Friday, January 29, 2010

Will the Real Social Entrepreneur Please Stand Up?

How can you distinguish a business entrepreneur from a social entrepreneur? The answer is not as straightforward as it once was, says Abraham George, founder of The George Foundation, an NGO focused on poverty alleviation in southern India. Both are focused on profitability, margins and returns on investment. But social entrepreneurs go a step further, not only aiming to use their business activities to benefit society, but also involving society's poorest members -- now often referred to as the "Bottom of the Pyramid" -- in efforts to reduce poverty and raise standards of living.

That's all well and good, explains George in this opinion piece, but it is increasingly unclear who "the poorest of the poor" are. Definitions vary widely, which often means marketing strategies, growth plans and even products and services are not catering to the world's poorest people. In the worst cases, even well-intentioned social entrepreneurs are misleading investors and the general public -- and more importantly, letting down the billions of people living in poverty.

The concept of social entrepreneurship as a characterization of social responsibility for business organizations has gained considerable popularity. There is growing belief in development and donor communities that this form of for-profit activity might be the long-sought way to alleviate poverty at the so-called Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) -- the poorest segment of society. Yet, there is no consensus within these communities about what social entrepreneurship is and how the BoP is defined, making it easier for conventional for-profit activities to claim a higher social-service status than many ought to. What constitutes social entrepreneurship serving the BOP segment, and how can BoP be defined so that the poor are better represented?

At the heart of a social entrepreneur's activities are business principles that organize, create and manage a venture to bring about social change. Social entrepreneurs usually have novel solutions to society's pressing problems. Some work through non-profit or citizen groups, and most are now in the private sector.

While both business and social entrepreneurs measure performance in terms of profitability and return on investment, a social entrepreneur also includes the impact she or he makes on society -- the so-called "double bottom line." The main aim of a social enterprise is to further social and environmental goals for a good cause in a financially sustainable manner. In its purest form, social entrepreneurships are non-profits that reinvest the money they make to achieve a social goal. Most social enterprises are built on business models that combine a revenue-generating objective with social-value generation. Put another way, they redefine entrepreneurship as we have long known it by adding a social component.

Business entrepreneurs are constantly seeking ways to increase profits through more sales, higher margins, new markets and product expansion. Social entrepreneurs may also seek higher profits, yet be willing to accept lower margins and operate in more difficult market environments as long as they are able to offer social benefits. The very nature of their field activities may reflect a pursuit of what they call a "mission-related impact," as opposed to normal businesses that are more concerned about such issues as competition and product differentiation.

Unlike activities that focus solely on contributing to social-service causes, social entrepreneurs must find a way to balance the mission-related impact and the desire to maintain or enhance profits. Social entrepreneurs often emphasize cost reduction to achieve sufficient margins, and use innovative techniques to serve their market. The degrees to which social entrepreneurs pursue social impact as opposed to profitability vary considerably, but in all cases financial sustainability is fundamental. However, external investors in social enterprises usually do not have high return expectations and are often willing to forgo returns if they can see significant social benefits from an enterprise's activities.


The Quest for Economic Equality

Today, many ventures claim to be social enterprises, some with the professed goal of poverty alleviation. However, in the frenzy of associating with social good, many of their assertions are not scrutinized sufficiently. In the absence of precise conditions to validate their claims, it is difficult to identify the entrepreneurs whose main goal is wholly focused on reducing poverty.

A social entrepreneur aims to add value via incremental benefit, which accrues to a segment of society. Social entrepreneurs who aim for economic equality target an underserved or highly disadvantaged population that lacks the financial means to achieve transformative benefits on its own.One well-known social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, who founded Grameen Bank to provide microfinance in Bangladesh, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. His pioneering work was based on offering credit to people unable to obtain loans from banks and other conventional sources so they could set up and run their own small business ventures. Grameen and several other organizations that have improved the lives of disadvantaged people certainly fit the definition of a social enterprise.

Subsequently, a new microcredit industry mushroomed in developing countries, with most providers claiming that they can lend money profitably to the poor. They present themselves as organizations serving the BoP, and by default, the poor. However, there is reason to be skeptical about their motives, business practices, performance and the benefits they offer. Usually, the general public believes that microcredit and other for-profit companies primarily operating in the rural parts of developing countries have made poverty reduction one of their primary goals.

I would like to offer some clarity here. Social entrepreneurship can come in many forms, creating products and services that improve consumer safety, offer environmentally friendly goods or services, and contribute to poverty alleviation and other worthwhile initiatives. Many of these ventures are valuable to the economy and society in general. The problem arises when some of the initiatives say their main goal is to alleviate poverty, often in the hope attracting public support and investment from the philanthropic community, despite the fact that they do not meet the minimum criteria to be a poverty-alleviating enterprise.

According to much BoP literature, a BoP venture is a revenue-generating enterprise that sells goods to, or sources products from, people at the "base of the pyramid" in order to improve their standard of living. Some observers have refined the definition as revenue-generating enterprises that directly create "social value" for BoP communities through a product or service. Recent studies go so far as to exclude companies that sell non-essential items to BoP communities. All this aside, a for-profit venture that claims to be a social enterprise alleviating poverty must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Employ and/or train proportionately significant numbers of poor people in its main business activity (for example, making mosquito nets or processing vegetables) rather than using them as sweepers, porters or other cheap manual labor.
  • Produce or offer essential products or services (health care, education, housing, food, clean water and the like) at affordable prices to people who earn US$2 or less a day.
  • Make credit available to poor people at reasonable rates (no higher than twice the rate charged by banks to their creditworthy clients) for personal or business uses without unfair or unethical lending practices.
  • Offer technical, material or financial assistance to enable the poor to engage in family-run businesses, with returns to investors generated from products made from the activities (producing dairy products from cows and buffalos, making designer quilts and cushions sold at attractive prices to affluent consumers and so on).

In each of these criteria, a social enterprise employs the poor in its business activity (beyond menial labor) at fair wages, makes it possible for them to start their own entrepreneurial ventures, and/or offers essential, yet affordable, products or services. The poor must benefit directly from the activities and be from the BoP.

Saying the poor will benefit from the trickle-down impact of a regular business that is run by or for people with higher incomes does not qualify that business as a social enterprise; otherwise, every corporate entity, including Wal-Mart, would fit the definition of a social entrepreneur. What's more, the product or service purchased by the beneficiary must be affordable. Without such qualifiers, classifying social enterprises would mean accepting exploitation of and extortion from the poor in the name of social good, as in the case of local money lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates to people who badly need loans to meet emergencies.

Social entrepreneurship is a noble business activity that can serve all segments of society. But it is not necessary to appear to be helping the poor to gain an elevated social or moral status in business. Some entrepreneurs might prefer to invest in social enterprises rather than in regular for-profit businesses, but investment must be sought under the right premise. Not to do so is highly unethical, especially because it relates to the poor.


Read in detail:
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/india/article.cfm?articleid=4445


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Doomed Education

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRDs) decision to move to the apex court for the derecognizing 44 deemed universities has sent shock waves in Tamil Nadu, which has a major share of 17 institutions. The MHRD had classified the deemed universities across the nation into 3 categories based on UGC’s ten point scale, of which the institutions that secured above 8 were placed under the Class A, institutions that secured more than 5 as Class B and the rest in Class C. The universities under the first category were declared fit to continue with their deemed status, those in Class B are given some time to rectify certain irregularities for retaining their status and the Class C institutions lacked basic amenities and were declared unfit to retain their status. One major cause for such an educational breakdown in TN is mainly due to the UGC’s silence to the state govt’s long term request for power to monitor these institutions as their number had increased sufficiently in the state.


When asked about the state govt’s stand on this issue, the educational minister, K Ponmudy, said that these deemed universities operated like petty shops with numerous branches in various states. He also stated that these institutions were not ready to admit at least 50 per cent of its students through the single window system, through which meritorious students can secure a seat. Apart from this these institutions did not follow a minimum cut off mark for admission to professional courses, and had also collected twice the govt regulated fees in the state. He remarked about the other irregularities and pointed out that in many institutions, the Chairman of the management trust often serves as the Chancellor of the universities and other honorary posts are awarded to their family friends and relatives irrespective of their academic experience. He mentioned these institutions as ‘autonomous bodies’ which did not abide by or adhere to the govt policies and also added that the state govt was in full support to the centre’s stand on derecognition and was also ready to express the state’s opinion in the apex court if needed.

The MHRD’s decision to move this issue to the apex court resulted in student protests against their managements in various institutions. The agitated students retaliated at their management and said that these institutions demanded a large capitation fee and their fee structure had touched nearly a lakh per year exclusive of their hostel and food charges. While the students were ready to pay the amount, they were frustrated with the poor infrastructure and facilities provided, which were not worth the fee paid by them. They also complained of sharing of labs between professional students and their arts & science counterparts. In another renowned institution the admission of Ph.D candidates had exceeded 1200 with faculty strength of just 200. These blacklisted universities management was family bounded rather than educational experts.

The concept of deemed university has thus redefined education as a commercial profit-minded business, degrading its quality. The move to derecognize these institutions has come at the right time, but what is the plight of the students admitted into these universities? Though the govt has promised the security of student’s future, this gives rise to a new issue. The rectification measures to transfer the student’s or affiliate the college to the state universities can happen only if the courses were approved or registered by the UGC. There are numerous institutions that have admitted students into an unregistered course and then waiting for an approval. What happens to the future of these students who have been admitted to such unapproved courses? What guarantee does their course work have? These implications can be solved only over a period of time and this indicates that the students will have to wait until a solution is sought. In this evergreen world of competition, a period of wait will cost them a lot. Now who are to blame for this? The root cause for this issue arises due to the approval given to these undeserved institutions by the UGC experts. The management of these institutions still rely on the UGC’s clean chit to implead themselves in the court. At the same time, they have also accepted the insufficiency of infrastructural facilities and have requested for a time period to rectify all these irregularities.

This two way statement by the college authorities is a clear evidence that the UGC approval hasn’t come the right way. So what is the punishment that these officials will face? They have been the cause for ruining the education of nearly 2 lakh students. If the weeds are doesn’t cut from the roots, there can never be a good agricultural growth. Hence its high time that the apex court look into this issue and identify the officials for giving such approvals to undeserving institutions. The ultimate victims are the next generation students who have to come with the poor educational quality. The nations high expectations on better educational quality now relies on the apex court’s decision. May an educational revolution happen.


By Rahul Chandran

Source:http://www.countercurrents.org/chandran260110.htm


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Business Development Executive required for Social Sector Job Portal



Job Title: Business Development Executive
Location: Mumbai
Reporting to: Project Leader

BACKGROUND
Third Sector Partners (TSP) is a boutique executive search firm, providing specialized services to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), institutions and corporates to enable them to recruit CEOs, managers and board members, best equipped for the job.

Third Sector Partners has seen a phenomenal growth since its inception and has worked on over 250 senior management searches with leading NGOs, bilateral aid agencies and corporates. Some of our esteemed clients include the United Nations, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Public Health Foundation of India, Shell Foundation, ICICI Foundation, OXFAM, CARE India, among others.

Now, we are proud to announce our newest initiative: Barefootjobs.org is India’s first and fastest growing job portal catering to the human resource needs of the social development sector.

Addressing the need for quality professionals at the lower rungs, Barefootjobs.org goes where no other job portal has ever gone before. The social development sector in India has seen a dynamic improvement in the last few years. Apart from a large increase in the number of organizations in this sector, it has also opened up a plethora of opportunities for people willing to be a part of it. Yet, it remains largely deprived of quality professionals who can set new standards for professionalism. That is the need that barefootjobs.org aims to fulfill.

Since its launch in June 2009, Barefootjobs.org has received overwhelming response from both jobseekers and recruiters. We have garnered CVs from allover the country from both social and corporate sectors and listed more than 500 job opportunities in Indian and International NGOs for diverse positions in the areas of program management, advocacy, research, fund raising, academics and many more in wide ranging sectors of rural development, microfinance, public health, environment, ICT, education, corporate social responsibility and poverty alleviation.


Reason for Hire:
Barefootjobs.org is seeking to hire Business Development Executive to build visibility and increase the number of job postings and resumes on the portal. For this the incumbent will have to reach out to prospective employers through tele calling and direct marketing. The incumbent will also participate in expanding the database of jobseekers. The incumbent should be passionate about social sector and be eager to take up the challenging opportunity. S/he should have the foresight and ability to view the big picture and enjoy the dynamic culture of a start-up.


The primary responsibilities of the candidate are:
• Researching & exploring new market opportunities
• Lead generation, cold calling, prospecting, and making calls to prospective clients.
• Up-selling to existing clients
• Will be actively involved in Social Media Marketing of the portal.
• Achieve the targets assigned for registered employers and jobseekers
• On daily basis report on the progress to the Project Leader.

Desired Candidate Profile:
• Dynamic candidate with a zeal to excel in sales field
• Graduate/Post graduate degree in any field from a credible university.
• Experience in selling online/recruitment products would be an added advantage.
• Should be well acquainted with MS Office, including Excel and internet.
• Customer focused & target oriented.
• Excellent communication & presentation skills.
• English and Hindi fluency and a local language a plus.

An attractive incentive plan will be offered.


Interested candidates should send their CVs to: careers@barefootjobs.org or call on 91 22 66603558/3559. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Chief Operating Officer required for NGO working for HIV/AIDS affected Family

Background

FXB Suraksha is a non profit company working for the rights of children and their families affected by HIV/AIDS. FXB Suraksha works for the children and their families affected by AIDS and poverty to provide them with education, medical and psychosocial support with training for income generation activities for a sustained livelihood beyond the project period.


Today FXB Suraksha reaches out to 3.5 lakh direct beneficiaries and covers an area with a population of approximately 13.5 million. At presently they work extensively in 15 states and Union Territories of the country with an intention to make a significant presence felt across the nation.

More information on the organization is available on their website www.fxbsuraksha.org



Reason for Hire:

This is a challenging position directly reporting to CEO and Chairman of the Governing Board, closely interacting with the functional directors, and supervising, managing and providing direction to all India activities of FXB India Suraksha.


Against this backdrop, FXB Suraksha is seeking to recruit a Chief Operating Officer (COO) with patience, resilience and a passion to work for empowerment of the marginalized and to bring out positive social change.


Roles and Responsibilities

The main responsibilities for the position will be to lead the organization and carry out all operational functions. The incumbent will also directly supervise the income generation activities, fund raising and social entrepreneurship projects. The incumbent will be supported by the other functional directors in that effort. Some of the key roles and responsibilities include:

· Provide strategic leadership for the development of FXB India Suraksha and its ongoing and future programs.

· Oversee design, marketing, promotion, delivery and quality of programs, products and services.

· Provide strong leadership and direction to FXB Suraksha staff and build a high performing management team committed to the organizations vision and mission.

· Effectively manage the human resources according to organizations personnel policies and procedures.

· Recommend yearly budget for Chief Executive and Board approval and prudently manage the organization’s resources.

· Develop, maintain and implement sound financial management in accordance with FXB India Suraksha’s standards and controls.

· To identify innovative strategies, interventions, opportunities and gaps for livelihood programmes (including advocacy) in the project areas/ regions.

· Developing partner relationships and support partners’ capacity and abilities in program, people and financial management.

· Lead planning to ensure that FXB Suraksha is acknowledged as an expert in the sector and maximize potential for influencing the sector in India.

· Oversee fundraising planning and implementation, including identifying resource requirements, researching funding sources, establishing strategies to approach funders, submitting proposals and administrating fundraising records and documentation

· Represent FXB Suraksha in a variety of forums and maintain external relationships within the sector including national government, key national and international NGOs, donors, academic, media and research institutions.

· Build the image of the organization and its mission, programs, products and services consistently relevant stakeholders



Must have:

· 10+ years of professional experience with minimum 3 years in a leadership role (at least functional), with experience in program planning and design, implementation, compliance, and Monitoring and Evaluation.

· Demonstrated business acumen (strong financial management skills), analytic skills, and administrative abilities.

· A record of attracting and retaining funds and funders.

· Aptitude and capacity for networking to establish effective working relationships and partnerships with diverse stakeholders.

· Excellent communication skills and capability to represent the organization in professional forums.


Preferable:

· Experience of reporting directly to a board of trustees/ Governors/ Chief executive.

· Experience and knowledge in marketing, small entrepreneurship development programs, banking, micro-enterprise or microfinance.

· International experience / exposure would be an advantage.

· Language skill in French will be an added advantage


Location: Based in HQ in NOIDA, Delhi NCR with frequent traveling all over India


Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a cover note to coofxb@gmail.com. Or contact us at 91 22 24371068/ 24371194.


The last date for submitting applications is 5th Feb 2010. Only short listed candidates would be contacted.



Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.