- IMD Business School

Social innovation: Mobilizing private capital for impact

The elea Center for Social Innovation was launched at IMD Business School in 2018. We develop and share research, pedagogical content, and educational programs that help leaders in business, government, and civil society navigate the challenges of initiating and implementing social innovation. Through these core activities, we convene entrepreneurs, executives, investors, philanthropists, researchers, and other change agents to accelerate the speed, scale, and effectiveness of social innovations across the spectrum of capital that address the key social and environmental challenges of our time.
22 pages
April 2021

We are at an important inflection point in the evolution of the private sector’s role in stimulating social innovation. While the field of social innovation has shown tremendous growth over the past decade, many actors within the spectrum of capital are still sitting on the sidelines – interested in impact, but not yet allocating enough resources or investments.

Much of the discussion over the past decade has focused on understanding and measuring impact, and rightfully so. But a key challenge that has not received its fair due in the conversation, in our view, is the concept of impact management.

We believe now is the time for impact management to take center stage. Asset owners such as investors, banks, entrepreneurs, corporates, or family offices articulate and realize their impact objectives through impact management. They identify what problems they want to solve, who they want to reach, where they want to invest, and what risks they want to take. Impact management requires asset owners to consider how they want to prototype, onboard, and create a pipeline of social innovation.

At IMD’s elea Center for Social Innovation, in line with IMD’s overall vision, we challenge what is and inspire what could be through social innovation.

Our activities are based on identifying and exploring the opportunities available to social innovators throughout the spectrum of capital, from profit-seeking impact enterprises to new uses of philanthropic capital. Ultimately, we aim to help align different actors around purpose and impact.

In this white paper, we share our view on why there is a need for social innovations to urgently mobilize private capital for impact, offer our perspective on how social innovation is distinctive, outline the range of opportunities available to private actors, and introduce a framework that we believe can help corporations, social innovators, and financial capital providers diagnose their capabilities to contribute to and navigate this new landscape.


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