Periodically, Dhaval Chadha, his teammates at Cria Global—a social innovation group creating shared-value ventures for companies and Brazilians alike—and I share the latest over Skype, me from the West Coast of the United States and they from Brazil’s east coast. We converse and connect to co-inspire each other in moving social innovation for brands forward. While I work internally with companies to connect emotional empathy and cultural innovation, Cria works directly with brands and social causes to create social impact of the most interesting variety. And in Brazil—particularly in Rio—creative and entrepreneurial innovation is thriving. I recently asked Dhaval a few questions about his organization and the evolution of innovation in Brazil.
Jody Turner: How did you and your partners come to create Cria?
Dhaval Chadha: We come from three different countries, three different generations, and three completely different professional backgrounds. What brought us together was the singular intention of channeling our creative energy and intelligence towards creating a better future.
Fred Gelli (CCO at Tátil Design) started his first company 23 years ago, which has since become a reference in the design, branding, eco-innovation, and biomimicry space in Brazil. In his search for changing the way brands create value for people and the planet, Fred was becoming more and more interested in the world social and business model innovation.
Florencia comes from a background in strategy (MBA from Haas, Berkeley, plus years at ABN Amro and McKinsey), but for a number of years she has been looking to put her expertise to use in the social business space. At McKinsey, she worked in the social sector office and then became director of strategy at CDI, a nonprofit that empowers lower-income communities via access to vital information and communication technologies—a group that is today present in 15 different countries.
I met Florencia at CDI, where I led the innovation efforts after studying social sciences at Harvard. We had incubated a social venture and started a consulting practice where we worked with clients like Coke and Casas Bahia (a very large retail group in Brazil). Just before heading to Singularity University during the summer of 2010, the three of us had a couple of conversations about starting something together. Fred's company led the design and branding for Coletivo, a social business focused on teaching youth entrepreneurship and retail skills, that Florencia and I worked on for Coke while at CDI. We each came to the realization that this is the sort of work we wanted to do together.
What is the purpose of Cria and could you discuss your most inspirational projects?
Cria was born precisely out of our desire to have a meaningful way of putting the vision of shared value and social innovative intention into practice, both with clients (consulting) and entrepreneurs (incubation). We started our first business division as a consultancy focused on “shared value,” strategy, and innovation. We are now creating a new business unit to incubate joint ventures with our clients so that we can run with our own ideas at times. In addition, we are creating something between an incubator and an accelerator.
At the consultancy, we have had the chance to work with some very cool clients in our short, 15-month existence. We designed the entire social business strategy for Coca Cola in Brazil, orienting the various new brand initiatives with social impact as a driver of profits. We have been working with Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), the second largest telecom company in Brazil, to reinvent how it engages with low-income populations. We also worked with Whirlpool, creating a strategy for service innovation, mapping 25 new business opportunities that create shared value. And one of the coolest projects that we are working on now is the 2016 Rio Olympics project!
You are doing the social legacy guidelines for the Rio 2016 Olympics! How did that came about?
Every time the Olympics are hosted in a city or country, the organizing bodies are responsible for leaving an education and social transformation legacy for the region. We were invited by the organizing committee to participate in a bid to design this long-term strategy. We won! We are now leading the charge on the strategic design and guidelines of this social legacy project for the entirety of Brazil. Who will it target? What will it promote? Where? How? How can the 16 brands that are already sponsoring this event get involved? These are the types of questions we need to answer.
At the very core of the modern Olympics lies the effort to use sports to engage and transform the lives of youth. The candidacy of Rio 2016 was based very much on the fact that an event such as this could transform a city that over 40 years, after the creation of the capital Brasília, had become a synonym for decadence and violence.
As part of the vision to leverage the Olympics to transform Rio and the Olympic spirit in its very essence, the organizing institution Rio 2016 invited the top innovation consulting companies in Brazil to bid on designing the strategy for social transformation. We were fortunate enough to make that list and then lucky enough to be selected.
What do you hope to accomplish?
Our footprint as a species today is well beyond the carrying capacity of the planet; demand and consumption are rising the world over, and global population is set to stabilize at 9.5 billion in 2050. We need to radically reinvent how our economies work, grow, distribute, and create value if we are to have a chance at surviving through the end of the century. We believe strongly in innovation and the capacity of people around the world to turn this tide, and are very excited to be watching the exponential advances in technology. Our hope is to play our part in catalyzing our society and economy in this incredible moment of accelerating change.
Where do you think Brazil is now and where it is evolving?
Tough question! On one hand, the economy is booming, optimism is at an all time high, the currency has been stable for longer than any other ten-year period over the last fifty years, and the 2008-2009 crisis barely registered here. At the same time, speculation is extremely high, education is in a crisis situation, and a lot of the growth is based on consumption fueled by aggressive credit and an unsustainable hand-out policy. In other words, a lot of things have gone right in the recent past, thanks to good governance and fiscal and monetary policy from before Lula's time but this does not necessarily mean that good decisions will continue to be made. It is clear the World Cup, the Olympics, Rio+20, and the booming economy provide us with an opportunity to leverage and create a lasting impact for Brazil’s future. We are highly committed to this innovative future for Brazil.