From gender inequality to fraud: Solving old challenges with new thinking
CSR programmes supported by KPMG harness creativity, commitment and energy
Martin Woods (developer engineer), Irish Times MD Liam Kavanagh, Niall Dennehy (co-founder), Danny Curran (director of growth) and Nicola Paoli (blockchain developer) from AID:Tech at the Irish Times Innovation Awards 2018. Photograph: Conor McCabe.
Not all innovation takes place in the pharma and tech sectors and many of the best ideas have come as a result of everyday frustrations with things that could be done better, according to Shaun Murphy, managing partner at professional services firm KPMG.
“Promoting innovation has many facets,” he says. “KPMG places an emphasis on a range of innovation initiatives designed to showcase innovative role models and support networking or mentoring programmes that can promote innovation.”
One such programme cited by Murphy is The Irish Times Innovation Awards of which the firm is a sponsor. “One of the most valuable aspects of programmes like these is the way they demonstrate how long-standing challenges can be solved by both innovative thinking and the application of new technology.”
KPMG has sponsored the fintech category at the awards for several years. Aid:Tech won both the fintech category and the overall innovation award earlier this month. The company recognised the challenge of ensuring that aid money doesn’t always reach its intended beneficiary due to fraud. The Aid:Tech software provides a blockchain-based solution to ensuring aid reaches the intended beneficiary by providing a secure identity for the recipient.
“Aid:Tech estimated that up to 30 per cent of aid goes missing every year,” says Murphy. “The value of recognising this type of innovation lies both in encouraging and profiling winners but of equal importance, providing role models for others to explore how long-term challenges for humanity can be solved.”
The value of role models has been recognised by the firm in many other related areas including that of women in business.
One example highlighted by Murphy is “Going for Growth”. This initiative, co-supported by Enterprise Ireland, is focused on women business owner-managers who have been running their companies for at least two years. Through peer support, the programme helps overcome the challenges experienced by many women in business.
Going for Growth has been in place for almost a decade and is designed to be action and results-oriented. According to Murphy the feedback from participants has been hugely positive.
Recognising the importance of equality and diversity and supporting equal recognition of women in every sphere of their lives has to be more than an aspiration
“Our teams have met with and held workshops for a wide number of highly innovative women from various sectors who needed early stage support in areas such as tax, regulation or corporate finance.”
And what about the measurable impact of this approach? At the end of the 10th and most recent cycle, the 65 participants reported combined sales of €66.8 million and had created an additional 90 full-time jobs, bringing to over 740 the total number employed since the programme began. Murphy says Going for Growth has “helped provide the foundations for a successful business while allowing the participants to focus on what they do best in terms of product development, market testing and commercialisation.”
Innovative thinking about how alliances can help solve problems or bigger societal issues is also important. Through its commitment to citizenship and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) related activity, the firm harnesses the innovation and commitment of its own people to areas such as lifelong learning in supporting educational programmes in schools and the promotion of Stem subjects.
Murphy also highlights the firm’s support for “20x20”, a highly innovative nationwide programme designed to increase the participation, attendance and media coverage of women in sport by 20 per cent by 2020.
“Recognising the importance of equality and diversity and supporting equal recognition of women in every sphere of their lives has to be more than an aspiration” he says. “The aim of 20x20 is to create a measurable cultural shift in our society. The ambition and talent of women in sport deserves equal recognition and 20x20 can make a significant difference to this objective.”
He pays tribute to Sarah Colgan, of creative agency Along Came a Spider, who had the original idea for 20x20.
“Sarah recognised not just the issue of under-participation and low media coverage, but also that a lack of role models in women in sport was inhibiting greater participation by girls and women.”
Murphy believes that one of the factors in 20x20’s success to date was the recognition that innovative approaches were needed to find solutions to these challenges. KPMG partners with AIG, Investec, Lidl, and Three in supporting the 20x20 programme which now has an all island dimension. The programme promotes the combined impact of the women in sport sponsored by these organisations in a single campaign to great effect.
“This is a powerful example of innovative thinking which recognises not just the issue, but creative ways of harnessing the diverse skills, resources and influencing capability of a very wide number of organisations and individuals to make a measurable difference and we are very proud to be involved,” says Murphy. “The reaction of our people has been magnificent.”