Author Q&A: Creating Social Value: A Guide for Leaders and Change Makers

Creating Social Value: A Guide for Leaders and Change Makers by Deborah Leipziger and Cheryl Kiser, with J. Janelle Shubert, focuses on the motivations and preoccupations of entrepreneurial leaders as they look to activate change within their companies, in their sectors, value chains and even through co-creating partnerships with their competitors.

This book sets out a manifesto for Social Value Creation, defining it as a strategy that combines a unique set of corporate assets (including innovation capacities, marketing skills, managerial acumen, employee engagement, scale) in collaboration with the assets of other sectors and firms to co-create breakthrough solutions to complex economic, social and environmental issues that impact the sustainability of both business and society.

Co-author Deborah Leipziger is stopping by the blog to share some insights from the new book.

Deb Bailey: Thanks for joining me today. What is your book about? 

Deborah Leipziger: Our book is a guide for business leaders, business students, and entrepreneurs inside companies who are seeking to create economic and social value simultaneously. We profile business leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents such as Lynnette McIntire from UPS and Dave Stangis from Campbell Soup Company who are creating social and economic value.  This book is about a new type of leadership.  Entrepreneurial leadership.

Deb: And that certainly aligns with the focus on entrepreneurship these days.  Who do you think will benefit most from reading your book?

Deborah: Business leaders and managers will benefit from the book, as will MBA students. Representatives from civil society and government will also benefit from looking at how they can help promote social value creation, and how companies can play a role in combatting homelessness, poverty, climate change, obesity and a wide range of other social problems. 

Deb: What are a few qualities of the new entrepreneurial leader?

Deborah: In a world characterized by rapid change and uncertainty, leaders are required to be "cognitively ambidextrous" or able to shift between traditional business logic (choosing actions based on analysis of known trends) and "creation logic" (taking action despite considerable unknowns).

Our book describes many of the types of leadership skills needed to create social value: entrepreneurial leaders are often boundary spanners, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  Bernie Glassman and Mike Brady of Greyston Bakery and Eric Hudson of Preserve are creating new business models and partnerships.

Other key qualities of entrepreneurial leaders include: visionary thinking, peripheral vision, personal maturity, optimistic commitment, strategic influence, systems thinking, and collaborative networking. The book provides examples of how various entrepreneurs demonstrate these traits.

Deb: How do you define social value? Why do you think it's important?

Deborah: Social value creation takes many forms. It involves companies examining how they might design products or services that meet social needs and deliver value to society.  Verizon creates social value by creating new services to promote access to telemedicine and be developing technologies that make companies more energy efficient.    

Our book also provides a case study on Roshan, the Afghan telecommunications company, which is creating physical infrastructure such as building roads, airports and other physical networks. Roshan is an example of a company with nation-building projects.  

Social value creation can involve reimagining the purpose of the business, as Ford has done to consider how it can provide mobility solutions, not just manufacture cars.

Business must address the social and environmental imperatives of our time. The private sector can use its core competencies to address the needs of society and to show their relevance in a world which is increasingly fractured and where the impact of climate change, water shortage and pollution, will affect companies and all of society. There is no alternative.

Deb: Any particular recommendation for women entrepreneurs?

Deborah: We were fortunate to interview several women entrepreneurs:
Lynnette McIntire, the former head of Sustainability at UPS
Rachel Weeks, founder of School House
Ariel Hauptman, head of business development at Greyston

Promoting social value is a way to gain visibility. Women leaders are well suited to promote social value creation.

Deb: What do you want readers to come away with?

Deborah: We want to inspire business leaders and students to take action to address the pressing challenges of our time: climate change, poverty, income inequality, and human rights - to name just a few. The Lewis Institute at Babson will continue to share examples of innovative leadership.

We also want to share a new vocabulary of leadership and to show how successful entrepreneurs on the inside are using language to enroll employees and activate change.

We want readers to recognize that creating economic value alongside social value provides rich market opportunities for business to address societal dilemmas as part of its business strategy and to move beyond Corporate Social Responsibility and towards Corporate Social Relevance.

Deb: So, what inspires you to do the work that you do?

Deborah: Many things inspire me -- including my students and my daughters. We need to ensure that the next generation is able to access clean water and air and have good opportunities. We need to address gender inequality and income inequality.  I recently read Martin Luther King's letter from the Birmingham Jail. He could have written it yesterday, describing the inequality that exists for women and for LGBT. Human Rights is a battle that we need to continue to wage. From his jail cell in Birmingham, Martin Luther King wrote:

"..I am cognizant of the inter-relatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta (or Boston) and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham (or Bangladesh). Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…"  

Deb: Where can readers find your book?

Deborah: Creating Social Value: A Guide for Leaders and Change Makers is available on Amazon and on the publisher's website:

Deb: Thanks again for sharing information about your book! Where can we find your online?

Deborah: Thanks for inviting me. Here are the websites:

To learn more about Babson and the Lewis Institute:

For Babson's Social Innovation Lab:

For co-author Deborah Leipziger:

Co-author bio: Deborah Leipziger is an author, consultant, and professor in the field of social value creation. She is a Senior Fellow at the Lewis Institute at Babson and serves as Adjunct Faculty at the Simmons School of Management. She advises companies around the world on human rights issues and played a key role in the development of several key standards, including Social Accountability 8000.  She is the author of several key books in the field of CSR and Sustainability, including The Corporate Responsibility Code Book.

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