Amid a damning report from one of the industry’s heavyweights, financial activity in the microfinance world is picking up, clearing the way for more opportunity – but at what cost?
David Roodman, one of the world’s foremost thinkers on microfinance, presented his newest book in a column last week that might appear to strike a spear through the heart of microfinance champions everywhere.
On current evidence, the best estimate of the average impact of microcredit on poverty is zero. So microcredit as a whole appears neither to live up to the hype nor justify the harshest attacks against it as modern usury. Microcredit does not appear to be the financial equivalent of cigarettes.
Well that’s good to hear! At least we’re not addicted to cancerous activity. Yet, the heart of what Roodman is getting at is something secretly feared by microfinance champions for years. Does it live up to the hype? Is this truly impactful? Read more »
As a new entrant into the social entrepreneurial world, I have encountered so many people using their skills for good, yet the data seems to be singing a different tune.
A recent article written on GOOD Environment asks, “Are Millennials less committed to the environment than Baby Boomers?” Author, Sarah Laskow, posits that traditional routes of service may be not resonating with the millennial generation due to a lack of faith in the results.
“We don’t want to get ‘involved in programs to clean up the environment,’ because we spent all of elementary school involved in programs hoping to save the rainforest, only to find out the rainforest is worse off than ever.”
So are we, as a generation, disillusioned? Have we seen way too many black and white commercials preaching doom about the ever-thinning ozone layer? Have too many major oil spills and nuclear scares shocked us into a state of inaction regarding the effects of our daily actions? Read more »
(*Insert innovative product here)
How many folks at the Bottom of the Pyramid woke up every morning lamenting the fact that their kerosene lamps weren’t eco-friendly enough, and wanted something more sustainable? Sure, the danger of kerosene fires was a real problem, but no one had yet introduced a way harness the power of the sun as a viable replacement.
People just knew that their current solution wasn’t optimal, but in the absence of anything better, they kept operating as normal. Even when companies like d.light introduced this new product, people were unsure about switching from what they’ve known.
In yesterday’s Sunday Morning Coffee, Bryan discussed the fact that companies exist to solve your problems. Well, what if you don’t know that you have a problem? Read more »
News on the ‘inhabit another planet’ front appears slow; meanwhile, the world’s population continues to increase at a staggering rate. One way or another, the world is getting smaller and we’re going to have to get used to sharing a smaller piece of the same pie.
As is typically the case with every challenge in life, obstacles provide an opportunity in other areas. Increases in the amount of energy used provides the scientific community with an opportunity to invent new efficient ways to reduce energy usage. Non-profits, social enterprises, governments, and big businesses alike are working (sometimes together) to tackle this ever pressing problem.
These institutions are pushing through some of the most innovative changes to solving global issues that we have seen in history. Yet, it is all for naught if we still intend to approach the outreach problem in the same manner. Albert Einstein famously quipped that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As the thinking towards solving global issues from a scientific perspective is changing, personal behavior and outreach must change as well. Read more »
SKS Microfinance continues to dominate the news, and as usual none of it is positive. Last week analysts even began recommending shorting the stock.
The year began on an optimistic note for SKS, hoping to continue to distance themselves from the grisly suicides of borrowers in Andhra Pradesh in 2010. They have been publicly blamed for harassing borrowers for repayment and practicing usury. While the company has desperately tried to remove themselves from the state over the past year, new reports provide a rather damning insight into the interactions of SKS agents and those ill-fated borrowers. Read more »
Many entrepreneurs face the trade off on where to spend their time. Where is value added the most? Should I spend time at this meet and greet event, hoping to grow my network, or spend the time buried back in the office with the team perfecting our product and discussing strategy?
Social entrepreneurs often enter a space where experience, competitors, and new entrants are sparse. The level of documented intellectual property and lack of industry veterans to seek out makes succeeding even more difficult. Yet these resources are critical to gaining tracking in the market and ensuring your idea lives to see the next day.
Triple Pundit wrote a great piece on shifting more to collaboration between NGOs and businesses. If values are aligned, – which is no standard clause; value misalignment can be the most critical downfall to partnerships - the complementary skillsets can mean more impact. Read more »
As many entrepreneurs are familiar with, one of the must-reads when starting a business is the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s a useful read no matter what sized organization you’re with, and the principles that the book are founded upon can be applied anywhere.
I won’t go too much into the application of the Lean Startup Methodology in the social enterprise realm (as an aside, check out Social Earth for a good take on that). However, I think that some of the principles that a startup can learn from can be applied when looking at the social enterprise industry or even sub-sets of industries.
Validated Learning Cycles (VLCs), a term that is used to describe the rapid development cycles of building, measuring, and learning from your product, is typically done in isolation during your initial stages. The energy put into spreading your product and gathering user feedback is tremendous. But, what happens to the feedback that you’ve gained? Read more »
“Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”
When you’re passionate about your work or your hobby, the ‘work’ becomes less of a drag, and you’re eager to learn and produce more. But what if that very passion gets tested by an outsider?
Sharing your work/passion with others is a critical part to evolving the idea and making sure it is as strong as possible. No one can develop the perfect idea or product in a vacuum without seeking – and more importantly – incorporating feedback. Hearing someone’s reaction about your passion can be a very humbling experience.
Read more »
Today marks the last Monday of January and the first monthly Microfinance Monday on Rising Pyramid. Each last Monday of the month, we’ll take a look at the growth and trends emerging from the microfinance industry. We plan to offer a holistic and balanced look into an industry poised for a critical year. Enjoy!
Time for Microfinance to Retool
As venture capitalists maintain their distance from MFIs and large for-profit organizations continue to report poor results, it is clear that now is the lull in the industry lifecycle where MFIs must go back, retool, and change the way business is done while investors take a sideline role.
Microfinance’s reputation in the past few years alone has pushed the industry to its bounds and essentially made it too sexy too fast. The rewards and opportunities that microfinance presented were overblown from both the investor and consumer side. As bold MFIs drank the kool-aid, the IPOs began to trickle out, met with great surprise, trepidation, but spurred on by hopeful confidence. Read more »
If you pick up a book about entrepreneurship, chances are one of the nuggets of advice you’ll read is to swallow your fear of failure, and just “try, try, try”.
The point of the suggestion is to not fall into “analysis paralysis” and focuse too much on making the perfect product. Get your efforts out there, and get them judged sooner, so that you can make adjustments and incorporate feedback to improve your product.
But what happens if your first product attempt flops and customers wont give you a second chance? As Bryan wrote last week, trust is an important factor when working between organizations. But trust between the producer and end-user is just as critical. Read more »