Editor's Choice

The Editor’s Choice blog is a monthly review of a top resource or report in inclusive business.  There are so many resources, documents, tools, reports, videos out there, it can be hard to know where to start.  We choose one that we like and tell you why we like it and who else should find it useful.   Until the end of 2017, Editor’s Choice blogs were written by Caroline Ashley as Hub Editor.   Going forward, they are written by a range of guest editors, both from the core team and from beyond.

Editor's Choice, December 2012: Highlights of 2012

Whether you seek practical tools for entrepreneurs, or an overview of how inclusive businesses are grappling towards scale, there has been plenty for everyone in the highlights of 2012.

For the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who want tools, Editor’s Choice featured several this year: a range of short Checklists from BIF, and a comprehensive SME Toolkit from IFC are immensely practical. But I have two top choices: Business Model Generation by the Business Model Foundry is proactive, lively and easy to use (as a page, book or app). And our own Database of Financial and Technical Resources for Inclusive Business – a searchable Excel file - produced jointly by BIF and IAP, seems to have filled a gap and has undoubtedly been our most warmly welcomed output to date.

Sector by sector, there are more in-depth, well-informed analyses. While narrow sectoral blinkers can be a weakness in inclusive business – much of the innovation we see crosses sectoral boundaries – it can be great to see what many others in your own sector are doing, in the space of one report. The one report may be a tad long, but rich in information and analysis.

We featured excellent overview reports on energy (Business Solutions to Enable Energy Access for All) and water (Access to Safe Water at the Base of the Pyramid) in February and April. In health, a similar report on access to medicines at the BOP could easily have been an Editor’s choice, but we actually featured a refreshingly different kind of case study in low-cost healthcare in October. In agri-business, aside from our own themed newsletter, there were two reports that should not be ignored: Seas of Change report on scaling inclusive agri-food markets (featured by WBCSD), and the Link Methodology, a Participatory Guide to Business Models that Link Smallholders to Ma... (English and Spanish version available via this blog, warning 12.5MB)

The most thought provoking choices of 2012 were those that explored whether and how inclusive businesses go to scale. Acumen explored 3 routes to scale in Mission, Margin and Mandate, Intellecap found that Indian social enterprises are are small but capital-hungry, aggressive and ‘On the Path to Scale’, while Monitor and Accenture mapped the phases from Blueprint to Scale and argued that philanthropic funds are essential to plug the Pioneer Gap at early stages.

There is a golden thread through all these tools and reviews, that could be summed up as ‘It’s the business model, Stupid!’ The common theme is that there is no ‘off-the-shelf’ business model for successful scalable inclusive business. By definition, some innovation or adaptation is needed by the entrepreneur: hence the tools, the sector reviews, the dissection of business models. But there is plenty of innovative, good examples to learn from, and some common themes emerging about how to combine profit, innovation and social impact.

What can we expect in 2013? More on impact, certainly from BIF, but also from WBCSD. More on how the policy context affects inclusive business – on top of a good policy note from IFC this year, we should hear more from UNDP Africa Inclusive Markets on this. And I have no doubt, more on business models – in practice, via toolkits and ideally at scale.