NextBillion Editor

Launching a Roadmap for the Base of the Pyramid Domain

This post was written by Ted London and Colm Fay of the William Davidson Institute. WDI is the parent organization of NextBillion.

The Base of the Pyramid domain is at a crossroads. Over the last decade there has been much growth in the number of BoP enterprises, and an increase in investor interest and willingness to invest in them. Many organizations and businesses have invested their resources to better serve the poor, using many different approaches. However, there has been little collaboration or sharing of those best practices in order to build better ventures.

To address these challenges, we developed and recently released A Roadmap for the Base of the Pyramid Domain: Re-energizing for the Next Decade (the BoP Roadmap). This Roadmap is an action agenda that charts a way forward for the BoP domain.

The BoP Roadmap asks us to not only act for today, but to build for tomorrow, in order to truly achieve the promise of building a community of sustainable, scalable BoP enterprises focused on the alleviation of poverty. It is intended to create a stronger and more robust community that shares and learns together. As the old African proverb goes – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. If we want to achieve our goal of alleviating poverty, we need more than a small number of successful ventures, we need transformational change. This won’t happen if we only share our successes, we must also share and learn from our failures in order to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and how to achieve predictable and scalable performance of BoP enterprises.

The BoP Roadmap is the result of in-depth research and discussions as well as the outcomes of the BoP Summit hosted by the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in October 2013 (To learn more about the specific outcomes generated from the BoP Summit, read our companion piece, Base of the Pyramid Summit: Shaping an Action Agenda.). This action-oriented report constitutes a set of prioritized recommendations designed to enhance the development of the domain over the next decade.

The four key initiatives presented in the BoP Roadmap include:

  • Scalable BoP Enterprise Initiative – This initiative addresses the challenge of too many pilot ventures not becoming sustainable, scalable enterprises. This initiative emphasizes generating a much deeper understanding of the tools and knowledge needed to build more sustainable and scalable BoP ventures.
  • BoP Ecosystem Building Initiative – This initiative addresses the challenge of not having the tools to understand who is doing what to support BoP enterprise development. This initiative will assess the current ecosystem of partners to understand gaps and then develop recommendations for BoP enterprises to leverage the existing ecosystem, and to the development community to fill the gaps.
  • Mutual Value Creation Initiative – This initiative addresses the challenge of too few ventures that achieve scalable poverty alleviation outcomes, while also being financially viable. This initiative will help BoP enterprises better understand their value proposition, and the link between social impact, strategy and enterprise performance by providing guidance on impact assessment data collection and analysis.
  • Global Training and Knowledge Initiative – This initiative addresses the challenge of not having an effective platform to share lessons learned across the BoP community. This initiative will create and deliver training programs to support BoP enterprises and develop future BoP leaders.

We launched the BoP Roadmap last week in Washington DC with keynote presentations from Ted London and Stuart Hart that set the context for the development of the roadmap and provided an introduction to the four major initiatives. This was followed by a panel discussion with representatives from Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the BoP Global Network and UNDP that that focused on how these organizations are already taking action on the recommendations in the roadmap. The event concluded with interaction among the attendees that explored how we, as a community can take further action on implementing the roadmap initiatives.

Implementing these initiatives will require leadership, support, commitment, and investment by the greater BoP community. A number of organizations have already taken leadership roles and have committed to contribute to the development of one or more of the BoP Roadmap Initiatives. For example, we are currently collaborating with GIZ on a project focused on better understanding the landscape of organizations that support the scaling of inclusive businesses, or ‘scaling facilitators’.

We are also working on a collaboration with the UNDP that focuses on understanding best practices in ecosystem building, a topic that UNDP has explored in “Realizing Africa’s Wealth”. Initially focused on case studies in the Philippines, this work will seek to develop ecosystem building tools that can be applied to multiple geographies, sectors and stages of enterprise development, and which will help both enterprises and scaling facilitators to more effectively build partnership ecosystems that support inclusive business.

These are indeed exciting and challenging times for the BoP domain. Despite our successes, we must continue to push toward the next generation of BoP strategies and spend more time considering how we can co-create an even better future for the BoP domain. This means having a longer-term vision not only for specific enterprises, but also for the domain as a whole. While we have made progress, this is not the end of the journey. The BoP Roadmap lays out the path ahead of us, but success requires a willingness to continue to invest in learning, as well as doing. We look forward to collaboratively building the domain we all aspire to achieve.

Ted London is Senior Research Fellow and Director of Base of the Pyramid Initiative at the William Davidson Institute.

Colm Fay is the Research Manager of the BoP Enterprise Sustainability and Growth Program at WDI. Contact him via email

Base of the Pyramid, research