Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

2014 Year in Review

By Cheryl Kiser, Executive Director of The Lewis Institute and Babson Social Innovation Lab

The end of another year is in sight; a time to pause and reflect upon the work we’ve done here at The Lewis Institute and Babson Social Innovation Lab. The shifts we’ve seen in the broader business community around creating social value are without a doubt signaling an exciting time to be doing the work we do; perhaps one of the most exciting I’ve seen. Companies are moving beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to corporate social relevance, and we are seeing far more entrants into the space of social innovation.

At The Lewis Institute, our work has always been to show that there is no distinction between social responsibility and profit – what’s good for the bottom line is also good for society. We believe that desire, relationships, and integrated actions create a world where everyone’s needs are better met. It is, in fact, often the most unlikely partnerships or unusual collaborations that yield the most game-changing breakthrough innovations.

On the academic front lines, I am consistently inspired and supported by the mindset of possibility our students live in. We are grateful that the Lewis Family Foundation and Toyota Motor Corporation see the power that a social innovation institute within an academic environment can have to create economic and social value simultaneously not sequentially. Based on our methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action®, our students see the world as it could be and are armed with the tools to help create that reality.

Each year we strive to increase our relevancy to both our internal and external stakeholders in service of this work. This year was no different, and there’s certainly a lot to celebrate. But, when I think about what makes our work so special, what makes me proud and inspired to travel the world and share our message, it’s that truly we could not do our work on our own. Our success is contingent on the ever evolving flow of entrepreneurs, changemakers, and innovators who refuse to take no for an answer and believe that there is always a better way to do things.

This year we had the pleasure of showcasing some of these tremendous individuals through our Lewis Institute Changemaker and Social Innovator Awards as well as the launch of our book and website, Creating Social Value. We nurtured young leaders through the Babson Entrepreneurial Development Experience and engaged Babson faculty and students in a pilot program that applied Toyota’s lean production principles to the social sector. We held our 5th From Day One Fest in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and Glavin Office of Multicultural and International Education, opening up pathways for students to make a difference in their community From Day One. Throughout the year, students developed their networks and built visions of what is possible at conferences like CGI U, Net Impact, Ashoka, and Starting Bloc as well as on campus at weekly Good Business Friday and Community Table sessions. Babson Food Day with Andrew Zimmern, Gail Simmons, and their amazing chef colleagues put the spotlight on the power of eater entrepreneurship, reminding us that sometimes the biggest impact can be made by the smallest changes: what’s on our plate. With support from Verizon and Campbell Soup Company and in partnership with IO Sustainability, we launched Project ROI placing a rigorous business lens on the value of work in CSR. And, amplifying our belief that the entrepreneurial spirit does not end at retirement, we co-founded eProv Studio supporting entrepreneuring as a community and economic development strategy for the growing global aging population.

We are excited to continue cultivating our relationships and curating new interactions that push the boundaries of social innovation. Even our new physical space with our move to the 2nd floor of Olin Hall speaks to this. In this space we have created a convening environment called “Space X” to incubate people and ideas around social innovation. As I look back upon this year I remain grateful for the work I do and the people I do it with. So, here’s to 2015, a year filled with peace, positive changemaking, and good health.