact along with their bottom line. The most innovative businesses use Social Innovation to push these transformational practices further along the continuum of social business value, leveraging their business expertise and external collaborations to make a sustained systemic impact and drive business value.

clg_more_breakthru-articleLeading social value businesses work to identify and understand leverage points for social change along their value chain and develop win-win strategies for addressing community issues while generating business benefits. They use tools which predominate in technology development, such as design-thinking, rapid prototyping, big data, collaborative innovation labs and open innovation platforms.

The world’s most innovative and transformational businesses understand that their role in society has evolved. Leading companies harness the power of social innovation to create lasting benefits for their investors, their customers and the people living in their communities.

I encourage Chief Strategy and Innovation Officers to read my Social Innovation Guide, which examines how innovative companies around the world are using Social Innovation and other transformative strategies to address problems in today’s society while creating financial value for investors and shareholders. With input from a world-leading social innovation expert, Darcy Riddell, it is the first practical roadmap of its kind to help strategic planners, R&D managers, product developers and sustainability practitioners develop social business models.

The research and strategies outlined in this guide will show you why social businesses are more profitable businesses, and how your company can become a change agent in the local community and a leader in the global marketplace.

Changing the lens, the focus, everything

This post was originally published on the Strandberg Consulting Blog on February 6, 2015. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author — explore her website for more on CSR 4.0. 

For 25 years, I’ve developed CSR strategies. And now I see that CSR is becoming business as usual.

You’d think I’d be celebrating. But I’m not – because CSR has stalled.

This struck me in 2012 when I developed the Qualities of a Transformational Company for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and started tracking corporate innovation in CSR (see 38 case studies of transformation in action at CBSR’s website). That’s when I saw where we needed to be.

As identified by KPMG, the World Economic Forum and others, CSR as practiced over the past decade has not realized the commercial or social benefits necessary to address the global mega-forces that will affect the ability of business and society to thrive in the medium to long-term.

Our pace is too slow. The change we are realizing is incremental when it needs to be transformational.

Leading businesses sense this limitation and are looking for a new type of CSR.  They want to go beyond what I call “CSR everydayism” to set their course on a path to social purpose.  They want to go beyond value protection to value creation – to set and pursue corporate goals that resonate with employees, customers and communities, and that realize growth opportunities for their firm.

To aid my clients and others on this journey, I have created a Social Purpose Continuum (1.0 Philanthropic — 2.0 Strategic — 3.0 Integrated — 4.0 Social Purpose).  I am using this tool in education and strategy sessions to help leaders redefine their sense of what is possible. For example, in strategy sessions, when faced with the options to pursue a philanthropic (1.0) or social purpose (4.0) approach, boards and executives prefer the more impactful, engaging and innovative social purpose vision (once in a strategy session I was even asked what it would take to become a 5.0 company!).

This tool helps companies move from one-off ad hoc (low impact) donations to the foodbank (for example) to building a social quest – such as inclusion – throughout their hiring, employee and community relations, procurement, investment, capital projects, products and operational practices.  Building their social purpose throughout their business model results in a more sustained and scaled impact – and is more likely to drive business benefits as well.

Social Purpose Continuum-TW

Feel free to use the tool – and provide your feedback. It will be updated with new insights as I test drive it with companies who aspire to transformational leadership.

As one of my clients said in reviewing the tool, “This changes the lens. This changes the focus. This changes everything.”

Let’s keep pushing for the change we need.

SiG Note: Download Coro’s Social Purpose Continuum here. For more on social purpose business, check out our Corporate Social Innovation section, as well as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing

Harnessing the market for social good

coro-blog-jan31-2014

c/o Strandberg Consulting

The Canadian social marketplace has been on the drawing board for about 30 years. You might even ask, “What is a social marketplace?” It’s a mechanism where the power of business and market transactions are leveraged to enhance social well-being.

Architects from government, civil society, and business have piloted and prototyped innovations, but still there is no blueprint for large-scale activation. Today we have social finance, social enterprise, social hiring, and social procurement as offshoots of this effort. But these ideas are still in their infancy and their engineers struggle to achieve scale and impact.

Tackling scale and impact barriers

I recently tackled one of these scale and impact barriers – social finance capital – in research I conducted for Employment and Skills Development Canada. The research focuses on challenges and solutions for non-profits, charities, real estate data providers like Imbrex, and investors related to supply and demand for social finance capital.

The research found that social finance investments – which fund organizations to improve their social and environmental impact – have grown from a modest $85 million in 2000 to $5.3 billion in 2011. While this is a healthy jump, the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance called for a shift of 1% of Canada’s $3 trillion in assets under management into social finance, which would yield $30 billion for investment in social enterprises. That’s a $20 – 25 billion gap from where we are today. Back when I was on its board of directors, Vancity Credit Union offered one of the first retail customer “social finance” investment offerings in 1993 – a community deposit product that channeled customer funds into local social enterprises. It has taken 20 years to grow the Canadian social finance market to 15% of its potential. Clearly we need a national strategy to build social returns into our marketplace and the research recommends this.

I encourage you to read the full report, but here are some intriguing findings:

Non-profit business model enables scale

Non-profits are more entrepreneurial than expected. They have experience with loans and risk capacity and they can leverage grants as strategic capital to launch or grow their social businesses. Their strong community relationships are a competitive advantage while their desire for mission control is admirable, but a hurdle for ROI focused investors.

Place-based investor focus limits scale

Many prospective social investors seek to generate community-level, or place-based, social benefits. Grassroots investment is important, but it’s easier to make an impact on top social issues such as youth unemployment or home care through national-scale social venture models.

Investment readiness

The research also generated an “investment readiness” checklist of critical success factors for non-profits and charities pursuing social finance and the investors that fund them. This can be a handy tool for those who want to help close the $25-billion gap.

Growing Canadian social procurement capacity

The report includes a number of recommendations for intermediaries and capacity builders who want to achieve greater impact with social enterprise and social finance. A top recommendation, in my mind, is to grow social procurement capacity in Canada. I imagine a future where organizations include social sourcing in their procurement toolkits as a way to meet their supply needs and advance social benefit. If we can find a way to link buyers, sellers, and investors, we can create a true social marketplace, one with built-in positive social returns.

This post was originally published on Coro’s Blog on January 31st, 2014. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.