Harnessing the Power of Networks: Part III – Creating Communities

Harnessing the Power of Networks: Part III – Creating Communities

August 15, 2019


Building a network requires processes, structure and lots of alignment. But in order for the network to truly work, it requires trust and deep-felt human connection around a common purpose. For over 10 years, YSB has built a strong network and every year we are learning more about the effects of communities and networks. This allows us to address social problems in bold new ways.

Our CEO Saskia Bruysten networking with Joachim Drees (CEO of MAN Truck & Bus) during the MAN Impact Accelerator Closing Ceremony in Munich.

The network approach promotes an active search for new connections and new ideas which can increase productivity and innovative solutions. Allowing the use of resources such as leadership, money and talent across organisations and sectors has the potential for impact on a much larger scale than otherwise possible.

In many ways, our approach is similar to the open source standards. In traditional thinking, you would not want to share your intellectual property, data or other assets. But we do not believe in zero-sum view of the world. We believe that by sharing and collaborating, we can create much more inspiring solutions to the key challenges we face.

And so we employ a strategy of paying forward. Of providing insights and value when people ask us to. We do not expect a quid-pro-quo. If we can, we do not insist on being paid for every phone call. And we share our insights wherever we can. And yes, sometimes that is scary because there is no guarantee that it will create positive outcomes. But over the years, our experience has built our own trust in our network and the impact community.


What does this mean concretely? Well, let us explain through a concrete project: Our current research project is focused on gathering both qualitative and quantitative data about the journeys of social intrapreneurs in companies across the world. Those intrapreneurs build social business initiatives within large companies – and through that, transforming them from within. This is a nascent space that we expect to get much more traction in the future and will play a huge role in transforming the role of corporations towards positive forces for development.

“A university should not be an island where academics attain higher and higher levels of knowledge without sharing any of this knowledge with its neighbours.”

— Prof. Muhammad Yunus

Instead of keeping the data from this study to ourselves, we much rather share this data with research institutions and fellow practitioners (within our beloved GDPR frameworks, of course). We work with a steering group that is comprised of peer organizations like the League of Intrapreneurs, Business Fights Poverty, the World Economic Forum, Schwab Foundation, Endeva or the B Team. It also includes academic researchers from universities such as Oxford University, the Skoll Forum, INSEAD, HEC, McGill or Fundacao Dom Cabral.

With the resources and expertise of these organisations, we can create much more impact out of the data we gather than if we would just analyse it with the scarce resources in our team. We have no idea what the direct benefit will be for us. But that does not matter. We know that the benefit to the ecosystem will be huge and we simply trust that there will be a strong impact on the work that we do as well.

We believe that by understanding and mobilising our networks we can most effectively drive social change. Our aim is to continue building communities, managing established networks and sharing experiences and stories that energise us and, inspire us to achieve greater impact.

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