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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Connecting Dots ...

By Francisco Noguera

Connect DotsLast Friday Rob wrote news about new Base of the Pyramid conversations taking place, this time in Davos. Great news indeed. For those who can attend, venues like that of Davos (or the one starting tomorrow in Long Beach) are the time of the year when they allow their brains get picked by new trends, challenges and ideas. Connections take place, not only in the form of business card exchanges but most importantly inside their minds, among concepts and issues, dots that previously seemed somewhat disconnected.

Rob also promised a more in depth analysis of the content of the Next Billions reports on our behalf. However, I've decided not to focus my scarce bandwidth on that tonight. The reports are available for everyone to read and I encourage you to do so. I encourage interested readers to leave their comments and raise particular aspects of interest for discussion.

I don't think the impact of WEF's reports (or any book/ report for that matter) will come from their detailed contents, hence my choice not to write detailed analysis tonight. They are valuable but not how-to manuals. The reports become significant as long as they're able to spark curiosity in readers, which may eventually drive them to continue exploring relationships between seemingly disconnected dots --development and enterprise in this case-- by reading further into them, looking for other sources, or taking action.

Just as part of the Davos-and-beyond WEF audiences are beginning to explore the connection between development and enterprise (and food security and enterprise through their second report), I am myself starting to to wonder and explore into what I think will be the defining "connection" during our generation and for the development community in particular: that between climate change and poverty.

I've been wondering about this for a while, motivated by unusual observations I made in recent trips to Colombia, where I saw unusually harsh and devastating floodings taking place last year and coast cities like Cartagena seeing sea levels rising in also unusual ways, although seeing and treating it as something temporary.
Coming back from those trips I e-mailed and then had coffee with Heather McGray, WRI's expert on this subject matter and since have tried to learn more about the concept adaptaion to climate change, choosing it as an area of interest amidst of the broader environmental debate.

Today, a new report helped me take a couple of steps forward down that line. Brookings' "Double Jeopardy: What the Climate Crisis Means for the Poor" crossed my desk and I expect to finish it tonight and start looking for something new on this area tomorrow, just like the Davos atendees are hopefully doing with their BoP material.
 
An explicit and focused conversation about the imminent effects of climate change and what they mean for BoP business approaches will start to take place, I believe, and I am in good company. My former colleague Derek begun to explore the "Green BoP nexus"; Change.org's Nathanial mentioned it as one of the defining trends for the social entrepreneurship movement in 2009; BOPreneur Paul Hudnut has made sustainability a key component of his latest BoP research; Grace once wrote a great profile about an innovative venture that works at that nexus.

All good, and I'll follow closely what develops in this area. However, I'll place special attention on climate change (the most imminent and prominently discussed manifestation of an imbalanced environment), its effects and the role of enterprise to help the poor cope with them.

"Development and Adaptation through Enterprise", if you will.

For now, back to reading... or to bed, perhaps.

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