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Retired corporate lawyer
Kraft Foods (ret.)
I retired after a 20-year career as an in-house lawyer for Kraft Foods, finishing up with a 3-year stint as VP-Legal for Kraft Foods Asia Pacific. I stayed on in Asia for a few more years to do various kinds of volunteer work, most notably with Buy1GIVE1, a Singapore-based social enterprise, where I serve as Vice President of their B1G1 Giving Society. More recently, I've been working with Generation Enterprise, a nonprofit operating in Nigeria and India to help urban youth develop and grow small businesses. I believe strongly that business -- and especially small businesses -- can be the engine that helps millions of people pull themselves out of poverty. But not everybody has the training, or the creative insight, or sometimes the sheer guts, that it takes to start up a small business and make it go. If we can find a way to help those people, with training and encouragement and mentoring, we will have taken an important step toward helping them build businesses that can pull a great many people out of poverty.
Dear Alain, My apologies for the delay in responding. Perhaps the most useful material I can provide at this stage is a summary by Generation Enterprise of lessons we've learned over the past three years of operation. http://genterpriser.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/gen-shares-lessons-learned/ . The link is to a post by our President & COO, Michael Kuntz, and discusses learnings in Program Delivery, Entrepreneur Evaluation, Business Model Design, and our own Service Model. In particular, you may want to note that we've found, for instance, that when we've pushed Fellows (program graduates) to work together on a project that was not of their own design, they've generally been unsuccessful. This may be relevant to your intended approach of putting a group of people through your training, but then picking one business (and individual) to fund and having him/her hire a couple of other program graduates to work with him in the business. Just a watch-out regarding the possible impact on people's attitudes toward a business that is not "theirs." We've also found a large difference in success rates between individuals who are pursuing entrepreneurship out of necessity vs. those pursuing it because they have a "vision" of a business they want to build. Skills (in the chosen business) and educational background are also key factors in predicting the likelihood that a business will be successful. Finally, these programs need to grapple (as we are already doing) with the understandable tendency among some program participants to start up undifferentiated, "copy-cat" businesses. These may succeed in generating increased income for the business owner, but their undifferentiated nature makes it unlikely that they will grow and generate viable jobs for others in the community. It seems likely that if programs such as these only help to create micro-enterprises that are destined to remain one- or two-person enterprises, then the cost of the program may be too high to justify the jobs it can reasonably be expected to generate. Thus, it may be productive to focus energy at an early stage on creating differentiated businesses that have the potential to expand beyond the micro level and on to the SME level. I hope the above is helpful to you, Alain.
Hi Alain – Congratulations on making the Refinement List! At Generation Enterprise (http://www.generationenterprise.org), we are running a similar program for unemployed street youth living in slum areas in Lagos, Nigeria and New Delhi, India. Rather than train these youths for jobs they may not find, we teach them the skills they need to create jobs for themselves and others in the community. We recruit local street youths (via NGO and government partnerships), then provide basic business training and, importantly, training in design thinking. They then apply these skills to map the community’s needs/interest for various types of goods or services. The participants develop promising business concepts and, with a small bit of seed money from GEN, actually test out their ideas in the marketplace, using rapid prototyping to adjust the business concepts along the way. Following the testing period, successful enterprises graduate from the program and, with startup funding (small loans) from GEN, they are able to start up their microenterprises. We also provide each business with a mentor, to provide ongoing support and advice as they get started, and particularly to help them grow. These small businesses may range from supplying office cleaning services to the growing number of businesses in the area, to providing cement to builders operating locally, to setting up entertainment kiosks that sell/rent DVDs and CDs to local residents. As you can see, there is considerable overlap with your MBI initiative. I hope you’ll review the website. Happy to help with ideas, lessons learned, etc. as you refine your approach.