Adaire Fox-Martin: What SAP One Billion Lives Teaches Us About Social Entrepreneurship

In an exclusive executive Q&A, Adaire Fox-Martin, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations, shares lessons learned, results to date, and what to expect from the now global SAP One Billion Lives initiative, a social entrepreneurship program.

Q: Can you share what you’ve learned so far?

Adaire Fox-Martin, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations, explains how SAP’s 1BLive program builds business that matters. Image via SAP.
SAP Executive Board Member Adaire Fox-Martin explains how SAP One Billion Lives builds business that matters

A: Last year, with the support of the SAP.iO Venture Studio team, we expanded the program globally for the first time. Since then, we have learned so much about helping our people translate their passion for doing good into sustainable impact ventures. One of the biggest lessons was the need to be patient. Teams often begin with a passion to change a situation for the better. Original approaches often shift — sometimes 360 degrees — as users and external stakeholders validate employee ideas.

We also learned that we can maximize the potential social impact by focusing team efforts around a few major issues for social change, instead of leaving the theme wide open. We will continue to shape SAP One Billion Lives through the same innovation techniques that we apply to building our software: define the opportunity and continue to experiment and validate our approach, use data to hold ourselves accountable while staying true to the vision of SAP One Billion Lives. We’ve already applied the feedback we received last year.

Together with all involved, we will continue to shape SAP One Billion Lives into the flagship social intrapreneurship program that we are proud of.

How have SAP employees responded?

Their feedback has been touching and heart-warming. One of my favorite quotes came from a 2018 finalist. One team member said, “This six-week program has changed my life. I’ve learned more in this short time than in any other training I have participated in.” Although that individual did not receive investment in 2018, they’ve gained a more entrepreneurial mindset and have a deep understanding of how to build a venture. These are valuable skills in their day job, and they are coming back in 2019 with an even stronger basis for investment.

Can you share any measurable results?

SAP One Billion Lives is a long-term initiative. We do not expect teams to strike out on their own and become sustainable within a year or two. Even so, two ventures from 2016 ─ Nivaran and MyShindo ─ have had impressive outcomes. Collaborating with a reputable cancer foundation in India, the Nivaran research platform has close to 1 million patient records. This project supports more effective, genome-specific cancer treatment protocols in India, benefiting over 60 percent of the cancer population. The MyShindo venture improved protection for 127 million people from major earthquake disasters by building resiliency data.

Equally important, we educated over 2,000 SAP employees in entrepreneurial thinking, and plan to more than double that number this year.

How does SAP One Billion Lives align with SAP’s vision of the Intelligent Enterprise in the experience economy?

Having a deeper end-user understanding and intimacy, enabled through experience management and the Intelligent Enterprise, makes it that much easier for ventures in SAP One Billion Lives to support the organizations with which they work. These include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public agencies, and commercial entities. It helps them drive impact faster, cheaper, and at a massive scale.  For example, the Rapid Disaster Response team from the 2018 cohort will partner with Qualtrics this year. Together, they will simplify and enhance the difficult challenge of needs assessment during natural disasters and humanitarian aid delivery.

What’s new for SAP One Billion Lives in 2019?

We plan on doubling the portfolio, inspiring even more employees to pursue their passion for social impact. In 2018, SAP funded one team and supported two additional groups to further validate the viability of their projects. This year, I would be thrilled to see seven finalists make it into the 2019 cohort, with at least one receiving investment and the rest provided support to validate their approaches with customers and our ecosystem. As we continue to build ventures within SAP, we will also explore two new investment models. We will work with customers much earlier in the process for early validation of team ideas, and to investigate additional ways we can create commercially viable impact together.

More than anything, SAP One Billion Lives is about social impact for the under-served. While we welcome all ideas on positive social change, this year’s focus is on ethical procurement and transparent supply chains, improving humanitarian aid and refugee support, addressing the issues that living in big cities creates for the rest of the world, and empowering displaced and marginalized communities at work.

SAP is uniquely positioned ─ with our technology, data assets, ecosystem, and people ─ to solve meaningful social problems. Our teams will continue moving forward in 2019, applying these strengths to make a positive difference in the world for everyone.


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