BCG’s Approach to Achieving Social Impact

An Overview of Projects

By Wendy WoodsTom LewisUlrich VillisBrenda ThickettGünter Rottenfußer, and Beth Gillett

At BCG, we believe it is our responsibility to help address the challenges of our clients and of society at large. Our social impact work is about making a positive, tangible, and lasting difference in our world.

We help social sector organizations around the world enhance their effectiveness—and increase their impact—by sharing our expertise and insights. When we bring the best of BCG to these organizations, we achieve more together than any of us could have accomplished alone. By working closely with our social sector partners to help develop their organizational capabilities and more effective solutions, we make real progress toward solving the world’s most pressing social problems.

Working at the local, regional, and global levels, BCG focuses on eight areas: environment, development, health, education, community, culture, investing for impact, and business and the social sector. Our work addresses the full hierarchy of needs, from providing the basics of food and clean water in the poorest nations to supporting the arts and culture in developed societies.

Besides helping to deliver tangible results around the world, BCG’s social impact work supports the intellectual and professional development of our own staff. More than 1,450 employees worked on social impact projects over the past two years; annually, about 14 percent of our worldwide consulting staff are involved in social impact projects.

During 2012 and 2013, BCG completed more than 500 projects, working with over 200 organizations around the world, including multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, governments, and businesses. Here we highlight a few of these projects by topic. More detailed explanations of recent projects can be found in BCG's Making a Difference 2014 report.


The world’s population has more than doubled since 1960. That trend, combined with the economic growth of emerging economies, results in a rising demand for many natural resources that is damaging the global environment. To ensure the health and prosperity of future generations, BCG works with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in areas such as climate change, resource management, alternative energy, and habitat and wildlife conservation. The following projects are examples of our work in the environment.

Fundación Barrié: Making Better Use of Forestry Resources in Galicia, Spain. Fundación Barrié is a privately funded organization whose mission is to promote the sustainable development of Galicia; it has a special focus on education and talent development. In 2012, the government of Galicia approached the foundation and its network of alumni and asked them to offer solutions for improving Galicia’s forestry sector, a key industry that represents 3 percent of the region’s GDP and generates about 70,000 jobs. Although the Galician forest occupies 70 percent of the region, 30 percent of the forest remains unused. After analyzing the situation, BCG, together with alumni from Fundación Barrié, developed a report detailing ten measures to improve harvesting and boost the forest industry—measures that could have a combined economic impact of €2.7 billion. The recommendations include increasing the volume of certified sustainable wood, improving tax incentives, restructuring forestry cooperatives, identifying new uses for the forest, and promoting R&D in the industry.

WWF: Transforming Globally to Further Environmental Conservation. WWF is a networked organization made up of many country-level organizations. As its fiftieth anniversary approached, WWF recognized the need for change both to keep up with a fast-moving world and to better deliver on its mission of achieving greater conservation impact, protecting livelihoods, maintaining biodiversity, and reducing environmental footprints. To achieve this mission, WWF recognized the need to increase its local strength in the countries most important to its mission and to enhance coordination across the entire organization. BCG worked with the global WWF leadership team to develop a “Truly Global” roadmap and to implement a multiyear transformation. The program has changed WWF’s global funding model to shift resources to strategic, long-term efforts and improve accountability between members, while seeking to reduce a significant reporting burden. Furthermore, WWF redirected its resources toward building greater capacity in country offices across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It also put in place an improved process for developing local priorities. The changes get to the heart of how WWF allocates resources, makes decisions, and collaborates across its network and with partners.

WWF-Hong Kong: Reducing Manufacturers’ Carbon Footprint in China. WWF-Hong Kong’s Low Carbon Manufacturing Programme (LCMP) is a combination of software, benchmarks, and certifications that help factories in China reduce their carbon emissions. The program has been effective, but it needed to be scaled up to boost its environmental impact. The BCG team interviewed manufacturers, industry associations, and government officials to identify ways to strengthen the program. By acting on these recommendations and improving the program’s communication materials, WWF-Hong Kong expects to increase the commitment of the participating factories and attract new ones. This will enable the organization to achieve financial self-sufficiency for the program and to further reduce the carbon emissions of factories in China.


Around the world, 2.4 billion people live on less than US$2 a day, and more than 800 million are undernourished. BCG’s work in global development focuses on reducing poverty; improving nutrition and food security; increasing access to clean water and sanitation; and providing low-income populations with greater access to credit, insurance, and other financial services. We work with public, private, and social sector organizations to address these issues. Our work has a particular focus on improving the plight of children and women, often the individuals most at risk in an already vulnerable population. The following projects are examples of our work in development.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Turning New Sanitation Technologies into Marketable Products. Each year, poor sanitation contributes to 800,000 diarrhea-related deaths among children under age five and affects the economic productivity of all developing nations. Globally, 2.5 billion people lack access to a sanitary toilet. Many others use pit latrines and septic tanks, which require that sludge be emptied, transported, and treated. Unfortunately, anywhere from 30 to 100 percent of that sludge is inadequately treated, used directly on farmland, or dumped illegally into rivers or streets. The sanitation problem is most acute in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. To address the problem, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded the development of new technologies designed to improve sanitation and solve this global sanitation crisis. BCG was engaged to analyze how to turn these innovations into marketable products. To this end, the BCG team modeled user/purchaser economics, identified critical consumer needs and technical requirements, outlined strategies for building new partnerships to advance the R&D process, and identified high-potential candidates for partnership.

Opportunity International: Fighting Poverty by Providing Financial Services. Opportunity International (OI) provides access to savings accounts, small business loans, insurance, and training to more than 5 million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in 22 countries use these financial services to grow businesses, provide for families, create jobs, and build a safety net for the future. Operating within the troubled microfinance industry, OI recognized the need for new leadership, a clearer strategic vision, more efficient operations, and a simplified governance structure to maximize client impact. BCG worked with OI’s leaders in headquarters and in country operations in India, Uganda, and Nicaragua to clarify the organization’s vision, focus the portfolio on high-need and high-impact markets, and improve operational excellence. The team recommended that OI invest in mobile platforms and agent networks to significantly reduce costs while expanding the reach and richness of its programs. On the basis of BCG’s recommendations, the organization hopes to increase its funding by 40 percent over three years by offering new global debt and liquidity funds, and it has set the goal of creating 20 million jobs by 2020.

Save the Children International: Improving Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Productivity in Country Offices. Save the Children International (SCI) wanted to increase the impact of donor funds by spending less on internal processes and reporting and spending more on achieving its mission—improving the lives of children. To this end, BCG worked closely with SCI to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of its country offices. BCG identified seven opportunities for improvement, which included streamlining local processes and simplifying local generation of reports. The BCG team worked with the offices in Kenya, the Philippines, and Bangladesh; determined which levers would deliver the greatest impact; and then tested the new ways of working during three-week pilot programs. BCG developed a playbook to help SCI conduct similar reviews of other country offices. The identified levers have been incorporated as best practices by SCI’s operations department and will be part of a global rollout over the next three years across all countries. The improvement efforts have the potential to generate millions of dollars in cost savings that can be used to improve the lives of children around the world.

World Food Programme and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation: Improving Nutrition for Children Under Two Years Old. Worldwide, according to UN estimates, 165 million children under the age of five suffer from chronic undernutrition, which can impair mental and physical development, lower school performance, and limit achievement in adulthood. More than 3 million children die annually from chronic undernutrition. Although the stunting caused by undernutrition—that is, children’s failure to grow to the expected height for their age—cannot be treated, it can be prevented if it is addressed during a child’s first 1,000 days—a special window of opportunity. To this end, the World Food Programme and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, with support from BCG, set up an innovative multicountry pilot program to support nations in Africa in reducing stunting by providing specific interventions to children under the age of two and their mothers. The interventions include providing nutrition counseling, promoting exclusive breast-feeding during a child’s first six months of life, and supplying nutritional food supplements thereafter. The goal of the pilot programs is to develop a large-scale model that can be replicated in other countries.

World Food Programme India: Improving Food Security through Technology. India’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) is the world’s largest food-distribution program, targeting more than 800 million people with subsidized food grains from over 500,000 distribution points. Unfortunately, the TPDS has been plagued by loss and corruption, and it is estimated that only about half the food distributed through the system reaches the intended beneficiaries. In partnership with the World Food Programme, BCG has developed a solution that is built on technology and biometrics and identifies eligible beneficiaries on the basis of fingerprint, iris, or face scans. With a payback period of only one year, the new system helps to ensure that food goes to the intended populations. Currently being piloted in the state of Odisha—home to more than 40 million people—the system, it is hoped, will eventually be made available nationally.


Infectious diseases and family health issues that are well controlled or even eliminated in developed countries still cause immense suffering in the poorest parts of the world. BCG works with public, private, and social sector organizations to address this inequity. Together with our partners, we define strategies to develop and deliver life-saving interventions to underserved populations. We also help improve our partners’ organizational effectiveness, so they are better equipped to achieve their goals of saving lives and improving health in the world’s poorest countries. The following projects are examples of our work in health.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Polio Eradication Initiative: Developing a Plan to Eradicate Polio. Polio is nearly eradicated, but the virus remains in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. In all of these countries, there are two main challenges: ongoing political unrest that keeps health workers from reaching at-risk children, and the mobility of the populations. Overcoming these challenges is difficult, since vaccine programs require detailed planning. Moreover, until the disease is fully eradicated, the threat of resurgence remains. For instance, outbreaks in Pakistan could spill over into India, which today is certified polio-free. Working closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the BCG team developed an eradication plan aimed at interrupting the transmission of the virus. The plan focuses on fighting the disease with stronger vaccines; closely monitoring environmental factors by, for example, testing sewage and stool samples for the virus; and providing long-term funding to affected communities. In 2013, the World Health Organization endorsed the plan at the World Health Assembly, and implementation is currently underway.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Utilizing Kangaroo Mother Care to Save Preterm Babies. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is an approach to caring for preterm infants that improves survival rates by promoting continuous skin-to-skin contact, breast-feeding, and adequate follow-up care for the infant. Such care delivers improved outcomes even relative to incubator care, making this approach relevant in all geographies but particularly relevant where incubators are not available. Despite its efficacy, however, many countries have failed to adopt KMC as part of their national guidelines for treating preterm infants. Global adoption for the KMC approach has been very low, limited by a number of socio-cultural and resourcing barriers. In some communities, holding a baby skin-to-skin is viewed negatively. In other instances, mothers who lack family support may be too tired from other chores to practice KMC. To address these problems, BCG worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to interview global stakeholders—such as civil society organizations, public health researchers, and physicians promoting KMC—and facilitated a meeting of more than 40 leaders in the field of maternal and newborn health. With Save the Children acting as secretariat, BCG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also helped establish the KMC Core Group, which comprises organizational leaders and country representatives, to advance adoption of the KMC approach. These efforts increased global alignment around the importance of a “mother-centric approach” and the need to anticipate and preempt any likely barriers to the practice of KMC.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Moving from Controlling to Eradicating Malaria. Although malaria deaths have fallen by more than 40 percent globally since 2000, the disease still affects more than 200 million people each year. In 2012 alone, it caused an estimated 627,000 deaths—mostly in Africa; more than three-quarters of these were children under the age of five. In the past, organizations have focused on controlling malaria, but the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a more ambitious goal: to eradicate the disease entirely. BCG helped the foundation develop an eradication strategy that focuses on using existing diagnostic, drug, and transmission-prevention tools and on investing in the development of new tools. Eradicating malaria will save millions of lives and billions of dollars.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: Transforming an Organization to Save Lives. In mid-2011, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) found itself at a critical crossroads. Some donors had suspended their investments in the organization after reports that up to 10 percent of funds were being used fraudulently by the recipients. After ten years of progress fighting against AIDS, TB, and malaria, the future of the organization was at risk. BCG was brought in to revise GFATM’s business model, identify operational improvements, and make it easier to ensure that donations are being invested as intended. These changes are transforming GFATM and reengaging donors. By 2016, GFATM hopes to provide 7.3 million AIDS patients with antiretroviral therapy and 21 million patients with TB treatment, while also distributing nearly 400 million bed nets to reduce the spread of malaria. Taken together, these initiatives will save 15 million lives and secure the future of GFATM.


Education is a critical investment for any society committed to a better future, as it is a powerful tool for combating poverty and inequality. BCG’s work in this area supports the needs of students and educational systems around the world, with a focus on improving student achievement. We work with primary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education, providers of vocational training, for-profit education providers, and strategic intermediaries and foundations. The following projects are examples of our work in education.

Education Above All Foundation: Setting Strategy and Vision. BCG was engaged to support the creation of a new foundation, Education Above All (EAA), a global initiative based in Doha, Qatar, under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. EAA advocates a universal right to education and serves as the headquarters for a number of international programs that protect and promote educational opportunities for marginalized children. BCG was tasked to assist EAA both in integrating and incorporating existing programs of different sizes, operating models, and maturity, and in developing new initiatives. The team developed the strategy for the new foundation, its operating model and governance, organizational design, business and financial plan, and implementation plan. This effort created a clear mission, vision, and a five-year strategic and organizational roadmap for implementation. The new strategy and organizational structure were endorsed by EAA’s Board of Trustees at their inaugural meeting during the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) conference in October 2013. Implementation is presently underway.

French Ministry of Education: Improving Education in Underprivileged Areas. France’s children living in underprivileged areas consistently test below the national averages. To address this problem, the country’s government sought to allocate funds differently, taking into consideration the gaps in academic achievement across regions and schools. Providing extra funding to schools in underprivileged areas in this way would allow children with lower scores to receive extra instruction, would improve school quality and management, and would introduce more innovative teaching methods. A BCG team was engaged by the Ministry of Education to evaluate the current budgeting process and design a more equitable way to allocate resources among regions and schools. The team’s recommendations were included in the national education plan, which was announced by the government in January 2014.

Shelby County Schools: Supporting the Largest Merger of School Districts in U.S. History. Due to precarious finances, Memphis voted to surrender its school charter, and a federal judge ruled that the urban and nearby Shelby suburban school districts would be combined. The Memphis and Shelby school merger is the largest in U.S. history, affecting 150,000 students. BCG worked closely with the commission team to develop academic, operational, and financial plans for the merged school district. Our priorities included improving student achievement, expanding early childhood education, increasing teacher effectiveness, and closing a $150 million budget gap without reducing the number of teachers. The plan has been implemented, and the two districts fully merged in 2013. Initial improvements in student achievement are promising. In the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams conducted between 2011 and 2013, Tennessee showed the largest gains of any state in fourth-grade reading and math.

Teach For All: Improving Staff Engagement and Morale. A highly engaged staff is critical to organizational effectiveness, but few organizations address or measure it—particularly small, growing institutions. Teach For All is a growing network of 32 partner organizations that share a vision of expanding educational opportunity. To ensure a solid foundation for future growth at partner organizations, Teach For All sought BCG’s help in assessing and improving staff engagement levels and morale. Across the 14 participating partner organizations, three strengths that emerged are a strong belief in what each organization is trying to achieve; managers who care about their employees’ well-being; and employees who see that management is committed to the organization’s goals. Some of the challenges facing these organizations included lack of clarity on manager expectations and career progress; functional silos that kept the staff from feeling fully informed; and managers who lacked training in HR and business. To address these issues, BCG recommended improvements to performance management, teaming processes, and staff training. BCG also developed action plans, training and documentation manuals, and knowledge-sharing processes that will enable Teach For All partner organizations to address future challenges.

business@school: Bringing Business Education to Classrooms. Over the past 16 years, BCG’s business@school education initiative has introduced 20,000 high school students to business and entrepreneurship at schools in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. The program, founded and run by BCG, offers high school students on-site coaching by volunteers from BCG and over 20 other companies. During the program, students learn firsthand about large and small local companies and develop their own business ideas and business plans. In 2013, the program added a social entrepreneurship aspect, and former participants—now entrepreneurs themselves—pitched their ideas to so-called angel investors. Besides benefiting the students and their teachers, the program provides personal development for the volunteers and helps prepare the students for life after school.


BCG works with nonprofits, foundations, city, regional, and national governments, and other local organizations to improve the quality of life in our communities around the world. Our projects with clients range from supporting job creation for underprivileged youth to developing funding strategies for a regional non-profit to grow low-income housing to increasing the reach of a food bank. The following projects are examples of our work in community.

Jawun: “Closing the Gap” Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians. Across all dimensions—including life expectancy; health; employment; and school attendance, completion, and achievements—the outcomes for Indigenous Australians fall drastically short of those for non-Indigenous Australians. Although Australian governments spend $25 billion each year to reduce the gap, it persists. In 2013, BCG supported the design and facilitation of a process that brought together Indigenous organizations and leaders from remote, regional, and urban Australia, for the purpose of identifying more effective and efficient ways to empower Indigenous Australians and to improve their life circumstances. The effort, which started with a wide-ranging conference, promoted collaboration among these groups, and encouraged them to share their successes and to align on a common vision. Drawing on lessons learned both from the conference and BCG’s 14 years of work with Indigenous organizations, BCG supported Indigenous leaders to develop a proposal for redesigning the current government system that serves Indigenous Australia. This included articulating principles of responsibility that should govern relationships between governments and communities; defining a more efficient funding system for government support of communities; increasing Indigenous involvement in service delivery; and helping to develop more extensive corporate support to assist in building Indigenous capabilities. The redesigned system is intended to close the performance gap and make more effective use of government resources, and it has gained bipartisan government support. A joint task force of government, Indigenous leaders, and corporate supporters is developing the details of the new system. 

Joblinge: Tackling Unemployment Among Underprivileged German Youth. In Germany, 300,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed, and another 270,000 are making the transition from education to work. BCG joined forces with BMW’s Eberhard von Kuenheim Foundation to develop a solution for better integrating underprivileged youth into the country’s primary labor market. Together, they created Joblinge, an organization that teaches social and professional skills and provides opportunities for participants to prove themselves in apprenticeship positions. With a placement rate exceeding 65 percent and a far lower cost per placement than similar programs, Joblinge is a faster, cheaper, and more scalable alternative—and growing rapidly because of its success. With 11 sites in Germany today and 1,850 placements, Joblinge plans to expand to 20 sites and 6,500 placements by 2020. BCG has taken on operational responsibility for Joblinge, ensuring quality and effective financial management, establishing new sites, and organizing Joblinge as a social franchise.

Ninohe City, Japan: Generating Job Opportunities Post-Earthquake. Already badly damaged by the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, the city of Ninohe also suffers from a shortage of attractive job opportunities, especially for young adults. As a result, income levels are lower there than in the region’s other cities. BCG worked with the city to develop an industrial strategy to generate more opportunities. The BCG team evaluated past activities in economic growth, analyzed the key success factors of well-industrialized cities, established a strategic plan, and estimated likely financial outcomes and benefits. The new strategy—named the Ninohe Fruit Kingdom—aims to significantly enhance the city’s potential by focusing its efforts on producing and processing fruit. The collective effort hopes to gradually improve the mindset of Ninohe residents, leading them once again to believe in their city’s potential. The effort is expected to deliver additional income of ¥15 billion and create more than 1,800 job opportunities by 2023.

TECHO: Creating a Five-Year Funding Strategy for Regional Expansion. TECHO is a youth-led nonprofit that seeks to overcome poverty in the slums of Latin America and the Caribbean. It uses the joint work of volunteers and community residents to implement community development programs, foster social awareness and action, and promote advocacy. After ten years of successful growth in Chile, TECHO developed a regional expansion program that required more funding to execute. BCG worked closely with the organization to develop a five-year funding strategy to triple its annual revenues to realize its growth plan. The team analyzed the donor market, identified target segments, and developed a plan for each segment. The increase in funding will enable TECHO to engage in active work in more than 2,000 slums, provide housing solutions to 50,000 families, and mobilize more than 300,000 volunteers by 2017.


Cultural organizations fulfill societal needs for creative expression, appreciation of the arts, and cultural preservation. BCG works with a broad range of cultural organizations, including museums, associations, foundations, and performing companies. We help these organizations address their key operating challenges by bringing our expertise in strategy development, fundraising, marketing, organizational redesign, and governance. The following projects are examples of our work in culture.

The Field Museum in Chicago: Staying Relevant in the Twenty-First Century. Chicago’s Field Museum is one of the world’s largest natural-history museums, but like many cultural institutions, it has been unable to boost attendance in recent years. To stay relevant to twenty-first-century audiences, the museum brought in BCG to interview the museum staff and the public—and to research how other cultural institutions are responding to changing times and achieving public relevance. The team recommended a number of initiatives, such as connecting with the public through behind-the-scenes tours, creating a two-way experience using digital technology, and bringing the museum’s collections and science experts beyond the museum’s walls. The Field Museum has begun experimenting with these initiatives during the first phase of a longer-term transformation.

MACBA: Ensuring the Future by Improving Financial Performance. Founded in 1995 in Barcelona, MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) is a leading European art museum, with 700,000 visitors per year and a collection of 5,000 contemporary art pieces. Although public donations have been a critical source of funding—representing 85 percent of the museum’s budget—these contributions have decreased by 30 percent since 2009, jeopardizing the museum’s future. To address the problem, BCG worked with the MACBA team to develop a plan for financial sustainability. The plan reviewed the mission, redefined the vision for the museum, and included a strategy to increase nongovernment income. The strategy called for generating more in ticket sales via higher attendance; enhancing the service portfolio of the museum by creating a new food and beverage offering, relocating the store, and repositioning the brand; establishing a new team and commercial approach to increasing revenues from space rental; creating a new team and methodology to achieve more sponsorships; and reducing costs. The plan is expected to double the museum’s self-generated income over a five-year period and reduce dependence on public donations.

The Royal Concertgebouw: Improving Pricing and Marketing. Ticket sales at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam had been declining in recent years. BCG was engaged to help reverse this trend by developing strategies to increase ticket revenues and concert attendance. The BCG team worked closely with the concert hall’s own marketing and sales department in analyzing sales patterns, event pricing, attendance data, and ticket demand to identify where prices could be increased to boost revenues and what measures could be taken to fill more seats. The analysis showed that certain seats and shows were extremely popular and could command higher prices. The team recommended a number of low-cost, high-impact measures that could be easily implemented. These measures included offering three levels of pricing based on the desirability of the seats and shows; closely monitoring the impact of marketing investments on ticket sales; and tailoring marketing efforts to specific customer segments. Since implementing these measures, the concert hall has seen attendance and revenues increase over the last year.

Special Olympics Korea: Celebrating Athletic Achievements of the Disabled. Founded in 1978, Special Olympics Korea (SOK) successfully hosted the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, and wanted to build on this success. However, the organization was facing low public awareness, capability constraints, and limited funds. BCG benchmarked the organization against leading Special Olympics groups in other countries and other successful local and global nonprofits. To improve SOK’s performance in marketing, fundraising, and program development, BCG helped clarify the organization’s vision and goals, create a segmented marketing strategy, and develop a fundraising plan. Implementation of these initiatives is underway. SOK’s goal is to achieve a significant increase in funding and national awareness among 80 percent of Korean citizens in 2020. Taken together, these gains will allow more athletes to participate in SOK programs—and more people to celebrate their achievements.

Business and the Social Sector

We believe strongly in the potential of social advantage—a company’s ability to generate value and achieve competitive advantage by sustainably aligning its business model with the broader social and ecological context. We support corporations, industry associations, philanthropic bodies and nonprofit organizations to create links across sectors that enable corporations to have a greater impact on their communities through more collaboration and socially responsible business practices. The following projects are examples of our work at the intersection of business and the social sector.

Yunus Social Business: Understanding Lessons Learned from Social Businesses. Yunus Social Business (YSB) creates and empowers social businesses around the world to sustainably solve social problems. Cofounded by professor and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, YSB initiates and manages incubator funds for social businesses in developing countries. A social business is a company with a primary objective of solving a social problem by applying business principles. BCG worked closely with YSB and Professor Yunus to analyze and extract lessons from ten social businesses that operate in Bangladesh today. Many of the ten social businesses are joint ventures between a Grameen organization and a corporate partner, each tackling a different social problem affecting people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The project analyzed the value unleashed through the concept, with a special focus on the lessons and best practices needed to succeed. The findings have been published in a joint report, The Power of Social Business: Lessons from Corporate Engagements with Grameen, authored by BCG with Professor Yunus and YSB. The report concludes that while social businesses are still an emerging concept, they have tremendous potential and can be a powerful vehicle for corporations as they allow companies to use their skills, expertise, and business networks to solve challenging social problems.

Impact Hub: Scaling up for Greater Impact. Impact Hub, a fast-growing global network of people, places, and programs in more than 50 cities, connects more than 7,500 innovators and entrepreneurs. Combining the concepts of an innovation lab, business incubator, and community centre, each Impact Hub offers members a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and opportunities to grow and have a positive impact on today’s most pressing societal issues. On its steep growth trajectory, Impact Hub is seeking to reach 100 locations by 2015, focusing in particular on developing economies that would enable the organization to achieve the greatest impact. BCG was engaged as a strategic advisor and partner to help the organization create a growth strategy that would accommodate regional differences and adapt Impact Hub’s business model as needed. Additional work included revising the existing governance structures, network services, and accountability mechanisms—changes that will lead to greater specialization and more distributed decision-making within the network. BCG continues to support Impact Hub’s strategic direction and network strategy for 2015 and beyond.

Major European Airline: Increasing the Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts. A major European airline sought a consistent and coherent strategy for its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to maximize social impact, employee engagement, and the visibility of its efforts. BCG developed an approach that capitalized on three core assets: the airline’s fleet, the expertise of its people, and its customer network. The airline’s CSR activities now focus on three key initiatives: global humanitarian efforts, regional education, and philanthropic fundraising. In its humanitarian efforts, the airline will use its planes to transport people and cargo to disaster areas around the world, focusing on partnerships with a few organizations. In its education initiative, the airline’s employees will act as mentors to unemployed youth in a job training program. In its fundraising initiative, the airline will establish ways to tap into its passengers’ commitment to social issues.

Total Angola: Developing a High-Impact CSR Strategy. Total Angola, the largest oil and gas producer in Angola, hoped to increase the impact of its CSR efforts. Despite significant CSR investments and strong on-the-ground presence, awareness of its efforts fell below expectations—most likely because the company’s CSR investment portfolio was too fragmented across many small initiatives. Total Angola engaged BCG to assess the company’s portfolio to better understand how well the budget aligned with the company’s skills, the country’s needs, and the government’s priorities. Together, Total Angola and BCG developed a new CSR strategy and engagement model that focused on four pillars matching Total Angola’s unique strengths and commitments.

GAIN: Evaluating Business Models for Providing Nutritious Food to the Poor. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) pursues its mission to reduce malnutrition through sustainable strategies that are aimed at improving the health and nutrition of populations at risk. To improve the programs targeting maternal, infant, and child nutrition, BCG supported GAIN in developing a framework to evaluate the business models of the different initiatives in its portfolio. Working with the client, the BCG team assessed the effectiveness of the various models; identified key challenges and success factors influencing the impact, scale, and sustainability; and created guidelines for developing future interventions. The results helped GAIN clarify and articulate its insights on the role of the private sector in nutrition and will inform how GAIN shapes and manages its portfolio of interventions designed to advance the organization’s goal of increasing access to nutritious food for those in need.

Investing for Impact

To attract donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and governments, nonprofits are increasingly expected to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. Donors demand greater transparency and accountability so they can see the so-called social return on their investments—and ensure that their funds are creating maximum impact. Innovating with different financial approaches, such as social impact bonds, also enables donors to become investors and put more capital to work to create social change. BCG works with organizations in the social sector and with social investors to increase their impact and measure the results they deliver. The following projects are examples of our work in investing for impact.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada: Quantifying the Results of a Mentorship Program. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) matches mentor volunteers with young people who are facing life challenges and, in many cases, have limited support from a network of mentors. To understand the value of mentorship and the impact of the BBBSC mentorship program on life outcomes, BCG conducted a statistically significant study of two groups with similar family and economic backgrounds—one group that had been mentored, and one group that had not. The team determined the impact that was attributable to the program, translated it into a dollar value, and calculated the return on the initial investment (program costs). The results showed that those who had been mentored earned on average $315,000 more in their lifetime and were much more likely to commit money and time to charitable causes than those who hadn’t. BCG’s analysis showed that each dollar invested in BBBSC’s mentorship program delivered an $18 return—clearly a positive benefit to society. Media coverage of these results has brought the mentoring message to more than 10 million Canadians, inspiring many new volunteers and donors. This greater public awareness will further increase BBBSC’s impact on the lives of Canada’s children.

Big Society Capital: Projecting the Growth of the Social Investment Market in the UK. Big Society Capital (BSC) was launched in 2012 with £600 million in capital to develop the social investment market in the UK by giving organizations in the social sector greater access to financing. The market and its growth potential were not well understood, however. To provide greater clarity, BCG surveyed philanthropists, nonprofits, and social investors throughout the UK, seeking to better understand the demand for social investment across a wide range of industries. Based on our findings, BCG concluded that the demand for social investment would rise from £165 million in deals in 2011 to as much as £1 billion by 2016. BSC and BCG jointly published a report, The First Billion: A Forecast of Social Investment Demand, which summarized the findings and has been widely used in the social investment market.

Ekuinas: Mentoring Small Businesses to Help Them Reach Their Full Potential. Micro and small enterprises are integral to Malaysia’s economy, accounting for about 95 percent of all private businesses and one-third of the country’s GDP. But these enterprises have high failure rates, due mainly to a lack of business expertise, training, and support. BCG worked with Ekuinas, a government-linked private-equity-fund management company, to develop a mentorship program that addresses the key challenges of smaller enterprises, such as obtaining financing, hiring and training staff, marketing, and keeping pace with technology developments. For example, only 28 percent of these businesses use e-commerce and fewer than half have a website. The program matches experienced business professionals with entrepreneurs through a structured environment that helps them flourish. The program starts with a simple yet comprehensive diagnosis (“health check”) that identifies the top three challenges of the small business and the root causes of those challenges. Then, after further analysis, a practical action plan is developed to help the business address the challenges. BCG has already piloted the program with five enterprises, and Ekuinas will roll out the program more broadly in the coming years.