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May 2017

Scaling up inclusive innovations: 10 lessons for donors

Johannes Linn's picture
Women in Jharkhand, India
Women in Jharkhand, India. © Natalia Agapitova/World Bank

Only a small fraction of women in rural India have a bank account, reinforcing existing gender inequity. Without access to financial services, women miss out on government benefits, like cash transfers. Alternative for India Development (AID) delivers financial products to women and other underprivileged populations through a unique business model. In partnership with the government and commercial banks, AID established more than 600 Common Service Centers that serve as one-stop delivery points to financial and government services. In just three years of operation, AID opened 200,000 deposit accounts, one-third of which belong to women. Thanks to these accounts, underprivileged populations was able to receive pensions, government subsidies and access free savings accounts.

AID is just one of a large and growing number of businesses that combine profits with impressive development results. These businesses are known as social enterprises, and the innovations they develop play a critical role in providing life-improving goods, services, and employment to hundreds of millions of poor people. Social enterprises can be distinguished from other public and private organizations by the fact that they pursue social objectives through commercially viable business models and are independent from the government.
In his recent blog, World Bank Group President Jim Kim urged the development community to partner with social enterprises to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This will require a different approach to scaling results of successful social enterprises, their inclusive innovations, and business models. In a recent Brookings Working Paper we reviewed the literature and experience with scaling up social enterprise innovations and summarized lessons for how scaling up can be best managed. Here we briefly explore the main implications for external donors.