There are a lot of books, blogs and organizations dedicated to social entrepreneurs, I’m not going to recreate any of that. One important part of the Acara Challenge, is that we do stress business sustainability as part of the assessment. The solutions developed have to have a sustaining business model or there is little point in doing this.

An article in today’s WSJ, entitled “Why Foreign Aid is Hurting Africa”, has an excellent quote highlighting why this is important. The article states.” Even what may appear as a benign intervention on the surface can have damning consequences. Say there is a mosquito-net maker in small-town Africa. Say he employs 10 people who together manufacture 500 nets a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 15 relatives each. A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. “

This is one clear example of why a locally self-sustaining business model is ultimately better, and why it’s an important part of our challenge. We are discussing partnerships with some venture organizations here and in India, to fund the better ideas coming out of the challenge. More on that to come.

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