“Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it,” renowned Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said to an overflowing room at the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Washington, DC this summer. “Set up a social business.”
“The poor are like Bonsai trees,” the founder of Grameen Bank explained, “When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch-deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on."
Traditionally innovation and entrepreneurship are seen as drivers of jobs and competitiveness, however we think it can also be an important driver of inclusiveness and social development.
We see how private actors are driving social development – the example of the Development Marketplace and its spin-off Social Enterprise Innovations program demonstrate the potential for scaling inclusive businesses, grassroots innovations and social entrepreneurship to solve development challenges like sanitation, clean water, early childhood nutrition, health-care services, and many more. We have examples in our portfolio of how social enterprises are delivering low cost TB treatments in poor communities, delivering clean water to urban and rural poor, and offering education opportunities to girls.
My father was a pharmacist in Giza, Egypt, with a number of pharmacies dotted throughout the city. Growing up, he engaged me in discussions on public and current affairs and encouraged me to argue my opinions on what was happening in our community. He frequently took me to historical places around Egypt - recounting heroic and brave stories of our past - and ingrained in me pride in our country: a deep unwavering love for Egypt.
One year ago, Kumar began renting out 40 Selco solar-powered batteries to the people living in his slum community in the heart of Bangalore. Prior to this, 400 families were left to rely on cheap, easily breakable lights, dangerous and flammable kerosene lamps, or simple darkness. Without affordable energy, the inhabitants of Kumar’s slum lose hours of otherwise productive time that would allow them to build a pathway out of the slum, and into a secure life. Within months, demand for Selco’s rechargeable batteries sky-rocketed and Kumar increased his inventory to 86. Now, he is requesting yet another 50.
We traveled down a bumpy, dirt road in the rural areas of West Bengal towards a village called Bolpur. Three hours after leaving Kolkata, the car pulled up to an unassuming concrete building. The health care worker who accompanied us for this ride jumped out enthusiastically and immediately spoke into her megaphone. “Not feeling well?” she called out to the village, “Need a quick check up? Come and visit us for the next hour and a half.” Here, in a small village, at an unassuming building, we had found ourselves at an iKure spot camp.
iKure - a Kolkata-based social enterprise dedicated to bringing affordable health care to India’s poorest populations - has created these spot camps as an integral part of their inventive model for a network of health clinics in India’s rural areas. In addition to providing access to doctors and medicine prescriptions, they provide the necessary outreach to tell villagers about where and when the clinics are and how they can access medical consultations and medicine.
On a warm Friday afternoon in the slums of Madhukam, in the heart of Ranchi, India, a middle-aged man arrived at a public water station with two 20-liter containers to fill. The water station - directly adjacent to an open sewage drain - was really just a concerete wall with four pink spigots protruding from its barren surface. On top perched two large, seemingly empty holding tanks of water. The man placed one of his containers under the first spigot and turned the handle. A small flow of water came out. Within a minute, the flow turned into a trickle, and the trickle quickly became nothing. The man moved to the next spigot, and then the next, only to have all four repeat the same pattern. In the end, the man left carrying only six ounces of water in his two 20-liter containers.
For 15 years the World Bank Group’s Development Marketplace (DM) has identified innovative social entrepreneurs who tackle service delivery bottlenecks that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations. Originally a competitive grants program, the DM has grown over the years into a multi-faceted program that identifies these entrepreneurs, analyzes their specific needs, and maps out the problems they face and the solutions they offer. Through this approach, the DM is able to assist these organizations in breaking down service delivery barriers so that other social entrepreneurs and the public sector can follow their lead: eventually helping to create a world free of extreme poverty and raising incomes so that we all share in the world’s prosperity.