Fostering partnerships, relationships and collaboration is crucial to “opening the door” to scaling innovative solutions from social entrepreneurs that help people around the globe pull themselves out of poverty. This was the resounding message that came out of the 2015 Sankalp Africa Summit, held in Nairobi, Kenya on February 5 and 6.
During the course of the two days, nearly 700 participants from 30 countries came together in Nairobi for learning sessions, networking opportunities, and idea sharing all to help end extreme poverty.
Over the years, the World Bank Group’s Development Marketplace has worked with hundreds of social entrepreneurs around the globe. Through our multifaceted process, we have surfaced and supported hundreds of social entrepreneurs, however, we have come to realize that while financial and capacity support and learning opportunities are crucial in helping these social businesses thrive, it is equally important to support and foster networking and public private dialogue opportunities among relevant actors. The challenges in poverty reduction are difficult to say the least. But, when we come together, we can solve the challenges ahead of us.
The Sankalp Africa Summit or similar learning and networking conferences/events allow social entrepreneurs, the World Bank Group, impact investors, foundations, government officials and other players to come together to share concerns, ideas, and joint solutions to the most important development challenges. During one of the sessions led by the Development Marketplace, I was able to sit on a panel with Tim Chambers, co-Founder of Enterprise Projects Ventures Limited. Speaking to and presenting with Tim, I was inspired by his innovation, but more importantly he taught me through a real life example how partnerships and collaboration are a must in scaling innovations. Let me share a bit of Tim’s story with you:
Tim and his team are taking innovation in small scale processing in fruit and vegetable, dairy, coffee and other products that are popular with smallholders around the world to the market at low cost. They do this by transferring existing processing technology to a new context as well as creating new adaptations to existing technology for the processing industry. Through this approach, they hope to radically reduce losses and increase value captured from food processing at community level, and to equip these facilities with renewable energy to ensure that this growth is both beneficial to the farmers contributing to a more sustainable food system in the long term.
This is a great idea, but in order to scale, Tim soon realized he would have to develop strong and lasting partnerships with diverse ecosystem players. So, he dedicated the majority of his time to search out, and partner with those organizations who could best meet his needs. He met with international organizations, impact investors, research and development firms for years until he was able to create long lasting partnerships.
Because of his hard work, he developed partnerships with larger organizations like Grand Challenges Canada, SIDA Innovations Against Poverty, the UK Technology Strategy Board, and the DOEN Foundation, they were able to pursue risky and radical research that allowed them to ensure they had the most effective and efficient processing solutions: take risks in research and development, that larger organizations usually cannot do. Because of their partnership with technology companies like eGenera and ETA, these innovations were provided the necessary technology they needed. Finally, their partnership with their impact investors, Andrews Charitable Trust and implementing partners, ADAM, didn’t just provide them funding and best practice advice, but worked with the team to find ways to finance new infrastructure development, amongst others.
Looking around the Sankalp Africa Summit, I saw many social entrepreneurs, passionate about helping their fellow citizens, but without the ability and opportunity to partner with crucial organizations like Time and Enterprise Projects Ventures Limited had. Many of them lack the capacity and knowledge to reach sustainability at the national and international level, and are not aware of existing resources from international organizations or governments. This is where conferences such as Sankalp Africa Summit come into play. By bringing together social entrepreneurs, international institutions, foundations, government officials, partnerships, learning, and other challenges can be forged and worked out. The development community must continue to support events like Sankalp to ensure entrepreneurs and the Tims of the world can find the right partners and gain access to knowledge and networking opportunities (including the digital space). Through this, we can partner together, we can collaborate, and work towards a world free of poverty.
Next stop is Global Sankalp Forum in New Delhi, India April 9-10, where some of the 2013 India Development Marketplace grantees will present their models in an exciting and engaging expo with impact investors, other social entrepreneurs, and representatives from international organizations. If Sankalp Africa was a sample of collaboration that can happen between development players, we are on the right track to creating a world free of extreme poverty.