Mapping the Future of Social Innovation

Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:33

When I first saw this map on a Google+ posting I was awed struck by the sheer size of the brand portfolios exist.

Of course, I knew for years that these groups were actively consolidating a number pf brands (including the “green” ones), but when it is put onto a map like this … well, wow.

Interestingly enough,  over the last 2 weeks I have had three discussions with firms represented in the map (2 in the center), and through those discussions we have been discussing the power that these firms have to radically change the way we think of what a social enterprise is… and the impact that it can have

It is a topic of discussion that began for me a year or so ago with a nutrition brand (not represented here), and their plans to leverage their manufacturing and distribution channels to introduce a new product to China. A product packed with nutrients, and would be sold as a price point that would allow many of China’s poorest to afford.  It was a project backed by a hybrid legal model in partnership with several of CHina’s larges NGOs and Foudnations, and was one where the firm was actively seeking out ways to do “good” by leveraging the capactiy of its “profitable” operations.

In their mind a social business, and one that had real legs from a product distribution standpoint.

However in my conversations last week, there is a different discussion occurring where B.O.P. models and products are being seen not just as “good”, but as “huge”.  Huge in that through identifying a social / environmental issue that is faced by a population, there is an opportunity to help these populations overcome/ solve those issues and profit at the same time.

Markets in food and beverage being top of the list for any firm in the above map, but education, healthcare, and community development also receiving interest from a number of other firms.

Which is to say that while the traditional focus of social innovation and entrepreneurship has been focused on how to scale up small socially minded organizations, what we are now beginning to see is a trend where large firms are able to develop and scale up new products that have the same mission and vision…. and can potentially do so at a far faster rate due to the ability of that firm to leverage large pools of resources in house that are not available to the average social entrepreneur.

It is a trend that I believe will offer valuable lessons, and products to the market, and for my entrepreneur friends out there I hope you will pay attention to the steps taken by these firms.  There will be lessons for you as well.

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