Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Building Livelihoods

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Thursday 12 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are some of the most innovative models that are having a real impact on the livelihoods of people at the BoP?
  2. What are the some of the key challenges facing innovators when designing products, services and business models for the rural and urban poor?
  3. How important is gender in the success or otherwise of some of the marketing and distribution models?

Panelists include: Stephanie Hanson, One Acre Fund; Sampath Selvan, MKrishi; Keith Teichmann, Xylem; KC Mishra, eKutir; Alexa Roscoe, CARE International; Deborah Tien, AISE; Morgane Danielou, Farming First; Vincent Gainey, DFID.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Assuming therefore that the extension service will deliver innovations that have a tangible economic return so they can afford it? Is it tied at all to microcredit provision?

HI I am KC Mishra.Founder of eKutir.Sorry for joining late due to power problem here in India .

I have designed a last mile model to address to the problems of the Farmers

I agree Morgane! One interesting model for dissemination of best practices is Digital Green, an organization that uses simple videos to offer Indian farmers agriculture trainings. 

Hi Stephanie, we completely agree with your summary.  We would also note that channel development, from both a “supply” and “demand” perspective, is quite important.  As we’ve worked with partners to transition small-holder famers to more “cash crops,” we’ve found that an operational demand channel is critical in ensuring the efficient movement of produce into the appropriate areas of commerce.

Ok everyone, let's move on to the second question...

Q2:  What are the some of the key challenges facing innovators when designing products, services and business models for the rural and urban poor?

I think innovation will come from new models for extension services. And the new models will be mixes between public and private. In many input industries, we see the companies themselves doing the knowledge sharing and even training extension workers.

Just following on from this discussion between Vincent and Morgane - there is great potential for the private sector to deliver advisory services to farmers, but there has to be a business model associated with the delivery of advice, as not many farmers are prepared to pay for knowledge, but they will pay for a good quality pack of seed, and the advice can be embedded in the cost of the product.  I published a blog in the design expo on this very topic you might be interested in reading:

One of the biggest challenges facing innovators is how to involve women in BOP distribution systems in a meaningful way.  Generally, it’s much easier to involve women at the lowest levels (e.g. saleswomen) rather than at higher levels of managers.  CARE’s social enterprise Jita has doubled the incomes of its 3,500+ saleswomen- which is great- but the people who run the wholesalers which supply the women are almost universally men.    Breaking this barrier is the next great challenge. 

It's a great point Sampath because the ag value chain needs all actors to Partner together and benefit from a more successful agricultural sector. So connecting farmers, ag-input industries, processors, retails, research organizations and goverment is crucial but also very difficult to do well.

Selvan, can you provide more information on the PRIDE model? How does it work?

Thanks Alexa, and great to hear about the work Care's doing in Bangladesh. I'd love to hear more and share learning. I'm the Senior Advisor for youth livelihoods at the IRC  and we're just finalising an impact evaluation of its microfranchise work in Kenya working with over 2,000 girls in the Nairobi slums - the report is due at the end of the year and I'll circulate it then. As you say, a very promising model and one we're exploring its application for branded product and service marketing/distribution, as well as supply of inputs for agribusinesses

  • Innovation requires both a private and a public effort. One of the main challenges faced by innovators in implementing their revolutionary products or business models is the multitude of local and regional contexts that make it difficult to apply a one-size fits all implementation plan. Much of investment in innovation and R&D in the developing world is undertaken by foreign or multinational companies, which often lack the grasp of local practices, customs, and traditional knowledge. Therefore, fostering dialogue and cooperation between local communities and investors is essential. This can be done in regional forums, workshops and knowledge fairs. In addition, as they grow businesses in developing countries should be encouraged to invest in innovation. Growing and innovating from within is important to sustained economic growth that translates into better livelihoods.

  • Scaling up of existing initiatives and dissemination and knowledge sharing that is cross-sectorial and cross-geographical is important. What works in Uganda may not exactly fit a community in the Philippines but sharing best practices and promoting ‘innovation champions’ can both inspire and enable local leadership and communities to take up a model and adapt it to their context.

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