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How Businesses Can Accelerate the Work of Social Entrepreneurs To Change the World

by Julia Donovan

How Businesses Can Accelerate the Work of Social Entrepreneurs To Change the World

by Julia Donovan

Published 07-08-22

Submitted by SAP

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Non-profit organizations and social enterprises account for an average of 4.5% of their countries’ GDP and employ 10% or more of the total workforce. These companies are the catalysts for positive change, serving the world’s most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

They fill in the gaps that cannot be bridged by the public or private sectors when it comes to providing critical services that impact social and economic growth and are vital for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) by the looming 2030 deadline.

However, these organizations typically struggle with critical business challenges and need support in areas such as strategic planning, developing business processes, and growing their network. This is where initiatives like the SAP Social Sabbatical program come in.

SAP Social Sabbatical is a portfolio of global pro-bono consulting programs that enable SAP employees to share their knowledge, skills, and expertise with non-profits and social enterprises around the world. Over the past 10 years, SAP employees have contributed in excess of 359,000 volunteer hours to help over 450 non-profits and social enterprises across 52 countries.

Hemang Desai is global program director for the SAP Social Sabbatical portfolio on the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) team. He says that non-profit organizations and social enterprises can benefit immensely from the expertise and experience of the private sector in addressing these issues.

“Through engagement with the private sector, these organizations can learn the business strategies and skills needed to help improve organizational efficiency and management practices. At the same time, this gives businesses the opportunity to create meaningful, sustainable impact by supporting organizations in bridging societal challenges that they cannot address full-time.”

Bringing Business Thinking and Strategy to Social Sector Partners

SAP recently conducted a long-term impact survey among the organizations supported by SAP Social Sabbatical programs. For almost a third of responding organizations, one of the most impactful ways businesses can help them is through guidance on strategy and planning.

For example, during the 2017 program, SAP employees volunteering at the Kazakhstan Foundation for Cultural, Social, and Educational Development (KFCSED) aided in establishing a five-year mission, vision, and strategy for the organization and supported it in communicating this with beneficiaries and the community. As a result, KFCSED, which is devoted to empowering women, was able to increase the scale and capacity of its projects, enabling it to serve five times more beneficiaries.

Mariya Asinskaya, a former project director at KFCSED said, “The corporate sector can support non-profits because they have a lot of knowledge, and we need that — their professionalism and their tools. Almost all of them can be applied to non-profits.”

Developing Skills for the Future

Over 75% of non-profit organizations and social enterprises that responded to the long-term impact survey said that interventions from business have helped to enhance their employees’ skills. For instance, at SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation, a 2014 SAP Social Sabbatical participant that cultivates and promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in teens, employees were taught vital skills in stakeholder management, marketing, and external relations.

As a result of this training, employees learned best practices when it comes to approaching other corporations which opened new doors for the organization.

Founder and Director Lydia Zingoni shares, “We are forever grateful for SAP’s contribution to our organization. We have recently launched an online version of the entrepreneur program and we are expanding it not only in South Africa, but globally.”

Implementing Tools to Better Serve Beneficiaries

Eighty-five percent of social sector partners said that by being able to offer improved programs and services as well as enhanced systems, along with expanded internal capacity, they can better serve their beneficiaries. This was the impact experienced at the National College of Ireland Early Learning Initiative (ELI), which was developed to address the problem of educational underachievement in marginalized communities.

Prior to the 2015 SAP Social Sabbatical, the organization was struggling to support other communities in setting up or delivering its ParentChild+ program, which at the time was only deployed among 15 families. With suggestions from the SAP volunteers, together with tools to better manage day-to-day operations, ELI was able to scale the program by diagnosing and improving process bottlenecks. Today, ParentChild+ has been implemented at 11 organizations and supports nearly 400 children per year.

“For many businesses, partnerships with NGOs and social enterprises have been purely financial without any real understanding of the challenges their partners face, nor realizing that their know how is in fact the solution,” Desai concludes. “By working together, businesses and social sector organizations can create optimal impact in changing the world for the better.”

This year, SAP Social Sabbatical is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has relaunched its programming, enabling employees to work hand in hand again with social enterprises and non-profits around the world. To learn more about the program and its success stories,

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