June 18

Scott Anderson

May’s Most Popular Posts on NB

When you consider the need for electricity (nearly 400 million people were without access to power as of 2011), coupled with the weather conditions (300 or so sunny days a year), coupled with falling prices, it’s hard not to be excited by the possibilities of solar technology in India.

Then, like a blinding flash of sunlight bounced off a solar panel, many social entrepreneurs are hit with the realities of last-mile power delivery, a failing or non-existent infrastructure, and a dearth of financing options. Balancing those conditions and opportunities is the test these entrepreneurs face, which likely is why India’s Solar Power Surge : Low interest loans and government subsidies could electrify off-grid, microgrid sector by Naman Sanghvi was NextBillion’s most-read post in May.

This was one of more in-depth articles on NB in some time, and a must-read for any entrepreneur considering a foray into India’s burgeoning solar energy market. Sanghvi details not only the needs and opportunities for off-grid solutions for Indian consumers, but also the efforts of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), created by the Indian government in 2010 to proliferate quick commercialization of solar technologies through loans and grants. Among JNNSM’s objectives is the goal of reducing costs of generating electricity from solar, and achieving price parity with grid energy by 2022.

Key quote:

Up to 90 percent of the cost of off-grid generation systems can be covered through the various support schemes. Special support would be provided to solar lanterns and solar home lighting systems up to 3 kWp and pumping systems up to 5 kWp. Financial institutions that lend for off-grid solutions like solar lights, will also be incentivized under this policy. In Phase II (of JNNSM), the focus will be more so on capital subsidies rather than interest subsidy schemes. Phase II also will focus on developing/setting quality and performance standards for solar equipment and products, which will be used for more efficient allocation of subsidies.

In the second-most read piece this month, Tapping New Ideas in Social Entrepreneurship: Yes, they exist, author Daniel Jensen of Mercy Corps provides an excellent breakdown of the recently published report “Breaking the Binary: Policy Guide to Scaling Social Innovation” by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The paper profiles 12 government programs and 20 nonprofits working on the cutting edge of innovation, organizing them according to six broad categories. Among the takeaways, says Jensen:

Prove that it works more than once. Measuring the impact of pilot projects is universally popular, but Waste Concern’s Iftekhar Enayetullah said it’s not enough to get good numbers from one place: “Unless you can prove a concept in different locations, it is very difficult to scale up. The biggest lesson we learned … is that you have to invest a lot of time on the proof of concept. During that stage, it’s very important for private companies to be more than investors – they need to be real partners and to interact frequently with you and with the regulators.”

Uganda-based Waste Concern has two revenue streams: selling organic fertilizer to a large company that markets, distributes and sells the product to more than 100,000 farmers across Bangladesh; and selling carbon credits to the Asian Development Bank under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.

If Jensen’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he also one of our most-read contributors in April.

Re-evaluating Impact Evaluation: Why solely focusing on financials is flawed and other key points from a recent workshop by Hui Wen Chan was the third most read post last month. Chan, who is the is the impact analytics and planning officer at the Citi Foundation, reflected on some of the key discussions during a recent impact metrics workshop hosted by Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). Among the ideas that percolated both at the workshop and in the broader impact assessment community:

Think beyond the financial. A narrow focus solely on economic-related metrics, such as income, might not tell the whole story. If you only measure changes in income and later discover your organization did not have an effect on it, you may miss out on understanding other important aspects of your value proposition. However, had you explored non-financial metrics, you might have learned that people had more free time as a result of buying your product, which in turn increased their productivity. Knowledge of the impacts and benefits of your products or services enable you to market them more effectively to customers, so be sure to consider both the economic and non-economic impacts of your products or services.

Rounding out the top five most-read posts on NB in May:

The Accidental Social Enterprise: VSee’s unexpected foray into BoP health care By James Militzer

Where Does Innovation Meet Scale?: Leveraging cross-sector collaborations to expand impact By Blair Miller

May’s most posts popular on Twitter

Tech for Impact: Rapid advances in health care, education and design powers Village Capital India cohort by Ross Baird

The Accidental Social Enterprise: VSee’s unexpected foray into BoP health care by James Militzer

Where Does Innovation Meet Scale?: Leveraging cross-sector collaborations to expand impact by Blair Miller

May’s most popular on Facebook

Putting the Horse Back in Front of the Cart: The dominant model of business education is broken By Stuart Hart

Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013: The Global Hotspot for Innovation By Nilima Achwal

The Social Progress Index:: A new language for development, or 21st century Esperanto? By Michael Andersen

Hidden Gem

Here’s that one post you might have missed this month that’s worth your time: NexThought Monday: How Africa’s prosperity can grow … from trees By Tony Simons

Energy, Entrepreneurship, Impact Assessment
Citi Foundation, Impact Assessment, Mercy Corps, social business, solar