What's in a name? More scalable, for-profit and mission-driven inclusive businesses are needed in 2020—whatever you choose to call them

Donors and entrepreneurs must bust through the silo-causing plethora of terms used to describe enterprises that create positive social impact and collaborate to find the synergy that creates energy.

To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, more companies—those with new, innovative business models and those that are well established—must scale and achieve profitability and impact. Over the past 1 ½ years, we have worked to support these companies by tackling the challenges and opportunities they face in our online magazine, CLUED-iN. Before we developed the first issue in the summer of 2018, I was very sceptical. I asked my team: does anybody want to read another online publication? Who would be our target audience and how would we reach them? Is publishing a bi-monthly online magazine on inclusive business an appropriate role for a donor-funded programme?

Today, we at iBAN know that it was the right decision. The feedback we get from companies and our readership is proof that this kind of magazine is not only needed, it is appreciated. The quality of our articles is mainly due to the input we get from our Editorial Committee, which is comprised of highly-experienced experts in their respective fields, who lend us their time, contribute their knowledge and networks, complement each other’s views and have fun while doing so. Thanks to their support, we have published eight thematic CLUED-iN issues covering relevant topics from a variety of diverse voices—all written for the entrepreneur.

This October I attended the Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa, which forced me to step outside of the inclusive business silo and dive into a different world. Among other things, the experience taught me that there are almost as many definitions of social enterprise—which broadly includes non-profit and for-profit mission-driven organizations—as there are countries that attended the forum: 70. While this was not a complete surprise, I am struck that the multiplicity does not help to build the foundation to achieve the scale and impact we need. The good news is that there is a huge potential to create more synergy in the ecosystem, though we will have to move fast to collaborate and overcome the silos that currently divide us. To achieve the scale and impact needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the entire community of impact investors, bi-or multilateral donors, social enterprises, inclusive businesses, start-ups and multinational companies alike will need to find the synergy that creates energy so we can achieve unity in diversity.

We must demand that the innovation and out-of-the-box approaches we are encouraging in the business community also be applied to the development cooperation programmes, which have not changed enough in the last twenty years. Specifically, it will be essential for donors to deploy a coordinated approach, with more multi-donor funded programmes that save transaction costs while achieving faster and wider impact. As the community focuses its attention on funding social enterprises, many of which never reach scale and remain dependent on external support, I urge them to support those companies that can create impact on a much bigger scale and fund only those enterprises that are profitable—or at least have the potential to become profitable in the long run.

In 2020, you can expect to find fresh issues of CLUED-iN hitting your inbox, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in building their SDG-aligned, mission-driven, commercially viable, scalable inclusive business models—whatever you choose to call them.

We hope you enjoy the reading, and we wish you a joyful holiday season!

Christian Jahn
Christian is heading the iBAN secretariat and is responsible for the management of the global programme. Before Christian became the Executive Director of the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN) in September 2015, he was based for five years in Addis Ababa as Deputy Country Director of GIZ GmbH overseeing a broad portfolio including the private-public-partnership programmes. He has more than 20 years of experience in international development cooperation with a thematic focus on health systems, population dynamics and social franchise systems. He worked mainly in the Africa and Asia region as long-term and short-term expert and provided advisory services to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. He also worked for five years in the private sector and was an entrepreneur and founder of a company in the food sector. Christian holds a Master degree and PhD in Political Science from the Free University of Berlin.