This was a fun interview to do, mainly because our model is constantly pivoting, adapting, and being refined - so it was cathartic to share our obstacles, as well as our recent breakthroughs. Thank you so much Priya!
“Simpa Networks is starting by working with solar installers already peddling panels in India. Right now, those companies tend to work with banks to offer potential customers loans in order to finance the cost of owning the system. But Needham thinks that’s the wrong approach for customers who currently rely on energy sources like kerosene. For anyone on an irregular income, kerosene has one advantage: you pay as you go. Needham argues that companies need to price solar power correctly, not merely offer the right financing plan for the solar system. “What people really want is the service. Let’s price for the service,” he says. Simpa pegged its prices to the costs of kerosene: it costs the same amount to light one room with its solar system as it does to light it with a kerosene lamp, and Simpa’s light is brighter.”— From GOOD, on why “pay-as-you-go” is better than high up-front costs or loans for solar products in low-income communities. Great read about Simpa.
“Instead of a parade of awards and recognition, add revealing explanations about why a program has caught CGI’s attention and why it is ready to globalize. And, for good measure, tell the viewers at home (don’t forget those rolling TV cameras, twittering fingers and blogging computers) how to engage with their brains as well as their checkbooks. Teach us how to make smart decisions before we allocate our philanthropic and social investment dollars. Instead of speeches to extol what a person has done to date, let’s ask the brave and bold to reveal their secret sauce of accountability — how they failed and then succeeded. What can they share and teach? What pitfalls threatened the road to success and how did they steer around them?”—Jonathan Lewis (@IOnPoverty) on how the Clinton Global Initiative should be less hype, more hope. I agree.
Start pursuing what resonates with you. Follow it as best you can, wherever it leads. It’s OK if you don’t know what the next ten steps are going to be, or how things will scale, or have all possible scenarios mapped out. It’s enough to take one step in the direction of your interest. Sometimes you can only find the second step after you’ve taken the first one.
“Here’s how the water ATM processed works: local franchisees—people who want to make money as water stewards for their community—are allowed to operate ATMs in their villages. They pre-pay Sarvajal for water, and pick it up to dispense into the ATMs, which treat the water with reverse osmosis and ultraviolet rays. Community members get their pre-pay water balances from the franchisee, who is allowed to keep all cash from home deliveries. If something goes wrong with one of the cell phone network-connected ATMs (i.e. a leak), Sarvajal finds out immediately and fixes it.”—
Via Fast Company, Sarvajal is providing clean water via solar-powered ATMs for the rural poor in India. Amazing.
“Some shared photos of rainbow-colored PT reflective belts for soldiers. Joshua Foust, a think tank fellow who has written on defense and intelligence for PBS and the Atlantic, sarcastically suggested a uniform of “feather boa and sparkle shoes,” though he followed it up by writing, “Oh? It’s business as usual? Oh.””—
“Journalism makes you sloppy and self-important; you are always in a hurry, you don’t get time for self-reflection. But if you are lucky, you might get to meet some interesting people and learn how to write a paragraph.”—Mohammed Hanif (h/t: peterwknox)
“There’s a tendency these days to give up on poverty, to dismiss it as a sad but inevitable feature of humanity, particularly at a time when we have deep economic problems of our own. But if a former prostitute in a Nairobi slum can build a dressmaking business, buy a home in the suburbs and produce over-achievers like Caroline, Anthony and Cynthia, then it’s worth remembering that sheer grit, and a helping hand, can sometimes blaze trails where none seem possible.”—Nick Kristof's latest column, “Sewing Her Way Out of Poverty,” about a “prostitute-turned-businesswoman” who launched Jamii Bora, Kenya’s largest microfinance organization.
“The God I worship is one that, when I fall, picks me up, dusts me off and says: “try again”. This is a God who says: “I knew you before I created you and I created you because I love you.””—Desmond Tutu on faith and religion in our daily lives/work (via creandojuntos)
“These [impact] investors have greater choice than ever. Five years ago anyone wanting explicitly to combine financial returns with virtue was limited to investing in social housing for poorer people in rich countries, microcredit and a handful of ethical mutual funds that shun sinful shares such as tobacco and defence companies. In June Impact Assets published a list of the top 50 impact investors, ranging from Blue Orchard, which has invested around $1 billion in microcredit, to IGNIA, which is investing its first $100m fund in growing small businesses in Latin America and is about to start raising a second fund.”—Interesting piece by the Economist. I’d contend that impact investment is social in its intentions, but these investors still care about financial returns. There’s also a concentration of their activity in “hub” markets, which is problematic for other countries that lack access to capital. Redistribution of wealth, I say.
“Pakistan’s is a diverse society, so diverse, in fact, that observers who deal best in generalizations are bound to get the country horribly wrong. [Anatol] Lieven recognizes this diversity and makes it central to his analysis. For him, Pakistan is a place of competing and overlapping clans, sects, tribes, beliefs, and practices. Its society, in order to function, has evolved powerful mechanisms to deal with rivalries inside shared localities. As a result, Lieven argues, Pakistan is characterized by structures—military, bureaucratic, social, political, spiritual, judicial—that are profoundly “Janus-faced,” in the manner of the two-faced Roman deity who gazes and speaks in opposite, contradictory directions. These structures, at once predatory and protective, operate to make the country both (frustratingly for reformers) very difficult to change and (bafflingly for forecasters of its demise) remarkably resilient.”—Mohsin Hamid, “Why They Get Pakistan Wrong” [and Lieven gets it right]. Great piece by a great author. Read this.
“Outside Silicon Valley, the world is not so enthusiastic about entrepreneurship. In Central America, where we work, the word has a stigma. I found this out when our team in Nicaragua reported that some entrepreneurs were rebelling against using the term for entrepreneur in Spanish: emprendedor. While the word entrepreneur has achieved almost mythic status in the U.S. – so much so that it’s now used to describe anyone from the next Steve Jobs to the miserably self- employed, the word does not have the same glow in the rest of the world for reasons that say a lot about the development challenges humanity faces.”— Ben Powell, Agora Partnerships. This is really applicable to Pakistan and elsewhere as well. In terms of entrepreneurship, what’s in a name?
“Our philosophy is that to solve the world’s toughest problems we need exponentially more resources than can be provided through just traditional philanthropy. Impact investing offers an opportunity to tap a giant new capital source to create sustainable, scalable solutions that can have potential game-changing results.”— Ron Cordes, co-Founder of the Cordes Foundation, via Rahim Kanani's piece, “Impact Investing & Social Entrepreneurship: A Way Forward,” Forbes.
“What’s important is how we use our time on this earth, not how conspicuously we give our money away. What’s important is the energy and courage we are willing to expend reversing entropy, battling cynicism, suffering and challenging mediocre minds, staring down those who would trample our dreams, taking a stand for magic, and advancing the potential of the human race. On these scores, the world has no greater philanthropist than Steve Jobs. If ever a man contributed to humanity, here he is.”—Dan Palotta for Harvard Business Review, on why Steve Jobs is the World’s Greatest Philanthropist.
“But as much as the news depicts this polarized perspective of Pakistan, there is also potential for change. Monis Rahman, the founder of Rozee.Pk, the largest jobs website in the country, recently told Forbes, “You tend to hear the worst 5% of the Pakistan story 95% of the time. There’s a perception arbitrage, and it’s providing a window of opportunity for entrepreneurs.” In Pakistan, 66% of the population lives on under $2 a day, despite years of foreign aid that has been injected into the country. Social enterprise, which provides services and opportunities to the poor, not handouts, can offer this much-needed change. Invest2Innovate, in our tailored support for these entrepreneurs, will help to maximize their impact in these communities and make them more viable investments. But we also will develop the ecosystem around these agents for change, understanding that truly local and organic approaches to this growth can ultimately help entrepreneurs succeed and in turn truly pull communities out of poverty.”—My post for the SOCAP Blog on Invest2Innovate. I leave for San Francisco Tues for the big conference!