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Maria Ida Palmieri: Bringing Social Business Models inside of Companies

Maria Ida Palmieri: Bringing Social Business Models inside of Companies


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have one more interview for you this week. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Maria Ida Palmieri, managing partner at The Grameen Creative Lab. Are you ready to be inspired?

Spiffy: Hi Maria, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is The Grameen Creative Lab addressing?

Maria: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Through my work at The Grameen Creative Lab (TGCL), we were mainly addressing one challenge—how can we make business as usual become even more usual by putting people and the planet at the center? At TGCL, we were using creativity and innovation, in particular, to train social entrepreneurs and company leaders of today and tomorrow to adopt social business principles and mindsets in the way they were designing and carrying out their business, following the vision of our founder and Nobel laureate—Professor Muhammad Yunus. Key aspects of our programs were to first analyze problems systemically.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Maria: As I started my management career at Unilever, while I saw immediately the potential of big companies in accelerating impact at scale, I also saw how this was not treated as business as usual. I kept believing in the power of companies to make impact scale up fast but I could clearly see the need for new business and leadership models. I decided therefore to join a network of credible organizations under the guidance of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunusbringing social business models inside of companies to make impact work under business as usual. At TGCL, we worked with big companies to bring transformational leadership and models inside the company, and seeing the intrapreneurs community growing was amazing!

Spiffy: That’s great! What would you say is the impact of your work?

Maria: We focus on training the youth, in particular, to become new future and present leaders. We urge young talents and young social entrepreneurs to first analyze their own purpose and align it to a specific problem that our society or planet is facing. Then, we guide them to understand those problems in a systemic way and identify innovative and creative solutions to solve them, making sure that they keep track of the impact that they deem to achieve. In only three years, we trained thousands of young talents from all over the world, and seeing the community coming back to thank us as we opened their eyes to new perspectives made us so grateful!

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Maria—it’s been an honor!

Maria Ida Palmieri, managing partner at The Grameen Creative Lab, has ten years of experience as an enthusiastic creative growth hacker advocating to fight poverty, discrimination, and the most pressing challenges of our time, thanks to entrepreneurship, innovation, growth hacking, and new empathic and collaborative leadership styles. After carrying out an international education journey and a series of experiences in startups, Maria started her marketing career on brands with a purpose in Unilever. Since 2021, she has been leading The Grameen Creative Lab, the international social business accelerator founded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, with the objective of accelerating impact globally, with social business and impactful multi-stakeholder partnerships. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino at Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 11, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.