The Top Inclusive Business Resources of 2012
Whether you seek practical tools for entrepreneurs, or an overview of how inclusive businesses are grappling towards scale, there has been plenty for everyone in the highlights of 2012. On the Practitioner Hub on Inclusive Business we feature an Editor's Choice every month. I have spent an enjoyable morning going back through the highlights of 2012 - those that made it to my Ed Choice and a few that didn't - to see what should not be missed.
For the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who want tools, Editor’s Choice featured several this year: a range of short Checklists from BIF, and a comprehensive SME Toolkit from IFC are immensely practical. But I have two top choices: Business Model Generation by the Business Model Foundry is proactive, lively and easy to use (as a page, book or app). And our own Database of Financial and Technical Resources for Inclusive Business – a searchable Excel file of over 200 organisations that offer support - produced jointly by BIF and IAP, seems to have filled a gap and has undoubtedly been our most warmly welcomed output to date.
Sector by sector, there are more in-depth, well-informed analyses. I strongly believe that narrow sectoral blinkers can be a weakness in inclusive business – much of the innovation we see crosses sectoral boundaries. Nevertheless it can be great to see what many others in your own sector are doing, in the space of one report. The one report may be a tad long, but rich in information and analysis.
We featured excellent overview reports on energy (Business Solutions to Enable Energy Access for All) and water (Access to Safe Water at the Base of the Pyramid) in February and April. In health, a similar report on access to medicines at the BOP could easily have been an Editor’s choice, but we actually featured a refreshingly different kind of case study in low-cost healthcare in October. In agri-business, aside from our own themed newsletter, there were two reports that should not be ignored: Seas of Change report on scaling inclusive agri-food markets (featured by WBCSD), and the Link Methodology, a Participatory Guide to Business Models that Link Smallholders to Ma... (English and Spanish version available via this blog, warning 12.5MB)
The most thought provoking choices of 2012 were those that explored whether and how inclusive businesses go to scale. Acumen explored 3 routes to scale in Mission, Margin and Mandate, Intellecap found that Indian social enterprises are are small but capital-hungry, aggressive and ‘On the Path to Scale’, while Monitor and Accenture mapped the phases from Blueprint to Scale and argued that philanthropic funds are essential to plug the Pioneer Gap at early stages.
There is a golden thread through all these tools and reviews, that could be summed up as ‘It’s the business model, Stupid!’ The common theme is that there is no ‘off-the-shelf’ business model for successful scalable inclusive business. By definition, some innovation or adaptation is needed by the entrepreneur: hence the tools, the sector reviews, the dissection of business models. But there is plenty of innovative, good examples to learn from, and some common themes emerging about how to combine profit, innovation and social impact.
What can we expect in 2013? More on impact, certainly from BIF, but also from WBCSD. More on how the policy context affects inclusive business – on top of a good policy note from IFC this year, we should hear more from UNDP Africa Inclusive Markets on this. And I have no doubt, more on business models – in practice, via toolkits and ideally at scale. The Business Innovation Facility (version 1) wraps up in December 2013 (probably followed by version 2), and we will be publishing what we have learnt about results of inclusive business, stories of its ups and downs, and unpacking business models that reach BOP consumers, engage farmers, or innovate through partnerships.
This is an edited version of Editor's Choice December 2012, first posted on the Practitioner Hub on Inclusive Business. The Hub is co-funded by DFID and Sida.
An archive of all Editor's Choice blogs since 2010 can be found here.
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