Scott Anderson

Weekly Roundup: ‘Is There One Perfect Web Platform for Social Entrepreneurs?’

“Is there one perfect Web platform for social entrepreneurs?”

This genuinely guileless question was posted on NextBillion’s LinkedIn group earlier this week.

I can only guess, but I’ll bet this person has been bombarded with options on which platform, database, or network he should use. It feels like every day a new platform developed by social entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs and/or by entrepreneurs, emerges. There are platforms for crowdfunding, that status of which, incidentally, will be the subject of our NexThought Monday. There are data platforms to assess where you can make the most impact, or how you can measure it. (For instance, just this week we brought you news on The Registry, a new platform from the Global Impact Invest Network that provides a window into hundreds, if not thousands, of metrics in use by various organizations and investors to gauge impact). There are maps, endless maps, each poking or massaging economic, social and agricultural data into new ,digestible bites, helping social entrepreneurs tack toward regions and resources to enter or build a new market.

The list is vast. And I’m sure NextBillion could literally expend all of our digital ink just writing about newly launched platforms and little else. But don’t get me wrong, the platform proliferation shouldn’t be viewed as a net negative. My view is the data explosion is helping us do more than we could have imagined even a few years ago. We may be bombarded by information, but my sense is social entrepreneurs and investors also are picking up new insights into how to manage, value, distill and act upon that information.

But to answer the LinkedIn inquirer, the “perfect” platform is not the one without flaws – there simply too many variables to meet everyone’s view of perfection. No, the perfect platform is the one that can be made more perfect. The platforms that are truly open to adapting the types and the presentation of data, as the times and conditions dictate, are the models that will be the most successful. Certainly, each platform needs a firm mission and standards to gather and illustrate data, but its managers also must possess the drive to listen to feedback, and evolve accordingly.

That’s my take, but if I’m wrong please let me know. Maybe there is a perfect platform, in form and function, and I’m just missing it. If you find one, drop a comment below. (But be ready to defend it! 🙂

For your Twitter Calendar

For both English and Spanish speakers interested in financial inclusion, Tuesday and Thursday are days to add to your calendars. Agora Partners and NextBillion Content Partner Ashoka Changemakers are hosting a Twitter forum to hash out the most important issues around financial inclusion, and how businesses and social entrepreneurs can accelerate it. Topics include access to capital, technology and professional mentorship. The English chat is set for 2 p.m. EST Sept. 25 and a session in Spanish starts at 4 p.m. EST Sept. 27. To join, use the hashtag #SocEntTag and follow @AgoraPrtnrships and @changemakers.

Study Corner

Since Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, managing director at FSG, brought the idea of “creating shared value” into the lexicon six years ago, demand for tangible examples of it remains high. As they defined it, shared value means “closely examining economic and social linkages in order to create new economic benefit (rather than redistributing existing value).” Clearly, the entities with the most potential to do this effectively, at a scale that matters, are multinational companies. In a newly published Rockefeller Foundation-funded report, FSG evaluates Shared Value In Emerging Markets: How Multinational Corporations Are Redefining Business Strategies to Reach the Poor or Vulnerable Populations. The report presents several case studies involving more than 30 companies working in food, beverage and agriculture; health care; financial services; extractives and natural resources; and the housing and construction sectors. The study also identifies countries with the highest potential for shared value innovation. Some of the case studies might be familiar, but others, such as Novo Nordisk’s market-based response to diabetes growth in China, or how insurance giant ICICI Lombard developed insurance to protect farmers from weather events, giving smallholder farmers (and their financial partners) more opportunities to take market risks and reap the rewards, may be fresh to many readers. Check out the full report here.

In Case You Missed It … This Week on NextBillion

NexThought Monday: Do Women Still Need to Prove Themselves By Nidhi Chaudhary

From Pavement Begging to Stable Housing, Stable Incomes By Sriram Gutta

Why Financial Institutions Should Close the Gender Data Gap By Jaclyn Berfond

The IRIS Registry: Bringing Metrics to Life for the Impact Sector By Logan YonavjakNew Ventures

Peace Pays: Rebuilding Livelihoods in Northern Uganda By Bruce McNamerTechnoServe

Financial Inclusion of Women: The Need for Systemic Approaches, Savings, and Tailored Financial Products By Kristie WangAshoka

How a Mobile Airtime Vendor Became Zimbabwe’s Fastest-Growing Bank By Erik MandellMercy Corps

FEATURED EVENT: Adapting Scalable Clean Technologies for Bottom of the Pyramid Markets By Ted Sullivan