Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

A Practical Roadmap for Next Generation BOP

I just finished reading Next Generation Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid, a new book by co-editors Ted London and Stuart L. Hart. The book sets out to lay the foundations for the second generation of bottom of the pyramid (BOP) innovation,”BOP 2.0″ if you will, fundamentally shifting the framework from finding the fortune at the BOP to creating fortune with the BOP.

Lying at the heart of this crucial and innovative concept of creating fortune with the BOP is market creation, rather than market entry in and of itself. Recognizing that the world’s poor are not just four billion consumers, but also a source of entrepreneurial talent, this book sets out to redefine the boundaries of BOP business strategies with cross-sector partnerships between multi-lateral donors, development organizations, and the poor themselves, to create new markets at the BOP and tap into these markets collaboratively. A multitude of incentive structures secure the value of this new concept, one that paves the way not only for potential corporate profits in a new market, but also the the development community’s goal of poverty alleviation.

This cross-sectoral approach, and the potential of these partnerships, makes this book not just insightful reading on BOP strategies for businesses and entrepreneurs, but also for those leading and designing innovative programs in international development, recognizing that we still have a long way to go in alleviating poverty and that such inclusive growth strategies and cross-sector solutions might bring us closer towards this goal.

The insight from this new book provides a wide-reaching re-framing of the challenges and opportunities at the BOP. The highlight in reading the book however is that it’s chock-full of practical insight from both stories of success and failure of new business ventures at the BOP, with the co-editors and co-authors weaving together expertise in corporate venture development with deep practitioner experience at the BOP.

To find more information about the book and buy a copy, visit www.nextgenerationbop.com

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A Company Prospers by Saving Poor People’s Lives

It all started with mosquito nets. Or, no, with guinea worm filters. Or, before that, with a million yards of wool in the mountains of Sweden. Or, taken back another generation, to uniforms for hotel and supermarket workers. There are plenty of charitable foundations and public agencies devoted to helping the world’s poor, many with instantly recognizable names like Unicef or the Gates Foundation. But private companies with that as their sole focus are rare. Even the best-known is not remotely a household name: Vestergaard-Frandsen.

Its products are in use in refugee camps and disaster areas all over the third world: PermaNet, a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide; ZeroFly, a tent tarp that kills flies; and the LifeStraw, a filter worn around the neck that makes filthy water safe to drink. Some are not only life-saving but even beautiful. The turquoise and navy blue LifeStraw is in museum design collections.

“Vestergaard is just different from other companies we work with,” said Kevin Starace, malaria adviser for the United Nations Foundation. “They think of the end user as a consumer rather than as a patient or a victim.” For example, he said, they have added a cellphone pocket to their bed nets, and make window curtains that kill bugs.


Read more about this company and the work they are doing to help the world’s poor in the NYT’s article here

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The World Health Organization believes that 25% of the medicines sold around the developing world are inauthentic copies containing little or no active ingredients. Medication like this increases the resistance of pathogens to first-line medication and in many cases causes fatality.

But what if a mother caring for her sick child who needs a prescription drug in rural Ghana, could determine by a quick SMS/text-message via her cellphone that the prescription drug she intends to purchase is safe for her child and not a fake?

mPedigree, a Ghanaian start-up, is working to make this a reality throughout Africa. I recently met one of the founders, Bright Simons, a dynamic, young social entrepreneur from Ghana, who is on a mission to find partners and investors and spread the word about mPedigree. If mPedigree is able to forge the public-private partnerships necessary between governments, the pharmaceutical industries, and telecom giants, this technology may well become a revolutionary force in bringing access to safe drugs to people across the developing world.

Read about mPedigree’s approach and Bright’s efforts in this interview with him in June 2008:
MPedigree: Combating Counterfeit Drugs

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Net Impact: The New Appeal of Metrics and Evaluation
By Kelly McCarth
Published: www.nextbillion.net, November 18, 2008 

“There was a lot of buzz about “impact” last weekend at the  Net Impact Conference. However, this year it wasn’t just talk about creating impact, but most importantly how we consider, measure and prove it.  Perhaps the word was being used too liberally lately thus loosing a bit of its meaning.  

However, as I listened to many organizations whose work intends to generate positive environmental and social impact, it became apparent that a shift is occurring.  Rather than talking simply about impact in anecdotes and what was better than before, foundations, funds, design-for-impact, not-for-profit (and not-for-loss) organizations alike were talking about a “social capital market,as. Jason Saul, CEO of Mission Measurement, summed it up during one of the panels. 

Following are some of the thoughts that came to mind from the perspective of metrics and evaluation while attending some of the sessions at the conference.

In a session titled Hype vs. Reality, panelists dug into the nitty-gritty of how we measure, monitor, and evaluate our work.  “Everyone does knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation poorly,” said Elizabeth Nitze, VP of Ashoka.  “After so much time we in the enterprise development sector are looking around wondering, what the heck happened?  What are the best-practices?  There are none.” There was a unanimous nod of heads from fellow panelists and audience members around the room.  However, in a sector that believes in the positive potential impacts of social entrepreneurs, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

Indeed, the conversation turned optimistic as panelists Brian Milder (from Root Captial) and Elizabeth Wallace Elders (from globalislocal) joined Nitze in a discussion about the mash-up of innovative minds at Google.orgSalesforce, and Acumen Fund leading the effort to develop what is currently being called the Portfolio Data Management System (PDMS).  Officially announced at theClinton Global Initiative, the PDMS is a web-based tool designed to track, share, and compare portfolio performance data with the ultimate intention of helping the enterprise development community better manage, communicate, and maximize our collective impact.

This is all well and good, but does it pass the “so what” test?  And will other efforts similar to the PDMS actually help improve how we talk about and demonstrate impact?” Read more here.


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Today’s IHT has a fascinating article about an organization called NetHope that is working on the utilization of technology to improve the implementation of humanitarian aid around the world.

NetHope bringing technology to humanitarian efforts
By Julie Bick
Published in: International Herald Tribune, November 11, 2008

“Rui Lopes’s first impression of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami was chaos. Bone-jarringly rough roads led to a hastily assembled field office, where Lopes, the senior technical director of Save the Children, learned that the communications infrastructure, along with just about everything else, had been destroyed.

Aside from a few satellite phones and even fewer working mobile phones, the area was isolated as relief workers scrambled to assess the security situation and address the vast humanitarian needs.” Read the full article here… 

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This year Blog Action Day is all about one issue – poverty

I want to focus on the ideas and work of one man I recently got to know, Fred Swaniker. Fred is a man with big ideas. His big ideas have led to the creation of numerous innovative educational programs and are changing the lives of many young people around the world.

A serial education entrepreneur from Africa, his most recent venture is the establishment of a sixth-form college (junior and senior year of high school) for promising students from across Africa. Last month, he opened the doors to the first class at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fred and the school’s founders are building the foundations for the next generation of African leadership to meet the diverse challenges facing countries across the continent. In fact, he wants to train 6,000 young leaders over the next 50 years across all segments of society who will create change across Africa.

The young leaders that the school has accepted are incredible individuals. Meet one of the first students at ALA, William Kamkwamba from Malawi in this short clip:



Africa faces enormous challenges to development and poverty remains firmly entrenched in some countries. But the future of Africa is being changed everyday by inspiring and driven individuals like Fred Swaniker and the young leaders that Fred and the African Leadership Academy (ALA) are investing in. These individuals are making poverty history every day.


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From the TEDBlog:

For four weeks at IDDS, some 50 students from more than 20 countries designed and built new tools that could improve quality of life in some of the world’s poorest communities. Among the projects:

* A device for decreasing the transmission rate of HIV/AIDS from mothers to their babies
* A charcoal-crushing machine to help make charcoal briquettes from carbonized corn cobs
* A rope-way system to help craftswomen in the Himalayas get their products to market
* An incubator for low-birth-weight babies …

Listen to a radio news story about IDDS 2008 on WBUR radio’s program Here & Now >> 
Watch a video report on IDDS 2008 from MIT’s News office >> 
Follow IDDS 2008 on its day-by-day blog >>

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 Since August 2007, I have been working outside of Quito, Ecuador with a small  NGO  called Manna Project International (MPI).  MPI grew out of the dream of  some Vanderbilt students in 2004 as a sort of Peace Corps alternative – rather  than  two years of working solo in a strange land, MPI volunteers serve for one  year in  groups of seven to ten, at one of MPI’s two international sites. 

 I started my MPI career early, inspired and humbled by a trip that MPI’s founder  Luke Putnam and I took to Lima, Peru. Shortly after our group’s week playing  and  working with street children at an orphanage there, Luke had decided to  start MPI  in Managua, Nicaragua. He asked me to help set up MPI’s first  campus chapter at  Vanderbilt. 

 Four years later, we launched MPI’s first international expansion to Quito,  Ecuador.  Our starting group of yearlong volunteers (which we call Program  Directors, or PDs) came from five states and four different universities, and have been trying – with mixed success – to apply the scattered and bookish knowledge of community and international development we learned about in college. MPI is commited to holistic development, picking a single geographic location rather than a programmatic theme as its focus. (more…)

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Across the developing world, mobile phone technology and the Internet are playing an increasing role in linking suppliers of goods directly with traders. The “Linking Local Learners” method discussed in this article by Dr. Clive Lightfoot explores how this approach is being utilized to more efficiently supply agricultural produce markets in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. 

Making Stronger Links
By Dr. Clive Lightfoot
Published in: ICT Update: Issue 44

“Using the internet and mobile phones, farmers in East Africa learn to work more efficiently with the traders who buy their goods. The Linking Local Learners method of learning explores how farmers can access market information and get a fairer deal.

Farmers often complain about the low prices they get for their goods. In fact, many feel cheated by the middlemen who buy their products, especially when they see the prices retailers ask for their tomatoes, oranges or bananas in the market. These middlemen, meanwhile, complain about the poor quality of goods the farmers supply and the retailers grumble that the stock arrives too late to fetch the best price.

With everyone so unhappy about how business is done, farmers and traders in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are now trying a different way of working together.” Continue reading…

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The Pioneers of Prosperity Program searches for entrepreneurs operating sustainable, for-profit businesses to highlight them as role models for development and change within the world’s poorest countries. The documentary film “Unlocking Africa” features the 2007 business winners that were selected as role models from five countries in East Africa—Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Check out the trailer below and head to their website here to watch the full-length film.

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