Making the Case for Social Innovation in an Organization

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Coca-Cola's social innovation had the buy-in of its top personnel from the beginning. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the importance of framing your case for social innovation and demonstrating its value.

Coca-Cola's Case

When Dan Vermeer started the processing of launching Coca-Cola's water sustainability initiative, he knew he needed buy-in from the beverage manufacturer's top management. The project, which started with Coca-Cola launching an investigation of global freshwater resources, was something the company acknowledged they played a major role in the future of the company.

One of the first steps in their water sustainability journey was the use of a lengthy survey of each of their plant locations. The response rate, more than 90 percent, could be credited to the support and endorsement already earned from Coca-Cola's top personnel. From there, the company engaged other businesses, community members and leaders to expand their initiative - a communication win that helped propel the initiative forward.

Behind the scenes of Coca-Cola's social innovation in water sustainability was an ability to 'make the case' for adopting the initiative and pushing it forward. A good idea, without a plan to make it happen, is destined for failure. Social innovators inside of an organization must be able to frame their case in a way that motivates the company's decision makers to act.

Let's use this lesson to examine some best practices for making the case.

How to Make Your Case

Have a great idea for a social innovation for your organization? One of the many steps in advancing your idea is communicating the value of the initiative to your company's decision makers. Here are some tips for framing your case and demonstrating its value.

1. Establish the vision. Staff and management must recognize a vision and feel connected to it. A vision helps everyone feel a part of an initiative and understand how their role fits into the overall plan. Ideally, your vision already aligns with your organization's mission or values.

2. Start at the top. Yes, it's crucial to recruit individuals at all levels to your way of thinking and to get them to champion your ideas, but implementing a successful social innovation starts with the organization's top players. Getting buy-in from management can help create a trickle-down effect inside the company.

3. Incorporate everyone. Starting at the top is important, but so is bringing in advocates from other levels of the organization. These people can help with day-to-day information and help push your initiative forward. Properly framing your case involves conveying goals, sharing details of the innovation, soliciting feedback and addressing concerns.

4. Join the rational and emotional. Most business leaders are concerned about the bottom line, and rightly so, so be certain your idea is approached from a rational, business value perspective that demonstrates the advantages to the business and to society. However, we're still human and tend to be influenced by a story that tugs on our heart, too. Creating a narrative with a story or imagery can be an effective way to communicate a vision.

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