Blog: Mobility Innovation Hubs Align Industry, Government, Academia 

Energy + Mobility

By Diana Páez and Dana Gorodetsky

A new report from WDI’s Energy Team highlights e-mobility innovation hubs in low- and middle income countries adapting to the energy transition

Autonomous, connected, electric and shared. These tsunami-like trends — which go by the acronym ACES — are reshaping the landscape of mobility.

Of these trends, “electric” is arguably one of the most advanced, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and developed markets alike, and is the primary focus of our mobility-related work on the Energy team at WDI. We analyze opportunities and enablers related to the transition to electric mobility (e-mobility) and help stakeholders spot and tap into new opportunities to play a role in this exciting and quickly evolving space.

In our discussions with companies and entrepreneurs, academia, government, and other actors involved in e-mobility around the world, most are eager for new ways to collaborate with the ultimate goal of spurring innovation in this space. In this context, the role of mobility innovation hubs — as platforms for collaboration, conveners or enablers — is worthy of study and analysis to help inform the successful evolution of existing mobility innovation hubs and the design of others.

In a new report we’re publishing today, Mobility Innovation Hubs: Catalyzing Future Mobility, we examine six such hubs around the world, looking at their key features and business models, and drawing insights about the types of benefits and costs associated with different models.


Mobility Innovation Hubs featured in the report

What are mobility innovation hubs and what can they offer? 

Actors in an ecosystem all have roles to play in managing changes brought about by the trend toward e-mobility. But as with any major transition, new players can help spur innovation. Mobility innovation hubs can bring new thinking, new resources, and new ways of working to take advantage of new opportunities. These hubs come in different forms depending on their specific goals and the context in which they operate, but have some features in common. Broadly speaking, they exist to bring together and support players in their ecosystem such as entrepreneurs, small and large businesses, investors, government, academia, others) to advance shared goals in the areas of future mobility. They may be standalone non-profit or for-profit organizations or partnerships, and they engage in a variety of activities depending on their audience and goals. Among the hubs we feature, business and technology support for commercialization and scale up of new mobility solutions are among the most popular services; these include consulting services, ramp-up manufacturing facilities and equipment, testing environments for new products or services, and product showrooms. Several also offer co-working space for entrepreneurs and companies, training opportunities, and events for industry members and the general public. 

How hubs can support the broader ecosystem

Mobility innovation hubs are carving out new spaces and roles in the ecosystems in which they operate. While not all hubs engage with all types of players in an ecosystem, they can provide value to all, as we note below. These hubs can also support other aspects of an ecosystem such as the infrastructure, policy framework and workforce. On the issue of  infrastructure for example, hubs provide space and equipment to support companies and strengthen networks through convenings. Hubs can also improve public-private sector collaboration by bringing together government and companies, thereby supporting policy frameworks. And with respect to the local workforce, hubs also help upskill and reskill the local talent and build talent pipelines. 


Value that hubs can provide in their ecosystem

What did we learn?

In our report we share details of the six hubs examined in Detroit, US; Windsor, Canada; Sacramento, US; Puebla, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Eastern Cape, South Africa.  This will help you understand what type of initial investment is needed for such an endeavor, what kinds of revenue sources can support hub operations, and the range of services that can be provided by a hub. We also share key insights and takeaways for those interested in establishing a new hub in their area, including how to determine the value proposition and how to  position it in the local ecosystem. At the same time, we recognize that it may not be feasible or beneficial to create a new organization in every context, so we also include recommendations for actions that existing players can take to support their local ecosystem for e-mobility. 

We look forward to following the evolution of the hubs featured in this report and invite you to reach out if you are part of a different hub or interested in applying the findings to your context. We are excited about the opportunities to push the boundaries of innovation and create new platforms for stakeholders to catalyze collaboration to drive e-mobility around the world. 

This report was developed as part of WDI’s Chihuahua Charging Forward project with the State of Chihuahua in Mexico. You can learn more about this project here

Diana Paez

Diana Páez
Senior Director, Energy & Mobility

Dana Gorodetsky

Dana Gorodetsky
Program Manager, Energy

Student Opportunities

Patrice Gopo (left) and Minah Koela (right), who served as an interpreter in Cape Town for a WDI-funded project, with handbags made by local women business owners in South Africa.

A life-changing grant from WDI sent this student toward a new career, a family, and a renewed sense of global connection.

Patrice Gopo knows better than most how deeply we’re all connected. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, the child of Jamaican immigrants, she spent a lifetime navigating the tensions of that experience. She lived for years in the Alaskan cold, surrounded by people who could never quite understand what it meant to be different in the way she was. She vacationed in Jamaica, playing with family who would never manage the complex social dynamics she did. She belonged in both places — and in neither. On top of that, her life “didn’t always align with the typical experience that Black Americans are handed in the U.S.,” she explained. This multiplicity formed her foundation and brought unavoidable questions of belonging, place and home — ones she’s been grappling with all her life.

She’s carried these questions through her Master’s degrees in business and public policy from the University of Michigan, through a global internship and an MBA project supported by the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan (WDI), and into her current career as an author.

Gopo grew accustomed to feeling like she belonged nowhere and everywhere all at once. Eventually, instead of seeing division in the differences, she started to find connection. She sewed these complicated layers into the fabric of her life, personally and professionally. She built a career across borders, joining cultures and communities to form her foundation. She wove together a family whose arms reach around oceans. She spent years finding ways to bring people together, lending the skills she learned as a student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to South African business women and giving voice to the experiences of cross-culture children through her writing.

With her childhood as her guide, her education at U-M as a bedrock and her passion for service as her North Star, Gopo has grown into an accomplished author. Her books cover global communities, racial identity and compassionate growth — and a fortuitous internship supported by WDI helped get her there.

A Career Rooted in Connection and Identity

Becoming a writer wasn’t a path Patrice envisioned for herself at the start of her career. She focused her first collegiate experience in science and earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. She spent a few years working as a development engineer at Eastman Kodak Company, working on some of the company’s technology products. Although she was in a creative occupation, Gopo (then Harduar) did not feel connected to the work.

She’d inherited a need to “add something beautiful to the world,” and she was still searching for her addition. Her father was a teacher and a principal; her mother was a school nurse. Both dedicated their lives to helping others thrive, and it was important to Gopo to find a path that did the same. “There was always this tug. How does this matter to others in the world?” she said. She didn’t feel it in the engineering world, though she sees how it’s possible now. “At the time, all I felt was this beating in my heart. I wanted to be doing more than just technical problem solving, and that’s what drew me to graduate school.”

She enrolled in the Master’s in Business Administration program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 2004. While there, she added on a Master’s in Public Policy, set on using her degrees and skills to improve the lives of those struggling in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). “I was intent on working in microfinance and micro-entrepreneurship,” she said. “I was interested in the ways we could use business to alleviate issues of material poverty in the world.”

She was determined to make a difference in a substantial, lasting and thoughtful way, and she understood that this change wouldn’t come out of solutions placed on communities by outsiders. “In the past, we’ve approached addressing some of these issues in ways that didn’t empower people to take over their own destiny,” she explained.

At the time, WDI was providing student grants to support socially focused business endeavors in LMICs. Gopo was searching for a way to contribute to self-determined development, and she discovered it in South Africa — and then applied for WDI funding.

While still completing her studies, Gopo took the initiative to propose a WDI-sponsored internship with the nonprofit organization ServLife in 2007. Her assignment explored what women-owned small businesses needed as they grew their enterprises. She was asked to share her newfound MBA skills to help the group improve gender equity and economic development in the region.

In what felt like a powerful vote of confidence to Gopo, the Institute approved her request. She flew to Cape Town after graduation to join the effort and spent eight weeks meeting with women to build out their business plans. Together, they considered revenue plans, laid out expenses and navigated the critical business-building requirements of entrepreneurship in LMICs. “I was part of something larger,” she said. “It was something that was already organically happening within this country and this community. I was invited to come and take these skills I had in running a small business and help empower these women.” 

I think the people who show up in business school, particularly those doing projects with WDI, have a desire to make a difference in the world, and that desire is going to follow people. It doesn’t always mean you have to stay in one space doing the same thing.

A Life-Changing Event

That moment, when Gopo was awarded funding from WDI, changed the trajectory of her entire life. It was more than a two-month internship. In South Africa, she saw what real impact efforts look like. She experienced, yet again, how deeply the world is intertwined. In a country far from where she was born, Gopo found a passion, a husband and, eventually, a career.

When she officially moved to South Africa to live with her husband, a Zimbabwean who was studying in the country at the time, she couldn’t work in business.

“I had all these skills. I had an MBA. I had a Master’s of Public Policy. What I didn’t have was a work permit. I wasn’t able to do any of the work I was trained to do at the time, and that’s when I started writing,” Gopo said.

It was a slow grind at first, finding spaces where she could lend her words. Eventually, she started to lean into the topics she knew best: identity, community and global connection.

Her first published work, All the Colors We Will See, dives into questions of intersecting heritages, race relations and complex identities through conversations about marriage, divorce, beauty and faith. Her second, Autumn Song: Essays on Absence, includes personal stories of loss, from dreams left to the wayside to older versions of ourselves who have disappeared. In it, she explores how she’s navigated grief, healing and change. Both compilations are deeply informed by her experience as a woman with intimate global ties.

Her children’s book, All the Places We Call Home, is a story about connection across borders, told through the universal topic of naps. It’s rooted in her own life — and now in the lives of her daughters. In it, a little girl is getting ready for bed with her mother and thinking about all the places around the world where she’s laid down her head to sleep. “I love this book because it’s telling a story that so many people have experienced, but it’s a story that has often been relegated to the margins,” Gopo said. “We don’t necessarily hear about families who have multiple ties to multiple parts of the world — or about the idea that home can feel fluid at times.”

Gopo’s writing is an exercise in togetherness, and it’s the next iteration of a long-held passion for uniting people toward a better future. In telling these stories, she says, “There’s power. There’s legacy. There’s identity. These things make us more confident and content in who we are and in our stories.”

The Breadth of a Business Education

Though her path may have diverted from those typically taken by business students, Gopo doesn’t believe there’s only one way to use the MBA degree. “I think the people who show up in business school, particularly those doing projects with WDI, have a desire to make a difference in the world, and that desire is going to follow people. It doesn’t always mean you have to stay in one space doing the same thing.”

Besides driving her toward her current career and family, Gopo’s time at the U-M taught her three important professional lessons. First, she now takes an active role in how her writing is released to the public. She identifies her target market, considers who would be interested in her stories and determines the value proposition of her work. On top of that, she carries the confidence she gained in Ann Arbor with her. At U-M, she was encouraged to try new things, test out solutions and adapt after lessons. She brings that surety into her writing career, pushing the bounds of her topics and how she reaches people. Finally, at Ross, there was constant encouragement to press on and improve issues of inequity and underdevelopment.

“That all still shows up in my writing because I’m the same person. I’m still a person who cares about what’s happening around me. I am this person who is asking questions and seeking answers, interested in issues of justice and how we think about that,” she said.

Gopo said her U-M and WDI experiences continue to crop up her professional life. The support she felt when she was provided that funding has given her the confidence to apply for more over the years. Gopo recently received a Cultural Vision Grant from the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte Mecklenburg County to implement a local public library program about sharing personal stories. “I created this program to draw people together through community, recognize the things we have in common and see the ways our journeys differ such that we can build greater understanding,” she said. “It may not necessarily be global, but it connects to my goal of empowering people to flourish in their lives.”

Gopo continues to explore the beauty of a multifaceted life through her writing, her podcast Picture Books Are for Grown-Ups Too! and her community work. Her books are available to purchase at ShelvesMain Street Books or Park Road Books.

Author headshot by Allie Marie Smith

Entrepreneurship Development Center

WDI shares lessons with hopeful entrepreneurs on identifying a gap in the marketplace and building a business around a solution.

Small- and medium-sized businesses drive up to 70% of global employment and gross domestic product, and many are started by determined, dedicated entrepreneurs. The economies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are powered by these businesses.

Accompanying the call for entrepreneurship in emerging markets, there’s a call for the knowledge, tools and networks to bolster those businesses. Would-be entrepreneurs working to develop successful companies are seeking the know-how to get there in a more efficient, effective way. After taking part in courses on leadership, communication, and team-building, participants in the Ford Community Impact Fellows Training program — a development program for which the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan has been creating courses since 2020 — asked for precisely that.

“They really wanted to know the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship,” said Amy Gillett, Vice President of Education at WDI and co-leader of the Institute’s Entrepreneurship Development Center.

Gillett and David Estrada, Program Coordinator at WDI, created the “Starting a Business: Your Entrepreneurial Journey” course to teach participants the basic skills needed to effectively start their journeys. The 88 students in this summer’s program learned how to identify a need in the market, pitch a business plan, acquire funding, price a product and find a place for it in the market. While at work on the projects, the students were guided by 13 program mentors. These mentors had participated in previous online skills building programs offered by WDI and were eager to now share their knowledge and expertise in a guiding role.

The goal of the course was to set these committed students up for success in the business world by providing a foundation for a new company.

“We gave them an overview of the landscape and the fundamental skills they’d need to take an idea and get started,” Gillett said.


A successful entrepreneurship path is forged by experience — even if someone else lived it first.

Course guest speaker Jakub Zaludko, leader of strategy and projects at Impact Games, explained how he reshaped digital challenges toward commercial aspirations. As a trained political scientist and anthropologist, Zaludko observed how students in his home country of Slovakia were largely disengaged in the classroom, but they were noticeably focused while playing video games at home. Zaludko and his partners offered a solution: games with positive social impact goals. They built an innovative platform to develop games that encourage educational progress, promote freedom, and boost inclusion and equality.

Just as he did in the educational market, Zaludko explored how students can find a gap in their marketplace and build a solution to fill the void. Participants learned from his experience in identifying the community need, navigating the business world and launching a product.

The course content echoed similar lessons on focused solutions, mainly within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). When developing the class, Gillett and Estrada wanted to be sure that examples and questions were sourced from spaces where students could see their own potential.

“Great ideas emerge everywhere. We don’t have any kind of monopoly in the U.S., which is why we included cases from all over the world when we created the course,” Gillett said.

Building a Network

Participants from nine countries, including China, Hungary, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa and the United States, shared their backgrounds, skills and experiences with one another — all in an effort to grow their business ideas and abilities. Business can’t be built in a vacuum, and engaging relationships are just as critical to the participants’ business development as the lessons themselves.

“To be a successful entrepreneur, you need these connections — and this is a great way to start building or expanding that network, for both participants and mentors,” Gillett said. “With these courses, we are building a global network of learners and entrepreneurs.”

Beyond simply initiating these critical connections, participants were introduced to the deep value of these relationships through their course conversations, projects and group work. “I learned about the value and importance of working as a team to solve problems as they emerge,” said a participant from Nigeria. “Each team member brings a unique set of abilities to the table.”

Pitching a Business

Ultimately, participants worked together to build a business plan and create a video pitch. Gillett, Estrada, and program mentors evaluated the projects with an eye on how well the teams integrated the course lessons.

The winning pitch was for a personalized, flexible online education company: Explore Online. It highlighted the need for customized tutors on a global level, reviewed a break-even analysis for the business and considered the organization’s value proposition.

The second-place team set out to tackle the problem of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Kenya. Vijana Artifacts dug deeply into the issue itself in their pitch and shared their solution: viable vocational training for young mothers. They shared their business model, target customers and expected revenue streams.

The Truly Glam Apparel team came in third place. Their business pitch focused on sustainable fashion and explored the gap in the marketplace. Their solution involves turning to local artisans, relying on local production teams, and opening up opportunities for personalized customer experiences.

These pitches pushed students to hone their presentation skills. “I gained a better understanding of how I can present my new project to others,” said a participant from China.


To the participants, this course wasn’t just an academic venture. It was a professional stepping stone. Most participants either had a business plan in mind before starting the class or were excited by one they came up with during the process. For them, these tools are providing the groundwork for a lifetime of entrepreneurship. This is the mission of the Ford Fund.

“Ford Fund is proud to invest in expanding access to entrepreneurship in communities where Ford does business with a focus on providing more widespread  access to investment capital and educational resources, partnering with local organizations who share our desire to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems in an impactful way,” said Mike Schmidt, Director of Ford Fund.

Excited by the prospects of a new business, one participant from Kenya said: “My partner and I are on a mission to implement the idea we built during the course. Our next move is to develop a solid business plan and budget, then we’ll approach the necessary funding platforms and apply for grants.”

Buoyed by these positive impacts, the WDI Education team is on its way to creating even more courses for Ford fellows. While it will continue to run the current lessons, a new subject — driven by student suggestions — is on its way for a 2024 launch.

Ford Fund is proud to invest in expanding access to entrepreneurship in communities where Ford does business with a focus on providing more widespread  access to investment capital and educational resources, partnering with local organizations who share our desire to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems in an impactful way.

About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the global philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund focuses on providing access to essential services, education for the future of work and entrepreneurship opportunities for under-resourced and underrepresented communities. Ford Fund’s partnerships and programming are designed to be responsive to unique community needs, ensuring people have equitable opportunities to move forward. Harnessing Ford’s scale, resources and mobility expertise, Ford Fund drives meaningful impact through grantmaking, Ford Resource and Engagement Centers and employee volunteerism.

About WDI

At the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, unlocking the power of business to provide lasting economic and social prosperity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is in our DNA. We gather the data, develop new models, test concepts and collaborate with partners to find real solutions that lead to new opportunities. This is what we mean by Solving for Business—our calling since the Institute was first founded as an independent nonprofit educational organization in 1992. We believe societies that empower individuals with the tools and skills to excel in business, in turn generate both economic growth and social freedom—or the agency necessary for people to thrive.

Building on frameworks developed in other markets, we continued working on the market analysis for a new technology to produce ammonia for fertilizer in a small-scale, distributed way using renewable energy. We have also been assisting the researchers in developing a new company that will take the product to market.

This primer provides a comprehensive but non-technical overview of the distinct health information systems (HIS) that all together support health care delivery in low-resource settings. It opens with a historical account and landscape assessment and describes the urgent need to build a lean rigorous HIS that integrates these different components. Subsequent sections describe the individual systems that: i) track individual patient and health care provider information; ii) directly document care delivery; iii) provide public and population health data; iv) support facilities’ and community health workers’ administrative and financial functions; and v) coordinate logistics and health commodities supply chains. A separate section describes imported data, including “master data” and manufactured (e.g., “meta”) data. The primer closes with recommendations for principled HIS stewardship.

Puneet Goenka, far right, with his PATH colleagues in South Africa.

Note: This is one in an ongoing series of articles profiling past WDI interns and Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) team members and their career paths. Additional profiles in the series may be found here.

Puneet Goenka always wanted a career in which he could improve people’s lives. 

As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, he studied cell biology with an eye on the medical profession. Then he heard a talk by Partners In Health Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer who said even though life-saving drugs were readily available around the globe, it might take years to get them to those in need. Goenka said he realized just researching a life-saving drug wasn’t enough.

After graduation, he worked for a manufacturing company in Chicago on its health, safety and sustainability team. He later moved to India for a consulting job and then founded a start-up enterprise. Throughout all these career changes, Goenka became more determined to work in the development sector. 

While I knew it would serve as a useful resource, I did not realize just how helpful the Institute would be until I got to Ross and started interacting with the staff and professors associated with WDI.


—Puneet Goenka, Senior Consultant FSG

He chose U-M’s Ross School of Business for his MBA studies in part because of WDI’s student-focused programs. One of those programs, the WDI Global Impact Internship program, would help Goenka “cement his commitment” to a life working in the development sector. And when he was looking at graduate schools, WDI’s programs struck him as a great resource for MBA students. 

“While I knew it would serve as a useful resource, I did not realize just how helpful the Institute would be until I got to Ross and started interacting with the staff and professors associated with WDI,” he said.

While at Ross, Goenka said that an off-campus internship search—more typical in the development sector—was challenging at first, but connections and resources provided by WDI made things easier for him, especially the summer internships offered by WDI.

 “…That itself was a huge help for someone who was navigating the development sector for the first time,” he said. “I remember having a hard time narrowing down exactly which internship projects I wanted to apply to because each one was exciting. Finally, I decided to apply to projects that would allow me to work in the healthcare space—something I had wanted to do growing up but never really got the chance to—in a country that I had no prior experience in.”

 Goenka worked with the Seattle-based global health nonprofit PATH to develop a market entry strategy for a low-cost medical device in three countries—South Africa, Ghana and Uganda. For his internship, Goenka researched the regulatory environment, mapped the current landscape of comparable products, studied customer needs and usage patterns, estimated demand and recommended context-appropriate pricing.

 Goenka said never having worked in those three countries and never with medical devices made him both “nervous and excited.” But he learned a lot, he said. He developed a financial model by himself for the first time: “a skillset that continues to be useful to this day.” He also learned how to navigate the different business cultures in each country. 

Goenka learning to cook Ghanian food.

For instance, Ghana’s business culture was “relationship-based,” where simply being polite and friendly opened doors to get interviews with relevant stakeholders at national hospitals. Uganda was more process-driven, he said, and required formal letters in order to meet with officials. Goenka would later be sent to Uganda for his current job and said his experience there as an intern gave him more confidence in conducting research this time around.

“The internship with PATH cemented my commitment to developing a full-time career in the development sector,” he said. “The work was challenging; I was working alongside driven and smart colleagues and the impact potential of the work was high. These were all important factors for me and I saw them coming alive while at PATH, which gave me confidence that I would enjoy working in the development sector.”

Goenka now leads case teams as a senior consultant for FSG in India. FSG is a consulting company that finds business solutions to social challenges. After working on an early education project for nearly two years, he is currently working on a project in Uganda to provide households with better sanitation facilities. But instead of just building and providing toilets for free, his project looks to stimulate the market so households can invest in and buy their own toilets, and the private sector is better equipped to provide customer-appropriate toilets.

“This work is a perfect way for me to blend my business training and experience with my interest in the development sector,” he said. 

For now, Goenka is content working and living in India, but is open to moving elsewhere if the right opportunity came along. 

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked in the U.S., India, and a little in South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda—thanks to PATH and WDI—and that makes me feel better equipped to work in new and unfamiliar geographies and contexts,” he said. “However, irrespective of geography and sector, I am quite sure that I will continue to work in the development sector, trying to improve people’s lives.”


As the academic year comes to a close, the 13 MAP teams organized and funded by WDI have finished their projects and successfully delivered final reports to their sponsoring organizations.

Multidisciplinary Action Projects, or MAP for short, is an annual, action-based learning course offered at the Ross School of Business in which MBA students work on projects for organizations all over the world under the guidance of faculty advisors. Each project requires analytical rigor, critical thinking, and teamwork among students. Sponsoring organizations receive first-rate deliverables and data-driven recommendations from the teams of students. (Learn more about this year’s MAP projects organized by WDI here; find more information on WDI’s MAP projects over the years here.)

After learning about their projects and conducting secondary research for several weeks, the students then spend two to four weeks working with their organizations in the field.

Two of those projects – in Hanoi, Vietnam and Madurai, India – focused on laying the groundwork for centers designed to support local entrepreneurs and are part of a joint effort between WDI and the Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI). To assist the students on their projects, WDI Education Initiative Vice President Amy Gillett and Program Coordinator Nathan Rauh-Bieri provided advice and guidance based on WDI’s prior work in entrepreneurship development (see WDI’s newly-launched Entrepreneurship Development Center).

Here is a recap of the two projects.


Vietnam Partners LLC

The Vietnam Partners MAP project was co-funded by ZLI, and hosted by Vietnam Partners, LLC. The project’s goal was to create a launch plan for an entrepreneurship service center in partnership with Hanoi Business School (HSB). The student team conducted more than 45 interviews with entrepreneurs, HSB administrators, and other stakeholders. They discovered that Vietnam’s entrepreneurs need help growing their business – not just starting them – and would welcome an entrepreneurship development center.  

“The environment in Vietnam is ripe for this kind of organization,” said Bradley LaLonde, the team’s supervisor at Vietnam Partners.

At the end of their project, the students presented a business plan for a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HSB. The team identified a local hunger for practical rather than theoretical training, and training customized to the local ecosystem. More specifically, the MAP team identified a lack of local business cases. After a conversation with WDI, the MAP team suggested that a sustained effort around creating local cases, similar to WDI’s Philippines Case Collection, could be high-potential way to train Hanoi’s practice-hungry entrepreneurs.

Team member Juan Recalde said the project taught him that entrepreneurs have different needs.

“That was a very important learning because we could segment different types of entrepreneurs and based on the segmentation, determine which segment to target,” he said.

Recalde said he will take what he learned – specifically market research and creating a launch strategy for an entrepreneurship development center – and try to replicate it in his hometown.

“Formosa is one of the poorest provinces of Argentina and the government plays a big role in the economy, while the private sector is small,” he said. “I believe that entrepreneurship is the answer to the growth issues that my province faces.”

Stewart Thornhill, executive director of ZLI and the team’s academic advisor, praised the team for how well they represented U-M, WDI and ZLI and for their mature analysis of the project.  

“They didn’t treat entrepreneurs as a generic class, but were able to identify specific personas,” he said. “Their in-depth qualitative research will serve this center’s clients well in the future.”

WDI President Paul Clyde, who also advised the team, said they gave Vietnam Partners good insights into the current situation with the country’s entrepreneurs.

“There is no substitute for having information from people who have spent time on the ground to get a good feel for what is going on,” Clyde said. “This is exactly the type of situation in which MAP projects are effective tools for us and for sponsors.”


Aparajitha Foundation

The MAP team, based in Madurai, India, was tasked with setting up a business model for Aparajitha Foundation to provide services to the city’s Madurai’s micro, small, and medium enterprises – or MSMEs. This work builds on last year’s MAP project with Aparajitha.

The student team’s final report outlined the gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Madurai, the market opportunity, business model, financial model, implementation plan, and key learnings. The team recommended that GROW, a conceptual organization to meet the needs of growth-stage entrepreneurs, be launched. The students also provided an outline of what was needed to have GROW operating within two years and expand to a second locale within five years.

Clyde, the team’s academic advisor, lauded the students’ efforts.

“They were able to get up to speed quickly on the current situation and combined that with some careful thinking about different models for providing services to entrepreneurs,” he said. Aparajitha “has already made significant progress in (its) engagement with the entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu.”

The project left a definite impression on team member Nancy McDermott, who, though having a background in the community development aspects of business, experienced “what a big impact supporting entrepreneurs locally has on the local economy.”

Particularly, the project’s scope exposed her to how entrepreneurship can “spark job creation at a grassroots level,” she said, adding that she saw “what a big impact this is having on Madurai’s economy, and what kind of impact it can have on other economies as well.”

This summer, a WDI intern will pick up where the student MAP team left off and develop diagnostic tools that will identify the challenges a given entrepreneur faces and thus how GROW can work with the entrepreneur most effectively.  


The co-founder of a start-up venture in South Africa that aims to save the honey bee will share how he designed the initiative to have economic, social and environmental impact as part of the WDI Global Impact Speaker Series. The talk begins at 5 p.m., Nov. 16 in room R2230 at the Ross School of Business, and is free and open to the public.

(Click here to watch Madison Ayer’s Nov. 16 classroom presentation.)

Madison Ayer speaks in November 2015 as part of the WDI Global Impact Speaker Series.

Madison Ayer, who has led several social ventures in Africa, including Honey Care Africa and Farm Shop, will discuss what he learned from those enterprises to launch Mbuyu Group, a large-scale honey bee conservation initiative. Mbuyu Group is working with South African National Parks to protect some of the world’s most critical honey bee ecosystems and strengthen the bee population. The group also hopes to become one of the largest global producers of organic honey.

Ayer has been featured in the WDI speaker series in the past. Last year, he talked about Honey Care Africa and Farm Shop, two ventures in Kenya that serve those living at the base of the pyramid.

Honey Care Africa provides smallholder farmers with beehives and harvest management services. In addition, it guarantees a market for the beekeeper’s honey at fair trade prices, helping to provide a steady, consistent source of income.

Farm Shop recruits and trains franchisees who then independently operate community-level, agro-dealer shops that supply smallholder farmers with seeds, fertilizers, tools, veterinary medicines and other items to improve crop yields.

In his 2015 talk, Ayer discussed the challenges that come with integrating low-income producers and consumers into the supply chain, including poor infrastructure, security concerns, informal regulations, and high costs. But if successful in overcoming these hurdles, Ayer said it can lead to long-term competitive advantage and positive economic impact on communities across the supply chain.

Watch Ayer’s 2015 presentation here and his interview with WDI Senior Research Fellow Ted London below:

In addition to his previous talks, Ayer also has engaged with WDI’s Scaling Impact Initiative and the Performance Measurement Initiative (PMI).

As part of a project funded by the German development agency GIZ, WDI studied the landscape of BoP facilitators in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The Scaling Impact initiative conducted field visits to Ethiopia and Kenya – including to Honey Care Africa and Farm Shop.

WDI’s Performance Measurement Initiative team also conducted a qualitative impact assessment in 2012 to identify Honey Care’s impact in alleviating poverty on children age eight years and younger, and developed a case study as part of the series entitled Focusing on the Next Generation: An Exploration of Enterprise Poverty Impacts on Children. The goal of the series, funded by the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, was to gain a greater understanding of the ways in which businesses in emerging markets impact young children’s lives and the potential to optimize impact on children.

Additionally, WDI Publishing also produced a popular teaching case study on Honey Care Africa that examined the business’s transition from obligating farmers to maintain their own hives to providing hive management services. The case also explored ways to enhance this new model, including strategies to reduce side selling. It was written by London and Heather Esper, senior program manager of PMI.

As part of his continuing series, Nathan Rauh-Bieri checks back in with participants in the year-long Vital Voices GROW Fellowship. In a world growing more “virtual” by the day, he learned there’s still plenty of value in entrepreneurs meeting face to face.

This study was undertaken with the financial support of the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN). IBAN is a global multi-stakeholder network enabling and promoting inclusive business worldwide. It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The focus of this report is to shed light on the opportunity for inclusive business leaders to leverage partnerships to overcome the challenges they face in seeking sustainability at scale. Our findings, based on interviews with both entrepreneurial and corporate-led enterprises engaging with smallholder farmers in Kenya and South Africa, offer important insights on how these enterprises can enhance their performance through building an effective partnership ecosystem. In particular, we focus on addressing the following two questions for IBs seeking to transition from pilot to scale:

The “who” – Which partners should enterprise leaders prioritize as most crucial to enabling sustainable, scalable inclusive business development?

The “how” – Once these inclusive business leaders have identified their priority partners, what are the strategies and processes they will need to use to develop and maintain these relationships to maximize their effectiveness?

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