Building the Pace on Inclusive Business Models
We have reached a tipping point in the way business sees its relationship with the developing world.
A growing number of companies, from large multinationals to small-sized start-ups, are moving beyond philanthropic, risk mitigating, CSR-focused activities, to find new ways to do business that benefit both the poor and their core business.
We are seeing a growing momentum behind the adoption of “inclusive business models” by many companies that expand access to goods, services, and livelihood opportunities for low-income communities, alongside an increased willingness and interest by companies in committing business thinking and capacity to shared development challenges, especially in Africa.
Effective collaboration and partnerships between the various sectors of society are now a critical success factor in the development and implementation of inclusive business approaches. This creates a powerful means for us to think in new ways about how to tackle some of the most intractable and daunting development challenges.
And as the scope and complexity of cross-sector partnerships grow, new models of collaboration are emerging that offer the potential to transform the scale and outcomes of existing approaches.
For example, business-to-business partnerships are creating opportunities for companies to share resources to address shared systemic challenges in an integrated way, working with civil society and government partners. An example is the close collaboration between companies and customs organisations in East Africa to speed up the cross-border movement of goods, which is key to increasing levels of intra-regional trade.
We are also seeing donors and governments recognising the new opportunities and a growing willingness to work with business across a wide range of issues and geographies, helping to share the risks, supporting stable regulatory environments and contributing deep knowledge and convening power to generate momentum.
However, to sustain this momentum, we need to invest more time and resource in building our capacity to partner, learn new skills and be willing to experiment – and indeed, sometimes to fail. We know that partnerships will fail unless there is transparency, mutual advantage and equity amongst those engaged in collaborative action. These qualities are not “givens” but must be consciously and deliberately maintained by all partners to achieve maximum returns.