Amplifying Social Impact: Through Win-Win Partnership Between Social Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals

Amplifying Social Impact: Through Win-Win Partnership Between Social Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals

Rachel Fauber's picture

Economies across the globe are increasingly connected and fueled by collaboration. Both for-profit organizations and social entrepreneurs rely on partnerships, networks, and cross-sector collaborations to conduct their business and solve complex social problems. Investigating how business professionals and social entrepreneurs engage in pro bono partnerships can illuminate best practices and recommendations for making these relationships as impactful as possible.

In partnership with American Express and with thought leadership from Taproot Foundation, Ashoka surveyed hundreds of U.S. business professionals as well as social entrepreneurs around the globe to understand their vision for impactful pro bono partnerships.

It’s common for professionals to enter partnerships and discover they have different expectations for how to work together. But pro bono partnerships between business professionals and social entrepreneurs can be transformative and solve complex social problems when expectations between parties are aligned.

Social entrepreneurs across the globe have unique and varied needs, but are overwhelmingly interested in tapping into the skills and expertise of  business professionals to achieve their social missions. They welcome partnership support in many functional areas and slightly prefer working with for profit companies and with teams of professionals. They have a strong preference for long term, relationship-based engagements with business professionals.

Business professionals have a strong desire to know the tangible impact of their work. The study finds that employee satisfaction is correlated with perceived meaningfulness of work. Business professionals are excited to engage in social impact pro bono engagements when the opportunities can be integrated into their work and speak directly to their personal motivations.

There is exciting potential for business professionals and social entrepreneurs to move beyond one-sided pro bono partnerships in favor of win-win opportunities that are collaborative and mutually beneficial for both parties.

Several shifts in approach to pro bono engagement have the potential to ensure social impact is at the core of the corporate landscape. They include:

  • Shifting from transactional volunteerism to win-win partnerships and co-creation between business professionals and social entrepreneurs.
  • Shifting from employee engagement through occasional feel good moments to meaningful employee talent development.
  • Shifting from one-time pro bono engagements to pro bono experiences that build a culture of changemaking within companies.
  • Shifting from a corporate perception where social impact is “nice to have” to one where social impact is critical to the bottom line.

With these shifts in mind, the report identifies five key recommendations for designing engagements that meet the desires of both social entrepreneurs and business professionals and drive at this new framework for pro bono partnerships. They include:

  1. Introducing business professionals to the true needs of social entrepreneurs.
  2. Design pro bono programs supported by executive leadership that tie into the core operations of a business.
  3. Structure partnership time commitments to meet the needs of both parties.
  4. Recruit business professionals who have skill sets high in demand.
  5. Build a trust and empathy within partnerships to overcome misperceptions.

We invite you to learn more by reading the full report here.