Looking Beyond Impact: Seeking Transformational Change
Despite a nascent history, for-profit social enterprises and impact investors have caught the global imagination. This emerging but powerful representation of talented people from across the globe, and capital that is seeking multiple-bottom-line returns; are both converging around entrepreneurs to form an industry that desires to make the world a better place. As we congregate at the Summit this year, we seek to ask some key questions about the role of the social enterprise and impact investing industry and whether we are really changing lives of the poor?
We hope to move beyond definitions of impact; definitions that are based upon numbers of people who use a specific product or service. In fact, insights from the ground show that this focus on impact numbers might even be restricting the industry’s growth and agility. Instead, we wish to dive deeper into what it means to holistically improve the lives of a farmer in India’s rural hinterlands who has no way of either making enough produce or selling it in a market; or that of a young girl in the urban slums in Mumbai, who has dropped out of school to make a living as a domestic maid.
Even as we focus on changing the lives of every single individual at the base of the pyramid; lets pause to ask ourselves if we are on the right path and if we are really adopting the right approaches. Are we using the levers of capital and talent available to us at the right places? Consider the “pull-through” effects of big business-driven growth, particularly in the areas of IT and telecom where job creation and product innovation have created ripples of economic and social change. What is our place in relation to this large scale and mainstream transformational change that has catalyzed the creation of social and business infrastructure where none existed?
Across the Global South, our industry is at an inflection point. It is now that we need to find if we are only sitting with the right ingredients and no recipe for wide scale impact. Is it the time to make a clarion call for action for replication and scale? Or, do we first challenge the tools and approaches we have designed to change lives? Finally, let’s ask how much and how far our claim of impact is bringing about a true transformation in the lives of people at the base of the economic pyramid.Through discourses and global experience sharing, we will determine what has worked to create a transformational change and what course correction is needed before our community dedicates the next decade to scaling a collective hypothesis.
Learn more about our agenda here.