Scott Anderson

March’s ‘NextBillies’: Dueling visions for impact, the most-read/most shared posts on NB

February’s most-read post on NextBillion by Bob Webster, the chief operating officer of Grassroots Business Fund (GBF), laid out the argument for a hybrid model for impact investing. The blueprint that GBF put into action consists of a formal fund for institutional investors and a not-for-profit “side-car” to the profit engine that provides business advice to the portfolio companies. Webster believes this model has the most potential for both social and fiscal returns.

In March, Sachi Senhoy and Brian Arbogast of Upaya Ventures, presented somewhat of a counterpoint view in their piece: How to bridge the ’Pioneer Gap’ and support entrepreneurs in the earliest stages. They explain that Upaya Social Ventures, a fund targeting enterprises with the potential to grow into large-scale employers of the ultra poor, was initially set up as a for-profit entity. But managers quickly realized that return-minded capital would neither extend the risk necessary to finance social enterprise startups nor would it float the advisory services required to mentor the entrepreneurs behind them. Those factors led to a restructuring, as they explain:

We knew we needed to build a “safety valve” for the traditional venture model that would allow us to quickly back nascent but promising ideas and work alongside the entrepreneur to build the company. After extensive due diligence, we came to see philanthropic funds as the ideal capital to fill this role, ready to take chances in areas where return capital feared to tread. Furthermore, housing both the investing and technical assistance functions within a nonprofit – instead of splitting them through a hybrid model – opened access to foundations and donor agencies to more easily underwrite the needed business development support. Internally we called this strategy “Pioneer Capital,” and saw it as the best fit for our partners’ needs.

These dueling visions are at the heart of impact investing, and probably the key reason why the Senhoy/Arbogast article was the most-read and most-shared article in March.

Coming in second place this month was Payal Shah’s explainer post: India CSR Bill Creates Ripples in the Social Sector: Big companies would have to spend 2% of profits on CSR, but could the sector absorb it? The Companies Bill as its known, would require all firms with revenue above than Rs. 1000 Cr ($200 million) or profits of 5 Cr ($1 million) to spend 2 percent of the average of the last three years’ profits toward corporate social responsibility endeavors. The potential legislation would help lift barriers to job creation by reducing the number of regulations required to launch a new business in India, argues Minister for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot, a key advocate behind the bill. But Aneel Karnani was having none of it in his response article this month: Mandatory CSR in India : A bad idea from left, right and center

Rounding out the top five most-read articles this month were:

Which Leading Investors are Seeking Profit and 100% Impact by 2020? : A push for the ’Investing Pledge’ at the IMN Impact Investing Summit by Logan Yonavjak

“The Female Sanitary Revolution”: Disruptive innovations break taboos to promote women’s health by Perzen Patel

At NCIIA’s Open Conference, a Shift Toward Responsible Startups: Student, faculty teams are increasingly addressing poverty By Laura Sampath

Most shared

? On Twitter: How to bridge the ’Pioneer Gap’ and support entrepreneurs in the earliest stages

? On Facebook: “The Female Sanitary Revolution”: Disruptive innovations break taboos to promote women’s health

Hidden Gem: A must read you might have missed

Josh Cleveland’s The Toyola Money Box: The BoP marketing tactic you wish you’d thought of, details what I think is a truly innovative sales pitch from Ghana-Based Toyola, which has found a way to reduce the risk to poor customers otherwise interested in purchasing one of the company’s cook stoves or solar lanterns.

“The salesperson makes an offer: buy the cook stove today in cash and get a 10 percent discount. Or keep the stove for a month to test it out (and pay the extra 10 percent). Over 90 percent of customers opt to test the stove and pay the 10 percent premium. They are too poor to take a risk.

Salespeople leave customers a Toyola Money Box. Every other day when they buy charcoal, customers put the money they save (about 50 percent a day) in the box. In a month when the salesperson comes back the customers open the box and immediately see the savings the stove has brought them. It’s a visible way to demonstrate product benefits.”

Congrats to all the winners of this month’s NextBillies!

corporate social responsibility, impact investing