A global discussion on Corporate Social Innovation

On March 11, 2014 , SIX hosted the Global Dialogue on “Corporate Social Innovation and the Future of Capitalism“. The discussion was convened by SIX, SiG and Cisco, and chaired by Geoff Mulgan (CEO of Nesta) and it brought together people from London, Bogota, Toronto and Vancouver.

The last four decades have seen important evolution in thinking about the role of business. In 1970, Milton Friedman famously wrote in the New York Times that “‘business’ as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities…” This echoed his earlier writing that “social responsibility” is a “fundamentally subversive doctrine”. Despite Friedman, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement has grown enormously in the intervening years. 

Corporate social innovation (CSI) is a term gaining prominence that embraces the shift to integrate environmental, social and governance challenges. In 1999, Rosabeth Moss Kanter employed the phrase in a Harvard Business Review article explaining why corporates needed to shift their attention to new ways to innovate “fundamental solutions to America’s most urgent domestic problems…”

Since then the rise of the social innovation movement, generating a clearer and more robust intellectual framework for social innovation, has renewed use of the term corporate social innovation (CSI) to reflect a more profound direction for capitalism than that reflected in CSR. Innovation is engrained in the DNA of business, so how do we make better use of it to affect society more positively?

During the Telepresence, we explored these main questions: How is it different from what has gone before? What is required for CSI to build beyond CSR and shared value? What are the challenges and opportunities? How could CSI disrupt the current and unsustainable capitalism to achieve a breakthrough for Triple P capitalism (profit, people, planet)? Is there a role for a network of CSI thought leaders?  

Several participants suggested that this TelePresence should only be the beginning of the conversation around CSI, and it was agreed that as a first step the discussion will be continued at the SIX Summer School in Vancouver.