Francisco Noguera

3 Hot Topics for 2010: Impact, Leadership Development and Replication

Around this time last year, Rob and I got on the phone to discuss the trends that would shape the Base of the Pyramid/ social enterprise space in 2009. We quickly came to consensus: “2009 will be the year of ANDE“. We saw great importance in having an organization that would bring more coherence and coordination to the until-then (and still, pretty much) chaotic and uncoordinated work of the numerous organizations supporting entrepreneurship in emerging markets.

There’s no doubt that ANDE was a crucial player in 2009. In fact, it’s hard to believe they have only been around for a year. After building a membership base that represents the spectrum of organizations in this space (both with local and global presence) and successfully launching initiatives like the Capacity Development Fund, ANDE will continue to be a central player in the industry during 2010 as it facilitates more coordination and launches new services for its members. NextBillion will continue to report on the evolution of this organization and the industry as a whole.

What about 2010? Which will be the defining trends in the new year? Here’s my bet for three themes I think we’ll be hearing more and more often.

1. Impact and metrics. 2009 saw many interesting discussions around the issue of metrics for the non-financial impacts of social enterprises in the developing world. From Ted London’s piece on the Harvard Business Review touched on this issue, as did numerous panels and lectures that covered the BoP in 2009. I particularly enjoyed reminding myself of why it’s important to measure, reading a piece by NextBillion’s Saurabh Lall.

Well, there’s reason to believe that impact and metrics will continue to be a hot topic in 2010, only with a small caveat: We might actually go from discussing metrics in the abstract to seeing them at work, in the real world. I know this after several conversations on this topic with my colleague Kelly McCarthy, who has been doing important work in the realm of environmental metrics and will soon share some of her findings with the NextBillion community. What’s more, the PULSE platform that Acumen Fund and Google developed will become a resource for the whole sector, and standards like IRIS will be released and piloted by many enterprises around the globe. Exciting times… I can’t wait to see what comes out of all this.

Impact and measurement talk has also been hot among development economists. MIT’s Esther Duflo, a strong proponent of randomized evaluation trials, was named a McArthur genius in 2009; she presented at Pop!Tech and her work was featured at outlets like Fast Company, to name just one. Some of her findings touched on issues relevant to the BoP space, which were highlighted by Paul Hudnut and later again here in NextBillion. The debate is still alive and I was lucky to receive a copy of What Works on Development? Thinking Big vs. Thinking Small, published by the Brookings institution and edited by Bill Easterly and Sarah Cohen. It is a must-read to anyone interested in the grey areas that exist between growth-based development economics (the macro view) and the micro view that is represented by randomized control trials.

I may write a lengthier piece about the book later this month, but while I read it over the holiday I couldn’t help thinking where, if at all, metrics and evaluations discussions like those in IRIS, etc. fit in this debate raised by the book. Granted, our industry and the discussion of a forum like NextBillion focuses on the role of enterprise; however, the end goal of these enterprises is the same as that of the programs evaluated and discussed by development economists in the Brookings publication.

2. Base of the Pyramid from within large corporations? A recent conversation that I had makes me think that we’ll be seeing more and more corporate leaders embracing the idea of social enterprise and building initiatives inside large corporations, the way Justin DeKoszmovszky has done at SC Johnson, for example.

My conversation took place in late December at the Headquarters of MetLife, which look on to Bryant Park in New York City. It was with one of the organization’s Vicepresidents, Felipe Botero, who is leading an initiative inside MetLife to develop insurance products for the base of the pyramid. Felipe is also one of the participants of the recently-created First Movers Fellowship, of the Aspen Institute. Recipients of the First Movers Fellowships are all promising leaders that work for organization with scale and reach large enough to enact significant change through their decisions. NextBillion ally Jocelyn Wyatt, a BoP champion inside a remarkably influential organization like IDEO, is also part of the First Movers cohort.

I’m fascinated by leadership development programs of this kind. In fact, it is another topic in my list to explore early in 2010, motivated by an excellent series on “cohorts” produced by Acumen Fund in 2009, as well as by the numerous fellowships available in this space, including the Global Social Benefit Incubator, the Unreasonable Institute and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows program.

Expect more on the topic of leadership development and its link to the BoP idea. For now, Kudos to Aspen Institute for targeting the seeds that can help this movement grow from within larger organizations.

3. Replication: Exporting social enterprise. Community scale water treatment has scaled and become a profitable industry in India. Can the model be exported to other countries with similarly acute needs? This question can be applied to many social enterprise models that work in some places and are not yet in many others where their services are badly needed.

The whys-and-hows of social enterprise replication is one issue I suspect we’ll be hearing about more in the year to come. Luckily, the Ayllu Initiative will be working hard on the same question throughout 2010 and we’ll be following their work closely as they make progress testing the concept in Brazil. Maria Blair said it loud and clear last Summer during the Future Trends Forum of the Bankinter Foundation: “We’re not funding yet another water filter. Rather, we’re interested in ideas and models that help existing and working filters scale globally”.

What do you think? Would you add any missing trend to the psospects of the BoP industry in 2010? We’d love to hear from them