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The “Missing Middle” and the Growth of Social Enterprises

Aleem Walji's picture

SOCAP (via amsterdam.wordpress.the-hub.net)Every fall at Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), the who’s who of impact investing and social enterprise convene in San Francisco to network and share stories about topics like market-based solutions to poverty, social stock exchanges, and just how much capital is waiting to be deployed to solve the world’s toughest problems. It’s inspiring to be sure, especially the growth in the number and diversity of participation. It’s no longer the sole domain of Ashoka, Skoll, and Schwab who have paved the way for so many others. Today, mainstream Banks from Europe to Asia, fund managers, and wealth advisors are sending a signal that doing good and doing well is a more enlightened form of capitalism.

But behind all the feel-good energy and promises that impact investing will be a $50 billion industry by 2020, there are gaps in the story line and challenges that we must confront as a community. First, there is no clear definition of an impact investor. The industry brings together those who are primarily driven by a financial bottom line (finance first) with those who are seeking to optimize a social return without making a loss (impact first), and finally grant makers who are aiming to improve the efficiency of philanthropic capital (largely foundations). Their world views are different, their expected returns are different, and how they use the same vocabulary (e.g. impact, viability, and sustainability) varies widely.

Colombian Indigenous groups in Putumayo, taking action on Climate Adaptation Challenges

Karen Vega's picture

Image credit: Proyecto Madre Tierra

The Zonal Indigenous Organization of Putumayo (OZIP), was one of the 26 the winning institutions that were part of the 2009 Development Marketplace Competition on Climate Adaptation.

They have recently developed their blog to keep us posted! We encourage you to seek more information by visiting their blog in Spanish. You can also see the initial interview to the leaders when in the Development Marketplace Competition held in November 2009 in Washington DC.

Innovation: An Un-Level Playing Field for Developing Countries

Tom Grubisich's picture

Innovation has always been crucial to economic growth, and never more so than in this era of globalisation.  But globalisation can create innovation winners and losers.  The new book Innovation and Growth: Chasing a Moving Frontier, published jointly by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, describes how innovation -- not principally from newer science but the penetration of older, infrastructure-intensive technologies like improved water source and sanitation -- puts developing countries on an un-level playing field compared to developed countries.

A book launch and seminar are being held today from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the World Bank Main Complex (Room MC2-800).  It will feature the book's editors -- Pier Carlo Padoan, Secretary-General and Chief Economist, OECD; Carlos A. Primo Braga, Director, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM), World Bank; Vandana Chandra, Senior Economist, PREM and Development Economics (DEC), World Bank; and Deniz Eröcal, Coordinator, Enhanced Engagement with Non-Member Economies, OECD.

This blog will have more on this event, but here's an excerpt from the book's Introduction summarizing the innovation dilemma:

"In the past few decades, as the international flows of trade, capital and labour have expanded across the global marketplace, the competitiveness and prosperity of high-income economies has come to rely increasingly on their innovative capability. Unlike OECD countries, developing countries’ competitiveness and prosperity remains largely tied to their endowments of natural resources. Their governments have been less successful in fostering technological innovation. Moreover, low productivity levels continue to constrain their competitiveness in the global market.

 "The unique nature of innovative activity and the growing interconnectedness of the world economy call, however, for greater attention to the interplay of openness and technological innovation not only in OECD countries, but also in developing economies.  Innovation systems increasingly rely on 'open' platforms and collaboration side by side with competition. At the same time, the geography of innovation is being redrawn as economic interdependence grows, emerging economies accumulate immaterial assets, and modern communication networks redefine opportunities for 'leapfrogging.' The experience of the so-called 'BRICs' (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is illustrative in this context.