Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Register
Notes from the Network
Blog Home All Blogs

Social Entrepreneurship is Gambling for People with a Conscience

Posted By Jonathan Lewis, Opportunity Collaboration, Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Social Entrepreneurship is Gambling for People with a Conscience


Posted by Jonathan Lewis, Author, The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur.


Failure is not contagious. You don’t get it from toilet seats. It’s not transmitted by airborne pathogens. You don’t catch it from talking about it.


Nevertheless, in polite conversation among social entrepreneurs, failure – total, complete, abject failure – is taboo territory. It seems to go against human nature to readily acknowledge a mistake, let alone a failure. To twist a line from the poet Oscar Wilde, failure is the social entrepreneurship that dares not speak its name.


Unexamined failure is a social sector scandal, a cover-up as unproductive as failure itself. An un-scrutinized mistake leads to more of the same. Every airplane crash is automatically investigated by a team of taxpayer-financed independent experts. Industry-wide safety improvements ensue as a result, which is why, when I am in an airplane at 35,000 feet, it usually doesn’t fall out of the sky. Professional sports teams debrief after every game. Military maneuvers are unpacked in war colleges. In Silicon Valley, failure is practically a badge of honor; without a few failures under your belt, no one thinks you’re innovating enough.


In contrast, when a social enterprise crashes, we hardly hear about it. Without postmortems, quality improvement in the social sector remains elusive. Deprived of case studies about failure, we’re left with the probability that our social ventures will be the next road kill, and the next, and the next.


We keep our failures hidden to forestall becoming social sector pariahs. Failed organizations don’t get marquee billing at social change conferences. Workshops about failure are ghettoized, not lionized. We know that success compounds (called the cumulative advantage effect); conversely, underdogs (by class, by race, by gender, by physical appearance and – yes – by past performance) suffer a cumulative disadvantage effect. Failure can prefigure our future prospects.


Another reason to conceal our failures is that grantmakers, government decision-makers, board members, the media and everyone else prefer Hollywood endings to life’s uncertain nuances. Good triumphs over evil. Boy gets girl. Social venture solves social problem. It’s thorny to attract donors or impact investors with a story about mistakes, missed cues, fizzles and fiascos. Few funders fund R&D; fewer still will underwrite a flunking project for a second attempt.


Chiefly, change agents dislike discussing failure because it filets open our fears, cutting close to our insecurities. In comparison to everyone else’s boastful press releases and proud Facebook postings, failure makes me feel small and unattractive. Worse, failure makes me feel unworthy of the causes I fight for.


In both the social and non-social business categories, I have architected several prime-time fiascos. Moreover, in the nooks and crannies of my professional accomplishments, I’ve accomplished a thousand failures of character. At times, I failed to make a decision when one was needed. Other times, I acted impulsively, forgetting to pause long enough to consider all the factors indispensable to making a fully-informed judgment. I have failed in friendships and flagged in kindheartedness. Sometimes, I failed to live up to my own principles. Much to my surprise, I’m not perfect.


When I am rejected (by the marketplace, by funders, by whomever, by whatever), my thoughts whirl with questions: What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Will I be stigmatized as incompetent? Am I worthy of social entrepreneurship? Am I worthy, period?


Whether we’re a CEO-Founder, or one of the vital middle managers, consultants or volunteers working for an NGO or social venture, we each have our own ingredients to add to the collective stew of failure. With all the headlines and hype about social entrepreneurs and scaling innovations, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that winning (or losing) at social change is a team sport. We can all succeed at failure.


Failing sucks. When a project fails, if we care enough (and of course we do), then it’s heartbreaking. As if replaying, over and over again, a failed friendship in my mind, I never quite get over a social venture crash and burn. The wincing memories and recycled self-doubt remind me that I’m human and vulnerable. They also remind me to treasure the heart-filling, awe-inspiring psychic rewards of social justice work.


If you get the choice, I recommend success over failure. Be that as it may, be prepared to make mistakes. Failure is how we live our lives. Things go wrong. It happens in life, in business, in government and, yes, in social justice work too. It behooves us to get good at the art of managing and mitigating failure; in my book (from which this blog is excerpted), I offer a few survival tips: Hug a colleague. Avoid self-delusion. Mess up early and often. Share your failure. Maintain perspective. Hang in there.


Social entrepreneurship is gambling for people with a conscience. Realizing with absolute certitude that I’m going to lose (probably more than once) is liberating. Accepting the prospect of failure means that I can shed paralysis-by-analysis and get started right away, right now, on my social justice work.


The anatomy of social change, and the core of our social entrepreneurship, depend on taking risk after risk for our convictions. Daring to fail is part of our job description.



 Jonathan C. Lewis is a life-long social justice activist and accomplished social entrepreneur. He is the founder of MCE Social Capital and the Opportunity Collaboration, and co-founder of Copia Global. He is a trustee of the Swift Foundation and general partner of Dev Equity

Jonathan may be contacted at his website: His twitter handle is @SoCentClinic.

This post has not been tagged.

PermalinkComments (1)

Webinar Recording: Is everything we thought about job creation wrong?

Posted By Genevieve Edens, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More Sweatshops for Africa?  
A Discussion of Research and Practitioner Responses

Much of work that the small and growing business sector does is based on the assumption that as small firms grow, they will create jobs that can lift people out of poverty, grow the middle class, and drive broad economic growth. However, there is relatively little research on the ways that the jobs that SGBs offer to low-skill workers might impact employees' income and overall well-being.  

This webinar will focus on recent research from Chris Blattman and Stefan Dercon that addresses this question: Occupational Choice in Early Industrializing Societies: Experimental Evidence on the Income and Health Effects of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Work

This evaluation focused on five firms in Ethiopia, and found that despite our expectations, low-skilled workers offered a job were not better off than the group who did not receive an offer.   In addition, retention at the firms was extremely low -- over 75% of workers quit within a year.  What are the implications of this research for the small and growing business sector?  

VIew the webinar recording to hear Chris Blattman (University of Chicago) and Leslie Johnston (C&A Foundation) discuss this research and what this means for practitioners focused on job creation, job quality, and small and growing businesses.  

This post has not been tagged.

PermalinkComments (0)

Toilet Accelerator India Edition Challenge - open for applications until 10th July!

Posted By Claire Balbo, Toilet Board Coalition, Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Do you have a business or business idea for toilet innovations and service models, circular economy waste management and resource recovery, or mobile, digital and e-heath applications for sanitation in India?

Apply for over 100,000 Euro in support from global brand companies by 10 July 2017!

The Toilet Accelerator India Edition challenge calls for applications from businesses that are addressing the most challenging water and sanitation issues in the country. 
Top 3 winners will be announced at the 9th Sankalp Global Summit from 6-8 December, 2017 in Mumbai. The winners will receive over 100,000 Euro of in-kind support from leading companies over a 12 month period, as part of the 2018 Toilet Accelerator cohort of the Swiss based Toilet Board Coalition. The Toilet Accelerator Program provides expert mentorship and support, as well as access to the TBC-Sankalp investor networks. The Toilet Board Coalition is supported by some of the largest multinational corporates like Firmenich, Lixil, Kimberly-Clark and Unilever.  

The Toilet Board Coalition brings together experts from business, investment, and the global sanitation community through our platform to cross-fertilise experiences, innovate at all levels, and catalyse the growth of profitable sanitation businesses that deliver sanitation to all.  The Toilet Accelerator is a corporate accelerator program to facilitate private sector engagement and mentorship to sanitation businesses and entrepreneurs serving low-income markets. For more information on the Toilet Board Coalition, please visit the website.
Sankalp Forum is one of the largest platforms promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets and building the ecosystem for business-led inclusive development. Over the past nine years, Sankalp has showcased over 400 sustainable enterprises across India, Africa and Southeast Asia, enabled 500+ mentoring connections and facilitated over USD 240Mn of equity investments. For more information on Sankalp Forum, please visit the website.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us by contacting Claire Balbo:
#WeCantWait to know about your business!!

 Attached Files:

Tags:  entrepreneurship  India  sanitation  Sankalp  SDGs  SGBs  SMEs  social entrepreneurship  sustainability 

PermalinkComments (0)

Introducing FINANCE CONNECT: Connecting SMEs with the best financing opportunity

Posted By Hitzel Trejo, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finance Connect is a unique service that focuses on addressing the needs of larger sustainable agricultural and forestry SMEs in developing countries that have financing needs of more than USD 800,000. These are usually enterprises that have larger projects, or projects that require both short and long-term finance. It is a tailor-made service that supports the enterprises throughout the process of obtaining finance, including linking SMEs to financial services providers (FSPs) that can meet their needs in an accurate, efficient, and effective manner. Ultimately, this service will enable FAST and its partners to create a tangible benefit on the ground by helping SMEs restructure their finances, reach their potential growth, employ more people, and have a more sustainable business model that will benefit them and their communities in the long term.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  Access to Finance  financial inclusion  larger SMEs 

PermalinkComments (0)

Invitation to Launch Event of New Horizons: Accelerating Sustainable Development in Kenya through Inclusive Business

Posted By Tomohiro Nagasaki, Business Call to Action at UNDP, Tuesday, June 6, 2017
The Business Call to Action (BCtA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kenya, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya (SIB) have the pleasure to invite you to the launch of a new publication titled New Horizons: Accelerating Sustainable Development through Inclusive Business in Kenya on Thursday 22nd June, 2017The publication provides insights gathered from over 50 companies engaged in inclusive business in Kenya. It offers examples of successful and emerging models and recommendation on how inclusive business could be scaled to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.
The launch will take place on 22nd June, 2017
at the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel in Nairobi
from 8:00 am – 13.00 am.
After the launch of the publication, the Business Call to Action will further organize two optional trainings targeted for private sector participants on inclusive business and impact measurement. A detailed agenda for the event can be found attached.
Kindly confirm your participation at your earliest convenience or latest 15th June, 2017. 
Select your preferred option by clicking on one of the links below. 
·         Participate in the launch and in the inclusive business and SDGs training: LINK 
·         Participate in the launch and in the measuring impact training: LINK
·         Participate in the launch only: LINK 
Alternatively you can directly confirm to Nadia Boujdadi
We hope you can join us and look forward to your active participation.
 We are looking forward to meeting you at the launch, thank you.
Business Call to Action




Download File (PDF)

Tags:  #inclusivebiz #kenya #opportunities 

PermalinkComments (0)

Webinar Recording: Accelerating Startups in Emerging Markets

Posted By Abigayle Davidson, Aspen Institute, Thursday, May 25, 2017

GALI Webinar: Accelerating Startups in Emerging Markets from ANDE on Vimeo.

GALI Webinar: Accelerating Startups in Emerging Markets

This webinar presents the latest report from the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI). 

Accelerating Startups in Emerging Markets: Insights from 43 Programs examines data from over 2,400 early stage ventures that applied to 43 acceleration programs run by twelve different organizations in nine different countries. The report, developed in partnership with Deloitte Canada, compares the performance of accelerators in emerging markets with those run in high-income countries. It challenges commonly held assumptions about the perceived differences between the two geographies using quantitative and qualitative data collected from entrepreneurs, ventures, and the accelerator programs themselves.

In this webinar, we walk through:

  • Data on the early impacts of acceleration on revenues, employees, and investment 
  • Qualitative and quantitative insights into commonly-held beliefs about differences between emerging market and high-income country entrepreneurs and accelerators
  • Reflections from practitioners 


Peter Roberts is the Academic Director of Social Enterprise @ Goizueta (SE@G) and Professor of Organization and Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Professor Roberts founded SE@G after many years of conducting research on how the behavior and performance of organizations evolve over time.  He directs the Entrepreneurship Database Program, which forms the foundation of GALI, and has been working with accelerator programs around the world to collect and analyze data describing the many entrepreneurs that they attract and support.

Abby Davidson is a Research Analyst at ANDE, with a special focus on the role of accelerators in emerging markets. She leads the Global Accelerator Survey at GALI, and co-authors major GALI publications, and leads the Data Brief series. 

Practitioner Reflections:

Anne-Lorraine Meunier, Communication and Public Relations Manager, New Ventures

Heather Strachan, Manager for Emerging Markets Operations and Product, Village Capital

Have questions? Share them with us here.

Tags:  2017  accelerators  GALI 

PermalinkComments (1)

ANDE Webinar Recap: U.S. Global Development Lab’s PACE Initiative

Posted By Lauren Farello, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For those of you who were able to join us for USAID’s “Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative” webinar, thank you! Our presenter, Rob Schneider, division chief of global partnerships at USAID, shared valuable information about how USAID is supporting entrepreneurship and impact investing through the PACE Initiative and how ANDE members can participate in the new call for concept papers.


To recap, USAID’s third call for the submission of Concept Papers through the PACE Initiative is focused on fostering entrepreneurship and catalyzing private investment into early-stage enterprises operating in developing countries. PACE is looking for partners that are testing blended finance solutions to address the “missing middle” in sustainable, replicable, and/or scalable ways. Concept papers must be submitted by July 31, 2017 at 12PM (noon) Eastern Time.


We hope you find the webinar and the following resources helpful:

If you’d like to watch the recorded webinar, the link is here. The link to the PPT slides can also be found here.


Please don't hesitate to reach out with comments about the webinar.

Tags:  capacity development  grants  missing middle  PACE  scale  SGBs 

PermalinkComments (0)

Research Meets Africa: the Call for Papers is open!

Posted By María Belén Zambrano, Appui au Développement Autonome, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Call for Papers: Research Meets Africa

9th October 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Research Meets Africa aims to promote research and innovation on inclusive finance in Africa. It encourages collaboration between researchers and practitioners of the sector by involving universities from Africa and around the world. The event will be held on the 9th of October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia alongside African Microfinance Week.

 Researchers are invited to submit their research papers on this topic:

                        "What solutions respond to the growth needs of MSMEs in Africa?" 

For any question, please contact the Conference

Or visit our website:

 The submission deadline is 30th May 2017!


 Attached Files:

Tags:  access to finance  Africa  capacity development  conference  Microfinance  Research  SMEs 

PermalinkComments (0)

Ennovent invests in Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala Innovations

Posted By Aditi Natarajan, Ennovent, Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding (IIH) has invested an undisclosed amount in Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala Innovations Private Limited. The company was incubated earlier by the Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE), a Tata Trusts initiative. This is the sixth investment made by Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding.

Hasiru Dala Innovations is a for-benefit, not-for-loss social enterprise that is dedicated to creating reliable and sustainable livelihoods for wastepickers through innovative, circular-economy centric businesses ( It currently offers total waste management services for the responsible bulk waste generator, event waste management services for the eco-friendly host and easy to use home composter kits for the environmentally conscious. The enterprise therefore focuses on social impact through livelihood creation for waste pickers and environmental conservation by diverting waste away from landfills and processing it usefully .The company was co-founded by Nalini Shekar, Shekar Prabhakar and Marwan Abubaker in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru generates a reported 3500-4000 tonnes of waste everyday, which has led to overflowing, closed landfills and illegal dumping of waste in open landfills. This has created an enormous strain on urban local bodies, which are unable to cope with the mounting levels of waste and the consequent environmental and civic fallout. Further, the lives of the city’s 25000-30000 waste pickers who deal with this issue on a daily basis is deplorable- harassed by citizens and the police alike, with unpredictable livelihoods and no social security, they have an average life expectancy of 39 years.

Hasiru Dala was started in 2013 as a non-government organisation (NGO) with the aim of integrating waste pickers into the city’s solid waste management system. Since its inception, it has worked towards improving the working conditions of thousands of workers in the informal economy, including waste pickers, sorters and itinerant waste buyers. Hasiru Dala focuses on social justice issues covering social security, identity, dignity of labour, healthcare, education and affordable housing through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization and leveraging assistance provided by the state and central governments and other relevant institutions.

Since its inception, Hasiru Dala has created over 800 full and part-time jobs and impacted over 22,000 households which now have access to better waste management services. Both organisations put together manage over 40 tonnes of waste every day.

With this investment, Hasiru Dala Innovations plans to expand its operations in Bengaluru and invest in technology in order to streamline its operational processes. It will also use the funding to improve on its service offerings, which currently include solid waste management, urban gardening services, waste management services for events and home composting kits. The investment will be also be used to scale up Hasiru Dala Innovations’ reach and impact within Bengaluru, as well as expand its services to other cities in India.

The contribution that Hasiru Dala Innovations makes to enhancing the lives of waste pickers is the primary reason for the investment. This is because the organisation’s impact is not just limited to their working lives but also to their holistic growth (through health, banking and insurance facilities) and the lives of their children through educational loans and scholarships,

Speaking about the investment, Joel Rodrigues, Senior Manager – Finance Services at Ennovent said “The problem of inefficient solid waste management in urban areas can be solved by using technology and formally integrating waste pickers into the city’s solid waste management system. Ennovent Impact Investment Holding is optimistic about the impact Hasiru Dala Innovations will have in delivering waste management services to urban households while improving the lives of waste pickers.”

Shekar Prabhakar, Managing Director, Hasiru Dala said “Hasiru Dala Innovations is delighted to have Ennovent Impact Investment Holding partner with us on this journey. It is heartening to have impact investors like Ennovent recognize that social enterprises like ours are trying to maximize social impact while keeping the business viable and sustainable. We hope to not just transform waste picker lives but professionalize and set benchmarks in every business that we are in. We look forward to Ennovent’s continued support in realizing our vision of a just, opportunity-rich world for waste pickers.”

Tags:  entrepreneurship  Environment  impact investing  India  sanitation  social entrepreneurship 

PermalinkComments (0)

TBC Accelerator Programme - Deadline for Applications 30th April!

Posted By Claire Balbo, Toilet Board Coalition, Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Toilet Board Coalition is a business platform enabling private sector engagement; connecting large and small companies through their Toilet Accelerator; and ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors, with the common goal to accelerate the business of sanitation for all. It was formed in 2014 by four corporate members — Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, Firmenich, and Lixil, together with leading international organisations, development banks and sanitation sector experts. 

For more information on the Toilet Board Coalition, visit our website.

In 2016 we launched our corporate accelerator programme, The Toilet Accelerator,  to facilitate private sector engagement and bespoke mentorship to sanitation businesses and entrepreneurs serving low-income markets. The Toilet Accelerator works with promising sanitation business models that have the potential to overcome current barriers to access, use and adherence at scale. More than toilets alone, we are supporting commercially viable businesses at every point in the sanitation value chain including circular economy waste management models, digital and mobile applications for sanitation and e-health.

Last Call for applications - deadline 30 April 2017
If you have any questions, shout out to Claire Balbo:

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  accelerator  entrepreneurship  mentoring  sanitation  SGB 

PermalinkComments (0)
Page 1 of 30
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  >   >>   >|