What is Intrapreneurship?

A Beginner’s Introduction to Institutional Innovation

Written by Joe Agoada and Jennifer Estevez, Co-facilitators of TC108a: Intro to Intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship defined

In·tra·pre·neur·ship (n) 1) Successful adaptation of entrepreneurial attitudes and strategies inside of a bureaucratic organization. 2) Implementation of start-up practices within a large organization, producing valued innovation.

Where does the term intrapreneurship come from?

The word “intrapreneurship” sounds like a new term, but it in fact has some history to it. The term was first discussed in a 1978 piece by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot titled “Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship (Some Thoughts Stirred Up by Attending Robert Schwartz’s School for Entrepreneurs)”. Norman Macrae’s 1982 Economist article, “We’re all Intrapreneurial Now” further explores intrapreneurship and gives naming credit to the Pinchots. However, the word seems to have gone into relative hibernation until the dot.com bubble burst and Silicon Valley innovators started to look beyond the newest internet start-up for growth in the technology sector.

Intrapreneurship vs. entrepreneurship, per Guy Kawasaki

For a modern understanding of intrapreneurship, we can look at one of its most vocal proponents: author, motivational speaker, and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki was an early employee at Apple and a “chief evangelist” at the company for years.  With his 2004 book, Art of the Start, he began making direct references to intrapreneurs and has recently become a more vocal advocate. For example, he wrote this  July 2013 blog post on LinkedIn on “The Art of Intrapreneurship”. Here’s an excerpt:

  • “There are lots of guys and gals inside established companies who are as innovative and revolutionary as their bootstrapping, soy-sauce-and-rice-subsisting, external entrepreneur counterparts. This is for these brave souls who face a different kind of reality and must practice the art of entrepreneurship inside a company—or “intrapreneurship.'”
  • “From the outside looking in, entrepreneurs think intrapreneurs have it made: ample capital, infrastructure (desks, chairs, Internet access, assistants, lines of credit, etc), salespeople, support people, and an umbrella brand. Guess again. Intrapreneurs don’t have it better; they simply have it different. Indeed, the reality is that they probably have it worse because they are fighting against ingrained, inbred, and inept management.” – Guy Kawasaki

Bottom line: intrapreneurship is difficult, challenging, and nuanced.

Defining intrapreneurship: the starting point to inspiring institutional innovation

 Understanding exactly what intrapreneurship is can be a starting point in igniting growth and innovation within institutions. Harnessing the intrapreneurial approach can empower workers of any generation to advance their careers while improving their organizations. Intrapreneurship is especially helpful for junior-level employees and mid-level managers wanting to overcome the obstacles associated with getting consensus and support for innovative new ideas in the workplace. Getting employees to understand the concept of intrapreneurship is the first step to empowering a new cadre of innovators within institutions; nurturing intrapreneurship just may be the key to powering the global economy forward.

Learn more about intrapreneurship.

Join us with Ashoka Changemakers and other past, current, and aspiring intrapreneurs across the world that are sharing and learning the tools and techniques to innovate within their organizations for social change in TC108: Social Intrapreneurship – Innovation Within Institutions. The course begins February 24 – March 21, 2014. Enroll now to lock in your early bird discount and group rate!


About Joe Agoada

Joseph Agoada is the Resource Mobilization Coordinator for the UNICEF New York HQ Social and Civic Media Section in the Division of Communication. He has held this post since August of 2011 when he also founded and launched UNICEF-GIS. Prior he implemented UNICEF’s World Cup in My Village in Rwanda and Zambia. Between 2008 and 2009 he worked directly for Amy Smith, founder of the MIT D-Lab as a course administrator and then conference organization for the 2009 International Development Design Summit. In 2008 he was named an International Youth Foundation a Global YouthActionNet Fellow and in 2012, and a Google Personal Democracy Forum Fellow. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and currently resides in Washington, D.C.

According to the mHealth Alliance, in developing countries, the average doctor to patient ratio is 1 doctor for every 250,000 patients. Yet those same countries account for nearly 80% of the over 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.

For people everywhere, access to a mobile phone can mean better access to health information, which leads to more informed choices and improved well-being. A great example of how mobile phones are making a difference in promoting health is with the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action partnership that “has developed free, adaptable messages informed by experts in maternal, newborn and child health” that are being used and downloaded by 161 organizations in 54 nations around the world.

To learn more about how mobile phones are affecting developing nations in the realms of public health and beyond, check out our upcoming courses on Mobiles for International Development and mHealth. Also see our guest blog post from the mPulse blog on how we’re teaming up again with mHealth Alliance to mobilize mobile health with online learning.


We’re excited, honored, and humbled to be featured in Fast Company as one of the “best learning resources for aspiring social entrepreneurs”, with recognition for the “hybrid” online/offline learning category!

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • “Their open courses draw an international audience of participants, interested in social media and social change. They also create custom courses in partnership with organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, USAID, UNICEF, Red Cross, US State Department, training student leaders in Pakistan, civil society leaders in Sudan, or international aid workers.”
  • “Nick Martin, one of the founders of Techchange, saw a growing need in his field for continuing professional education. “We took dozens of online courses from all kinds of providers and found that most of them were pretty awful. So we set out to build a model that was more social, interactive, scalable, and suited to the needs of the social change community.”

See the full article on Fast Company here.Fast company logo_blog post

Infographic global mobile subscription vs. population 2014Estimates from the mHealth Alliance, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Jana Mobile Inc. show that by 2014, the number of mobile subscriptions worldwide will exceed the global population. Between 2000 and 2014, subscriptions are estimated to increase from 750 million to over 7 billion (approximately a 933% increase).

What do these statistics mean for the world, especially in developing countries? What implications does mobile subscription expansion have for public health, banking, education, and agriculture? Why do mobiles matter for international development? What emerging mobile technology is having the greatest impact?

Learn more about the global impact of mobile technology with our TC105: Mobiles for International Development course, which runs September 8 – October 3, 2014.


We’re just one week away from the start of our Mobiles in International Development course and we couldn’t be more excited!

This is the 8th time we’ve run TC105 and it’s going to be better than ever with our latest updates. We have new animated videos, a revamped course platform, and fresh content to get you caught up on the latest mobile technology for the developing world with better networking, content viewing, and engagement. Check out this video to get an overview of the course, and learn why mobile phones matter for international development.

So far, we have participants enrolled from over 12 countries including Austria, Cote D’Ivoire, Ecuador, Malawi, The Netherlands, Norway, Trinidad & Tobago, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, USA, South Africa, and more joining every day. These participants represent several organizations such as the World Bank, UNDP, International Youth Foundation (IYF), NORC at the University of Chicago, Mission Measurement, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Digital Afrique Telecom, Ayala Consulting, Millennium Water Alliance, Umtapo Centre, Radio Zamaneh, Kenan Institute Asia, Tribeca Film Institute, JEVS Human Services, and others.

We’re especially looking forward to our special line-up of guest speakers including:

It’s not too late to join this global online learning community. Register for Mobiles for International Development now by clicking here.

We’re excited that TechChange’s founder and president, Nick Martin, has been selected as one of the 2013 PopTech Social Innovation Fellows. The PopTech Social Innovation Fellowship program supports up-and-coming social entrepreneurs in scaling their solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems including human rights and healthcare.

Nick will be joining 10 other Social Innovation Fellows along with the Science Fellows this October at the ”Sparks of Brilliance” PopTech 2013 event in Camden, Maine. During this event, Nick will be receiving intensive training and mentorship from experts and peers that will ultimately help him make a greater impact in the online learning social enterprise arena.

Congratulations, Nick! You can follow him on Twitter @ncmart.


Written by Jennifer Estevez.

Check out our entry here: http://kng.ht/1erYBej

Have you heard of the #NewsChallenge? It’s a funding source for innovative ideas managed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since 2007 the Knight Foundation has run various challenges and given away over $75 million to over 400 winners. In August the Knight Foundation launched its latest #NewsChallenge on the theme of Health asking, how can we harness data and information for the health of communities.

When the health theme was announced we immediately realized it would be the perfect time to present a new and fun idea we had been kicking around the TechChange offices for a while, a Massively Open Online Conference (MOOCon). Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which enroll thousands for a single class, are rapidly growing in popularity. Coursera, Edx and Udacity offer MOOCs from big names in education including Harvard, MIT  and most recently the Wharton School of Business. Even Google is getting in the game with MOOC.org. However, as this Time article points out, MOOCs face a major problem; very low completion rates. While thousands sign-up, only a small fraction go onto finish, and even then it can be difficult to measure the learning impact of those who enroll.

That’s what got us thinking. If a MOOC has great engagement from the start, but limps to a finish, why not just limit the experience to those exciting first few days? In this way, a conference adaptation would have a lot of potential. The concept of the MOOCon is still in its infancy. Hewlett Packard is the founding partner of one of the first ever instances, the Global STEMx Education Conference, and it starts today (September 19th). The MOOCon idea is incredibly inclusionary because it can offer a quality learning opportunity without the high costs of travel or admission.

TechChange’s mHealth course is incredibly popular, so it became the natural topic for our MOOCon idea. The online conference would run for three days, non-stop, and be open to participation by anyone, anywhere with a connection to the world wide web. Those that join our MOOCon would participate from their computers at work or home in a highly interactive environment.  Participants would have the opportunity to hear from mHealth experts, network with other participants in forums and chat rooms, and engage in public health data simulations. We think this proposal gets to the heart of the challenge,  creating a public-facing innovation that educates and ignites conversation about how mobile phones can harness data and information for the health of our communities.

What do you think of the concept? Have any ideas for the MOOCon or want to put in your opinion? For the next three days all the #Newschallenge entries are open for feedback. Checkout out our Entry and over 600 others at: https://www.newschallenge.org/challenge/healthdata/feedback/massively-open-online-conference-on-mhealth

TechChange takes fun seriouslyWe’re excited to join the Tech Cocktail DC Startup Showcase tomorrow evening at the headquarters of 1776. If you’re attending this Tech Cocktail DC event, you’ll hear from TechChange Founder & CEO, Nick Martin, who has just returned from his travels in Amsterdam and Nairobi.

Nick will speak briefly on what makes TechChange unique among other startups and social enterprises in the DC area. You’ll also be able to check out some of TechChange’s latest online professional courses that are training leading organizations in international development including the World Bank, the U.S. Department of State, and USAID.

Hope to see you there! If you can’t make it, we’ll be live-tweeting the event @TechChange.

Also, don’t forget to vote TechChange for DC’s Hottest Showcasing Startup in the Tech Cocktail DC poll here.

It’s back to school time for many students including incoming Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) freshman, Michael Holachek, who just spent his summer with the TechChange team in Washington, DC. As he starts off his university career in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he reflects on his time as a Junior Programmer Intern a.k.a. “Code Ninja” at TechChange.

How did you hear about TechChange? Earlier this year I was searching the web for summer tech internships in the DC area. That’s when TechChange came into the picture.

Why did you choose TechChange to spend your summer before beginning college? I wanted to work at TechChange for several reasons. First, the job posting for Junior Programmer Intern really appealed to me because it offered a chance to learn cutting-edge web development and system administration skills. I wanted to expand my programming experience in PHP, Javascript, bash, and other languages as well as apply it to real world projects.

But the posted job responsibilities were just part of the story; I also wanted to work at an organization that was rooted in helping people. TechChange’s personal expectations spoke to me: “[interns should exude] a passion for technology, a commitment to education, and a desire to help create social change.” Not only would I be gaining useful skills building software with the latest technologies, but I’d be contributing to a startup dedicated to the global community as well.

What are your interests? I’m interested in programming and web development, as well as Mandarin Chinese. I’m also intrigued by the hardware side of technology. I think I’ll major in electrical engineering and computer science in college. For fun I like playing the alto saxophone, biking, and kayaking.

How did you use your TechChange internship to explore your interests? Over the summer, I set up TechChange’s new server infrastructure, the system that hosts the TechChange website and course platform. I worked closely with TechChange developers to design a system that was both fast and secure, as well as scalable and reliable. The challenge of creating such a system from scratch let me explore everything from the low level hardware to the TechChange user experience. I used this freedom to explore many types of programming and software development, both directly for the current task and more experimental for the future. The practical experience helped me immediately apply my new skills as soon as I learned them. I’ve always been interested in learning more about Linux, networks and servers, and system administration.

I also would occasionally bring in a hobby electronics project I had been working on and explain it to our team. Many people in the office also spoke Mandarin, so it was fun to occasionally brush up on my conversational Chinese.

What did you learn during your time at TechChange? What specific skills have you gained? Every day at TechChange was filled with critical thinking, new programming skills, and business inspiration. I learned that being a sysadmin is difficult! But I also learned a lot about how a startup works.

Specific skills:

  • How to automate servers with Salt Stack

  • Writing quality documentation

  • How to configure nginx web server

  • How to set up WordPress Multiuser on nginx

  • WordPress plugin development

  • Google Pagespeed caching

  • Working in a small development team, ensuring strict adherence to version control standards and diligent task management

  • Time management

Did your TechChange experience end up going as you expected? Well, some might say that! The startup life was much more exciting than I expected—it certainly didn’t just involve programming. S’mores-making Fridays and the occasional “Tim Tam Slam” really kept it interesting.

Was there any aspect about TechChange that surprised you?

While at first I thought the TechChange office (fondly known as the “nerd attic”) was a bit small, I quickly learned that a cozy work area can actually a benefit. There was no communication barrier to asking questions or discussing something. Constantly being exposed to everyone else’s work was also really exciting because I got a preview of all the pieces of TechChange and how they fit together.

Would you come back to work at TechChange one day? Definitely. TechChange has a certain energy that makes me excited about why I’m interested in tech. The combination of a technically-minded but socially conscious group of animators, artists, entrepreneurs, programmers, and writers made my experience at TechChange unique.

What advice would you give to future TechChange interns?

  • Explore everything. TechChange gives you a lot of flexibility both in terms of how you work and what you work on, so make sure to appreciate it and reach out to explore your interests.

  • Bike to work. Although it might sound boring especially if you live far away, biking to work in good weather can be a meditative way to start the day.

Greetings from Nairobi! I’m currently in Kenya to teach a three-day course on technology and social change as part of the Amani Institute’s course in Certificate in Social Innovation Management.

If you’re unfamiliar with the The Amani Institute, they’re a social-change organization focused on: “Preparing next-generation talent to tackle global challenges by filling the gap between university and the workforce through a new approach to higher education.

A little known fact is that the President of the Amani Institute is none other than my good friend Roshan Paul, who was instrumental in the early stages of TechChange. So I’m excited to join him in Nairobi and support Amani Institute and its inaugural class of changemakers.

“Nick: Don’t call it TechPeace, call it TechChange”  – Roshan

I’ll be modeling the lessons after our George Washington University course on Technology for Crisis Response and Good Governance, as well as incorporating a number of new teaching ideas and techniques — many learned after spending a week at THNK school of creative leadership in Amsterdam.

Students will take part in the flagship TechChange zombie apocalypse mobile data collection simulation, a video games for social change unit, Twitter sweepstakes, early tech bingo, as well as a new exercise we’ve built for better understanding the challenges of user acquisition and so much more. Somewhere between and through these fun exercises, this course will also help these young entrepreneurs better understand and use a range of new technology tools for starting an enterprise. Although the Amani Institute isn’t a tech-focused organization, they recognize that the rapid increase of the role of technology in our lives and work mean that social innovators and change agents need to become better at understanding and harnessing technology as a tool for social change. That’s what brought me here!

Thanks again to everyone who turned out for the TechChange & Amani Institute Happy Hour on Wednesday! I’ve posted a few selected pictures below.



Stay tuned for more details (and photos!) from Kenya.