Scott Anderson

Weekly Roundup 10-18-14

Many of the social enterprises and large-scale efforts that aim to deliver energy to the underserved focus on “off-grid” settings. But what about people who live “under the grid”? These include millions of households that technically should have access to the grid, but for a variety of reasons, do not.

Upcoming research from the Center for Global Development (harnessing Afrobarometer survey data) compares grid coverage and household access rates. It finds a big gap between who should be connected and who actually is connected. Understanding the shortfall could help well-intentioned investors and entrepreneurs seeking to connect people in five key countries: Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania – to say nothing about the Power Africa Initiative, which is also making major investments in off-grid tech.

In a post by the CGD’s Ben Leo, Vijaya Ramachandran and Robert Morello, the authors estimate that up to 95 million people living within reasonable proximity of the grid could be living without access in five of the Power Africa focus countries (mentioned above). However, the authors emphasize that this doesn’t mean off-grid approaches should be shelved.

“… But, it does argue that any effort to combat African energy poverty should look hard at connecting people to the grid that is already in their proverbial backyard. And if our rough estimates are even remotely accurate, then the much argued need for leapfrogging over traditional grid structures may reflect ideological ambitions more than real world opportunities for promoting access at a grand scale.”

Speaking of grid investments, this week nonprofit social investor Acumen and Novastar Ventures made a $2.5 equity investment in SolarNow in Uganda. Acumen’s stake was $1.4 million in SolarNow, which sells and finances modular solar home systems. Check out this Q&A with Shuaib Siddiqui, Acumen’s Portfolio Director to find out more about the deal and why he’s excited about the company.


Plan B for The B Team?

There were many high hopes for the B Team. The organization was set up in June 2013 by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz, the former chief executive of Puma. They came charged with the meta goal of shifting the “focus of business from just financial gains towards environmental and social gains as well. … Plan A—where companies have been driven by the profit motive alone—is no longer acceptable. The B Team is a collective of some of the world’s leading figures in business, and is working with government agencies, the social sector and business peers to help get on top of some of the seemingly intractable problems currently preventing business from delivering gains for people and the planet.”

It’s not that those hopes have been dashed. But as Jo Confino wrote in August for The Guardian, it appears the B Team has been more adept at issuing press releases than moving monolithic businesses toward poverty and environmental gains:

“The B Team still has great potential to be a force for good, but it now needs to prove that it is capable of scaling up these initiatives. That means the business leaders need to invest their time and energy. What we don’t need are more press releases; what we do need is for these leaders to collectively take to the world stage, bang their fists on the table to make their demands known.”

This week the organization announced a new leadership structure. It appointed Rajiv Joshi, who has been with The B Team since the start, as Managing Director. Joshi previously served as Executive Director for the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP). According to the press release: Joshi will be responsible for leading The B Team’s Senior Management Team – working closely with The B Team Leaders and Senior Partners to deliver against an ambitious plan. Those senior partners are supposed to work directly with Branson and Zeitz, and the wider group of B Team Leaders “to drive forward a Plan B for business.”

We wish him well in his endeavor. We need more successes and real action to push global corporations away from the lukewarm CSR boilerplate of yesteryear and toward actual, sustainable change.

Two events for a lively Thursday

We’ve talked a lot about how Millennials are hoping to change investing forever. A similar dynamic is playing out across industries. Our pals over at TriplePundit are teaming up with software giant SAP for a Twitter chat exploring how millennial entrepreneurs are transforming their sectors and communities with new social enterprises.
Here is the slate of guests for the chat:

  • Tiago Dalvi, Founder and CEO of Solidarium, which markets products made by local artisans, many living below the poverty line, to retailers including WalMart. @dalvitiago
  • Jacob Rosenbloom, Co-Founder and CEO of Emprego Ligado, a mobile-based job-matching platform focused on the massive “blue-collar” workforce in Brazil. @JacobRosenbloom
  • Adam Smiley Poswolsky, Author of The Quarter Life Breakthrough, a career guide for twenty- (and thirty) somethings to get unstuck, pursue work that matters and change the world. @whatsupsmiley
  • Nicolette van Exel, Director of CSR at SAP, is responsible for social enterprise development, including the Emerging Entrepreneurship Initiative. @nvanexel

Facilitators: TriplePundit Founder and Publisher Nick Aster (@NickAster) and TriplePundit Director of Social Media Marissa Rosen (@MarissaR1)

You can join @TriplePundit and @SAPCSR to discuss millennials and social entrepreneurship through the hashtag #SAPsocent on Thursday (Oct. 23) at noon EST.

And one more live event to add to your Thursday calendar. The William Davidson Institute (parent organization of NextBillion) will be formally launching “A Roadmap for the Base of the Pyramid Domain: Re-energizing for the Next Decade”. As WDI’s Ted London and Colm Fay described it, the BoP Roadmap is a co-created action agenda that represents our shared vision for the future of the domain. Fay will be the moderator at a special event Thursday in Washington, D.C., to release and discuss the findings in the Roadmap. If you can’t attend in person, follow the hashtag #BoPRoadmap, where we will be live-Tweeting the discussion.

In Case You Missed It … This Week on NextBillion

NexThought Monday: Social Financing: Three Opportunities and Three Questions

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

What Jamaica’s Mobile Wallet Will Mean for the Unbanked: Financial inclusion community takes note of new national mobile finance product

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

Mapping the Future: What to expect from the BoP Roadmap to be published next week

Starting at the Base: Part one in a series of BoP fundamentals, cases, and debates

Funding to Reach the Tipping Point: Doug Balfour, CEO of Geneva Global, on how to spark collaboration that amplifies social impact

Bringing the Gender Lens into Focus