Development Alternatives, in partnership with la Caixa Banking Foundation, has launched a social innovation program for entrepreneurship led job creation titled, “Work 4 Progress”. The program is active in rural areas of Bundelkhand and Eastern Uttar Pradesh and works with aspiring and existing women and youth entrepreneurs.
Work 4 Progress is driven by four processes: dialogue, co-creation, prototyping and learning for acceleration. Across these four processes, the program works with diverse stakeholders that inhabit the entrepreneurial ecosystem ranging from aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, NGOs, financial institutions, market actors, technology and service providers, capacity building institutions and government agencies.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem is complex and involves the interaction between interdependent elements and a diversity of stakeholders. The social innovation approach to transformation change recognizes that ideas for social impact develop and flourish in collaborative environments and are propelled by interdependencies between each level and components of the ecosystem. The challenge for organisations therefore, is to create platforms for collaboration. For development programs located among communities, as in the case of Work 4 Progress, such platforms are required at all levels: micro, meso and macro.
As its Latin roots com and laborare indicate, collaboration means “to work together”. The platforms for collaboration therefore provide space – physical, virtual or digital – for organisations, individuals or informal groups to work together. The purpose of collaboration in the case of an entrepreneurship program could range from exploring a concept or idea to finding solutions to problems, cocreating a process or prototype, supporting entrepreneurs on the ground, carrying out an experiment, execution, scaling up an approach and policy research and influence. The nature of collaboration accordingly, could be formal or informal, short term or medium to long term and could bring together a very small set of stakeholders to a more diverse and larger group.
Development organisations, private foundations and corporates, globally as well as in India, are increasingly collaborating to address complex challenges and “wicked” problems. The Work 4 Progress India experience has led us to understand that platforms for collaboration at the macro level – state and national – are not common when it comes to supporting micro entrepreneurship and that they are more useful for the entrepreneurs as well as the supporting organisations. Platforms for collaboration at the meso level – district and sub district or block level – are critical as they are closest to the field and home to key actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. However, there is a vacuum at the meso level, which has led Work 4 Progress to create and support coalitions of diverse stakeholders at the district level. Platforms for collaboration at the micro level are either non-existent or not much is known about them. Micro-entrepreneurs do not have a formal or an informal association that provides them a platform to connect with each other unlike small, medium and large industries that have associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and Chambers of Commerce.
During the initial phase of the W4P program, it was observed that enterprise development activities were being pursued by multiple stakeholders like government officials, civil society organisations (working in the sector of livelihoods), financial institutions (Banks, Non-banking financial companies etc.), training institutes, academia, entrepreneurs, trader association etc. Constant dialogue with these stakeholders brought out a need for platform at the district level to enable coordination between diverse stakeholders and their enterprise development endeavours. Thus, the concept of a district level coalition was conceptualised and initiated across all the program geographies.
Given this context and W4P program experience, it will be useful to draw lessons from existing experiences and brainstorm on what it takes to create, support and manage collaboration platforms at micro, meso and macro levels, especially in the context of a social innovation program and similar initiatives in India.
The session will seek to explore, reflect and brainstorm on the following social innovation:
- Why and when should platforms for collaboration be setup?
- What does it take up to setup platforms for collaboration across different levels i.e. macro, meso and micro?
- What could be the underlying principles, form or structure and life of a platform for collaboration?
- What capabilities and shifts in mind-set do organisations need to support and participate in platforms for collaboration?
- How can platforms leverage existing resources and create constructive partnerships between actors from different sectors to accelerate impact?
- How can we measure the success of platforms for collaboration and what are some of the key success metrics?
Moderator: Gorka Espiau