For 15 years the World Bank Group’s Development Marketplace (DM) has identified innovative social entrepreneurs who tackle service delivery bottlenecks that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations. Originally a competitive grants program, the DM has grown over the years into a multi-faceted program that identifies these entrepreneurs, analyzes their specific needs, and maps out the problems they face and the solutions they offer. Through this approach, the DM is able to assist these organizations in breaking down service delivery barriers so that other social entrepreneurs and the public sector can follow their lead: eventually helping to create a world free of extreme poverty and raising incomes so that we all share in the world’s prosperity.
Through our work in some of the most fragile areas of developing countries, the DM has been able to unearth a number of trends that affect these social entrepreneurs and their impact. One such trend is the great interest the private sector has shown in supplying investment capital not only to receive attractive financial returns – as in the traditional private sector space – but to have a positive impact on the world as well. Unfortunately, the desperately needed investment capital has not reached these social entrepreneurs because, while they can offer immense social impact, they struggle to provide the larger financial returns expected by the private sector.
While this trend can be worrisome, the DM offers a platform that bridges this funding gap and provides essential capacity development and technical assistance so that these entrepreneurs can become financially, economically, and socially sustainable.