Scott Anderson

April’s Most Popular Posts: Better housing loans, a letter to Google and impact investing growing pains

One of the most satisfying things about working here at NextBillion is getting to publish articles from first-time writers. It’s especially satisfying to see those rookie contributors shoot to the top of the most viewed list for the month.

Case in point is Gary Carrier’s Better Loans for Better Housing: How housing microfinance and strategic value chains can help alleviate the low-income housing deficit, which was the most read post in April. Gary, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, was studying housing microfinance and social enterprise at the time he contacted us out of the blue with a proposal for a post. We were impressed, and clearly, so were readers.

Gary estimates that 4 billion people, or 70 percent of the developing world’s population, spread out their costs by financing their homes incrementally. The largely untapped market of base of the pyramid housing expenditures, estimated at more than $330 billion, is ripe for small loans and for organizations willing to partner to induce a stronger supply chain.

Key quote:

“Establishing partnerships with materials providers can incentivize manufacturers and retailers to offer discounted construction supplies through increased volumes of sales. Providing access to private capital and guaranteeing construction quality can influence local governments and other public entities to formalize land holdings or illegal settlements. Partnering with local universities to offer training and certification programs can improve the skills and knowledge of community masons, thereby increasing construction quality and creating licensed microenterprises of skilled labor. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has recently partnered with the University of El Salvador to provide a vocational training course to improve the skills of masons in low-income communities in and around San Salvador. Through its role as a trusted intermediary between financial institutions, materials providers, masons, NGOs and the University of El Salvador, UNIDO provides strategic actors with a profitable business opportunity that puts the well-being of low-income Salvadorans at the center of the value chain.”

Incidentally, Gary has since graduated with a master’s degree in Latin American studies through the International and Area Studies Department at UC Berkeley. (We hope this small accolade makes it onto his resume.)


Second Most Viewed for March

Gary may be an NB rookie, but the second most read post for April was by an unquestionable veteran on the social enterprise scene: Paul Polak. In An Open Letter to Larry Page: Paul Polak urges Google CEO to invest in for-profit poverty alleviation, Paul shows why. After hearing the co-founder confess that he’d rather invest in electric car maker Tesla than in an a philanthropic organization, Paul is sympathetic, but offers another for-profit alternative.

Key quote:

“I offer Google an audacious challenge: select a region or a country with a population of, say, 100 million, which has a huge endemic poverty rate — perhaps in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa — and bring Google’s resources to bear on a project to end poverty decisively in that region in 15 years. And you wouldn’t have to give away a dime, just invest. The result? A model for ending poverty planet-wide.”

Third Most Viewed for March

The angst that accompanies the sector’s growing pains was well illustrated in James Militzer’s Impact Investing at a Crossroads: Sustainatopia Impact Conference highlights excitement and concerns about the future of the sector – our third most viewed post in April. Based on the Twitter response, many in the industry were simpatico with the speakers and panelists James spoke with at Sustainatopia.

Key quote:

A number of the panelists seemed very cognizant of the fact that the “impact” in impact investing is still nowhere near big enough to make a dent in the problems the world is facing. Madeira Global CEO Christina Alfonso put it this way: “The Sochi Olympics cost $50 billion – and that’s as much as all the money that goes into impact investing. So we’re in the early stages.”


Most Shared on Twitter

The Great Equalizer: How advances in “big data” allow tech-savvy start-ups to compete with the major players in East Africa

Most shared on LinkedIn

Better Loans for Better Housing: How housing microfinance and strategic value chains can help alleviate the low-income housing deficit

Most Shared on Facebook

New Ventures Ditch the Product Invention Lab, Target Distribution Instead: The 12 D-Prize Competition winners are all about sharing proven tech, innovations – not inventing them
Congratulations to last month’s winners and, as always, please peruse all of our contributors’ offerings for April.

Scott Anderson is the managing editor of NextBillion.

housing, impact investing