Since the summer of 2011 Habena Foundation has been the main sponsor of RSE Sans Frontières (CSR without borders), a French non-profit organization with a wide international base and target of corporate social responsibility. The organization had its kick-off and main launch with the so-called Social Innovation Accelerator; a 1 year world tour, meeting with thousands of likeminded. The target was to educate 5.000 students about corporate social responsibility and to make 50 case studies of different CSR business models of companies and organizations worldwide; seeking to bring profit and social benefit together.
The benefits of this sponsorship agreement quickly showed to be more than only the contribution of money. Apart from being the main financial contributor to the project, Habena Foundation, and its representative Mr. Harald Ulvestad, gave many hours of project management support, which more and more turned into a regular meeting of project update, coaching and a guidance throughout the world tour. A monthly CSR-Habena meeting was launched at the return to France, in order to ensure project completion and to outline the further development of organization and its team; bringing it to a new high.
The Social Innovation Accelerator project of 2011 and 2012 was designed as a research and training project, to collect knowledge for CSR without borders and deliver value to stakeholders across the planet during the journey.
- Mission was to share and spread best practices in corporate sustainability and responsibility.
To kick-start the project and manage everything at the same time while keeping an eye on the long-term objectives for the organization, we were looking for a partner organization to work with. Specifically, we were interested in two characteristics:
- An organization that had a business interest in the kind of projects we were about to study. That is why we started targeting large French utilities companies with operations abroad, as well as social entrepreneur and NGO networks.
- An organization that could support us on the production of content and project management, as well as financially.
For example, besides families and friends, we considered it important to have a partner organization that could introduce us to relevant stakeholders and help us focus on the bottom-line through-out critical first project.
Habena Foundation was a good fit with the profile of partner we were looking for, and our project was also aligned with the Foundation’s objectives, as we could provide a modern, field-based perspective on the state of social entrepreneurship in general and the emergence of collaboration models between social entrepreneurs and large companies in general.
Habena Foundation was launched as part of the philanthropic efforts made by Habena Invest AS, a Norwegian consulting and investment company founded in 2009 by Mr. Harald Ulvestad. The philosophy has been simple, says Harald; “If you want to get, you had better start giving.”
He follows by saying; “As an investor and business owner it is key to always look for how you can “give back” to the society and your surroundings. In fact, we believe it is an absolute necessity that the business owners (key shareholders) are included and engage themselves to actively find CSR business models. As for any of our investments, we aim for long-term engagements where we follow the cycles and trends of the markets. We have great belief in CSR without borders as an organization, well knowing the values and spirit shown from the two co-founders Mr Penny and Ms. Lepastier.”
“One of the great benefits of being part of a project such as the creation of CSR without borders and their world tour has been to “See the world through their eyes”. In a hectic daily life back home, not everyone has the money, time or even the courage to make an adventure like this come true. With a regular project update and the presentation of many real CSR business models from 20 different countries it will clearly help us in our own global business development. We also received a 50-page detailed project report outlining the project from A to Z, including many examples and references to its great material outcomes.”
From the start, a sponsorship agreement was established to lay the ground of collaboration, with quantified objectives and communication rules. The framework it provided was important in dealing with various situations during the course of our project.
The consistency of our partner’s attitude and presence played an important role in keeping us connected to our professional and personal lives at home, and forced us to analyze our results and daily actions in the perspective of how we wanted to build on top of this experience afterwards.
Starting out with brainstorming and advice for our world tour preparation and official launch of CSR without borders, the cooperation with Habena Foundation and Harald turned more and more into a coach and “coachee” relations for project completion and to outline the further development of organization and its team; bringing it to a new high.
For CSR without borders, the benefits of working with a partner such as Habena were many, and the coaching relationship was particularly effective for:
- Reporting progress in milestones rather than continuous, progressive change. On a daily basis, we do not notice the increment of the KPIs adding up; from the coach perspective, checking in from time to time, the sum of the change over a few weeks becomes visible.
- Keeping the end goal in mind.
- Keeping the purpose of the project in : the partner supporting the project from home is not tempted to re-interpret the initial idea as the traveling team might be.
- Bringing in fresh ideas, often inspired by the fact that the coach works in a different field (about project management, monetization, etc.), as well as being able to bounce ideas to test the validity.
More specifically, CSR without borders developed a stronger relationship with Habena’s representative. Harald’s continued presence and coaching was a strong asset during our project:
- An always supportive attitude.
- Enforcing the importance of balance between personal and professional life (eg: asking for pictures of our travel, travel news).
- Pragmatic and innovative inputs, which is extremely valuable for a coachee.
- Ambitious and optimistic: very motivating and encouraging.
Two years after the launch of partnership we are now seeing a great base being established and the organization is targeting new projects to further approach the overall mission.