Unusual Partners

Social pocurement: Buying from social businesses to spark change.

Buy from social businesses to inspire customers, engage employees and pave the way to creating inclusive value chains.

About the programme

Through our work and research, we have observed the many opportunities for social procurement (i.e. buying products or services from social businesses). But also the challenges. Based on these insights, we have worked with key partners to develop the Unusual Partners program.

The Unusual Partners (UP) program is a 12-month program for sourcing managers and social businesses. It establishes commercial partnerships between your company and social businesses that are hand-picked based on your needs. The program fast-tracks social businesses to become corporate-ready – and it helps you to become social business-ready.

Why it matters

  1. Reduce costs: The program significantly reduces the costs for engaging with social businesses.
  2. Resilient supply chains: By integrating social businesses in your supply chain, you improve resilience against external shocks.
  3. Meet your sustainability goals: Meet your company’s sustainability goals and improve your ESG rating through effective social procurement.
  4. Employee-engagement: Retain, attract and develop talent with sustainability skills & expertise.

How the programme works

Starting with your sourcing needs

We preselect social businesses and work with you both to set learning goals for the programme to fast-track you towards a commercial partnership.

Connecting the two worlds

The World Economic Forum’s COVID Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs reaches over 80,000 impact businesses. The Unusual Partners programme actively sources ventures from its network to fit your specific needs.

A learning track for both sides

We understand that both sides need to be ready to work with each other. We help you to learn more about social businesses. Tap into a rich learning environment about social sourcing and impact.

Programme strucutre


  • Sourcing Criteria: We work with you to identify your needs and identify minimum sourcing criteria.
  • Active Sourcing: We source social businesses based on the needs assessment throughout the network of WEF Alliance members.
  • Pre-Selection: Based on a long-list of social entrepreneurs, you get the chance to pre-select the most likely candidates for a partnership.
  • Needs Assessment: We identify your key areas of personal growth and learning that you’d like to address throughout the program


  • Sourcing Connection: Based on your selection, we organize sessions between you and social businesses to learn more about each other and deep-dive on the potential for a sourcing partnership.
  • Selection: You select and “adopt” the most promising social businesses for your sourcing needs.
  • Goal Setting: Together, you set objectives and key results that you and the social business want to achieve over the course of the program to address the remaining gap in readiness on both sides.


  • Social Business Support: Based on your input, we design the content of the 12-month support program for each social business. We cover key topics (e.g. quality control, financial readiness, certification, etc.) through a network of local intermediaries and industry-specific experts.
  • Corporate Support: Throughout the program, you and your sourcing managers get the chance to participate in a rich, light-touch curriculum to learn more about impact management, social business and best practices for working with social businesses.


  • Customer Success: At the end of the program, we maintain contact with you and the social business to moderate the contracting period.
Comparable to a “customer success” function, this phase ensures that early relationships run successfully and without issues being “lost in translation”.
  • Impact Measurement: We assess the impact of the program on the capabilities of the social businesses and yourself as a sourcing manager.

Want to start your social-intrapreneurship journey?