Software giant starts ‘massive conversation’ with thousands of social enterprises

More than 3,500 social enterprise leaders and corporate managers around the world will join a ‘massive open online course’ – or MOOC – over the next four weeks to learn how they can do business with each other.

The MOOC is being offered by software provider SAP as part of its new, three-year engagement with the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) – announced at SEWF in Edinburgh, Scotland, in September last year.

The partners say the course “reflects the increasing opportunities for social enterprises and corporations to work together to create social value”.

Speaking at SEWF in Edinburgh, Marcell Vollmer (pictured), chief digital officer for SAP Ariba – the part of the business focussing on supply chains and business relationships – said developing a ‘social supply chain’ was at the heart of what big companies could do to create positive change. “We need to make this become part of our DNA,” he told the audience of more than 1,400 delegates from 47 countries.

Speaking to Pioneers Post at the event, Vollmer said: “How to help the world run better and improve people’s lives is in our mission statement.”

He added: “We need to help make people aware of how they can behave and think in a more sustainable way.”

While making profits was definitely one of the reasons for running a business, Vollmer said customers, employees and business leaders were now asking more fundamental questions about the purpose of business and how to ‘raise the bar’ around their values.

Alex van der Ploeg, head of corporate social responsibility at SAP, said the conversation around the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 was helping the private sector figure out what their contribution to the world should be “beyond financial performance”.

She told Pioneers Post SAP’s partnership with SEWF had developed over several years – including the world forums in Hong Kong in 2016 and New Zealand in 2017.

SAP itself believed in fostering the ‘spirit of entrepreneurship’ and understood the important role that small businesses, start-ups and therefore also social enterprises played in ‘building value in society’.

“If we help them to be better at what they do, if we enable them and help them to accelerate, we can help them to maximise the social impact that they have,” she said.

The four-week online course, starting on 22 January, is free and open to everyone and offers participants insights from social enterprises and corporates on their social procurement experiences. Some of the course speakers are featured in this promotional film.

For social enterprises, the MOOC will enable participants to:

  • learn how to tap into new markets and how to grow their business
  • hear from successful social enterprises and intermediaries who are working with large corporations
  • get tips on how to sell goods and services to corporations and government organisations
  • understand how they got started and expanded their business, while contributing to society and the environment

For corporate or public sector professionals, the course will:

  • provide insights from supply chain pioneers like Johnson & Johnson, NZ Post and PwC
  • outline the benefits of working with social enterprises to fulfil procurement needs, while driving commercial and social value at the same time
  • describe the competitive advantage and business benefits from social enterprise supply chain engagement

Alongside the MOOC, SAP has been running a substantial programme of ‘Social Sabbaticals’, through which hundreds of its staff have joined together in teams to spend several weeks offering strategic and practical support to social enterprises.

* In further news, SEWF has recently announced a new Chair and Managing Director. Professor Jim Schorr of Vanderbilt University, Nashville Tennessee, has taken over the chair from David LePage of Buy Social Canada, who held the position for three years, while Gerry Higgins, SEWF's founder, has now become its first Managing Director. Read more about SEWF at and keep up to date with plans for SEWF 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: