I recently returned from travel to India and East Africa where I attended a round table on social enterprise with the Government of India and met impact investors focused on Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. After listening carefully to entrepreneurs, investors, and government officials, I’m compelled to say something entirely inconsistent with conventional wisdom in the world of impact investing: there is not enough capital to support the pipeline of enterprises focused on solving our most vexing social problems. By social problems, I mean the provision of basic goods and services to the bottom of the economic pyramid where governments and markets often fail.
Take access to energy for example or access to sanitation in much of Africa and South Asia. More than 1.3 billion people on the globe still lack access to electricity and over 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds a child dies because of poor sanitation.
These are public goods and unambiguously the responsibility of public actors. But in reality, governments often don’t have the resources, the will, or the capacity to provide these basic services to many of their citizens. And purely commercial enterprises lack incentives to provide services where financial upside is limited and the ability of poor people to pay is constrained. But this is precisely where inclusive (or socially driven) businesses and social entrepreneurs, for profit and not-for-profit, are innovating and developing new business models to solve our most pressing social challenges.
Villgro, one of the largest incubators and funders of social enterprises in India, is hosting its annual Unconvention from December 1-3. Unlike other platforms, this event attracts people at the intersection of innovation and social enterprise with a clear focus on social impact and generating replicable models. I will be presenting at a panel discussion on December 3rd called Mainstreaming Your Social Business.
At the World Bank, we realize that public goods cannot be provided exclusively by governments acting alone. Private actors have a clear role to play and not just commercial enterprises. In India as elsewhere, we’re seeing the emergence of enterprises that combine the passion of NGO’s with the efficiency of business to address government and market failures. This is an extremely exciting possibility for the Bank and for our client Governments to consider. How do we encourage these actors to complement the State and how do we harness innovations around public goods to better serve the poor? The Development Marketplace is but one of many programs we support to surface, support, and diffuse innovation. The role of the Bank’s Innovation Practice is to pay attention to what’s going on around us and use the convening power and resources of the Bank to shine a light on innovations in development and scale-up what works.
Follow me @AlWalji. I’ll be posting on #devmarket, #Innovation, #alchemix throughout the event.
From more on the Unconvention read the interview of Sucharita Kamath at Vilgro as she describes how the Unconvention will convene different players in the social enterprise ecosystem in India to achieve broad-based social impact.
This article was originally published on http://www.nextbillion.net/. NextBillion is a website and blog bringing together a community in the shared mission of development through enterprise.
Unconvention 2011 Hones in on Landing Top Socent Talent
Since its launch in 2011, Villgro has identified and assisted approximately 2,000 social innovators and positively impacted the lives of more than 360,000 people living in rural India. The organization's strength lies in finding innovators and entrepreneurs, providing skill, development and critical access to networks and other resources necessary to take their innovations to the marketplace. Critical to its continued success is the ability to connect with more homegrown geniuses just waiting to be discovered in every corner of India.