"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." This is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, but whether he said it or not, it brings us right to the heart of the debate reverberating across the world today – and not just in the impact and the inclusive business sector.
Companies are scrambling to unscramble the difference between digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation (like you I too struggled with these) and ‘experts’ are touting their wisdom on topics like ‘block-chain, AI-ML, IOT and the 4th Industrial Revolution’ in rarefied conference venues (and believe me, every conference seems to have an unwritten code - no pun intended - to ensure at least one, if not all, of these words figure in the conference agenda/topic list ;).
So where does that leave us… simple people focused on supporting the lives of simple people at the bottom of the pyramid with a big hairy audacious (and noble) dream of changing the world for the better.
It leaves us with H.O.P.E.
H: Holistic – digitalisation helps us bring together various players to support inclusive business models and therefore impact. Government, corporates, capital markets, private wealth, crowdfunding – all of these can come together in concert to bring about true inclusion. For example, in India alone the combination of the JanDhan (no-frills bank accounts totalling to nearly 300 million), Aadhar (unique bio-metric identification of over 1 billion people) and the mobile phone have revolutionised financial inclusion.
O: Outcome funding is the new buzz word. Developmental funding the world over seems to be moving from financing inputs to outcomes. Technology and digitalisation will make it easy to get the data, measure impact and outcomes and provide independent validation. Customer-centric design, as mentioned in the last issue, is also facilitated by digitalisation. We at Grameen Impact India are working on a block-chain enabled social impact bond, which validates the outcomes of reaching the customer at the last mile.
P: Policy and governance – this, to my mind, is the most important… not only do we need enabling regulations but also prudent policies. In the digital world, data is the new oil, and hence data privacy and protection, especially of the vulnerable population that we serve are critical. Human rights, cyber security, electoral reforms, right to information, satellite surveillance for offenders against the planet – these are all areas where governments have a role.
E: Ecosystem – as was demonstrated by the success of microfinance, the whole ecosystem needs to be developed for real success. Social enterprises, capacity builders, investors, advisors, academia, etc. – all need to come together. The 17th SDG goal reiterates the role of partnerships and collaboration for us to achieve our Agenda 2030 pledge ‘to leave no one behind’. We believe, networks like iBAN play a significant role in catalysing ‘systemic change’.
As you peruse this issue and plan for the year(s) ahead, I encourage you to keep up the spirit of hope – or at least of cautious optimism – as we look to the future well captured by Nobel Laureate (for literature) Bob Dylan:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.