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Frequently Asked

01What is the Unusual Pioneers Program?

Unusual Pioneers is a joint programme by Yunus Social Business, Porticus, and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, sister organisation of the World Economic Forum.. The program starts and ends with the World Economic Forum Annual Meetings and takes intrapreneurs and their executives on a journey to impact.

02Who is behind the program?

Unusual Pioneers is a joint programme by Yunus Social Business, Porticus, and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, sister organisation of the World Economic Forum.

Yunus Social Business is an organization harnessing the power of business to end poverty through social business — a model pioneered by our co-founder, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus. YSB has supported or invested in over 1,800 social entrepreneurs worldwide to build meaningful social businesses in agriculture, health, education, mobility, clean water, and energy. We also accelerate the transformation of corporations into net ‘people and planet’ positive businesses by applying their core competencies to some of the greatest human challenges.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship — the sister organization of the World Economic Forum — is a leading global platform that accelerates outstanding models of social innovation worldwide by highlighting and supporting social innovators in business, government, and civil society.

Porticus manages the philanthropic activities of the Brenninkmeijer family entrepreneurs, collaborating with partners around the globe to foster human dignity, social justice, and sustainability.

03What's in it for me as an intrapreneur?

The program curriculum is built around three pillars: implementation of initiatives, development of leadership skills, organizational readiness. At the end of the program, participants leave with not only the tangible skills they need to grow and scale their initiative, but also an increased capacity to innovate, lead, and navigate the internal dynamics of the organization. The ultimate benefit goes beyond the current initiative as participants return to their host organization with skills that can be applied more broadly, whether that’s on a future social initiative or other innovative ideas within the company.

04What does “social intrapreneurship” mean?

A Social Intrapreneur is an entrepreneurial employee who develops a profitable new product, service, or business model that creates value for society and her company. Social intrapreneurs help their employers meet sustainability commitments and create value for customers and communities in ways that are built to last. We see two general approaches to social intrapreneurship, and intrapreneurs across either category are welcome to apply:

  • Social intrapreneurs who create a financially sustainable social or environmental product, service, or initiative within the company itself
  • Social intrapreneurs who drive their company to engage with, support, or buy from external social entrepreneurs (or initiatives) with a sustainable business model through either
  • Social sourcing - Integrating social enterprises or initiatives into their company’s value chain
  • Accelerator programs
  • Impact investing funds

05How does the selection process work? What are the selection criteria?

All applicants must submit an online application, followed by interviews with the program team. We are looking for intrapreneurs that meet the following criteria:

  • Corporate employee leading or working on a social business or social initiative
  • Initiative must have at least completed the prototype stage but both new and experienced intrapreneurs are welcome
  • Intrapreneur must be available to attend all program weeks

Unusual Pioneers Program

06How can I participate?

Applications are open and currently live on www.unusualpioneers.com. Decisions are made on a rolling basis, so applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early

  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2021
  • Interview date range: Rolling
  • Final Decisions & Notification: April 2, 2021

07What are the program dates?

The program brings social intrapreneurs together in 5 program weeks over the course of eight months. Intrapreneurs will get a chance to exchange with peers who have walked the same path and connect with executives that support social intrapreneurs within their companies.

  • Week 1 (Opening during World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2021: August 17 - 20 2021
  • Week 2 (Remote week): August 21 - September 9 2021
  • Week 3 (Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021): September 10 -15 2021
  • Week 4 (Remote week): November 15 - 18 2021
  • Week 5 (Closing during World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022): January 15 - 19 2022

08What does the program structure look like?

The curriculum covers 14 deep-dive modules across three key topic pillars:

  • Implementation
  • Help social intrapreneurs validate and scale their solution quickly.
  • Develop entrepreneurial and innovation skills amongst participants
  • Leadership
  • Create future-ready leaders out of participants
  • Develop necessary leadership skills for participants to thrive in any purpose-driven organisation
  • Organizational readiness
  • Help SIs to advocate for organizational structures that benefit purpose-driven innovation
  • Help SIs advocate for structures that incentivise purpose leadership amongst employees

09What can I expect by the end of the program?

We work with each intrapreneur to set and work towards specific goals for the program duration based on exactly where they are with their initiative, where they most need to grow, but each intrapreneur can expect to come out with the following:

  • Implementation
  • Tangible progress on implementation challenges identified. For example:
  • Clear Customer & Beneficiary Discovery
  • Product Strategy
  • Organizational setup/structuring (Where and how to position the program/the product internally)
  • Storytelling-Approach & Pitchdeck
  • Leadership & Personal Growth:
  • Entrepreneurship Mindset, Tools & Methods, Navigating the internal political landscape of your company
  • Organizational readiness
  • Organizational setup/structuring (Where and how to position the program/the product internally). For example:
  • How to set up organizational structures that benefit purpose-driven innovation
  • How to advocate for structures that incentivise purpose leadership amongst employees

10Who will be my mentors?

During the program, intrapreneurs will interact with two types of mentors

  • Each intrapreneur is assigned a dedicated lead mentor that follows your progress over the course of the program
  • Curriculum content is primarily delivered through one-on-one sessions with one of our 90+ topic mentors with deep knowledge in specific curriculum topics.t

11What is the price of the program?

The price of the ‘Full Growth Journey’ is 38.000 € (net of VAT). The price of the ‘Customised Growth Journey’ is between 10.000 - 23.000 € (net of VAT) . Scholarships are granted to SI with demonstrated impact-focus in developing markets and clear intention to drive their parent company’s transformation.

Executive Circle

12What is the Executive Circle? How do the Executive Circle and Unusual Pioneers interlink?

The Executive Circle is a C-level Circle and an integral part of the Unusual Pioneers Program. Within the Executive Circle, board members of the corporate social intrapreneurship initiative participating in the 9 month Unusual Pioneers Program have the opportunity to exchange in an exclusive closed group of peers. The objectives of the circle are threefold:

  • Create buy-in from executives to personally support individual Social Intrapreneurship Initiatives
  • Foster exchange between executives to drive purpose transformation, moving their businesses towards becoming net positive contributors* to society. (*Business that returns more to society and environment than what it consumes).
  • Drive executive commitment to take an active role in driving the company’s transformation to combine financial and social values.

13Who participates in the Executive Circle?

The Executive Circle is designed for members of the Executive Board of the companies of participating social intrapreneurs. As the objective is to support the acceleration of the social intrapreneurship initiative and the transformation of the participating companies, ideally the CEO her-/himself becomes a member of the Executive Circle. However, the company also can also participate within the Executive Circle with a different executive board member. The participating board member should be part of the global executive board. If the social intrapreneurship initiative is located in a regional unit, a regional executive board member is also welcomed in addition.

14How much time needs to be dedicated to the Executive Circle? Is the participation mandatory?

There are three half-day Executive Circle meetings planned in parallel to the WEF (May 2021 / Jan. 2022) and SDI (Sept. 2021). Prior to the first Executive Circle Meeting an individual Scoping Session will take place to assess the company’s status of becoming a net positive contributor to people, planet and society. The results will be discussed with the Executive Board and next steps will be aligned to drive the transformation. The participation at the three half-day Executive Meetings and in the Scoping Process is mandatory.

15How much exchange will there be between the Unusual Pioneers and the members of the Executive Circle?

There is a continuous exchange between the social intrapreneur and “her/his” Executive Circle member, since one of the pivotal points of the Unusual Pioneers Program is to generate more top management attention for the social intrapreneur’s initiative. The exchange will include informal exchanges, access to resources and creation of visibility.

Furthermore, there will also be the opportunity for unusual pioneers to exchange with executive circle members from other companies mostly in an informal context. However, a limited number of initiatives will also be presented during the Executive Circle meetings.

16For more information, who do I contact?

If you have any additional questions, please e-mail us at hello@unusualpioneers.com