Since 1981, Ashoka has pioneered the concept of “social entrepreneurship,” supporting a global network of more than 2,000 social innovators. Now, it’s promoting so-called “hybrid value chain” alliances between corporations and civil society groups, tapping each sector’s separate strengths to sustainably serve the poor.
“Businesses know how to do things that we as social entrepreneurs, frankly, have no idea about; just as social entrepreneurs know how to do things that businesses can’t even imagine,” Ashoka vice president Valeria Budinich said. “That’s where the opportunity for complementary roles is born.”
A model hybrid value chain – or “HVC” – forms a kind of win-win triangle, empowering businesses to create new markets and improve their image, citizen sector groups to earn stable incomes and up their social impact, and low-income families to benefit from new products and services.
An example? Danone SA sought help from a Mexican group Cauce Ciudadano to train low-income women to sell yogurt on the street. For six months, their teams met in neutral locations, hashing out how to adapt a life- and job-skills program for citizen sector group Cauce Ciudadano to make the vendors more productive.
Three years later, more than 200 Cauce-trained saleswomen are now expected to sell 50,000 kilograms of Danone yogurt and 75,000 liters of water, more than triple 2009’s sales. According the food-products giant, that growth was possible because Cauce came to recognize the power of profits and Danone learned the value of investing in its saleswomen’s lives.
Read the full story: Ashoka plays matchmaker to business and social entrepreneurs.