Corporates and Social Entrepreneurship collaboration: a win-win situation

Launching the third edition of the Ashoka & IKEA Social Entrepreneurship partnership.
Dela programme
Source: Dela programme

In 2019, Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship co-created the Dela Programme with the mission to support social entrepreneurs that focus on systems change to create lasting and large social change.  

Key outcomes & results 

Today, as we launch the third edition of the Dela programme, we want to share key insights from the intersection of the corporate and social entrepreneurship sectors within (and even beyond) an accelerator.  

“In Swedish ‘Dela’ means to share and this is what this partnership is all about. Bringing together social entrepreneurs and corporates adds a lot of value to both, and has the potential for scaling the impact, again of both.”, Stella Printezi – Program Manager of the Dela programme.

Social entrepreneurs are strengthening their impact scaling strategies (and becoming readier to implement them)  

In each Dela edition, twelve leading social entrepreneurs from Ashoka’s Fellowship network embark on a program with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and Ashoka. Throughout this journey, Ashoka facilitators, IKEA co-workers, together with volunteers from the Ashoka Support Network and other partners, work together to scale the impact of their solutions through redefining their strategies for systemic change. Social Entrepreneurs are also offered a safe space and team of experts to test elements of these updated strategies. 

Each of the participating social entrepreneurs receives ~108hrs of support from IKEA co-workers and ~198hrs from other experts. 

For instance, the Ashoka Fellow Albert Mollah and founder of Access Bangladesh Foundation, who works on empowering people with disabilities, is now fully able to focus on the systematic impact of his work: 

An immediate outcome has been fleshing out concrete changes in surveys that will help reliable and comparable disaggregated data about people with dissabilities in Bangladesh to inform employment related policies programs and budget allocations. 

Social entrepreneurs are shifting towards more open, collaborative models

Dela is a thrust towards more collaborative, open models. According to data from Ashoka, Dela (I&II) participants demonstrate a significant increase of openness in their models and narrative.  

“The discussions helped me to see how other leaders have experienced and creatively overcome challenges similar to our organization's”, Ashoka Fellow and Dela participant, Salamatu Garba.

An example from Dela II: Ashoka Fellow and founder of Simplon, Frederik Bardeau moved from looking at ways to expand the organization internationally to focusing on becoming an ecosystem influencer and building a coalition of adopters of active pedagogy. This model will include competitors and actors beyond their current scope, thus advocating for systematic changes among the many stakeholders in the ecosystem for digital education.   

Dela co-workers

Corporates are gaining insights and access to innovation/investment opportunities 

It is often thought that through partnering up with an intermediary organization or social entrepreneurs, corporates support social entrepreneurs and in return have the chance to offer an employee engagement program to their people. In reality, such collaboration yields way more to the corporate. 

“I previously looked at our social impact as a one way focus from corporate to social change and mostly as donation of product, money or time. Now I see it as a two-way  street where we collaborate to create a win-win solution that make society better.”  - Rob Olson, Real Estate Manager at IKEA Group Real Estate.   

Through working closely with social entrepreneurs, IKEA co-workers report gaining insights on markets, business models and local contexts that would otherwise be difficult to reach. 

On the one hand, as many social entrepreneurs are at the forefront of their fields, they are experts in spotting social challenges early and working on solutions. This is an added value, given that corporates are also getting access to innovation - think how companies work closely with startups; the same applies in the field of social innovation.

Liisa Smits

Ashoka Fellow since Aug 2014

A tangible outcome of Dela I through this lens, is the IKEA Social Entrepreneurship investment on the organization of Liisa Smits, Dela I participant and founder of the first accurate and reliable weather forecast system for the tropics., Liisa Smits. On July 15, 2021 Ignitia announced the closing of a USD 4.2M financing round led by Novastar Ventures, followed by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. The funds are being used to expand Ignitia’s agricultural decision-making support into the Brazilian market, as well as extend its Sub-Saharan Africa footprint to new markets. 

Listen to this podcast episode if you are curious to know more:

New ways of working and leading are brought into the corporate field 

Based on the insights from Dela and other accelerators, we have seen that co-workers are able to see new realities and bring different approaches into their everyday lives and their organization, being inspired by the social entrepreneurs' leadership and mission.  

~40% of the participating IKEA co-workers reported insights around new ways to work, organize and lead.

As Paolo Cinelli (Strategy and Experimentation Partner in Dela II) shares:

“Social entrepreneurs operate mostly through influence and with small means, something really valuable and relevant for profit businesses, too.” 

On the other hand, this partnership is bringing new ways of working for IKEA co-workers, employing systems thinking and analysis as a way of approaching complex issues in their own day-to-day work and developing an intrapreneurial mindset.  

Elena Alemanno, business steering manager at Inter IKEA Systems B.V who has been participating as an IKEA strategy partner, states that:

We are led by purpose and the IKEA vision has never been so relevant. We need to collaborate across the value chain, not only within the IKEA landscape, but also outside, to be able to truly make a difference.

Dela co-workers

About the Dela Programme

In 2019, Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship came together with the vision to co-create a global accelerator program to maximize the social impact of innovative solutions for a better world.

 Today, we continue to work towards this direction. We hope (and invite) other corporates to join the movement, investing in the field of social entrepreneurship to support solutions to some of the most pressing ‘wicked problems’ society is facing. 

Meet the participants of the Dela Programme here.