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The Caldas Social Business Times

A locally produced newspaper which celebrates, promotes & inspires social business.

Photo of Meena Kadri
18 17

Written by

Drawing on inspiration from the India's locally produced rural newspaper Khabar Layariya (News Waves) – could we propose a similar venture in Caldas that focuses specifically on social business? A team of people could receive training on researching and writing local stories plus marketing and distribution. A strong understanding of the principles of social business by contributors would be encouraged.

This kind of newspaper could spread well beyond Caldas – maybe for starters to other international locations where Grameen is active. Possibly there would be opportunities to share stories from other locations as well, highlighting the wealth of entrepreneurial activity in low-income communities globally, though with the focus on local content to drive local interest. Alliances could be formed with outreach programmes like Nathan's Mobile Training Camp for Entrepreneurship – to assist in further distribution and promotion + Johan's Internet Shop – for production, distribution and community connections. And obviously the Caldas Social Business Times could champion many of the great concepts being posted if they turned into actual social business ventures!

I totally welcome further ideas on this – especially from Spanish speaking OpenIDEATORS who might suggest a name for the newspaper that would resonate with locals! In terms of content there could be regular features like Social Entrepreneur of the Week, in-depth articles on specific ventures and challenges, a page dedicated to social business for health, a section for youth, info on micro-finance opportunities... What else?

And check out the video on the Indian grassroots rural newspaper which inspired this concept. Image taken in Mumbai (actually they're posters not newspapers – but I thought it suited this idea!)

How do you envision this idea making money?

Newspapers could be sold cheaply and further revenue could be generated through advertising. Printers often give discounts if they can advertise also.

How does this idea create social impact, particularly around improving health?

By amplifying social business ventures, challenges and successes – it is hoped that this newspaper would play an integral part in encouraging and supporting a culture of local entrepreneurship. Cross-pollinating between locations could help spread the wealth of grassroots innovators and social entrepreneurs who often work isolated from others who have committed to worthy and complimentary ventures. Plus the publication would likely ignite the passions of some readers to pursue and support social business.

How does this idea add social value at every step of the process?

By making the celebration of social business a social business itself!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Japhet Aloyce Kalegeya

Hello, We want to have Alliance to a global community of food waste innovators and advocates.

Photo of Kara Pecknold

An ad for pottery too ;) Wondering if recipes could be added? I like the idea of contemplating something mobile with this. Great potential!

Photo of Kara Pecknold

Esoko is what I had in mind in thinking of a mobile application: What if social business updates were sent in this manner as well?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Nice one, Kara! Esoko rocks. Love the recipe idea too! When I interviewed Anil Gupta for Design Observer: he mentioned that the Honey Bee Network had found out about local villages making a drink from the Opuntia cactus and had featured them at one of their regional trade fairs. The women running the stall realised how popular they were and started a successful business based on this. Also recipes could feature in the Caldas Times against relevant articles on growers of the feature ingredient. Cheers for the inspiration.

Photo of Trenton DuVal

This is a great idea for fostering peer support for social businesses. There's no reason why a newspaper like this couldn't be generated by the very people it is trying to target. Too often, the concept of a social business is seen as an outside organization that comes into a community to help "them". (not to mention all the media in developed countries that is more enamored of social entrepreneurs than the people they are trying to serve or the problems they are trying to solve.)
I think the educational and inspirational side of a newspaper like this could have a big impact on changing what people consider to be viable business models. It could also connect funders (NGOs or social investors) to worthwhile initiatives. Imagine if they ran a regular contest for business concepts and connected winners to the resources they needed - you'd have grassroots community-driven entrepreneurial innovation!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Fab Trent – you *so* get where I'm heading with this: By the people, For the people. Loving the idea of social business contests – maybe could be run in conjunction with this other great Concept

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi Meena,

Great idea! Run adds & classifieds and give it away for free like the weeklies found in most towns.

Photo of DeletedUser


I really like this concept and found the inspiration video... inspiring!

This Indian paper is backed by an NGO. Since this is a social business concept, I wonder immediately if it's profitable? If not, what challenges to profitability do they face?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Like any business I would imagine that there would be initial costs which would have to be introduced externally (possibly via micro-finance?) My hunch is that the publication would start small and take an always-in-beta approach as they grow rather than trying to lock everything down as a fixed strategy – with financial sustainability as a priority pursuit. Totally welcome more suggestions on how to meet the challenges you're hinting at.

Photo of Luz Gallo

I really like this idea becuase it helps to promote other social business through one. In a region of Québec there's a local newspaper that is made by two women who put local information and they sell it really cheap. At first they started with a small project and now they have a higher number of readers across the region. This could be the same.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Thanks Luz – cheers for the global example – plus it means a lot to have some support for this concept coming from someone based in Colombia! It's been so great having your perspective so much throughout this challenge.

Photo of Johan Löfström

You could distribute with similar method as "Situation Stockholm" a monthly magazine where most content are around homelessness and underpriviliged people. Homeless persons can volunteer to distribute this, going to the printer, signing out 5 copies for free, walking around selling or giving away these for an "expected donation", They can keep 25-50% of the income for food, but before next issue is printed they will be made to pay for printing costs for those 5. If they have potential to increase sales they can sign out 10 copies next month.

also all sales-staff are encouraged to contribute with text, poems, photos from their daily life towards the content of magazine. A couple gets selected each year to become part-time-workers on the printer, and on searching for advertisers, sponsors.
(of course there is contracts to sign on to be sober and drug-free...)

at least this reduced the drunken beggars in the streets of Stockholm.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting – sounds somewhat like The Big Issue in the UK: I guess the difference being that with these examples the main audience is not other homeless people – whereas for the Caldas Social Business Times it would *by* those in low-income communities *for* those in low-come communities. The pay-what-you-can doesn't seem likely to be so successful in this case as there won't be so many who are willling to pay more to compensate for those who can pay less? Yet the price of newspapers is quite cheap – certainly in India I've noticed that they are commonly bought in slums. In the example of Khabar Lahariya, the low-cost publication seems to be doing well.

Am liking your idea about attracting distributors by allowing a cut on a certain number of copies. Also seems it could be a good idea to team up with folk who are already distributing other things given the terrain and scope of settlements in Caldas – piggy-backing on their distribution channels in exchange for advertising, maybe?

Photo of Ben Morgan

Love this idea Meena. Storytelling is such an important part of getting anything off the ground.

Depending on the printing and production techniques, it would definitely be worth creating a digital version of the newspaper that could be accessed (perhaps for a nominal fee) by anyone in the world. While the main audience would be those in low-income communities, there's also at least 3138 members of a certain website who'd love to read it and stay in touch, I'd imagine. Do we know what the printing process might be? Would there be the possibility of using an online distribution channel?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Hey Ben! Hope all's swell in Melbourne. Good idea about also being online. The main priority on the idea is to cater to local audiences – so as long as funds went into establishing that first rather than getting sucked up on this. I think disseminating and pitching this kind of thing to a global audience adds quite a layer of time, expense and input (web design, translation, nuance of stories, etc) that it might require people with different skills to what I was imagining here. But certainly could be a great build if there was enough money + expertise at hand. Maybe Grameen Creative Lab could manage an external summary publication via their website? I guess in regards to printing it would depend on what is the cheapest available option locally?

Photo of Johan Löfström

As for publication online there is plenty of knowledge around. I have 10-12 years experience in different print-shops and ad agencies.

Start small, with both the number of prints and the design. It would be enough to have a good bl/w-copier, to copy 2-5 sheets, manually fold them and put a staple or paperclip to keep the pages together. ( Make sure with the graphic design to have notices on front page and the last page that the next issue could have a different design or size, so that people are prepared that this will be upgraded depending on its success rate )
Also use small empty spaces to ask for readers to contribute with text, illustrations, paintings, cartoons, crossword puzzles and so on...
All that contribute with content will be able to be recruited as a reseller in their area. So after a couple of months they would be able to get some fees for the published content.

You would not need any web design or translation at first.
Just make a pdf-version, (place it in or any other magazine-freebie-pdf-service that exists online and similar) leave it in spanish and do not change anything. Let the international readers get it all, they can choose what stories are interesting to read. Just make many volunteers in caldas contribute with content, and you will get readers. Mouth-to-mouth-rumours will be able to spread the CSBTimes pdf. Marketing and Distribution could be simple, start a group in spanish on facebook and email a message to some people with a link to where the PDF is available online, and tell them to share the link on their facebook if they like it. (i guess there are a pdf-reader for iPads and smartphones that could make them pay a small fee for each pdf they download)

But in the simplest version just make its first weeks/month for free, at least the first 4-5 issues. but make ads in it, that very clearly states it do appreciate donations, to pay for continous work on writing articles and enlarging the paper-version... and if they receive enough donations they can keep the pdf-distribution for free.

You would get a lot of readers that continues to watch it for free, and not donates anything. but you could also make them

You could also with ads in the magazine "crowdsource" international volunteer translators, into english and other languages if needed. (peer-reviewed to be sure that at least 2-3 persons checked the same article, for quality reasons)

Also a big benefit of having a pdf, is it will be possible to email to different internet cafés in all villages through out Colombia, to make them print copies to have for sale and build a small distribution network, so you will remove most costs for stamps and delivery and the administration gets decentralized.

You could also apply a sort of recycling-model, if a reader brings back his copy from last month to the salesperson he gets a discount.

But i guess that some readers would want to save their issues for longer, and to collect them, particularly if they know someone that have sent in an article or illustration.

I hope that some of my ideas will spur this concept further along the low-cost and smart-scale... just ask if you got further questions. :)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great point that the printing could be as simple as photocopying initially – making the venture much easier to get off the ground while interest is being gauged.

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Awesome concept Meena! Speaking from personal experience, peer stories are a great way to provide ideas & motivation to current & potential entrepreneurs, social or otherwise. Believing something can & should be done, and having confidence that you know or will be able to figure out how to do it, is key to moving from just thinking to actively doing.