Un voyage de 8 mois à la rencontre des entrepreneurs sociaux et des journalistes qui partagent une même vision d'un monde en changement…

August 14, 2013
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Banco Popular Foundation: sharing energies of all social actors to better answer local challenges

The Banco Popular Foundation, the biggest bank in Puerto Rico, has been active for more than 35 years in the support of high-impact social organizations, most of which not-for-profit, but also a few social businesses. Nearly 2 million dollars are allocated each year to 80 to 90 organizations all over the island, acting for the majority of them in the educational field.

These 35 years of experience enabled the foundation to study deeply the country’s social scene and to bring to light the insufficient sharing of information and experience between different projects. “Each year, we used to receive new project files that reminded us of those of the year before. Everyone was constantly reinventing the wheel but with no real innovation or capitalization on what was already there”, says Beatriz Polhamus, executive director of the foundation.

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Last year, the foundation implemented a transverse program aiming at solving this lack of communication in the solidarity sector. During one day, the 83 organizations supported by the foundation reunited in San Juan, the Puerto Rican capital, to learn and work together. These structures were split into six categories according to their field of action and each of these groups were asked to bring out three of the most pertinent and efficient transverse projects or challenges to work on. A new division was then made according to the geographical breakdown and the final groups had to chose a project to work on together.

For the ten biggest organizations of the island working in the field of special needs education, this day allowed to highlight a key challenge that is at stake for each of them: the lack of data collected on the beneficiary populations. Knowing how many children are autistic in each region or how this illness evolves over the years on the island is essential to enable the organizations to answer the needs of the populations. Thus working together to provide these data means a real adjustment of the specific services that are provided but also to allocate better the different action plans between the various organisations, to come up with a stronger social impact.

Several months after this first experiment, the 83 structures met again in order to share their thoughts, best practices or results.

The third step, which took place last November, consisted in connecting these organizations with experts, institutions or investors who could help in the process of developing their transverse projects. Then again the progress is huge as a few months before they were still considering each other as competitors when they wanted to raise funds or request help. But after one year of working together, social impact is back to being the focus. The sharing of information, good practices and experience was set up by the foundation and makes a real difference for the island’s social business sector. Progress that were made will later enable a better organization of the sector and a better allocation of energies and actions, leading to a stronger social impact.

The area of Puerto Rico allows us to go from one end to the other in about 4 hours. It makes it easer to put in place such programs, that need physical meetings of the different stakeholders. But this model can be replicated on a regional scale, in a district or a neighbourhood. Its efficiency has already been proven.

July 22, 2013
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In the Philippines, between image and reality

The Philippines is a country that surprises you, bothers you and fascinates you all at once.  With close to 40% of the population living beneath the poverty line, it can still be very difficult to cross anything else than smiles all day long, it is truly a challenge to avoid being offered a meal or some help when wandering the streets, or to say no to an invitation to the next karaoke party in the closest sari-sari. Poverty is everywhere, in every detail and every home, but the lush vegetation, heavenly beaches, generosity and pride of the inhabitants can easily keep us from seeing the reality of what is going on behind the pretty curtains.

And yet if you make the effort, you will quickly open your eyes to the social issues at stake, the government’s helplessness facing local public corruption, the dreadful figures of domestic violence or the number of young victims of sexual abuse. You walk towards this sweet little boy standing on the pavement only to discover that his skin – like all his friends’ skins – is covered with infested pimples due to their living conditions…

Hopefully many great initiatives work hard to face these massive challenges day after day. The Philippines has got hope to improve the situation, many natural resources and a population that is certainly the biggest treasure of the country. Should they be used wisely and humanely…

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Inhabitant of the Gawad Kalinga village, the Enchated Farm

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Young girl in the Enchanted Farm village

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A man on his bangka, the traditional philippino boat.

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Young girl of the village Gawad Kalinga in El Nido.

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Workman and his son in the Gawad Kalinga village of El Nido : working for yourself is working for the others as 40% of the income benefits for the whole community.

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Young boy in one of the slums of Manila.

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On the other side of the river, the contrast with one of Gawad Kalinga’s village in Manila.

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In a Gawad Kalinga’s village.

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Happyland, an unexpected name for one of the main slums of Manila…

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Young boy of the daycare program initiated by LP4Y in the slums to help young mothers, allow them to work and to become entrepreneurs of their own lifes.

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In the slum called Smokey Mountain.

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Young girls of the team 3S, a initiative renting solar lamps in the slums of Manila. They are all part of the LP4Y program.

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In the slums of Manila.

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July 1, 2013
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Hapinoy, empowering women one small shop at a time

Hapinoy LogoSmall shops – or sari-sari – are everywhere in the Philippines. In the cities of course, but most of all in the remote areas of the countryside. Basically, no matter how far you go and even in the middle of isolated mountain rice terraces, you will probably soon stumble on a Coca-Cola logo hidden behind a tree somewhere, and discover one small, dense and messy shop that answers a lot of everyday basic needs.

One estimates that more than 800 000 sari-sari are dispersed across the country, composing a network that keeps the villages alive and interconnected. And because those shops are always part of the family’s house and enable women to work while taking care of the children, they are almost always owned and run by those mothers – the nanay.

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The mission of Hapinoy? To improve the skills and the businesses of those women so that they can make it more sustainable and profitable for their families. Hapinoy also helps them introduce high impact goods to their shops, like solar lamps or medicine, so that it also participates to the development of the whole community.

How does it work? Hapinoy targets high potential women entrepreneurs in the villages and helps them become better entrepreneurs by training them for ten months in marketing, accountancy, inventory, distribution, etc. These trainings are adapted to their busy schedule and co-created with them in order to improve their business skills while understanding their specific needs.

By the first six or seven months, Hapinoy also helps women buy more capital by borrowing money from the local partnered MFIs (microfinance institutions). They guide them to see this loan as a real investment, not only a way to buy more goods. For example, they advise them to buy a cellphone that will enable them to develop load business, or to buy a tricycle so that they can introduce a delivery service into their business.

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The goal of the program is of course to help these women make their businesses grow and earn more money, but it is also about giving back. After the ten-months training, the women share their knowledge and new skills to empower other women of their community. And this is the moment when the program really becomes “alive”, autonomous and thus sustainable.

Another great innovation of Hapinoy lays in the participation of the husbands to the program. Hapinoy is primarily a program for sari sari entrepreneurs, who happen to be mostly women. But women’s empowerment has to be understood and followed by the husbands in order to be sustainable, and that is a main issue for any kind of social program targeting women. In order to avoid the husbands feeling left behind, Hapinoy includes them in the program, in discussions and workshops so that they can understand how their wives’ empowerment is indeed empowerment for the whole family.

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The program is free of charge for these women but Hapinoy developed a sustainable business model through the network of suppliers, manufacturers and distributers they work with to bring high impact goods to the communities. Hapinoy centralizes the orders, helps organizing the whole supply chain and thus helps those partners opening new, profitable markets in exchange for a commission on the sellings. In addition to that, they are also selling them market studies and researches at a very local level, using all the valuable data gathered from their interactions with the community.

Since its creation in 2007, Hapinoy has helped more than 1 200 women each year. After those first five years, they are now break even and will be making profits in the next few years, which will enable them to open new trainings. They are on their way to create a sustainable model that will enable them to replicate easily, in order to expand faster and easier? That’s all we can wish to this amazing project!

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June 29, 2013
by admin
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No Entrepreneurs or No Investors: Examining the reality in India’s early-stage ecosystem

It is no secret that entrepreneurs committed to taking novel ideas to low-income markets often face complex challenges. Challenges defined by accessing market knowledge, expertise and other resources, such as funding, which frequently result in high risks and uncertainty.

As the social enterprise ecosystem matures in India, the issue of funding only seems to be growing more pronounced – surprisingly for both the entrepreneur and investor.

All to often entrepreneurs claim that few relevant investors exist – especially those prepared to invest in businesses where there are no other precedent business models, despite impact and profit potential. Contrastingly, investors focused on patient investing claim they are desperate to place funds, but are unable to identify sufficient investment-ready enterprises.

Unfortunately, this fragmentation between investors and entrepreneurs creates misaligned expectations. The result is that exciting innovations – such as solar energy lamps or low-cost hospital models – which could positively impact the lives of those living in low-income markets, are often stifled.

Recognizing this, Ennovent hosted a Thought Leader Session on May 24, bringing together leading entrepreneurs and investors to discuss this polarizing issue.

The discussion – which yielded surprising results – included entrepreneurs such as Rajnish Jain, Co-Founder of Avani Bio Energy and Vijay Pratap Singh, Founder of ekgaon as well as investors Priyanshu Gupta, Associate Vice-President, Lok Capital and Srikant Sastri, Angel Investor and Chairperson, Vivaki.

The unexpected outcome of this Thought Leader Session was that all the speakers and participants unanimously agreed that there were, in fact, enough of both entrepreneurs and investors in the marketplace.

Rajnish Jain, said, “As an entrepreneur I don’t feel that there is a lack of funding. Often entrepreneurs think, ‘It’s my idea and it’s great. Why are they asking about returns and questioning my model?’ Well, it is the investors’ money and they have the right to evaluate risks, ask questions. Entrepreneurs better need to understand this investor mindset rather than questioning it.”

The challenge for entrepreneurs it seems is not the quantity of investors, but in embracing the seemingly endless analysis and due diligence that comes with the investment process. But even before this process begins, it’s also difficult to recognize the right type of investor – resulting in an unexpected matchmaking process from both, the entrepreneur and investor.

“Anyone who can Google can find investors. It’s more difficult to recognize the kind of investor they are, their investment expectations and what stage of businesses they invest in mentioned Vijay Pratap Singh.

Furthermore, the entrepreneurs also added that, more than the idea, investors also look at the entrepreneur and their personal drive.

“When you present, don’t do things as per the templates, do your own thing – what works best for you”, added Vijay Pratap Singh.

Before pitching to an investor, the entrepreneur should to invest in oneself as well as the idea. The entrepreneur must of course prepare an effective business model and establish proof of concept, but must also be able to creatively and clearly state what they need from the investor and why, highlighting the importance of strong communications skills and confidence.

From an investor perspective, it seemed that beyond the sufficient quantity of impact-oriented entrepreneurs, the challenge remains transforming innovative ideas into a viable business models focusing on both social and commercial aims.

Srikant Sastri from Vivaki commented, “A lot of good ideas exist but the structure around them does not. Investors don’t have the time to educate the entrepreneurs on the packaging of these ideas. For this to occur, more accelerators such as Ennovent Startup Services are required within the social space.”

While there has been a growth in the number of incubators in India in the last 18-24 months additional numbers are required to help create strong business models around entrepreneurial ideas and facilitate investor-investee matchmaking.

Talking about the challenges entrepreneurs face in identifying the right kind of investors for their enterprise Priyanshu Gupta, further added “While investors can easily be found through online sources, media and events, word of mouth references to appropriate investors remains key as investors expectations and their risk appetites differ at the various evolution stages of an enterprise”.

Interestingly, in taking an investor view the panelists unanimously agreed that the structure of the capital, be it debt, equity or grant is not as important as entrepreneurs often think. What arguably takes precedence is that the investor and the entrepreneur are in sync about the value proposition of the business and how the capital will be deployed.

Ennovent’s most recent Thought Leader Session reduced the thinking that there are no entrepreneurs and no investors to a myth. However what remains to be addressed to improve India’s landscape for innovations are the processes around matchmaking, business model development and pitching.

Ennovent Thought Leader Sessions provide a platform to inspire, discuss, network and connect with experienced practitioners to solve key challenges in taking ideas to low-income markets. Join the Ennovent Network now to stay updated on the next session scheduled to take place July 5th in Bangalore.

 

by Perzen Patel