How can we address ecosystem barriers to help social businesses grow and scale? Panellists at the recent Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship held at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, said the answer is to focus on people and organizations at the core. How exactly do you do this however?
Understand that social entrepreneurship is the path less travelled
Kavita Ramdas of the Ford Foundation made the point that India is not Silicon Valley. Change makers here are often under extreme pressure to do the ‘right’ thing and unfortunately, ‘starting something of your own usually doesn’t fall into that’. Entrepreneurship is risky, and often monetary rewards are not immediately forthcoming.
Even those who dare to buck the burden of expectations quickly get bogged down by perceived failures, which are really just an opportunity for learning and adaptation for a pioneer firm. Consumer models, for instance, may have to undergo various iterations before zeroing in on ideal distribution networks. Changing perceptions of what is acceptable and possible through events that celebrate failure is the first step towards an enabling environment for social entrepreneurs. After all, the path less travelled does require some exploration.
Unpack the problem fully: it is more than just the immediate stakeholder
MIM’s own work in housing has taught us this very well. Convincing developers and catalysing supply through a new business model which made affordable housing feasible was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past five years, we have worked with architects and designers, housing finance companies, policymakers and most of all end customers and beneficiaries of the solution. Usha Kiran of Gates said, ‘You need to understand the problem end to end, even when you are not solving end to end.’ Trying to understand the scope of the problem at the outset can be instructive in determining the kinds of people and organizations that may be critical to helping your solution take root.
Remember that you are not alone
The likelihood that you are alone in trying to address a problem is low. What is probable is that other people have their own mandates and agendas that determine how they choose to be involved. Identifying who is involved and keeping in mind their constraints can help you leverage capabilities outside your organization.
Swati Chaudhary is a consultant at Monitor Inclusive Markets.