Scott Anderson

October’s Most Viewed, Most Shared Posts on NB

I met with Nisha Chakravarty at the Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP14) in September. She told me about an interesting transformation underway at Nuru International, where she had served as chief financial officer since 20102. Nuru, a nonprofit organization working on extreme poverty in mostly rural corners of Kenya and Ethiopia, had decided to go for-profit. That is to say, it had sought to find a long-lasting business model to avoid the donor merry-go-round in order to be self-sufficient. As such, it decided to move to a hybrid structure, in which the for-profit Nuru Social Enterprises would support the nonprofit.

The concept isn’t anything new within the world of NGOs immersed in enterprise. But Chakravarty’s description of the why and how Nuru went about it, while retaining the core values of the nonprofit to influence the operations of the for-profit, was compelling. Her article, When For-Profit is the Right Answer for a Social Enterprise: Nuru International’s transformation toward profitability, without losing its social values, was the most-viewed blog for October. (October, you ask? Yes, I’m sorry to be a bit behind on the awards. I’ll have November’s most read/shared awards next week.)

Key quotes from Chakravarty’s piece:

“We sought to incorporate and launch Nuru Social Enterprises as a holding company of Nuru International. As anyone who has ever launched a startup knows, our new model initially had its flaws, imperfections that we identified through very deliberate testing, and tweaks that we made after we saw the results of pilots such as this chilies agribusiness project. However, the premise of Nuru Social Enterprises has not changed, nor have its core values.

“… ultimately, Nuru Social Enterprises (NSE) is a for-profit social enterprise for the simple fact that true financial sustainability depends on profit. It is this profit from NSE that will enable Nuru International to fund its impact programs, scale, and reach many more people.”

Chakravarty recently told me the hybrid model continues to be very successful, so much so that Nuru is considering expanding to other countries and considering business initiatives that increase the empowerment of women.

Incidentally, it’s interesting, but not surprising, that September’s most-read article was NexThought Monday – Why Did Vittana Close Down?: The real question: why don’t more organizations pull the plug? By Kate Cochran. Like Chakravarty, I also ran into Cochran, the former COO and adviser to Vittana, at SOCAP14. There’s something special about that SOCAP conference. (And, no, I wasn’t paid to say that.)

Second Most Viewed Post in October

Training Africa’s ’Micropreneurs’: Why effective microfinance requires more than just loans by Paul Abbott

In supporting female micropreneurs, microfinance is a vital poverty alleviation tool in Malawi, wrote the MicroLoan Foundation’s Abbott. But for these women, microloans are only as effective as the training and mentorship that accompany them. Abbott is one of several people leading the way toward a different kind of microfinance, a smarter kind, that caters solutions and provides training that keeps over-indebtedness at bay. In his post, he explains how the foundation has tailored modules to teach clients everything from leadership to how to calculate cost, revenue and profit.


Key quote:

“Microfinance organisations must remain very conscious of avoiding risk and protecting clients, and a client training programme plays an important part. Group supportiveness training ensures that when individual clients do face challenges such as illness in the family, the group gives long-term support, like helping the client to run her business while she is in the hospital. Enabling clients to work out their business costs and profits, and linking these to an appropriate loan size, ensures clients understand the loan must be tied to the business’ costs and profits – and that they shouldn’t just take the biggest loan they can.”


Third Most Viewed Post in October

Connecting Assets to Impact: ImpactAssets 50 showcases private fund managers that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns by Lindsay Smalling

The fourth edition of the ImpactAssets 50 was released in October. The brainchild of the impact investing nonprofit of the same name, the ImpactAssets 50 showcases 50 private fund managers that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. The database is free and searchable, sorting by asset class, geographic region and issue area. It also gives a detailed overview of each firm. And, as Smalling, strategic initiatives officer at ImpactAssets, points out, the fund managers highlighted in this year’s group manage more than $15.5 billion in assets representing positive social and environmental impact.

Key quote:


“As the next generation of investors comes into their assets, millennials have shown heightened interest in sustainable investing, and are reaching out to advisors for support in selecting from a growing universe of impact investment options. Along with the IA 50, ImpactAssets has released more than a dozen impact investing issue briefs, to help both novice and experienced investors better understand the field and vet the opportunities that may best serve their goals.”


Most Shared on Social Media

Connecting Assets to Impact: ImpactAssets 50 showcases private fund managers that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns by Lindsay Smalling

’Independence from Credit’: Pro Mujer co-founder Carmen Velasco discusses self-help groups, and how much profit is too much in microfinance by James Militzer

Five Sources of Untapped Innovation in Digital Finance: How a new generation of financial products is taking the sector far beyond payments by Xavier Faz

Editor’s Pick

Verifying a Need: SimPrints wades into ’identification crisis’ in health care, seeking global scale by Daniel Storisteanu

Can you have efficacy in health care without identity? The answer is an obvious no; after all, how do you know someone has been vaccinated if there’s no record of it? (I can’t tell you which shots I’ve had, but I’m glad my doctor can.) The fingerprint scanning and identification startup SimPrints is working to make low-cost biometrics available across the developing world. This summer, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted SimPrints $250,000 as part of an innovation prize to reduce maternal and newborn deaths. It was matched by Cambridge-based ARM Ltd. in partnership with Johns Hopkins University’s Global mHealth Initiative and BRAC, the world’s largest NGO.

SimPrints is using the money to develop its system and conduct a full pilot study in Bangladesh, as co-founder Storisteanu explained. Privacy is top of mind and the company uses the same encryption methods as online bankers, Storisteanu says.

Key quote:

“Though privacy remains a top priority for us, we believe that the potential for biometrics misuse is not reason enough to prevent its utilisation to empower individuals and save lives. In fact, much of the world has already entered an era of biometrics, with nearly a billion individuals in developing countries using biometric ID for purposes ranging from elections to health care. The developing world swiftly adopted mobile phones to leapfrog the lack of land-phone infrastructure, and biometrics is doing the same for identification.”

Congratulations and thank you to the winners and to all NB contributors for the month of October.


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