January 10

James Militzer

Coronavirus, Employment and Data: Announcing NextBillion’s 2020 Special Series

Running an impact-focused business in emerging markets isn’t easy. And to be honest, the online discussion around these enterprises often makes them sound a lot more glamorous than they are: There’s a lot of talk about “world-changing ideas” and “transformative impact” – when the reality is more about diligent entrepreneurs working to overcome constant setbacks and constraints in the hope of making a difference (and a profit).

That’s not to say that transformative impact doesn’t happen – it’s does, and it’s always worth celebrating. But there’s also a need to look past the cheerleading to uncover the challenges. Indeed, highlighting these challenges can provide valuable insights – and welcome encouragement – to other entrepreneurs facing similar situations.

That’s why NextBillion provides a platform for the open discussion of both the good and the bad in impact-focused business. Most of our articles are contributed by entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and others working in developing countries around the world. This content covers a broad spectrum of business models, sectors, geographies and viewpoints – which vary dramatically from day to day. We’re happy to publish articles from anyone with insights or viewpoints to share, and the expertise to back them up. (Potential guest writers are welcome to contact us any time with article ideas.)

However, there’s a small downside to running an open platform driven by guest-written content: It’s not always easy for our editors to focus our coverage on the topics we feel deserve fuller discussion. So for the last two years we have addressed this challenge by organizing a number of special year-long series, which shine a spotlight on what we feel are key trends, opportunities or obstacles in social enterprise. Our editors source content for these series continually throughout the calendar year. (Sometimes we even add topics to these series mid-year, if debates between guest writers emerge organically on the site – or if world events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, demand more in-depth coverage (see our new Enterprise in the Time of Coronavirus series.)

The topics for our 2020 special series are described below. Check out the descriptions, and email our editor if you’d like to discuss a potential guest post. These series can be found on our series page and the drop-down menu at the top of the site – new content will be added all year. We’re looking forward to following the discussion around these topics in the coming months.


Enterprise in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus has come, seemingly out of nowhere, to impact – if not dominate – many discussions in the social enterprise and global development space. This series will explore how the pandemic is affecting communities and businesses in emerging and low-income markets, and how enterprises and development organizations can respond to the grave challenges it is raising. (NOTE: This series has supplanted our previous interview series, “The Untold Stories of Social Entrepreneurs.” While we looked forward to the insights entrepreneurs would provide in that series, we feel they may not have time to reflect on their challenges until the current crisis ends. We hope to potentially re-start it after the pandemic has passed.)


The (R)evolution of Work

Stable, gainful employment is perhaps the most essential element of poverty alleviation – yet it hasn’t always gotten the emphasis it deserves in global development discussions. But that seems to be changing, as new technologies open up exciting pathways to employment – while also threatening massive job loss in emerging economies. This series will explore the topic of employment from multiple angles, from the value of going local when recruiting workers, to new digital tools for informal workers, to skills development initiatives that help young people thrive in the age of AI and automation. 


Big Data: Big Risks, Big Opportunities

We live in the golden age of data – there’s more available than ever before, and mobile access has given business an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of even the most underserved and isolated communities. This data has been a boon for both companies and their customers, allowing low-income people to access products (and financing) that once seemed impossibly out of reach. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this new access also brings new challenges and risks, to businesses and consumers alike. This series will highlight the upsides and downsides of the Big Data revolution, exploring how entrepreneurs can acquire and leverage data more effectively – and where they should draw the line to protect their customers.


James Militzer is the editor of NextBillion. 




Social Enterprise, Technology
artificial intelligence, employment, global development, social enterprise