On Thursday 30th May the Ventures team at The Young Foundation hosted an Accelerator workshop for past, present and future Accelerator participants. The aim of the workshop was to provide each of the social entrepreneurs with the opportunity to use The Young Foundation Social Business Model Canvas as a framework to pitch to a range of corporate clients such as PwC, JP Morgan, Virgin Media, Jacqueline Gold and PHA Media. We were also glad to offer specialist input from SEUK on the Public Services Social Value Act.
The rationale for bringing together social entrepreneurs and senior representatives from the corporate world draws on a piece of Young Foundation research titled ‘Social Silicon Valleys: a manifesto for social innovation: what it is, why it matters, how it can be accelerated’. Our research identified that social change depends on alliances between the ‘bees’ and the ‘trees.’ In this analogy, the bees are small organisations, individuals or groups who have the new ideas and are able to mobilise quickly to respond and ‘cross pollinate’ ideas. The trees are the big organisations – governments, companies and NGOs which might be hesitant to try radical innovations, but are generally good at implementation and have the resilience, roots and scale to make things happen. Both need each other.
In the workshop the social entrepreneurs co-created a value proposition for the corporate marketplace. Here is a summary of the top ten tips from the day:
1. Be approachable and likeable.
As one corporate boldly stated: “I only want to work with people I like.”
2. Build affinity and common ground.
Identify the common interests between your social venture and the corporate you aim to build a relationship with. You will be in an even stronger position if you can build affinity between the aims of both parties, but also with the interests and passions of the individual you are pitching to in mind. One workshop participant identified that “the art of negotiation is to put yourself in their shoes.”
3. Identify where you could add value to the corporate.
As crude as this sounds, one corporate delegate simply stated that “in the current job market, we can cherry pick the best staff.” The knock-on effect of this is that there is little incentive for corporates to engage with initiatives that up-skill graduates. But it was in response to this issue that our corporate did identify a very real gap, where social ventures could respond: “We are attracted to ideas and innovative solutions that up-skill our staff with soft skills to compliment their professional qualifications.”
Another big driver for corporates is retention of their staff and finding opportunities to boost workplace morale. Consider if and how your venture can strengthen these areas. It is also worth ensuring that you understand and emphasise thePublic Services Social Value Act in your preliminary discussions with potential corporate partners. Social Enterprise UK have produced a great guide on the act which can be found here.
4. Don’t simply approach the CSR lead.
Explore if the corporate you hope to work with has a ‘Head of Diversity’ or ‘Head of Community and Engagement’ – try to understand their organisational structure and where your ideas add the most value, rather than simply relying on a CSR lead to navigate opportunities for you.
5. Ensure your concept is concise and conveyed with clarity.
Quite simply, don’t waffle or ramble on for too long. As one corporate stated, “Your audience will have short attention spans.” It really is worth recognising that a shorter pitch retains interest and that this attention is worth a million dollars compared to a longer pitch where you prioritise quantity over quality.
6. The recipe for success is passion and believability.
Passion and believability are priceless qualities that give a corporate confidence that your organisation is the right partner for them.
7. Articulate your ask – make it easy for corporates to say ‘yes’.
Again, this sounds like a simple tip, but not articulating exactly what you want is often a key stumbling block for social entrepreneurs. Typically entrepreneurs spend too long in their pitch focusing on their journey and experience of the social problem they are addressing. While this is hugely important, you will gain the results and outcomes you are looking for if you take the following approach:
– Summarise the social problem that your venture addresses (in less than 30 seconds)
– Describe what your response to this social problem is and why your approach is unique and innovative (in less than 1 minute)
– Spend the majority of your pitch articulating your ask to the corporate (i.e. investment, in-kind support, mentors, joint working, etc.)
8. Be aware of your competition.
We all operate in crowded markets, so identify your unique selling point!
9. Confidence is key. Knock on as many doors as possible.
It’s important to recognise that in the current climate, businesses in the social and corporate sectors both face limitations on their resources. If you have managed to spark their interest, this is a huge step, so be creative in exploring solutions to these limitations and ways of working together that don’t necessarily involving the corporate writing you a cheque!.
10. Be proactive.
Match your words with actions: ensure you have stacks of business cards and follow up leads via email and social media.