Scott Anderson

What Works? What Doesn?t? Applying the BoP Framework

Right about now Ann Arbor, MI is buzzing with thousands of attendees ready for Net Impact, which begins tomorrow and for which we’ll have plenty of coverage. Meanwhile, a smaller (but no less important) group was wrapping up a Base of the Pyramid Impact Assessment Workshop, aimed at helping them separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to economic and social impact.

The workshop, which was organized by the William Davidson Institute for the second year running, attracted seven participants from five countries representing the nonprofit, private sector and academic worlds. The basis for the workshop is the BoP Impact Framework developed by Ted London of WDI and a NextBillion Advisory Board Member. We’ve written about the framework here and here before, but it was created to help organizations identify and track poverty alleviation impacts as a way of enhancing their missions.

During the workshop, participants conducted an initial strategic assessment of their organizations; learned more about research design, sample size, developing a survey, creating a sound data collection process, implementing a survey and analyzing data. Of course, the key is actually applying each of the concepts. Each participant had a trial run on doing just that by presenting his or her action plan to the group, and receiving feedback from fellow attendees and WDI representatives, including Heather Esper.

In addition to understanding the framework, what hit home for Kyle Cahill, who manages the Poverty Footprint for Oxfam America, was the importance of truly understanding BoP consumers and going into any assessment process with a “blank slate.”

“Often from a Western or purely private sector point of view, various solutions, or problems or challenges/opportunities aren’t recognized until you’re on the ground and truly understanding how people live, how people interact, how they purchase, how they don’t purchase,” Cahill said. “The real focus (is) on being very open, but also being very focused on both respecting and understanding through the eyes of the people.”

Stephanie Jayne, Senior Research Officer of Nuru, said understanding the broader implications of any BoP enterprise was an important message of the workshop.

“(A key takeaway) is really being very intentional about the pros and cons for any intervention, whether they be revenue generating or poverty alleviation programs,” Jayne noted.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, we’ll be covering Net Impact, which will be taking place here at the University of Michigan campus, and where assessment will no doubt be a major discussion point.