Let’s start the new year by profiling one of the most innovative, exciting and successful social impact business models of the last few years. Sproxil, a Massachusetts-based company started in 2009 with operations in five countries; Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, India and the US is revolutionizing the pharmaceuticals market and fighting back dangerous counterfeit drugs which kill approximately 700K people in developing countries a year. Sproxil is doing this through the empowerment of consumers to know what they are buying using their mobile phones. It is a novel idea, and it is working. Sproxil is growing quickly and gaining lots of recognition along the way including being named a White House Champion of Change and Fast Company most innovative healthcare company in 2013.
As the global economy almost came to a collapse over the debate about the right to public health care insurance in the United States. I thought it would be an interesting moment to share the story of a successful for-profit business model to provide affordable health care services to underserved BoP communities in South Africa. Unjani Clinics, which means “How are you?” in Zulu are a sustainable fee for service based business model that provide basic health services such as basic eye care in refurbished containers operated as franchises by certified nurse practioners. It is a model that has gained steam and expanded from three to seven clinics in the last year. Those looking to figure out better ways to better serve the BoP with healthcare services should take noticed.
In memory of those who lost their lives in the terrible and unnecessary violent attacks at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, today I thought it would be appropriate to share some good news from Kenya about a business working to transform the sanitation business model in Nairobi slums. Sanergy a company founded by a group of MIT MBA alums has created a sustainable business model to turn “poop into profit” literally turning human waste into biogas and fertilizer and selling it for a profit. The company has earned its share of accolades and press coverage including being profiled in the FT special edition on urban ingenuity and in the most reputable science magazine in the US; the Scientific American. Read on to learn more. Continue reading
A few weeks back I wrote about Cuyana an interesting social impact business model with a Quechua name. I recently came across another such company listening to a Good Life podcast. This one is called Runa which means “human being” in the native language of the Andes. It is a perfect name since Runa, is a Brooklyn, New York based agribusiness with a grounded human-centered approach to profitably and sustainably make a difference in the world. It does this by providing alternative livelihoods for indigenous Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon while at the same time providing the US market with a healthy new caffeinated beverage alternative called Guayusa. Runa has grown quickly from its small beginnings of importing the tree-leaf using personal luggage and doing homemade packaging and distribution to family and friends. Today it can now be found across the United States, most notably in the popular Whole Foods supermarket chain. In doing so its approach of bringing business ethic to social work has been praised by Richard Branson’s in his book Screw Business as Usual and its founders have even made their way onto Bloomberg TV. Read on to find out more.
Over the last few years we have seen the emergence of a new model for public-private partnership which innovatively allows private financiers to help public sector or non-government actors to achieve needed social goals. That model is the social impact bond (SIB) – or as the Economist magazine calls it a new way to link commerce and conscience. It is a model which allows the private sector to finance social programs and get paid back with interest by the government if and when a pre-determined social target is met. Started in the UK in 2010 it has since caught on around the world being used in places like New South Wales, Australia, the state of Massachusetts in the US and notably by the New York City government in conjunction with Goldman Sachs in an effort to help troubled teens avoid going back to jail. More recently a new company, Instiglio, started by a bunch of bright young Harvard Kennedy School grads has decided to take the model to developing countries starting with Colombia and now also India. Read on to find out more.
This week I would like to profile a non-profit model that deserves notice not only because it was started by a former classmate and friend of mine but also because it is an inspiring new model for development aid that may well be a new benchmark by which all poverty-alleviation interventions and philanthropy will be measured. GiveDirectly a recent winner of a Google Global Impact Award is a non-profit devoted to providing unconditional cash transfers (i.e. cash with no strings attached) directly to the impoverished in Kenya. You may be asking what is the difference between this and just giving money away? Not much, except that with technology from M-Pesa and rigorous randomized impact evaluations they can guarantee that money is being received by intended beneficiaries and is having an impact on those who need it most. It is a simple tech-enabled and data-driven model that has caught the world’s attention and has recently been featured by the likes of Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic Magazine and NPR. Read on to find out more.
Like many of us, I spend a large chunk of my day staring at my smartphone messaging with family and friends, emailing, using social media or just goofing off playing games. Turns out according to one study of the estimated more than 200 million new smartphone users in 2012 each spends roughly 10% of their time on the phone playing games. I had often wondered in the past if there was a way to take advantage of this large and growing mobile gaming market for social good. Well it turns out one company; Decode Global is doing just that. The company recently featured in Forbes is an incubator of mobile applications for social change. Its latest game called Get Water! is starting to capture buzz not only because it won the United Nations UNAOC Challenge and brings the important issue of water, gender and education to our daily lives but also because the game is fun.