Trends in Social Business and Micro Entrepreneurship
I’ve been wanting to discuss the top trends in social entrepreneurship for a while. Here’s my first stab at some of the top eleven ten trends that are happening in the social business space.
Trend 1: Social Impact Assessment. Nonprofits, social businesses, funders, and venture capitalists will all likely pay greater attention to the ROI and SROI of social entrepreneurial ventures. [See also: Social Impact Assessment, SROI, and social performance] Although, its also likely true that these will take place in the matrix of identity and branding issues (expressive interests) for venture capitalists and corporate social responsibility outreach. Aligning organizational and personal interests is still critical in the world of social impact assessment.
Trend 2: The Role of Government and Social Business Ventures. Government is not a new seat at the table–but is certainly one of the key role players in the social entrepreneurship arena. There will be greater realization that government and markets can work together, as long as interests sync and partners are accountable. Hopefully the launch of Public Innovators will signal more accountable and government facilitation of social entrepreneurs.
Trends 3: The Changing Role of Corporate Social Responsibility. Better innovation in social impact assessment and social media could trigger better accounting and aggregation of corporate behavior and CSR. Hopefully, this will include sustainability with a definition that transcends just green and environmental concerns. Labeling, certifications, increased transparency, and governing organizations are just the start–but can be replicated across industries.
1) Cebicherias Chiqui, Peru, 5 lunch stands
2) Casa por Casa, Mexico, 18 advertisings agents (IF)
3) Ingles Individual, Mexico, 70 language tutors, (IF)
4) UV Water, 100 village water systems
5) UMU, Uganga, 125 microfinance agents, MFI
6) Pride Africa, Kenya, 250 microfinance agents, MFI
7) Cemex Patrimonio Hoy, Mexico, 500 local promoters serving 120,000 construction jobsites (MNC)
8} Yogurt Persa, Yougurt Tito, Ecuador, 35 restaurants, IF
9) ES Coffee, Ecuador, 2,500 coffee producers (IF)
10) Grameen Uddog, Bangladesh, 4,500 textile weavers
11) Vodacom Phone Centers, South Africa, 5,000 phone centers, MNC
12) Unilver, Vietnam, 145,000 sales agents, MNC
I firmly believe this is the largest void in the market–specifically because it lowers the threshold for starting new ventures quickly and easily (at least comparative to the status quo). Hopefully more aggregation of best practice data will take place over the next 3 to 5 years. The ongoing work in open source innovation by Ashoka at Changemakers is certainly noteable. For resources about scaling social business check out the knowledge center at the Duke University Case program.
Social Entrepreneurship Trends in Communication Technology (ICT)
Three areas are taking off in the technology space. The first is mobile.
Trend 6: Mobile Innovation. The mobile space is huge. The seven main markets I see are:
1) Crowd sourcing jobs (Txt Eagle in Africa and Babajob in India, I believe are both in this space). There are certainly other wisdom of the crowds and crowd sourcing applications that could be leveraged.
2) User created data transfer and aggregation. [price aggregation and transparency in markets]
3) Cash and monetary transfer [remittances, see also banking]
4) Person alerts and reminders are prominent as well. [if you see others, feel free to add]
5) Banking and loaning activities.
6) Remote health care, human rights monitoring, and citizen journalism
7) Product scans for inventory and data management
Trend 7: Software as Service. The upper levels of the BOP are moving toward more software as a service innovation to create government efficiency. As our economy changes, the need for mass customization may push in the direction of software as consultation. [particularly in creating micro business, the way in which Mercy Corps creates micro mentors] In addition, cloud computing like Google applications hosted on the web will likely to provide light weight solutions to a global client base.
Trend 8: Social Media Activism I’m curious the way that social media will effect social business ventures for the BOP and above. DigiActive is making moves in this space making it easier for individuals and groups in the developing world to take advantage of the web 2.0 space for digital activism and social change. This will include the full range of tools including video, wikis, blogs, Twitter, Ning, and mobile.
Trend 9: E-Learning as Service. Online video, as long is it can stream smoothly is a ripe place for e-learning and digital training that can provide step-by-step education. Perhaps translation of some of the open source videos from on entrepreneurship and civic engagement. This includes both for internal training as well as micro-payment via mobile for training.
Trend 10: Digital Dashboards and Aggregation In an information economy, information management is critical. I think the role of aggregation of data points, whether it be in an widget, RSS feed, a vertical search engine [even on the Google API], or some other format will likely. For instance, High Ed Blogs aggregates the best. The sweet spot here is human-editing and automation. It will also likely include simple Google map mashups for data organization and personal networking, which you can access by mobile telephony. (theres a good deal of this already in the nonprofit space: see also the Net Impact blog)
Trend 11: Digital Networking. Certainly this overlaps with activism, training (particularly micro-mentorship), and mobile in big ways. You can see my earlier analysis or rather aggregation of social networks for social entrepreneurs if you think networking in this space is an ongoing trend over the next 3 to 5 years. Micro Mentor from Mercy Corp and Social Actions and Change.org are both part of this movement, but its so much more. Nathaniel has fantastic coverage of online action plaforms here.
Hopefully less internal arguments about chicken and egg model choices. I wonder if funding competition makes these internal conflicts inevitable–but at the end of the day are all human choices.
I’m particularly intrigued by mobile and ICT technology that can be used by the BOP to improve their health, education, and income opportunities. These along with design simplicity and miniturization are some of the areas that can help scale social change.
I’m curious how to see how “global” culture, local culture, and outsourcing all play into this mix where ICT, particularly in the area of mobile should be globally significant. These forces will determine trends in social entrepreneurship and face of the human community.