A Year of Firsts for Scaling Impact Initiative (Video)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The William Davidson Institute’s (WDI’s) Scaling Impact initiative (SI) has completed its first year with a sharpened focus on assisting enterprises achieve scale in base of the pyramid markets, while completing several in-depth projects for building a toolkit of strategies, frameworks, and processes for business and the development community.

Under the management of Ted London, vice president of the SI initiative and WDI senior research fellow, the SI team has partnered with multinational corporations, global development agencies, non-profit organizations, and small- and medium-sized enterprises to grow their operations with the overarching goal of improving the incomes and well-being of low-income populations.

In a newly released video (see below) London explains how the SI initiative, previously known as the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), has evolved over time. WDI has long been a leader in analyzing and developing best practices in the BoP domain, and the SI initiative continues that legacy. But while many enterprises, from large corporations to entrepreneurs, embraced the concepts behind BoP and worked to incorporate low-income people into their business practices, few have achieved scale in meaningful ways. Recognizing this dynamic, the SI initiative was created and designed to help these enterprises manage growth, develop business models and forge partnerships in new ways.

Through extensive field research, customized advising and consulting, and by engaging multiple stakeholders, the SI team has developed a suite of new tools and methodologies tailored to different sectors, geographies and contexts.

“Our approach is what makes us distinct,” London says in the video. “We combine rigorous research with on-the-ground implementation. Working with our partners we identify the most relevant and impactful questions facing enterprises, analyze past successes and failures, and develop practical and actionable solutions.”

By generating new knowledge and translating it into actionable recommendations and strategies, the SI group is enabling partners from both the global development and business worlds. One example of these capabilities was demonstrated through a collaborative effort with one of the world’s largest retailers, Walmart. London and SI initiative Research Manager Colm Fay chronicled the history, the impact and the lessons learned by Walmart in its effort to bring smallholder farmers and female artisans from developing countries into its retail infrastructure in the report: “Incorporating Small Producers into Formal Retail Supply Chains”. Other companies and organizations can benefit from the Walmart experience, as well as from the accompanying Sourcing Readiness Checklist. The tool, created in partnership with Oxford University Consulting, enables organizations to assess sourcing strategies for more inclusive supply chains. The report, checklist and other resources may be downloaded here.

“Instead of asking whether business has a role in alleviating poverty, we look at how business can play this role more effectively,” Fay said. “In our research projects we aim to understand lessons learned and best practices, but also how this learning can be applied on an on-going basis to achieve sustainability and scale.”

Methods for creating partnerships and strategies for leveraging them is another research focus. A recent study by London and Fay, “Partnering for Scale: Collaborating to More Effectively Engage Smallholder Farmers,” offers important insights into how enterprises can enhance their performance through building an effective partnership ecosystem. Based on interviews with entrepreneurial and corporate-led enterprises in the agriculture sector in South Africa and Kenya, the research provides strategies for inclusive businesses looking to transition from an early pilot stage to scale.

Sharing these findings is critical to both the SI group and to WDI. It was the subject of a July 20 featuring London and presented by the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and WDI. To watch a replay of the webinar, click here.

London also will host a July 28 webinar on Teaching Base of the Pyramid at a Business School. London will share his experiences in incorporating BoP content into one or more sessions within an existing course, or into an entire semester-long class. Leveraging material from his latest book, The Base of the Pyramid Promise, as well as topic-appropriate case studies, London will offer techniques, strategies, and lessons learned to enhance effectiveness in teaching this important topic.

Back to Top