For as long as I can remember until recent years, corporate philanthropy was related to a company's strategic objectives only to the extent that the financial commitments were to communities in which the company employed people. This was good citizenship based almost entirely on geography and available pre-tax dollars. In recent years, enlightened corporate leaders have correctly realized that it is not only possible but highly desirable to have social objectives and business objectives that are mutually beneficial. Substantial amounts of money are involved, as in years past, but also more, much more, notably evident by the active involvement of a company's people who serve as volunteers at all levels within community organizations.
What we have in this volume is Jason Saul's thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of what he characterizes as "The New Social Market" in which, to a significant extent, business strategies and social strategies are synonymous, if not identical. First, in Part I (Chapters 1-3), he establishes a context, a frame-of-reference within which to formulate "a new way of thinking about social change." Then in Part II (Chapters 4-8), he identifies and explains "Five Strategies for Corporate Social Innovation" by which to "create revenues with submarket products and services, enter new markets through backdoor channels, build emotional bonds with customers, and influence [public] policy through reverse lobbying." Finally, in Part III (Chapters 9-11), Saul provides a "Roadmap to Social Innovation" that focuses on the practical realities of crafting and implementing social innovation strategies. These initiatives will produce what he characterizes as a "culture of social innovation" based on a "formula for social innovation" which has significant implications for the aforementioned Social Capital Market.
Of special interest to me is the material provided in Chapter 7 as Saul explains how the fourth strategy can develop new pipelines for talent. He cites Travelers Insurance and its support of a program based on a "school choice model": themed programs that offer more personalized learning environment such High School, Inc., established on the Travelers campus in Hartford (CT). The program is part of a much more comprehensive program, with Travelers playing a leading role, joined by Wachovia, Webster Bank, and The Hartford in association with the National Academy Foundation, a network of 500 high school career academies throughout the U.S. Saul quotes Michael Klein, a senior Travelers executive, noting "We view it as a down payment on our potential future workforce" but the "we" refers both to Travelers and to the insurance industry.
What has driven companies (in all industries and urban areas) to support development of social innovation strategies that focus on education? Klein provides one reason. Also, the inadequacies of the public school education system to produce job-ready talent in sufficient number, in conjunction with the increased number of middle-skills jobs. How to create the right kind of talent pipelines? Saul suggests a five-step process: build the business case, leverage core competencies, select the appropriate pipeline for the given strategic objective, demonstrate verifiable ROI, and get to scale quickly, expanding and extending what works while eliminating or improving what doesn't. As for the inevitable pitfalls, Saul cites three: Don't conflate pipelining with philanthropy (i.e. "don't try to boil the ocean"), Don't craft a 15-year plan (rather, focus on near-term, albeit it incremental results), and "Don't fall in love with your partners" (rather, "fall in love with outcomes" by investing in results, not good causes). The school project in Hartford is only one of hundreds of examples of enlightened corporate self-interests served effectively by what Saul describes as a "social contract" although, throughout the social contract strategies are not relevant in a social capital market. However, that said (again), I agree with him that "the same trend that is fueling the social capital market - the sheer size of corporations and their ubiquity in our daily lives - is also increasing the importance of corporate responsibility and ethics.
This brilliant book will prepare decision-makers in any organization (regardless of size or nature) to understand how and why effective execution of strategies such as the five Jason Saul proposes can drive business growth through social change. This book will also prepare the same business leaders to recruit, enlist, and then energize others in co-creation initiatives to achieve strategic goals that have bottom-line impact in a business context, but are also goals that have significant social value.