Earlier this year, we launched our eLearning course for social enterprises in January with a second installment in May. Social enterprises from across the globe – from places we didn’t even think we could reach – applied. So we began to wonder, who are these social enterprises? What are their models? What do they need most to reach the most marginalized populations? So I sat down with Charles Njemo Batumani and Arun Kumar Das, two social entrepreneurs who finished the first installment of our eLearning course in January to see what they’ve done, where they see their enterprises going and why eLearning was a way for them to improve their social enterprise. Charles is building affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Limbe, Cameroon while Arun is developing a natural plant product to combat malnutrition in Odisha, India.
After a day of discussions on how to scale social enterprise innovations to improve health outcomes during an event hosted by the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Innovation Labs and Health Global Practice on June 8th, one clear message emerged – public-private dialogue and collaboration, as well as collaboration between the public sector, the private sector and multilateral organizations such as the WBG is required to reach those living at the last mile.
A prime example of this need can be seen in a mobile phone health clinic program developed by VillageReach, a social enterprise working to provide access to quality health care to underserved communities through an integrated approach.
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.
There is a perfect start, there is a less than perfect start and there is an imperfect start. As a social entrepreneur, the thing I have learned is that it pays to START- even if it’s less than perfect or imperfect.
So, there I was, I had left my job, had no savings, but kept people like Bonti in my mind. But, I had no idea how, or even where to start.
Eye Research Center (ERC) Eye Care was officially founded in the summer of 2011. With the generous help of my mother, we were just one clinic – in her kitchen – in the heart of the city. Although we had a strong mission, we quickly realized that to the outside world, there was nothing to differentiate us from other ophthalmic clinics spread across the city. But what exactly was ERC Eye Care? We had initially set it up as a sole proprietorship, as it was the cheapest and easiest registration process, but we weren’t strictly a for-profit business. Were we a NGO? Or were we something else entirely?
Earlier this year, the World Bank Group Leadership, Learning and Innovation vice presidency’s Development Marketplace program piloted its first eLearning course for social enterprises, “Innovative Business Models for Better Impact.” The course was developed by the DM in collaboration with the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) of Santa Clara University. The goal was to strengthen the capacity of social enterprises and NGOs to develop and implement business models that improve social services to poor populations in order to scale.
In 2005, I took a strategic decision. Much as I loved surgery, I shifted my focus to Tuberculosis, (TB). While I faced criticism and jeers from my colleagues and other NGOs, I quickly realized my next challenge. In order to deliver crucial, life changing services – TB or otherwise – one has to work with the government.
It started with data!
In 2007-08, an evaluation by Catalyst Management Services of a tribal livelihoods initiative for the State Planning Commission of Madhya Pradesh showed that agriculture as a livelihoods option was unproductive and for small tribal farmers; leaving them without a profitable livelihood option. But it wasn’t because of prices, or barriers to entry. Instead, it was because crucial services and government schemes were not reaching those who needed them most.
According to the data, only 10-12% of small producers were able to access vital extension schemes and a mere 7-8% of other government schemes. The evaluation found that large farms were crowding out the smaller farmers from accessing key subsidies and benefits. So the State Planning Commission posed a challenge: find a way to reach these marginalized tribal farmers in Madhya Pradesh.
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:
I graduated from the Government Medical College in Guwahati (Assam) in the summer of 2007 as an ophthalmologist. I was confident that I would start a successful eye care practice in Upper Assam, in my hometown Jorhat. But, starting an eye care practice requires considerable investment, so I opted to start in a corporate hospital at first. The patients were rich, could afford anything, and my paycheck was not something to complain about.
It was not long, before I realized that treating high profile patients was not always a piece of cake. Many times, you not only treat the patient, but also their egos. It was during this realization that I began to hear stories of my fellow Assamese that were nothing like my wealthy patients. Stories like that of Bonti.