Knowledge is a powerful factor that enables people and organisations to achieve great results. It is key to unlocking complex chaotic issues, such as international development, where we face compounding environmental economic, political and social forces which make it nearly impossible to solve. That is one of the key roles of a technical advisor – to provide their knowledge to the chasm of ideas so that clarity is reached and the most effective and impactful results are achieved for all stakeholders.

Therefore, companies often seek technical advice when developing an inclusive business. Here this assistance is frequently funded and contracted by the company, which has a natural bias toward the outcomes they would like to achieve, which are more on the commercial end of the spectrum.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means the company has had to internally justify exploring the inclusive business opportunity. They have crunched the numbers to see if the business is feasible, and therefore are willing to spend the money to hire a technical advisor to ensure the project meets business objectives.

We have found that if it is purely donors engaging in the inclusive business venture, there can be less rigour applied to ensuring there is a strong business case.  However, donors are more likely to be socially driven and want to achieve mutual benefit. So, both parties have a role to play.

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To achieve the balance between profit and social outcome, consider as a technical advisor using your knowledge on sustainability, market research, supply chain, retail, agriculture… to get the business case right. Then, approach donors who are interested in supporting business and sharing the risk, but want strong social drivers, to financially support the project. For example, the Innovations Against Poverty (IAP) Grant challenges the private sector to develop products, services and business models that can contribute to the fight against poverty and climate change. The IAP grant is simple to apply for from a business perspective; has low level administrative requirements; and it is an open source partnership application, so it’s not too restricted on with what you can put forward as long as it has social outcomes and is a true inclusive business.  

As far as we know, Business for Development is the only NGO that acts as a technical advisor and is supported mostly by private fee for service. As a result, we are pinned to having a commercial lens, but always seek donor partners to balance the project.

From our perspective, there is a market for Inclusive Business technical advice consulting services, and this is outside donor funding.  As Inclusive Business around the world continues to grow, so too does the market demand for advisory support. In fact, the growth of Inclusive Business will require the emergence of a marketplace made up of highly capable, knowledgeable and experienced support providers. As the marketplace grows the ability of NGOs, government and business to make better decisions, come up with more evolved and intelligent thoughts and create mutually beneficial businesses will be greatly increased.

We want more competitors, more advisors, more companies to work in this space. Why? We believe the more competitive this space becomes, the more knowledge added to the mix, the better the outcomes that will be achieved, not just for business but also for communities. Now that is powerful. 

 

Published in The Inclusive Business Hub