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Hoffmann Institute


Building Systems Change: Key Insights from ChangeNOW


Hoffmann Institute

Building Systems Change: Key Insights from ChangeNOW

Building Systems Change: Key Insights from ChangeNOW

The INSEAD Impact Entrepreneurship Forum brought together Alumni and Graduates of INSEAD programmes at the 2024 ChangeNOW summit. This is part 1 of 3 exploring the knowledge shared with participants during the event.

To celebrate the 6th year as academic partner of ChangeNOW, INSEAD Hoffmann Institute and the Rudolf and Valeria Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the “The Impact Entrepreneurship Forum”. This 3-hour forum was held on site at the 2024 edition of ChangeNOW. Participants were INSEAD MBA alumni and INSEAD Executive Education programme graduates working in the impact and social innovation sectors. They were brought together to discuss dimensions of systems change.

In this 3-part story series we bring you the key knowledge shared throughout the INSEAD Impact Entrepreneurship Forum. Part 1 focuses on building the foundations for systems change through knowledge shared by Jeroo Billimoria, a serial social entrepreneur, who gave a fireside chat. Part 2 focuses on knowledge related to financing systems change and will explore the content discussed in the panels “Systems Thinking for Social Entrepreneurship” and “Fundraising and Growth in Impact Entrepreneurship”. Part 3 will examine “Working with corporates as an impact entrepreneur: challenges and opportunities” based on INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy Felipe Monteiro’s workshop session.


                                                                                           Dean Francisco Veloso 

Opening remarks: Systems Change is needed more than ever.

The 3-hour forum was led by Maria Fedorova, Hoffmann Institute Partnership and Climate Initiatives Manager. Fedorova opened the forum by reminding the participants that, whilst systems change is not a new concept, in a time of polycrisis it is more important than ever turn to it. The following welcome address by INSEAD Dean Francisco Veloso and Nancy Hsieh, Executive Director of Rudolf and Valeria Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship connected the theme of systemic change back to INSEAD.

Dean Veloso highlighted the important power entrepreneurs have to enable creative destruction - the ability to come with new ideas, enter economic system and change the structure. He stated that this is needed to create a more sustainable and prosperous world. Hsieh further expanded on this thought by reminding us that at INSEAD we create a safe space for students to experiment which in turn ensures that students take courage and step up. The forum then moved into the fireside chat.


Part 1: Fireside Chat with Jeroo Bilimoria. Collaboration is key

Award winning social entrepreneur Jeroo Billimoria gave a fireside chat with Maria Fedorova moderating. Having created multiple social enterprises from ChildLine India, Child Helpline Internation, Aflatoun, Child and Youth Finance and Catalyst 2030, Billimoria knows a thing or two about creating systemic change.

How does Jeroo define systems change?

Jeroo shared she takes her definition of systems change from the street kids she worked with India over theoretical explanations. “[Street kids thought] bringing about change we need to do it together, being a street child is hard. Change has to be collaborative. Systems Change is working collaboratively to tackle any issue.”


                                                                              Maria Fedorova & Jeroo Bilimoria

Systems Change tackles root causes not symptoms. How did Jeroo move from working with symptoms to root causes?

Yet again Jeroo drew on her experience with her first social enterprise, ChildLine India. She explained that street children never had anyone to help them, so she started working with stakeholders that could provide aide such as the police and government. When she started involving more stakeholders it was then child protection policies budget went up 100-fold in India. It was through collaborative effort that system change came about rather than symptom treating. Jeroo also took learnings from this experience to that moved her focus to a preventative angle and worked on financial education to change banking and financial policies. She has since changed policies in 78 countries through working with central banks.

What myths are out there for social innovators according to Jeroo?

1.      Social Innovators do not work in collaboration.

2.      The funding systems doesn't work for social innovators.

3.      You can’t have a seat at the table.

Jeroo has been working with the Big 4 of entrepreneurship (The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Ashoka, Skoll, Echoing Green) to change the meta systems for social innovators to dispell these myths. Billimoria then set up Catalyst 2030, a network of over 4,000 social innovators. Catalyst 2030 are in talks with the G20, World Bank and other agencies to shift the funding system. 

Where should one start to implement systems change?

Building from her previous example, Billimoria advises innovators to look at the meta issues and then work collaboratively to try to fix them.

“Just start look at the problem and always think how can I make myself redundant? How can I shut myself down? We need to make ourselves redundant because the job is done, and everyone had changed their behaviours. Just a start and be happy to fail. I’ve failed as many times as I have succeeded. It is not about your own ego.”

What is Jeroo working on now and what is she working on next?

“SDGs are called mission impossible because won’t be achieved” and so Jeroo is looking to 2030-50 and examining how these goals achievable goals. She has created the concept of a people and planet economy. She shared that a people and planet economy is about enabling decision making at community level, which can be achieved by leveraging technology. “Leveraging technology, that's what we need to do in the next two decades. Use it [technology] to democratise decision making and we can have everyone’s opinions and perspectives. “

Concluding advice

Jeroo concluded by giving the advice:

  1.  "Do away with differentiating between the terms business entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. Use the word social innovator." 
  2. "Leverage technology, get people and planet economy at the centre and let communities decide."
  3. "Change is what you believe is necessary. Do it shoulder to shoulder with someone. When we work together, we work stronger.”

To find out more about systems change from Jeroo, listen to our podcast ‘Building Systems Change

Part 2: Systems thinking for social entrepreneurship

Following on from Jeroo Billimoria’s fireside talk, Dr. Vinika Devasar Rao Asia Director at INSEAD Hoffmann Institute moderated a panel with Mila Lukic, CEO Bridges Outcomes Partnerships (INSEAD MBA’12) and Ricardo Ramos, CEO, Aliança pelo Impacto (INSEAD MBA’15J). This panel highlighted funding allocation challenges and advice to work within these limitations.


                                                          Vinika Rao speaking with Mila Lukic and Ricardo Ramos

Lukic explained Bridges Outcomes Partnership is working to radically improve social impact by collaborating with donors and governments. Lukic showcased the example of work they have done in Greater Manchester. In 2017 BOP realised, along with the central and local government, that rough sleeping was a pressing issue in the community. Bridges examined the systems in place as they were for rough sleepers, and they came to realise that systems as they currently stand, don’t support them. There was only siloed support. Giving the example of Steve, a homeless male, he had many individual problems which could be addressed but when the issues were pulled all the issues together – the systems didn’t work.

To improve social outcomes, Bridges and Lukic recommendation a funding allocation change. Here is her main recommendation:

  • There needs to be a shift towards longer term funding in health and education much like the widely accepted view for infrastructure projects.” Lukic noted that there are many daily obstacles for social innovators including the infrastructure of government and donor funding. She explained that funding focused on human services gets allocated in annual services. This funding structure, whilst allowing for an easier annual audit, meant human issues had to be resolved in 12 months. BOP is work with the UK national treasury to help shift funding allocation to a longer-term plan like infrastructure projects.

Ricardo Ramos was an entrepreneur for 7 years before switching to become an ecosystem builder. He explained he made this shift as he became more and more aware that within impact business impact can come secondary and only a positive externality. Ramos is working is to orchestrate and liaise with all key stakeholders (founders, funders, governments) to put impact first and drive systems change. His framework of working with 5 key actors involves coordination, collaboration, and capacity building. He stressed that education through communication and advocacy about Impact is still very much needed. He is currently focused on the decentralisation of the impact ecosystem and trying to take impact remote corners since most challenges not in city centres. Ramos, being Brazilian, is optimistic given then number of events taking place in his country such as Presidency of G20 and hosting UN CCC COP30.

Ramos shared that, much like Mila, the major limitation for systems change is also funding for impact entrepreneurs who face a turbulent environment. However, he explained his financing limitations were from a different perspective to Milas. Ramos stressed the need for an objective and paradigm shift. He explained, “People don’t see impact entrepreneurs as innovators to these problems.  We need to allocate more resources... and bring this to impact sector. There are 350 trillion USD in assets worldwide yet only 0.5% are on allocated to impact. This is not a capital problem but allocation problem.”

Ramos’ key recommendation to share to promote systems change would be to listen and include the most affected and to empower by sharing capital.

Fundraising and Growth in Impact Entrepreneurship: Understanding Diverse Markets

As the previous panel highlighted, capital is out there but needs to be redistributed. Social impact founders can face barriers which traditional founders do not have. The panel 'Fundraising and Growth in Impact Entrepreneurship' explored these challenges through the experiences of 2 impact founders and 1 impact investor.  Moderator Nancy Hsieh, Executive Director of Rudolf and Valeria Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship, was joined by Grégoire Landel, Founder and CEO of CityTaps, Julia Venn, Co-Founder of Bii and John Mairlot, Partner at Endgame Capital (INSEAD MBA’19J).


                                                          Nancy Hsieh speaking with Grégoire Landel and Julia Venn

Grégoire Landel’s CityTaps, created in 2015, aim to bring running water to every urban home. They do this by helping water utilities to improve their financial health to ensure those from the bottom to the top of the pyramid can pay for utility services and in a way that is easy to.  Julia Venn’s Bii is a startup fighting the 30% of global food production waste. The startup deploys several solutions to help fight food waste and are operational in Madagascar, Cote D’Ivoire and Morocco. One such intervention was to create a food bank in Europe to connect food donors and receivers at 0 carbon.  John Mairlot was working in classic private equity but after his INSEAD MBA wanted to shift to a more impact-based role. He co-founded Endgame Capital, tech investment syndicate focused on climate. Endgame raises money deal by deal from a base of over 100 members to invest in climate. This includes investment in both hardware and software since climate is not a sector but transversal.

This panel spoke about the power of tapping into alternative funding, particularly the use of grant money. Grant money, according to the speakers is often underestimated, can be extremely helpful and overall is a great opportunity.  The panellist reminded participants however that grants are not free. The use of such money needs to fit into and align with priorities of the grant, which might not be your own. These include factors like timelines. A key recommendation that panellists stressed when accepting such money was the importance of having a strategic plan and urged participants to not comprise on this plan.

Stay tuned for Part 3 which will examine the dos and don’ts of working with corporates as a social innovator based on INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy Felipe Monteiro’s workshop session. One big spoiler – do have and do stick to a strategic plan when working with corporates.

To find out more about systems change from Mila on working with governments, listen to our podcast ‘Partnering with Governments to scale impact with INSEAD Alumna Mila Lukic’

Part 3: Working with corporates as an impact entrepreneur. Challenges and opportunities

Felipe Monteiro INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy led the final session of the Impact Entrepreneurship Forum. His session was an interactive workshop exploring, with participants, the challenges and opportunities of working with corporates as an impact entrepreneur.


Firstly, to set the context Professor Monterio asked the crucial question “what is the motivation for corporates to work with entrepreneurs?”

Professor Monteiro gave us the example of pharma companies who started working with startups 30 to 40 years ago. Monteiro shared that pharma companies were experiencing patent cliffs. This is caused when patents expire, and then generic drug forms follow. Pharmaceutical companies felt like they were hitting large revenue loses (billions of dollars) when patents expired and knew the next solution would not come from them. So, rather than they started partnering with entrepreneurs to develop the next blockbuster drug. 


                                                      Felipe Monteiro INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy

Monteiro then pivoted to look at how corporates can work with social entrepreneurs. He used the example of Enel, an Italian utility company who are partnering with social entrepreneurs to become more sustainable. Enel is not facing a patent cliff like pharma companies and won’t lose revenues to generics, but they are facing an expiring business model. Enel are facing pressure from regulators and civil society to change. You can listen to Felipe and Felipe Tentori, Head of Innovation and Sustainability at Enel X talk about Enel and how they partner with impact entrepreneurs in this episode of Mission to ChangeWhat is typically happening when corporates partner with entrepreneurs, if it’s not the product that’s not fit for purpose then it’s the business model that is not fit for purpose. 

There needs to be more collaboration. When assessing what corporates have committed to do and where they are in terms of sustainability commitments, there is a big gap.  Felipe, when working with corporates often hears “we [the corporate] are doing our midterm evaluation before 2030 and what we are seeing is not good.” There is a cliff of what companies have committed and where they are. Corporates need help. There is a big opportunity for social entrepreneurs to move in and bridge the gap. 

With a wealth of knowledge in the room, participant broke into small groups to share their experience when it comes to working with corporates. They were also asked to come up with some dos and don’ts to work with them in successful fashion. Here is what participants recommended.


  • Work for free.
  • Move forward before aligning on desired outcomes.
  • Compromise on your strategy.


  • Make sure there's an alignment between the corporate with the vision and mission of your company. 
  • Have a hard line for what you as a social entrepreneur will and won’t accept.
  • Be specific on what the outcome for success would look like.
  • Have clear aligned communication.
  • Be humble - it’s not about you but solving together.

Following on from Felipe’s session, the closing forum remarks were given by Nancy Hsieh, Executive Director of Rudolf and Valeria Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship. She noted that the word collaboration had been heard over and over again throughout the forum and then shared a few key insights: 

1. Capital exists but we need to re think how it is deployed and the impact it can have 
2. You are not alone. There is a community here to help not, just the INSEAD community. There is power in numbers.
3. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. There are good people committed to carry this forward so “Find something that makes you angry and figure out how to solve that.”

INSEAD’s participation at ChangeNOW extended beyond the Impact Entrepreneurship Forum. We sponsored 6 booths for social entrepreneurs at ChangeNOW. They were: CycleCure, PRONOE, Mukuru Clean Stoves, Fabumin, Health Set Go, Kind Winter. 

INSEAD also took part in the ChangeNOW main programme sharing cutting edge thought leadership: 

Dean Francisco Veloso took part in a panel discussion SDGs in 2030: Collaboration Towards a Common Goal, Chengyi Lin, INSEAD Affiliate Professor of Strategy moderated “Financing the Transition: Can We Still Make the Shift?!' and Ludo Van der Heyden Emeritus Professor of Technology and Operations Management led the opening session of a Board Focused Programme. 

To find out more about systems change from Professor Monteiro on working with Working with corporates as an impact entrepreneur, listen to our podcast 

The Forum was in partnership with the Hoffmann Institute and the Rudolf and Valeria Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship. It was sponsored by NEO Leaders

The Forum was one component in INSEAD’s participation at ChangeNOW. To find out more about the full programme, see here:

The Hans Wahl Impact Entrepreneurship programme will next run in 2025. If you wish further information, please contact [email protected] 

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