Photo Credit: Kathleen Bence via Flickr Creative Commons
I’ve been looking for a good definition of social enterprise. The information overlords at Google and Wikipedia suggested this:
“A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.”
That’s a pretty broad and somewhat unsatisfying definition. I mean: “What organization in the 21st century wouldn’t put human and environmental development, social impact and profit high on their agenda?” – (He asks naïvely.)
Infrastructure professionals think a lot about social enterprise, but in a slightly different way. There is of course the unrelated term “social infrastructure,” which broadly covers public services such as healthcare, education, leisure and other government services. But really what we think about when it comes to social enterprise is “infrastructure morality.”
In an environment rife with natural disasters, Japan recognizes that climate change is a tangible reality that increases the intensity and frequency of these disasters. The country knows very well the threat they pose not only to its people, economy, or infrastructure, but also to its cultural heritage.
Intangible culture is equally important, especially helping people in the recovery process and ensuring that we learn from the past. Take for instance the example of ancient local knowledge used around the world, and ask yourself: are we listening to our ancestors’ warnings?
“City plans must fit the people, not the other way round.” Jane Jacobs, journalist and urban studies author
Ibadan, the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano, has organically grown from around 60,000 inhabitants in the early 1800’s to more than three million today, and is projected to reach 5.6 million by 2033. The city’s urban footprint continues to sprawl due to weak land use planning that leads to the proliferation of informal settlements in flood prone areas.
The 70’s were waning and the loudspeaker was still blaring disco. The celebration in this middle class New Delhi neighborhood was noticeable. It was a party to welcome a new car, which like a new bride was decked with marigold garlands. Neighbors had joined the obligatory prayer ceremony in anticipation of a festive lunch. The auspicious coconut was broken and a plump lemon crushed under the tire to ward off evil jealous eyes. A child birth in this neighborhood was rarely celebrated as grandly. Maybe unlike a baby, the car had come after ten long years of excruciating wait and bribes.
Below the garish decorations, the car was technologically from the World War era. Adorned with cheap interiors. It was pretentiously named “Ambassador” and for 50 years, it reigned as the queen of Indian roads. It should have been named “liberator” instead. It liberated the aspiring middle class from the indignities of soul crushing congestion and the curling stench of the Delhi Transport Corporation buses.
When it came to public transportation in pre-1990s India, the bus was a metaphor for socialism, where everyone riding was equal and equally miserable. The car on other hand signified individual liberty, a symbol of capitalism. This fundamental struggle and human desire to balance liberty and equality has historically and philosophically defined the debate on the preferred mode of transportation, Public-Private Partnerships and the role of Information and Communication Technologies.
About one in three urban residents (over 900 million people) in developing markets live in informal settlements. Do these slums help lift people out of poverty by providing affordable entry points to access urban assets, services and livelihoods? Or do they confine people to enduring hardship and vulnerability in squalid and unsafe environments with little prospect of upward mobility?
To many people, it is a surprise to learn that in an age of such advanced technology, at least 663 million people still lack access to basic needs, like safe drinking water, or that 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, such as a toilet or latrine. And while much progress has been made, receiving safe drinking water 24 hours a day, seven days a week simply by turning a tap is still a dream for many in the developing world.
Even fewer realize this is not just a problem for families, but also for those on which families rely and that also need water: the farmers who grow the families’ food, the environment that protects and sustains their homes and communities, the businesses that employ them, the cities that house them, the schools that educate their children, the clinics and hospitals that treat them, and even the power plants that generate their electricity.
Why does this challenge persist? How can this challenge be met? And an increasingly urgent question: is there enough water to go around?
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of Into Africa (PDF), a publication of Capital Markets in Africa. An abbreviated version is reprinted here with their permission.
Africa is widely acknowledged as being the ‘preeminent emerging markets investment destination’ attracting global investors across all sectors. Investors seeking relatively higher risk-adjusted returns are appraising opportunities across the consumer sector, services and infrastructure.
However, one of the key constraints to economic growth in Africa is the lack of adequate and well-maintained infrastructure. Various studies on the infrastructure deficit have been carried out by multi-lateral agencies, most notably a World Bank study which revealed that the annual financial requirement for infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is about US$93 billion a year for both capital expenditures and maintenance. To finance this, only US$45 billion is being mobilized, two-thirds paid for by African governments and citizens, 8% by multilateral and bilateral donors and the rest by the private sector in emerging economies. There is therefore an estimated funding gap of US$50 billion a year.
There is no better way to mark this year’s World Cities Day than reflecting on the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the recent Habitat III conference in Quito. The agenda reaffirms the political commitment to sustainable urbanization and provides a framework to guide global urban development over the next 20 years, based on .
In an era of rapid urbanization and climate change, managing urban growth sustainably and
Already, more than half of the global population — nearly 4 billion people — live in urban areas. Two decades from now, that number will grow to 5.5 billion — more than 60 percent of the world’s population. At the same time, the total built-up area of the world’s cities is expected to be double by 2030 what it is today, if not more.
Because urban-planning decisions lock cities in for generations, With that in mind, one may ask:
I can imagine two opposite ends of the spectrum.
Can nature help cities address the twin problems of air that is too dirty or too hot? Based on a new report released by The Nature Conservancy – in collaboration with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group - the answer appears to be a qualified “yes.”
The Planting Healthy Air report identifies the potential return on investment from tree planting in 245 global cities, which currently house about a quarter of the world’s urban population. By collecting and analyzing geospatial information on forest and land cover, particulate matter, and population density and leveraging existing literature, the study estimates the scope of current and future street trees to make urban air healthier. The benefits that trees could afford to cities will be even more crucial in the future, the study finds, as a quarter million people could die each year because of urban heat by 2050, unless cities take proactive steps to adapt to global warming.
In our previous blogs: Fecal Sludge Management: the invisible elephant in urban sanitation, 5 lessons to manage fecal sludge better, and A tale of two cities: how cities can improve fecal sludge management, we outlined the neglect of Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) and presented new tools for diagnosing urban sanitation challenges and how they can be used. Today, on World Cities Day, we are looking more deeply into a city — Lima, Peru, to shed light on how cities around the world can meet opportunities and address challenges of urbanization including providing improved sanitation for a rapidly growing number of urban residents.