Unilever partnership pledges £40 million to support social enterprises

In partnership with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Unilever is expanding its commitment to support social enterprises through the joint initiative TRANSFORM. To invite ideas and collaboration to further catalyse impact, they have chosen Exago’s open innovation software.

DFID and Unilever founded TRANSFORM in 2015 with an ambition to bring private sector creativity and commercial approaches to solve persistent global development challenges. To date, it has supported 19 projects across nine countries, which have already benefited over a quarter of a million people.

This next phase will quadruple the size of the programme, from £10 million to £40 million, to support market-based solutions that meet low-income household needs in developing countries. Through financial and business support for social enterprises and behaviour-change interventions, TRANSFORM’s aim is to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing by 2025.

Partnerships key to unlocking resources

TRANSFORM will continue to drive progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the world prepares for a more inclusive, low-carbon and equitable economy by 2030. “The SDGs offer the world the business opportunity of a lifetime. If we seize this, we can help harness the power of markets to deliver not only exceptional growth but also help our economies to transition to the low-carbon, inclusive and healthier world we all want,” says Clive Allison, director of New Business Models at Unilever.

To promote impact at scale, TRANSFORM will use the Exago software. “We know that some of the best ideas and boldest actions are coming from entrepreneurs and start-ups,” adds Allison. “These disruptors are driving new innovations and business models to create the momentum the economy needs to transform itself, and the TRANSFORM initiative is a key vehicle to unlock these opportunities and scale solutions that work, to build a brighter future for all.”

Join the TRANSFORM community here.

Six must-haves in the quest for open innovation success

We’ve seen how open innovation is stepping in to tear down more traditional corporate walls and to give you access to new sources of possibilities: the ideas, insights, opinions and visions of clients, partners, consumers and scientific and academic communities. We’ve also seen how your employees are still your most valuable innovation source, as a diverse community, often from different countries, cultures, backgrounds and businesses.

Open innovation offers a new way to create value, to extend reach and capacity for new ideas, technologies and different perspectives on challenges, broadening your view. Overall, to deliver better and quicker results and strengthen brand awareness for your organisation, remember to:

1. Engage external communities to access different points of view, using an efficient software platform
2. Link and share content with external social networks for maximum reach
3. Maximise adoption and usage with a sophisticated but simple user interface
4. Activate your brand and communicate your values with a fully brandable programme
5. Manage your external community to ensure valuable participation
6. Integrate externally generated content with your internal community for evaluation and implementation.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s co-founder/ pdc@exago.com

READ MORE:
How to create valuable open innovation ecosystems

FROM THE START:
Open innovation and the fight for your audience

Never forget your most valuable innovation asset

When targeting participants for your open innovation programme, consider suppliers, customers and universities. But don’t forget your most valuable asset: your employees are themselves a community of stakeholders, often from different countries, cultures, backgrounds and businesses. They are your most important open innovation source.

In this sense, after laying out goals, challenges and workflow designs to engage your external contributors using a software platform, your innovation initiative provider should also help you to integrate the generated content with your internal community. This means you invite your people to screen and evaluate the best contributions given by those external participants, adopting the software platform for their own purposes.

They will help you deal with and efficiently assess expected high volumes of information – and to decide which contributions a final jury should analyse to find the competition’s winner. By doing this, you gather and leverage your organisation’s collective intelligence, aligning it with initiative’s goals.

True, your teams may have their own orthodoxies. But remember they can identify, better than anyone else can, both ‘false positives’ (ideas that seem auspicious but wouldn´t work in your organisation) and ‘false negatives’ (ideas seemingly outside your scope but carrying unexpected value).

This approach also makes sure that you don’t get stuck in bureaucratic monsters, when having to analyse all inputs received. It lets you focus on the process’s later stages, promoting transparency, winning sponsorship and accelerating decision-making and implementation within your organisation.

All in all, while embarking upon your open innovation quest, be sure to capture equally high external and internal levels of engagement. The entire initiative and evaluation process, in particular, must be efficient, and the balance between your external and internal collective intelligence is key to get it successfully done.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s co-founder/ pdc@exago.com

READ MORE:
Six must-haves in the quest for open innovation success

FROM THE START:
Open innovation and the fight for your audience

Where in the world is the audience for your open innovation programme?

As we’ve seen, you’ll have to create audience-centric content to capture your open innovation audience. But, you should consider to locate suitable community places, as well as aligning your communication messages with your targets, places, channels and value pools. Your communication plan needs to include key timing, targets, formats and messages – to meet programme objectives.

To guarantee your programme’s success, you have to both identify where you can find your stakeholders online, in social networks and other forums, and communicate assertively in these places.

This type of solution and systematic approach ensures the maximum relevant participation. By activating integration with the main social networks – such as Facebook and Twitter – directly from the platform, participants can use their own logins to register their presence and share all content extensively across these media.

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s co-founder/ pdc@exago.com

REA MORE:
Never forget your most valuable innovation asset

FROM THE START:
Open innovation and the fight for your audience

How to conquer your audience

Giving you easy access to new sources of innovation, open innovation practices allow you to ask different questions of different communities. As we’ve seen, many companies are embracing these initiatives. More will do the same soon.

So, how can you capture a big enough audience? How can you make sure it is the right audience for your challenge? And, how can you keep participants engaged until you achieve real outcomes?

The solution is to craft your initiatives carefully. You need to maximise your target community’s contribution, taking into account relevance, incentives, communication and good process governance, as I explain next.

1. Find relevance
Many companies have launched ‘suggestion box’ websites, where hundreds, even thousands, of customers can leave their insights. This may seem an easy way to get free ideas. But beware.

How will you decide which ones to implement? Most ideas may prove utterly irrelevant to your business and you’ll strongly affect your returns if you fail to find significance.

Therefore, you have to align your open innovation challenges with your strategic business needs and priorities. To make your efforts worthwhile, you and your leadership team have to define clear timelines and goals, both tangible (projects, ideas and so on) and intangible (culture, positioning, collaboration behaviours and more).

You must not only establish specific and relevant purposes beforehand but also engage those who identify with your cause. Contributors need to share an intellectual and emotional commitment. They have to believe they’ll have an impact on the ability to provide value and have a stake in the value produced.

You should also ponder on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), pre-establishing a disclaimer/ agreement for idea ownership. IPRs are designed usually to exclude others from using your ideas. So you have to learn how to reconcile the need to assure idea ownership with the need to attract insights from beyond your company’s boundaries. Legal counselling is also advisable.

READ MORE:
Fighting for your audience? Take on the right incentives

Pedro da Cunha, Exago’s co-founder/ pdc@exago.com

FROM THE START:
Open innovation and the fight for your audience