More than ever, business and market-based approaches in general are seen as critical parts of the solution to global poverty. Governments, NGOs and businesses – from startups to multinationals – have largely accepted this premise. Now, it is time to start talking more about how we, as a sector, can collectively share – and debate – the lessons learned so far in order to better create the future path ahead of us. But in order to do that, we need to be more of a community. To achieve this, we need a long-term vision not only for specific enterprises, but a shared vision for the domain as a whole.
At the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan (WDI), we believe in action based on rigorous analysis and deep listening. We strive to be at the forefront of the evolution of the base of the pyramid domain. We see the missing community and the lack of a roadmap to help guide the domain’s development as key gaps to be addressed.
This was the framing for the BoP Summit 2013: Creating an Action Agenda for the Next Decade, hosted by WDI in October 2013. This event brought together over 200 leaders from more than 20 countries to reflect on what we have learned about in the BoP domain in the decade since the BoP concept was popularized by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart, among others. We shared insights on what has worked, and where there are still gaps, and discussed ways to build upon and amplify existing successes, and identify and tackle current limitations.
The result of these discussions – “A Roadmap for the Base of the Pyramid Domain: Re-energizing for the Next Decade” – is a co-created action agenda that represents our shared vision for a future where we as a community:
(1) Possess a culture of sharing knowledge, as well as the platforms and institutions to do so effectively.
(2) Systematically understand the factors that lead to success, as well as failure.
(3) Pool best practices in business model development, impact assessment, and capacity building to support BoP enterprises more efficiently.
(4) Align our community and capital to give BoP enterprise leaders the support they need at the time they need it to allow them to build more and better enterprises to serve the poor.
The Roadmap presents four initiatives as key priorities that would enable us to achieve this vision.
These four initiatives focus on the goals of:
- Creating more sustainable, scalable enterprises
- Building a more holistic partnership ecosystem
- Understanding and enhancing mutual value creation
- Building a globally connected knowledge-sharing and training network.
While not meant to cover all potential issues facing the domain, the Roadmap is intended to catalyze efforts to create a stronger and more robust BoP community that learns and shares more effectively, and better supports the development of BoP enterprises.
We are launching the BoP Roadmap in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23 (register here). At this event we will be recapping the steps that led to the creation of the roadmap to understand why these activities are necessary and, more importantly, how we can move these ideas to action. We will discuss both what has happened already and where the key opportunities for future engagement can be found.
Indeed, the BoP Roadmap is not the end of the journey. In many ways, this is just the beginning of a new journey to achieve our shared objectives. The Roadmap is being launched with the support of a variety of leading organizations as a partnership platform that will help make this vision a reality. These groups include: BMZ (the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development); Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH; the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; Enterprise for a Sustainable World; Danone Ecosysteme; BoP Global Labs; the Grameen Foundation; the Global Social Benefit Institute; the Global Impact Investing Network; and the United Nations Development Programme. We aim to build a community willing to dedicate leadership and resources not only to support the enterprises of today, but also to share in the larger journey of energizing the domain.
In addition to exploring the Roadmap itself and some of the partnerships that have already been established under the Roadmap framing, this event will act as a forum to continue the conversation and engage the attendees in an interactive discussion of how we, as a community, move this agenda forward.
If you can’t attend, there are still a number of ways to engage with the BoP Roadmap Initiative. We will be live-streaming the event for those who wish to participate remotely, and the Roadmap document itself will be available to download shortly. (This post will be updated with a link to the report). To join the live-stream, click here a few minutes before the event …. There is a 100-person capacity.
We at WDI are very excited about this event. If you’re in the Washington D.C. area on Oct. 23, we invite you to come join us in person to be a part of this new and vibrant community, and help shape an action agenda for the development of the BoP domain of the coming decade.
The BoP Roadmap is available to download here
Ted London is Senior Research Fellow and Director of Base of the Pyramid Initiative at the William Davidson Institute.
Colm Fay is the Research Manager of the BoP Enterprise Sustainability and Growth Program at WDI.