Tag Archives: yunus

Grameen and Continuum partner to address talent gap in microfinance

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion at Continuum, the design consultancy based in Newton, Massachusetts, on “Building Leadership in the Microfinance Sector.” Moderated by Ed Milano from Continuum, the panel consisted of a cross functional team that was studying the issue of talent acquisition and management in the microfinance sector and consisted of Peg Ross, Director of the Human Capital Center at the Grameen Foundation; Lyndon Rego, Director of the Innovation Incubator at the  Center for Creative Leadership; Lynn Pikholz, President of Shorecap Exchange; and Anna Muoio, Principal with the Social Innovation practice at Continuum.

The presentation and discussion centered around some very preliminary findings based on an initial field immersion trip and set the stage for  more detailed field research to be conducted later this year. I have outlined some of the observations that were shared at the meeting and my personal observations and reactions to what I heard. Continue reading

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Why we need Social Investors

The latest Time Magazine has a great article about social entrepreneur Reed Paget and his startup Belu that has grown from $13,000 in 2004 to nearly $4 million in 2008 while providing water in corn based bottles that can be composted and redeploying its profits to projects that bring clean water to deserving regions of the world.

In the article Paget says it was important “to remove the ‘We must maximize profit’ from our management system.” His objective is to provide maximal social and environmental benefit, like social businesses defined by Yunus. However the challenge for him is finding socially motivated investors. Over the past several years he has managed to raise $2.5 Million in 32 painstaking rounds of funding. Even environmental charities like Greenpeace do not see it in their purview to fund startups like his.

This is a classic example of the type of opportunity that makes business and social sense but is left hanging as there are not enough socially motivated investors willing to take this early stage risk. As we mentioned in earlier posts, this new market segment badly needs socially conscious investors who are willing to support early stage companies and to take a lower economic rate of return in exchange for greater social/environmental impact. Like Belu, many socially motivated businesses struggle with fundraising expending precious resources in multiple rounds of incremental funding instead of focusing on building and scaling their businesses.

Some thoughts on Clayton Christensens article on Social Innovation

Clayton Christensen, who has written extensively on a number of strategic ideas, recently opined in The Huffington Post about the potential role the White House Office of Social Innovation could play. (The article was co-authored by Vanessa Kirsch who founded New Profit – an interesting organization itself espousing a venture philanthropy model) Continue reading

A conversation on Microfinance

Couple of months ago we had the privilege to host Mr. N. Srinivasan in Boston. Mr. Srinivasan is the author of the ‘Microfinance in India: State of the Sector Report 2008’. He also capped off his 25 year career at National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as Chief General Manager for his last 6 years.

Over an informal dinner with a number of interested locals, Mr. Srinivasan spoke extensively about the issues facing the current crop of Microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India. The recent focus on MFIs after Prof. Yunus got his Nobel Prize has increased the visibility for these institutions and has also accelerated the flow of funds to this sector creating almost another bubble.  From Boston, Mr. Srinivasan went to the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area where he met with Bhalchander (Bala) Vishwanath, who is himself a budding online micro lending entrepreneur. Continue reading

How to multiply your social impact 2X to 6X

In 2005 Kiva launched a website that allowed individuals to provide small loans to needy entrepreneurs around the world. The money was directed through microfinance institutions (MFIs) to their customers. When the site launched it had only 7 businesses in Uganda. Then their story got picked up by the Daily Kos and donations started flooding their site. With all the subsequent publicity Kiva was unable to line up beneficiaries fast enough to keep up with the donations coming in and for a while had to put a hold on its site.

Fast forward to 2008, Bala Vishwanath, an alum of top Indian tech and management schools – IIT and IIM – saw an opportunity to unstick the Kiva bottleneck and to multiply the social impact of every dollar. He quit his job and worked to setup www.UnitedProsperity.org United Prosperity helps provide loan guarantees that enable poor entrepreneurs to borrow from Microfinance Institutions to build their enterprises in developing countries. Continue reading