Employment, Entrepreneurship 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 is happy to provide 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’ll even add topics to these series mid-year, if debates between guest writers emerge organically on the site.)
Today, we’re pleased to announce the topics for our 2020 special series. These three series are described below, and each will be managed by a different member of NextBillion’s editorial team. Check out the descriptions, and email the appropriate 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 coming soon and continuing all year. We’re looking forward to following the discussion around these topics in the coming months.
The Untold Stories of Social Entrepreneurs
You’ve probably read plenty of the standard inspirational stories of social entrepreneurs – you know, the ones where an idealistic young person is exposed to the reality of poverty during a stint in the Peace Corps (or something), then is inspired to launch a social business in response. That’s… the opposite of what we’re looking for in this interview series. Instead, we want to hear about the real challenges of being an entrepreneur in an emerging market: the seemingly impossible logistics, the frustration of dealing with funders or regulators, the times you risked everything, or doubted yourself and came close to quitting – and the reasons you soldiered on. If you’d like to share these sorts of anecdotes and insights in a written Q&A – and you don’t mind being frank – contact Scott Anderson.
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. If you’d like to write about how the nature of work is changing worldwide – and how social impact businesses can respond – contact Katie Beasley.
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. If you’d like to contribute an article, contact James Militzer.
James Militzer is the editor of NextBillion.