Follow posts tagged #volans in seconds.Sign up
Greetings from Emily and Gina!
Wednesday, May 27 2009
Greetings from Bloomsbury Place!
Right off the British Museum and on a row of white bricked buildings, 2 Bloomsbury Place is the home of Volans’ London Office. It might only be the second day at the Volans office, but Gina (the other PennSEM intern) and I have found ourselves suddenly immersed in a new London—one that is an energetic hub of international social enterprise activity. I think it’s safe to say that this London goes beyond boating across the Thames and taking photos of Big Ben.
Let me give you a better understanding of Volans as a company. Volans Ventures is a for-profit company, dedicated to the business of social and environmental innovation. Founded in March 2008 by John Elkington,Pamela Hartigan, and Kevin Teo, Volans is a part think-tank, part consultancy, part broker and part incubator in this field. Volans works with corporations and social enterprises to create opportunities for talent share, to spark the innovation of new business models, and to facilitate investment in scalable solutions. Based in London and Singapore, the company might be young but is developing rapidly with partnerships across the world. There is no doubt that Volans’ growth is fueled by an amazing power team in the field of social entrepreneurship, including our own very own PennSEM mentor, Charmian Love. With a diverse background in fine arts, management consulting, and non-profit work, Charmian understands the importance of creative sector partnerships towards creating social and economic value—a value also shared by Volans.
So where do Gina and I come in?
We have been assigned to develop a catalogue template of social entrepreneurs to best capture the information of social enterprises. Through this template, we want to assess, at a high level, which elements drive innovation or success in these enterprises. Elements might include factors such as the region served, industry or sector focus, the size of the enterprise, or the stage of scalability the enterprise is in. The more difficult elements to categorize are the actual “innovations” that these enterprises have developed. Is it a set of unique product characteristics? A service that no one else has thought of? A new kind of channel partnership? A new kind of supplier relationship? Government connections?
After developing this template, Gina and I are to apply the template into social enterprises solving environmental challenges, particularly in the fields of Climate Change and Water & Sanitation. We will be populating a database (the catalogue) of the most innovative enterprises in these fields through desk research and interviews with social entrepreneurs and business leaders themselves!
This template helps to build Volan’s internal understanding of social enterprises and innovation. With our work in two sectors of Volan’s targeted 21, our template and research can help serve as a platform for Volan’s Phoenix 500 Database. Phoenix 500 is a more in-depth and integrated version of Volans’ recent Phoenix Economy, a report analyzing trends driving change and 50 organizations spearheading that change. This new report will become the core data and intelligence resource that may be used to develop criteria and award methodology in the future.
The goal still seems abstract and slightly overwhelming (who are we to define “innovation” when experts and entrepreneurs have been trying to define it themselves for years?), but we are both excited to dig deeper and sculpt this project into something tangible and valuable. Another reason to be excited is our own personal investment in our assigned research. Gina, who will be working in the Climate Change sector, has a later internship with theSingapore EDB in San Francisco, focused in the Energy sector. I will be working in Water and Sanitation, and have had previous exposure to issues of the global water crisis and water rights through helping plan PIBV’s Water Privatization panel.
Social Entrepreneurship is still a young movement that is still maturing; inevitably, its foundation of understanding is still limited. It’s exciting to take part in building that knowledge base.
What are your thoughts on elements of innovation and success in social enterprise?