31 March 2007

Mission or Profit? CSR and Social Enterprises at the Intersection

Researching an essay I came across an interesting diagram which couldn't express the intersection between business and 'doing good' better. We see that Social Enterprises and CSR are at the heart of the mission-pofit-spectrum. Credit to Kim Alter.

30 March 2007

Entrepreneurship vs. State Direction as the answer for Africa

How to foster Economic Development in Developing Countries? Are Entrepreneurs or State Direction the answer? These questions still remain unanswered after over 50 years of aid agencies working in the field and academics theorizing.

William Easterly wrote his view on this in the Wall Street Journal:

"Economists involved in Africa then and now undervalued free markets, instead coming up with one of the worst ideas ever: state direction by the states least able to direct. The free market is no overnight panacea; it is just the gradual engine that ends poverty. African entrepreneurs have shown what they are capable of. They have, for example, launched the world’s fastest growing cell phone industry to replace the moribund state landlines. What a tragedy, therefore, that aid agencies have foisted the poorest economics on the world on the poorest people in the world for 50 years. The hopeful sign is that many independent Africans themselves are increasingly learning the economics of how to get rich, rather than on how to stay poor."

A commentator on the Private Sector Development Blog of the World Bank, in my opinion, balances Easterly's argument well: "A market based approach which does not define an effective stewardship role for government is as unlikely to produce sustainable development as a statist approach."

This topic is closely related to an essay on "How can Economic Development Policies foster Social Entrepreneurship?" that I started to am write for my Masters... and a super interesting project proposal with Elise and Tomas... more soon!

New German video spot of "Deine Stimme gegen Armut"

"Deine Stimme gegen Armut", the German initiative of the Global Call for Action against Poverty, published their new TV-spot highlighting that every 2 seconds a child is dying because of preventable diseases. Have a look at theire nice and short spot featuring Ben Affleck, Bono, Penelope Cruz, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Claudia Schiffer and many more. Even if you don't speak German it's nicely cut:

22 March 2007

Skoll Makes Awards to 10 Leading Social Entrepreneurs

The well-known Skoll Foundation made its awards to 10 leading Social Entrepreneurs. Each will receive a three-year grant of $1,015,000 to target a social issue in need of urgent attention.

"This year's awardees ... all reflect the essence of a Skoll social entrepreneur: a practical innovator who creates sustainable engines at the grassroots level, putting into place the lasting means to get housing, education, health care and other critical resources to the world's impoverished and vulnerable billions. They offer a model for a new kind of leader who melds the discipline of business with the perspective of those less fortunate, and brings a tough-minded optimism to bear on the biggest challenges confronting our communities, our countries and the planet."

Most of them are very inspiring stories, read for yourself: Recipients of 2007 Skoll Awards

21 March 2007

Using the Market to alleviate Poverty: The next 4 billion customers at the "Bottom of the Pyramid"

From CSR Wire: An International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Resources Institute (WRI) study reveals a $5 trillion market at the "Bottom of the Pyramid."

Professors C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart broke new ground in the poverty alleviation debate almost a decade ago by introducing the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) concept. They flipped on its head the status quo of business, which effectively ignored the majority of people in the world because they live in poverty, by framing the poor as a huge market opportunity that could benefit not only business but also benefit the poor themselves...

This new report helps solidify the BOP agenda by providing documentation of the $5 billion market using income and expenditure data from household surveys.

The 2007 "Fast 50": Profit-driven solutions for what ails the Planet

Every year Fast Company magazine's readers search for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Their goal is to remind the world of all the good that's created when passionate people with big ideas and strong convictions are determined to make a difference.

This years winners range from Arnold Schwarzenegger (fighting greenhouse gases), Nike (eco-design), Deutsche Bank (socially responsible investing) to many yet unsung heroes. Read about the complete Fast 50. Short on time? Watch a fast slideshow.

17 March 2007

What's the best way to loan an entrepreneur $20? Microfinance Test

The online magazine Slate has an interesting article on peer-to-peer microfinance organizations. Via their websites you can select the entrepreneur to whom your money will go yourself; like ebay for microloans. Read the full what's the best way to loan a poor entrepreneur $20? article.

Slate's winner: "Kiva combines online community with microlending in a way that's truly exciting. It's remarkably compelling to see your borrower face to face..." Got interested? Invest via Kiva.

13 March 2007

Convergence between Businesses and Nonprofits

An interesting article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review describes how Nonprofits and businesses are converging - in the value they create, the stakeholders they manage, the organizations they form, and the financial instruments they use.

Examples include that IBM partners with the nonprofit Women in Technology to co-host an engineering camp for middle-school girls and has become a national champion for excellence in public education. And though Goodwill Industries still accepts donations, it’s as much a booming business as it is a charity: Goodwill’s $2.21 billion in revenue from nearly 2,000 stores made it one of the top 15 discount retailers in the United States. The authors claim that IBM and Goodwill are not alone.

Nonprofits and businesses are converging much more quickly, broadly, and deeply than most people suspect. This multifaceted melding of the sectors creates opportunities to improve not only nonprofits and businesses, but also society as a whole. Seizing these opportunities, however, requires a new managerial mind-set. The leaders of nonprofits and businesses would be wise to shift their current mind-set from one of “us and them” to one of “we”. Where are the new managers with this mind-set?

Read the full Stanford Social Innovation Review article.

11 March 2007

'MDG Scan': Benchmarking business contribution on poverty reduction

Does the presence of Heineken beer in Sierra Leone contribute to reduction of child mortality? And to what extent does a chemicals company contribute to prevent environmental damage?

The Dutch have set up an 'MDG Scan' to keep the score on what multinational companies do towards realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In September 2000, the United Nations member countries made a commitment to reaching eight MDGs by 2015, such as halving the proportion of people suffering extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The Dutch Commission on Sustainable Research (NCDO) has now financed the MDG Scan as a tool to raise awareness of the MDGs in the private sector. The scan allows for detailed comparisons between companies within the same sector and evaluation of the progress of a company over time. ...

The United Nations Development and the Global Compact, the UN's voluntary corporate responsibility initiative, have already shown interest in the MDG Scan. The MDG Scan will be made available online later this year as a self-assessment tool in a slightly modified version. "Companies and stakeholders have asked us to attribute more weight to performance indicators that measure real impact results," Lubberts said.

Read the full article on IPS News and World Bank's Private Sector Development Blog.

Also interesting is a MDG Measurement Framework paper and World Bank's Business and MDG website.

03 March 2007

Ban Ki-moon: "Information technology plays key role in fostering development"

"Information and communications technologies (ICT) are crucial in spurring development, dignity and peace... Let us turn the digital divide into digital opportunity.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

To leverage ICT-technology for development is a "natural" interest for me after having worked many years for Siemens and Palm. But to transfer it into real action for development is still a big step. Therefore, it's very interesting that the UN called for a meeting with an alliance of ICT companies including Intel in the Silicon Valley.

“It’s time to focus on actions with results, not protocol. Our focus can improve people’s lives.” said Craig Barrett, Global Alliance Chair and Intel Corporation Chairman. Read more at UN News.

01 March 2007

Acumen Fund uses entrepreneurial approaches against poverty

The idea using of entrepreneurial approaches to solve problems of global poverty is close to my heart as a "business man" with a passion to "MakePovertyHistory". The non-profit Acumen Fund seeks to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor. Their investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services – like health, water and housing – through innovative, market-oriented approaches.

Therefore when I first learned about Acumen Fund, I followed them closely and when they recently announced a fellowship program, I had to apply. They have offices in New York and India as well as operations in Africa... it seems to be a great match between Acumen's and my mission, let's hope it works out. Read more about them in BusinessWeek or Acumen's website.

BusinessWeek: Doing well by doing good

Societal and environmental responsible corporate behavior is slowly but steadily becoming mainstream. BusinessWeek dedicates the latest cover story to Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) which the UN Global Compact is promoting.

Here a nice table of companies who are doing well by doing good. Examples include Toyota with its hybrid car Prius, Dell who recycles its computers and many other global players.