Mirko Zuerker

Working with the SEED Initiative since 2008 on social and environmental entrepreneurship. I am responsible for the management and implementation of the SEED Awards and the SEED Capacity Building.

Spurring the replication of eco-inclusive enterprises – towards a collaborative integrative support approach

9. Nov 2016

Authors: Mirko Zuerker & Lina Frank, SEED jointly with Neal Harrison, Global Social Benefit Institute

At the 2016 SEED Africa Symposium in Nairobi Ligia Noronha, Director of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, underlined that “Replication is a key theme to foster green growth and sustainable development”. But replication demands targeted support at every stage, which calls for collaboration between diverse support providers and a strong ecosystem.

Replication as a key path to leverage impact…

SEED Award Winner Karibu Solar Power makes energy available at the price of kerosene in Tanzania. The business model is based on a pay-as-you-go model: shop owners buy the “business in a box” kit and end consumers recharge batteries by paying “rent-to-own” fees which will eventually make them solar independent through the ownership of the solar charging panel.[1]

Karibu Solar Power’s successful business model can serve as a blueprint for eco-inclusive enterprises in other developing countries. Jon Freeman, Advisory Board Member at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship emphasises the point: “Social entrepreneurs are more likely to build successful enterprises if they can start with a blueprint or proof of concept that has already been developed and confirmed somewhere else in the real world.”[2]

… but not without support!

Imagine, that Karibu wanted to replicate its business model in Uganda, where people also lack access to clean off-grid energy solutions. Both Karibu and the potential adopters would need support to successfully go through the process of replication.

Information Potential adopters in Uganda need to know that a successful model like Karibu exists and has been proven, and which parts of the business model are adaptable to their context. Karibu, the originator, needs market information to identify business opportunities in Uganda as well as a channel to disseminate business model information. Support providers can help make available information for adopters and originators.

Resources Karibu would need financing or personnel resources to document and disseminate the business model. Adopters in turn need financing to implement the adapted business idea, as well as skills to adapt and implement Karibu’s business model. Both need a space to share experiences, learn from each other and cowork. Tailored financial support and capacity-building is needed at a very early stage for the adopters and at a later stage for the business model dissemination by the adopters.

People Karibu would need to find appropriate replication partners in Uganda. On the other hand, adopters would need the right people to work with in their local context and suitable business development services and advisors. Accordingly, support providers need to facilitate the process and bring together originators and adopters.

The gap in replication support services

Sure, there are tons of organisations and programs in the inclusive business field that offer all kinds of support. But only very few focus explicitly on business model replication. In our recent SEED White Paper on Replication Support, we looked at the support needs around replication and what is already offered in the field, in order to identify where there is room for action.

It seems that many organisations offer support for scaling of eco-inclusive enterprises, but not for the open dissemination of business models. Similarly, quite a few organisations foster the transfer of technologies. The business model that provides a marketable and revenue-generating solution is often left aside. Although support resources and efforts are out there, there is a critical need for a collaborative approach from support providers to bridge the gap between these services.

Connecting the dots: collaboration beyond organisations’ boundaries

What if actors as different as a university, an investor, a business incubator and a government agency collaborated to enable proven solutions such as Karibu’s to be replicated elsewhere? The university could run immersive training programs and contribute to building a talent pool in the adopter’s region. The investor could provide a replication-tailored financial product and link peers with each other. The incubator could provide a physical coworking space, help disseminate business models and connect the enterprises with business development services. The government agency could facilitate the organisation of a networking event and support local market research. All those complementing support activities taken together could form a quite comprehensive replication support approach.

But ecosystem actors are often specialised in their own support approach. There is a pressing need to engage in a dialogue to identify the support areas and eventually build a common understanding for an integrative support approach. This could be achieved through the connection of different services and actors with each other and through enabling the right support for every stage of the replication process. Learning from each other’s experience and sharing knowledge will allow support providers to combine their activities and create synergies to be able to push the eco-inclusive business sector to unlock its full potential through replication.

Collaboratively contributing to a comprehensive replication support approach

The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs from Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and SEED take on a similar approach to support replication: the focus lies on the dissemination of business models with a more open replication approach. Or, as Thane Kreiner, Executive Director, puts it: “[…] To meaningfully address the pressing problems of poverty, we need to amplify the scaling process by working on multiple successful business models in parallel, reproducing and launching them in other geographic regions.”[3]

The overlap in GSBI and SEED programs reveals the huge potential for collaboration to offer integrative and attractive replication support by taking advantage of synergy opportunities and combining our expertise and core activities. Although some organisations are taking significant steps on the path of enabling replication, there is room for more collaborative effort in the support ecosystem to scale impact by effectively exploiting the potential of existing eco-inclusive solutions.

Are you curious to learn more about the gap in replication support services? Do you want to explore a mapping of service providers in the replication support system? Get inspired on how we could unlock the potential of collaboration between replication support providers. Read our new publication on Replication Support “White Paper – Collaboration for Impact: Building the Ecosystem for Replication Support Services” here (not longer available).

This blog is part of the November 2016 series on Scaling and replicating inclusive business models, in partnership with DFID and SEED. Explore with us the key ingredients of a pathway to scale, debates and new ideas on replication, and look at what small companies, large companies and ecosystem actors can do.

[1] http://www.karibusolar.com/

[2] https://www.scu.edu/news-and-events/press-releases/2016/june-2016/try-win-repeat-.html

[3] https://www.scu.edu/news-and-events/press-releases/2016/june-2016/try-win-repeat-.html