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Achieving Scale and Impact Supporting Small Businesses

Achieving Scale and Impact Supporting Small Businesses

Earlier this week, to mark Global Partnerships Week, Business Fights Poverty and the CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School released a new case study on the partnership between SABMiller, the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and FUNDES to empower 190,000 small-scale retailers in Latin America by 2020. Called 4e Camino al Progreso, or Path to Progress, the program aims to empower small-scale retailers as business owners, heads of household, and change agents in their communities.

The case study was launched at a breakfast that brought approximately 30 companies, development agencies, and civil society groups to IDB headquarters to share their experience supporting small businesses and exchange activities and insights with the potential to help one another overcome the challenges to the scale and impact they face. Perhaps the key conclusion was that while supporting small business makes enormous sense in theory, it is enormously complex in practice. The business case for any given company depends on the strength of the whole ecosystem – including many other companies and, critically, the government. How to strengthen the ecosystems for inclusive business is a key area of research for the CSR Initiative.

After the breakfast, we opened up the dialogue with a live online discussion that attracted nearly 1,700 participants around the world. Participants and panelists from the United States Department of State, the Shared Value Initiative, SABMiller Latin America, IDB, and FUNDES together made more than 160 comments. Key themes included:

  • The importance of the business case, and the need to understand and measure both business value and social value (i.e., shared value) created
  • The need to harness technology to expand reach and reduce cost, but also to make sure technology is used as a means to an end – not an end in itself
  • The importance of the policy environment, and the value of empowering those most affected by these policies – small businesses – to help advocate for change
  • The opportunity to build recycling into the 4e program for enhanced environmental impact
  • And more

A summary can be downloaded here, and the discussion remains online for those wishing to read it in its entirety.

There is also a blog series featuring contributions from SABMiller Latin America and Africa, IDB, FUNDES, 4e banking partner Banco Agricola, and a participating retailer here.

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