Four leaders with four inspirational stories are the first to win the “League of Intrapreneurs”

April 9, 2013

The wait is over: four leaders with four inspirational stories are the first to win the “League of Intrapreneurs” 

Sir Richard Branson hails the Intrapreneurs for demonstrating how business can be a force for good – GSK’s Sir Andrew Witty, Accenture UK MD Olly Benzecry and Ashoka founder Bill Drayton all pay tribute to four great examples of a new kind of development leader. 

We all agree on the important role social entrepreneurs play in helping to meet development challenges. Some of the most successful go on to become household names or to win Nobel Prizes. But what about the unsung heroes inside established organisations? These are people (of any seniority) whose contributions can amount to shifting development challenges up a CEOs agenda or bringing the expertise (and/or budget) of a multi-national to bear on identifying and solving a specific social problem: these are the Social Intrapreneurs. But in the flurry of corporate publicity that often accompanies a successful project, their names are often forgotten. Not anymore.

Today, at high level awards lunch, organised by Ashoka Changemakers and convening sponsor Accenture the winners of the first ever League of Intrapreneurs were announced from among hundreds of worthy nominees from around the world. GSK, Standard Chartered, the Inter-American Investment Corporation and the International Finance Corporation also lent their support to the inaugural awards.  

The four winners will go on to receive pro bono consulting support from Accenture to take their ideas and action to the next level.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group said:

 “Social intrapreneurs are demonstrating to the world how business can be a force for good”.

Gib Bulloch, Executive Director of Accenture Development Partnerships said:

“People have got to be the change they want to see in their company (apologies Ghandi). But that takes vision and bravery. All of the finalists have these qualities and I only hope they inspire others in big organisations around the world to follow their example”

Bill Drayton, CEO and Chairman of Ashoka said:

“The game is changing fast: Value now comes chiefly from contributing to change, not repetition. That means that the new measure of success for any organization is: "What percent of your people are intrapraneurs and how effective are you at enabling them to work together fluidly and openly?"

The Four winners:

Aparecida Teixeira de Morais – Tribanco (Part of the Martins Group)  

Nearly a third of people in Brazil are either un-banked or otherwise unable to access banking services. But when a senior manager at Tribanco (the financial arm of one of the largest distributors in Brazil) suggested that the company may have to drop financing for small and medium sized businesses altogether Aparecida knew that would be wrong. Especially since Grupo Martins was itself founded by former shopkeeper.

As the director of HR and training she hatched a plan that would eventually see Tribanco training its own customers in the small and medium sized business sector so that it could better provide finance for them; transforming businesses that could otherwise have been left high and dry. To read her full story, and the impact of the programme click here.

Graham Simpson – GSK

When it comes to healthcare in developing countries it’s diagnosis that’s half the battle – especially in remote rural areas where people are unwilling to take a day off work and travel miles to the nearest clinic just to get tested. However, early diagnosis is the first step to effective treatment. The seriousness of the problem struck Graham when he was volunteering in Africa. A child of a close colleague in Kenya, died of anaemia in the community ambulance he was driving back to the district hospital, over 20 miles away across rough back-country roads. This condition could so easily be diagnosed and treated in the UK and Graham realised that this was too common to be acceptable.

So Graham got in touch with the head of R&D at GSK. The challenge was to design diagnosis kits that were cost effective, accurate and able to be administered by sometimes untrained healthcare workers. To read more about how GSK started and open-innovation partnership with an NGO and Johns Hopkins University to make this a reality click here

Sacha Carina van Ginhoven – TNT Express

Millions of small businesses exist in slums worldwide. Most of them do not have formally recognised addresses, which makes it difficult to send and receive goods. This was brought home to Sacha when a slum resident of Kibera complained to her that he had to walk 3.5km to the nearest post office whenever he ordered anything, and as often as not had to bribe the local officials in the process.

So Sacha and a team of colleagues from TNT Express collaborated with slum residents to study existing supply chains. Results showed that the main challenges lay in recognising locations and enabling secure payments. But that could be overcome by new technology. As a consequence, TNT Express' Corporate Responsibility department developed a solution for slum deliveries. Working under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's (WBCSD) Technology Enablers Initiative (TEI), over a six-month period, TNT Express worked with Vodafone to explore how best to merge logistics with telecommunications. Find out more here.

Mandar Apte, Shell International

Mandar Apte is perhaps the intrapreneur’s intrapreneur. The question was simple, how could Shell staff play a greater role in the innovation process the CEO had launched in 2011? After interviewing 200 of his colleagues the challenge was defined. Staff needed the training and the space to overcome things like  lack of time, stress, fear of failure, judgements about ourselves or others, etc and Mandar realized that if the company could equip staff to overcome these blockers it could unleash greater potential and achieve its organizational vision.

How? The 'innovation learning' program did not exist. It was designed based on meditation practices and hence was very novel for a very traditional technical organization like Shell and the industry in general. In less than a year, the introductory sessions were attended by over 500 staff. Find out the rest of the story here.



  1. The awards lunch takes place on Tuesday, 9th April between 12:30-2:30pm at William Goodenough House, London, WC1N 2AN 
  2. Photos of the winners and the event will be available on the day. To book phone interview slots with the winners, judges or sponsors or to request a press pass for the lunch please get in touch directly
  3. Biographies of all the finalists can be found here:    
  4. The Judging panel is as follows:
    • DUNCAN LEARMOUTH, Senior Vice President, Developing Countries & Market Access, GSK
    • IMONI AKPOFURE, Director, Western Europe Department, International Finance Corporation (IFC)
    • JASON CLAY, SVP for Market Transformation, WWF
    • MARK DEVADASON, Group Head of Sustainability and Regions, Corporate Affairs, Standard Chartered
    • ROSARIO LONDOÑO, Senior Social Innovation and Development Effectiveness Specialist, Inter-American Investment Corporation
    • SIMONE AHUJA, Author, Jugaad Innovation & Founder of Blood Orange
  5. Ashoka is the world’s leading network of social entrepreneurs. Beginning with the first Ashoka Fellows elected in India in 1981, Ashoka has grown to an association of 3,000 Fellows in over 70 countries around the world. Changemakers is a global online community of action that connects people to share ideas, inspire and mentor each other, and find and support the best ideas in social innovation. 

For Further Information:

Edward Robinson, Accenture

Felicity McLean, Ashoka