Scott Anderson

And the Most Influential Post of 2012 is … Drumroll Please

This being the last day of January, I think it’s time to stop saying Happy New Year. Well, I guess I really can’t control that. After all, people will still say Happy New Year well into February or – bite your tongue – March!

But what I can control is the voting for our Most Influential Post of the 2012 contest, which I closed yesterday. Some 731 of you cast ballots for what you considered the article that stuck with you, informed you, or otherwise swayed you – hopefully to action – in 2012. Thank you for participating!

… And now, here are the results:

With 54 percent of the vote, the winner was Prashant Yadav, who wrote Coke is Everywhere: Why Aren’t Medicines. Yadav is a senior research fellow at the William Davidson Institute (WDI) and director of the Health Care Research Initiative at WDI. (Full disclosure: WDI is the managing partner of NextBillion.)

Yadav serves as an advisor on pharmaceutical supply chains to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank, World Health Organization, and UK Department for International Development. He explored what drug distributors in developing countries can learn from Coca-Cola’s finely tuned, ubiquitous supply chain. Here’s what I saw as the money quote of Yadav’s article:

“Yes, medicines need regulatory oversight much more than Coca-Cola. And the retail points where medicines are stocked and sold perhaps cannot be as widespread as those of Coke. But the more important learning is that the Coca-Cola system thrives on small, empowered entrepreneurial units working together on a centrally developed “drum-beat” to make the complex process of delivery work smoothly. The medicine supply chains, on the other hand, work with a top-down institutional mindset which in some cases hinders innovation.”

Dan Zook, a project leader in Dalberg Associates’ New York office, came in second place with 23 percent of the vote for his post, The $450 Billion Opportunity: Catalyzing Smallholder Agricultural Finance. Zook provided an explanation of Dalberg’s report “Catalyzing Smallholder Agricultural Finance,” which suggested that with increased financing, farmers can improve their yields, and in some cases, double their income. Zook specializes in engaging investors and corporations on international development and emerging markets strategy. He earned an MBA from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management with a concentration in base of the pyramid business models.

Money quote:

“At an estimated $450 billion, the global demand for smallholder agricultural finance is a large opportunity. Impact-driven smallholder agricultural lenders such as Root Capital, Oikocredit, and Triodos have played a catalytic role in driving financing into this market. With $350 million in disbursements, these organizations have been meeting smallholder financing needs, building local markets, and drawing in commercial lenders. However, they have still have headroom for additional expansion.”

Zook told me Dalberg is hoping to put this report into action, and currently is mobilizing a multi-stakeholder initiative to catalyze smallholder finance based on the report’s findings.

Finally, Overcoming the Challenges in Mobile: Living Goods hopes to follow in the footsteps of Amway, Avon, and Tupperware, by long-time NB contributor Josh Cleveland, took third prize with 9 percent of the vote. Cleveland explored how Living Goods is implementing a sophisticated SMS texting project linking its Community Health Promoters (CHPs) with clients in need of a variety of health products and services in Kampala. But what makes this post influential is its unflinching look at the challenges that accompany introducing a new technology to a workforce largely unaccustomed to working with it. Or as Armando Huerta, Living Goods’ East Africa Business Officer, puts it: “Think of teaching your grandmother to use our SMS program when she’d never sent a message before in her life. Then think of asking her to do that to record hundreds of interactions every month.”

Money quote:

“Attendees go through an exercise outlining difficulties with using the platform. Semakula, an older CHP in the audience sums up the sentiments of the group members who are performing below expectations with SMS reporting: “I just do not have confidence with the program,” she states.

Armando and the Living Goods team know that after launching a product or process, an organization has a limited window to reach the tipping point in uptake. If the platform malfunction, if CHPs don’t see the value of participation, it will fail. Building Semakula’s confidence can make or break the system.”

I’d also like to thank all of the authors of the other dozen articles that were nominated. If you haven’t checked them out already, I’d encourage you to read their posts.

Looking ahead to 2013, please feel free to email me anytime you’d like to nominate a post for the most influential of the year. It’s never too early to start building this year’s list.