Maya Mehta, cofounder of The Harvard-Oxford Alumni Social Business Group

 

Maya Mehta is a Social Intrapreneur and the co-founder of The Harvard-Oxford Alumni (and friends!) Social Business Group which since 2013 has hosted a series of events in London and Oxford called "Putting The Soul Back Into Business" (soulintobusiness@gmail.com). The group brings together social entrepreneurs and social "Intrapreneurs" from all backgrounds (not just alumni) to share their personal journeys, ideas, tips for survival and how to stand out from the crowd!

What is your background?  Why are you doing this?
I studied law at St. Hugh's College, Oxford and work full time as a lawyer at an investment bank, having trained and practiced at the law firm Clifford Chance in London, Hong Kong and New York.  Like many others, I can't stay inert when social issues move me and I see the business world as (still) a hugely untapped source of solutions - a powerful force for positive social change.

What is your definition of "Social" Intrapreneurship"?
A Social Intrapreneur sees the resources, skills and talent around them in the business world, packages up this ammunition in the form of a socially responsible initiative, and catapults it over the corporate towers into the hands of social entrepreneurs and other organisations on the frontline fighting social issues. 

What made you decide to become a Social Intrapreneur?
I didn't ever decide it.  I just felt it.  I saw headlights in front of me and followed them.

So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful Social Intrapreneur?  Why?
1. Fearlessness - because you are pushing new frontiers from the grassroots of an organisation, beyond conventional "CSR", risking your credibility as a professional and the (mis)perception that your initiatives are a distraction from the day job that you are hired to do.

2. Resilience - because when knocking on doors, scaling every level of the corporate tower, you will encounter those who aren't interested in jumping on your train.  You need to persevere by aligning your idea with business strategy, speaking the dialects of business at each level and knowing how to move each potential strategic ally to action.

3.  Passion - this will keep the fire alight for everyone around you. You can then draw from their energy during those times when your own fire needs re-igniting.

What is your favourite part of being a Social Intrapreneur?
The electric connections formed with like-minded souls and the social impact generated. Seeing colleagues step out of the shadows as they realise that they too are Social Intrapreneurs (they are all around us - many don't even know it!). Collectively turning their ideas into fully fledged socially responsible initiatives.  When we join forces with our trailblazing cousins, the social entrepreneurs, that's when more magic happens!

What individual, company or organisation inspires you most?  Why?
Malala. I was overcome with emotion when I heard her speak a couple of years ago to the Royal Festival Hall about empowering girls through education.  This 16 year old girl, about to take her GCSEs, inspired me by her courage, humility and simple message. 

If you could have 5 minutes with the above individual/company/organisation, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I hope she never changes - only for the better.

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment as a Social Intrapreneur?
We launched an advice surgery for Asian victims of forced marriages and other abuse in 2004 while I was at Clifford Chance.  Seeing a lady's face light up when she gained new freedom by learning how to use the Tube or feeling an abused teenager's sense of empowerment when she decided to enrol for a journalism course to share her story - those moments reminded me of the power of listening, of just being present.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as a Social Intrapreneur?
It can feel like scaling Everest so I wouldn't do it alone. Gather your troops, your passionate peers and enable everyone to take ownership and feel involved.   That will widen your reach, your impact and give you wings to fly.  

Any last words of advice?
Be bold, shout from the rooftops and let the world hear your song!

Use your precious energy wisely. Be mindful  of when the fun turns into stress and then take time out, be compassionate to yourself.  Retreat by walking in nature, listening to music, going to a party - just do and talk about something completely different! When you feel re-energised with capacity to give again, unleash yourself back on to the world!

Do it with joy!