Intrapreneurship for the Social Sector: A Primer

What does it mean to be an intrapreneur? You are probably already familiar with the concept of an “entrepreneur”.  Intrapreneurs have the same attributes, but apply them within an already-existing organization (whether for-profit or nonprofit). The trend towards acting as an entrepreneur without starting a new business is on the rise, so much so that Forbes contributor Dan Shwabel suggests redefining the term. Any employee who sees a new opportunity within the organization (to do better work and/or make a positive impact on the world) and pursues it is taking an entrepreneurial stance. Within organizations, the trend has been to call this type of individual an “intrapreneur”.

What does this mean for you? Take a look at the characteristics that define this savvy and plucky type of employee. You may be surprised to see several blazing similarities to traits you possess. Has anyone ever commented on your:

  • knack for identifying needs and developing creative solutions
  • ability to innovate and foster the implementation of ideas
  • propensity to challenge the status quo
  • ownership of your work
  • leadership, resilience, adaptability, ability to take risks
  • sense of passion and purpose (particularly towards social impact)

If this sounds like you, you might be acting like an intrapreneur at work and not even realize it. As this clip from Net Impact suggests, even spearheading your organization’s efforts towards two-sided printing can qualify as intrapreneurship.

Did you know there is even a League of Intrapreneurs? While the organization focuses on big business, the concepts apply to non-profits as well. At your organization, you can make a difference and solve problems using your intrapreneurial skills. In this YouTube clip Gib Bulloch, a social intrapreneur behind Accenture Development Partnerships, defines social intrepreneurship as “a behavior and a mindset rather than a set of criteria…an idea that won’t go away…and you feel so strongly about the opportunity that you have to do something about it.” Sounding familiar? Start planting seeds for your own intrapreneurial revolution. What can you do today that can put your idea into motion?

Take a look from the opposite angle as well- how are organizations using start-up strategy and engaging their intrapreneurs? How can you stand out in your organization as an intrapreneur who can propel those strategies into action?

For guidance on bringing your intrapreneurial idea to life, check out The Intrapreneur’s Playbook. What change would you like to bring about at your organization? What are your first steps? 

Have you taken on an intrapreneurial project at work? We want to hear from you! Contact us to share your story with Idealist Careers. 

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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