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.
This week I would like to profile a San Francisco based company which shares with me the distinct honor of having a Quechua name. Cuyana which means “to love” in the traditional Andean language of the Inca people is a socially driven fashion company that designs and manufacturers clothing and accessories inspired by the stories, craftsmen, and finest materials of the world; country by country. So far it has designed collections from Ecuador, Peru, India, Argentina, Japan and most recently Mexico. Its products have also been profiled in Elle, Conde Nest Traveler, People Magazine and others. Lets now take a closer look.
Have you ever wondered who does those annoyingly repetitive tasks of data validation, number checking and content moderation? I may have found the answer. This week I’d like to profile a technology company which has come up with an innovative “win-win” solution to connect some of the world’s biggest and most sophisticated tech companies with the jobless poor in developing countries. The company Samasource which means “equal” in Sanskrit does this through a concept called microwork or the division of big tasks into smaller ones which can be performed by unskilled labor online. It is a brilliant idea that proves people from villages and urban slums can be reliable parts of the global knowledge economy supply chain. It is so good that it has as the Financial Times described really taken off and thrust the company and its creator into the limelight being labeled Wired magazine as one of the 50 people who can change the world and by the Wall Street Journal as one of businesses rising stars.
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.
As Google Glass is soon to be released and will perhaps be the hot new thing for 2013, today I would like to profile a creative social business also providing an innovative business solution using eyeglasses. VisionSpring has been operating for more than a decade to provide eyeglasses and job opportunities to people without prior access at the base of the economic pyramid in Bangladesh, El Salvador, India and South Africa. It has used an innovative human centered affordable product and delivery design model built in partnership with IDEO to sell eyeglasses to more than one million people to date. Its business model has been proven to provide productivity benefits to its customers and it has been featured in the New York Times and recently won a large grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures fund.
I would like to profile an innovative business venture started by a former classmate I have been following for sometime now. That business is Embrace a for profit business that has developed a low-cost infant warmer for babies in developing countries. It is a social business idea that is so good that it recently was recognized as one of the 2013 winners of the WEF Social Entrepreneur of the Year award and also recently won the Nokia Health Tech Award and McKinsey Social Innovation Video Contest.