11 October 2016
There are no shortages of successful business models, whether is those that are purely for profit or eco-inclusive models—enterprises that strive to integrate social environmental and economic goals into their business models. For the latter, there is consensus from policymakers, investors, governments, NGO’s and enterprises that multiplying their impact significantly create jobs, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable growth of economies.
The devil, however, has always been in the detail—the HOW. How can we increase the impact of such models? Traditionally, business advisors, consultants and development practitioners have focused on devising strategies for enterprises to scale—expanding operations from the core in order to support growing demand for the enterprise’s products and services. This seems to have worked well over the years partly due to the need to protect technology and proprietary rights from competitors.
Today, in the face of soaring unemployment levels and the urgent need to transform economies to low-carbon, there appears to be better alternatives to increasing impacts of eco-inclusive models. Replication of successful business in different geographic areas is one such promising alternative. Through replication, enterprises and would-be entrepreneurs are able to learn, transfer, and adapt successful eco-inclusive models to their local context and multiply their impacts.
SEED—the global partnership for action on sustainable development founded by United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been driving the replication idea forward in collaboration with endeva. This year at the annual SEED Africa Symposium, over 400 participants made up of enterprises, donors, investors, policy makers, NGO’s came together to share, discuss, and examine ways to enable replication in varied sessions from September 26th-30th. The sessions covered topics such as Financing Replication: unlocking capital for Replication, Accelerating Replication: How can Incubators support Replication, Enabling Replication: Technology Transfer through Public Private Collaboration among others.
Indeed, the idea of replication is not free from contention and this was evident at the symposium. Should innovative ideas—which typically emerge after huge investments of resources of daring entrepreneurs—be open to others for free? Which ideas travel universally and which ones need to be contextualized to local conditions? Such questions never cease coming back.
But here is the catch: plastic production, for instance, is increasing every year with 311 million metric tons produced globally in 2014 alone, and plastic waste poses serious sanitation and health problems in most African countries. Now would you wait till an enterprise in Kenya is able to scale an innovative plastic waste solution to Ghana, or would you rather encourage efforts for other entrepreneurs to learn, transfer and adapt such a solution to the Ghanaian context?
Many participants seem to favor the later alternative. So the replication revolution is on for eco-inclusive models and the message is: imitate, adapt and multiply impacts! Wondering how?
Find out more here