The BoP World Convention & Expo: Why the inaugural gathering is critical and why Singapore is the perfect venue
A game-changing base of the pyramid event will take place Aug. 28-30, in Singapore that deserves a place on your calendar. The BoP World Convention will focus on hybrid models for serving the BoP, with speakers from the private sector, the social entrepreneur community, major non-governmental organizations, and governments.
It reflects a growing belief that collaborative, cross-sector approaches are necessary to get to scale and, despite a strong contingent of speakers from Asia, reflects a global perspective. The program looks in detail at experience with cross sector initiatives to date, from multiple perspectives, and explores in depth the opportunities for collaboration in nutrition, off-grid energy, low income housing, and education. An interesting feature of the program is a set of 10 Idea Labs that will be bottom up – shaped by shared insights and brainstorming from those who elect to attend that session. Special efforts are being made to bring a strong contingent of social entrepreneurs to the event. The networking and business matching opportunities look enticing.
Among the speakers of note are Fazle Abed, the founder of BRAC, perhaps the largest development NGO anywhere; World Vision and the Global Alliance for Nutrition (GAIN) are represented too. Keynote speakers include Paul Polak, a serial entrepreneur whose book on business solutions to poverty, co-authored with Mal Warick, has become required reading; and Sandeep Koholi, vice president, Marketing Operations, Australia and SE Asian Unilever, one of the most successful companies in actually penetrating BOP markets. Social entrepreneurs are also well represented, including Vishnu Swaminathan, head of Ashoka India and the creator of a novel (and scaling) model for low-income housing; and Jose Luis Oquiñena, executive director of the community-building enterprise Gawad Kalinga. Consulting firms also will add their perspective: Dwight Hutchins, Asia Pacific managing director for Accenture; Olivier Kayser, founder and managing director of the BoP-focused Hystra. What ties them all together is a single question: what really works to lift BoP markets and communities into the mainstream?
Somehow it’s appropriate that the conference is in Singapore; if there is a single place to see the future of Asia, that’s it. It’s hard to get your head around the fact that the city-state went from poverty to wealth and sophistication in 25 years. For those who have never been to Singapore, imagine NYC if it was clean, safe, compact, and everything worked; the conference could be a good excuse to see for yourself. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Deputy Prime Minister, will talk to the conference about how the Singapore turned from third world to first and social development around the region.
It would be hard to argue with the result: Singapore has become the preferred place for multinational corporations to base their leadership for Asia. That concentration — they are all within a 15 minute cab ride of each other — makes it an easy place to get access.
One of us (Al Hammond) organized the first major international BoP conference exactly a decade ago. Then the central question, in the minds of both corporate executives and non-profit organizations alike, was whether the BoP could be or should be considered a market at all. Instead, today the question is: How can we work together to realize its potential? What a difference a decade makes.
Al Hammond is senior entrepreneur and leader of the Health for All program at Ashoka, which works with dozens of health-oriented social entrepreneurs around the world.
Juliet Ler, assistant director at the BoP Hub, also contributed to this post. She oversees the overall operations and organizational growth.