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Innovative Business Models for Better Impact: Why eLearning for Social Entrepreneurs?

Alexandra Endara's picture
Once a week, Don Francisco, a coffee grower in rural Bolivia, travels by foot for 50kms to the closest town, so that he can use the only computer center available in a 90km radius. Once there, he checks New York’s stock market to make sure his coffee cooperative is receiving a fair price for its  product. It was because Don Francisco understood the problem in its entirety – rural Bolivian coffee growers are often cheated out of fair market prices due to a lack of access to information – he was able to devise a workable solution; making him a crucial link between the market and his fellow coffee growers.
 
For 15 years, the Development Marketplace has provided local social entrepreneurs, like Don Francisco, with the resources needed to scale up their home grown solutions to problems that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Our interactions with social entrepreneurs in our 2013 Egypt Development Marketplace and the 2011, 2013, and 2014 India Development Marketplace helped us realize that as social ventures grow, entrepreneurs want to – and need to – acquire various skills to help them become sustainable.
 
Let me emphasize that even though they lack certain skills, social entrepreneurs are experts in issues that impact those living in extreme poverty. They have lived the problem, understand it fully, and created impactful solutions in response. Social entrepreneurs are the closest link to the people we serve, and they have solutions that truly change the lives of our fellow citizens.
 
Through our hands-on capacity development program, these social entrepreneurs learn essential skills they need to scale their models through the government and/or international organizations, such as the World Bank Group. These include creating an effective and concise business plan, financial management, human resources, and monitoring and evaluation, among others. While our winners cohort has made an immense impact, there are numerous social entrepreneurs tackling issues around the globe who need this training. Given the span of social problems and local social enterprises, we do not have the capacity to reach everyone with our tailored capacity development.
 
The virtual environment provided by eLearning allows us to tackle our capacity problem while not compromising our hands-on approach. Innovative Business Models for Social Impact allows us to provide  online learning to the vast amount of social entrepreneurs across the globe. We have implemented different learning methods that promote interaction between facilitators and participants, including weekly calls for participants to discuss  questions about the materials and their ventures. Facilitators not only grade each participant’s work but provide comprehensive feedback to each participant.
 
eLearning is one of the many tools we are using to reach the world’s poorest communities. In addition to providing social entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from the World Bank Group, this practical mechanism helps us understand the needs of social entrepreneurs and the specific challenges they face. We are able to learn from social entrepreneurs on how they have adapted their leadership framework, who are the new and upcoming players in the sector, and identify new innovative business models we might never have known about. In the age of limited capacity for providing face-to-face learning and the vast amount of social entrepreneurs providing life changing services, eLearning offers a welcome solution to reaching the last mile.

Innovative Business Models for Better Impact is a four week eLearning course designed, created, and facilitated by the World Bank Group's Development Marketplace, in collaboration with the Santa Clara University's Global Social Benefit Institute, and the World Bank Group's eInstitute. The pilot ran from January 12, 2015 to February 7, 2015 with 87 participants from across the globe. In addition to the course, the team hosted three webinars. You can see the second webinar, "For-profit, Nonprofit, or Hybrid: the Right Structure for Your Social Business" here.  Given the overwhelming demand for the course (nearly 400 applicants during the two week application period), the Development Marketplace will continue to run the course to ensure social entrepreneurs are learning these crucial lessons in sustainability. In addition to this course, the Development Marketplace team is developing another eLearning course for policy makers and development proffessionals on how to adapt innovative business models into operations and government programs.

Alexandra Endara is the Project Coordinator for the eLearning aspect of the Development Marketplace. This is the first blog post in a series on the impact of eLearning on social innovation, social entrepreneurs, and innovative business models.

Comments

Submitted by Njemo B, Charles on

Indeed, it's a wonderful learning experience with course contents customized to give hands-on training to Nonprofit, For-profit and Hybrid Models.

The M&E phase crowned it all which in my opinion, is among the most essential modules as it cuts across all aspects of the triple model and was just to the point

Thanks and looking forward to phase II.

NBC

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