“The brands that will thrive over the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit”: Richard Branson.
On November 11, 2011, Incitement — conceived by Daniel de Gruijter and Zikry Kholil as a series of inspirational talks — held its first event in Kuala Lumpur, where eight people got together to share their stories and ideas to inspire each other.
As the event generated great response, the duo started posting the content online. To their astonishment, they started receiving enquiries from different parts of the world. The first caller, de Gruijter recalls, was one Patricia from Sonoma Valley in California, who asked whether Incitement could bring the event to her native city.
“Honestly, we hadn’t thought of taking the event to elsewhere until we also started receiving phone calls from South Africa, followed by Croatia and Jordan. Upon realising that we were onto something significant here, we started putting a structure into place and thinking about what we wanted to do with our events,” de Gruijter recounts the story to e27.
But there was a great challenge: there are already high-quality talks in the market such as TEDx. If Incitement were to attract more people to its series, its content needed to be unique and of superior quality. “We realised we had to stand out from the rest. Thanks to our hard work, we now have our own chapters in over 46 countries with thousands of volunteers and hundreds of social events and projects,” he adds.
Venturing into CSR
However, de Gruijter and Kholil were hungry to do more, and decided to leverage the success of their motivation talk series to venture into a related vertical: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). So, in 2014, Incitement pivoted to a social-tech venture to helps brands efficiently implement large-scale, multi-national CSR projects.
“Do you know that 95.4 per cent of charitable donations never reach their intended beneficiaries? In 2015 alone, out of roughly US$373 billion in donations, only US$11.2 billion was channelled to affected states. Another US$5.9 billion went to local NGOs. While a staggering US$355.9 billion went towards ‘overheads’. That’s a shocking 95.4 per cent of funds disappearing into thin air — a number that holds consistent year after year,” says de Gruijter.
“This figure is unacceptable and proves that something is broken in the humanitarian sector. It’s a wake-up call for us to find a better way, sooner rather than later,” he laments.
In his view, this shocking statistic is the result of five key industry-wide issues in the humanitarian industry — lack of financial transparency, reliability, impact measurement & reporting, incentives & RoI, and governance. And blockchain can be a great tool to achieve their objectives.
Blockchain, a frosting on the cake
“Our purpose is to build solutions, business models, and projects that enable people, causes, brands and entrepreneurs to grow themselves and their brands through social impact creation. We invent ways for brands to grow their business through solving societal issues. This is what our blockchain-powered solutions do,” he explains.
According to de Gruijter, Incitement challenges the current, old-fashioned, centralised, top-down system, and introduce a whole new ecosystem of smart humanitarianism, which focuses on incentives, behaviour and governance. The company combines sustainable development programmes, technology and marketing, community events, and state-of-the-art impact measurement tools to make social impact creation attractive for brands by merging business objectives with global social development goals.
“Currently, we are building an online platform specifically tailored to streamline the humanitarian industry. Inpactor, set to be launched in May 2018, will be underpinned with blockchain technology to tackle the five key industry-wide issues in the humanitarian industry,” de Gruijter shares.
A free-to-use platform, Inpactor’s ecosystem will be powered by two different CSR tokens, namely CSRi and CSRm. Even though these two tokens serve two different purposes, they interact in synergy to solve the five problems, claims de Gruijter.
CSRi: The value of CSRi must remain stable at all times. Hence, CSRi functions independently inside Inpactor and cannot be traded. The funds are intended for impact creation, therefore cannot be exposed to the extreme volatility inherent to today’s token market.
The token allows for more financial transparency in the funding process using distributed ledger technology, accurate reporting using Proof of Impact (PoI) — whereby volunteers vote on a cause’s impact report — and reliable collaborations using smart contracts to complement the Project implementation.
CSRm: As an incentive for creating social impact, brands receive CSRm each time they fund a project. This CSRm incentive can be spent inside Inpactor’s advertising platform, creating measurable RoI on their CSR initiatives, or, like any other token, it can be publicly traded, or used to accrue fixed interest using Proof of Stake.
CSRm also introduces a Distributed Governance Framework. This framework gives voting power to token holders. This means that the community decides how this platform should evolve, which projects get highlighted, and which social issues brands should be solving.
de Gruijter boasts that the Inpactor platform has been endorsed by heads of some of the leading global brands, including Mark Rozario, CEO of General Electric Malaysia; Stephen Croncota, Chief Marketing Officer of Versace; Thomas Marzano, Head of Global Branding Philips; and Peter Kolthof, Head of Equities Shell. They are all a part of Incitement’s Board of Advisors for the launch of this platform.
Explaining the revenue model, de Gruijter says that while every other platform charges a fixed fee on the total funding amount, Inpactor sustains itself very differently.
“We are in the business of doing good, and so we feel it’s difficult to justify simply taking away 10 per cent of funding, which could otherwise change many lives. Since Inpactor is designed like a social media platform, and since Incitement has an ever-growing database of brands, causes and volunteers, we are implementing an interest-based advertising platform inside Inpactor. By leveraging blockchain, this can be done in a much more privacy-sensitive and ethical way. Also, brands and causes on Inpactor can purchase premium features to further maximise platform usage,” he remarks.
Incitement, which has an office in Italy besides two in Kuala Lumpur, is currently working with a wide variety of brands. Some of its past clients include Pepsico, Nestlé, FedEx, L’Oreal, CIMB, SWIFT, and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. “This year, we have upcoming projects with BP, Kuwait Finance House, KWAP, Cummins, and several others. Our mission is for every brand to act upon a social mission. In order to achieve that, this social mission should contribute to a company’s bottom line. After all, that is what’s at the core of most businesses: revenue generation,” he goes on.
CSR is more than just donations
Unlike other similar players in the market, Incitement makes sure brands get meaningful branding in return for their CRS activities, making CSR more of an investment rather than a mere donation. It uses the Hourglass methodology to implement this. It is a multi-layered tool that a) helps brands find and design CSR initiatives that carry weight within the organisation because they are aligned with the company’s value system; b) identifies and implements correct social impact measurements to measure the impact properly; and c) helps craft a story around the social impact that the Brand can tell its audience through impact marketing.
“The reason why we focus on CSR, aside from our six and half years of hands-on industry experience, is because we believe it has the potential to be the single most powerful force driving positive change for both people and planet,” de Gruijter concludes.