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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Of Scale and Substance

I recently attended the BOP 2007 conference at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The “base of the pyramid” thinking has been quite instrumental in helping the Center understand that it was possible to serve low-income markets sustainably. The idea centers on the need to create business models that are affordable and accessible.

At the conference I had a chance to hear how the field had evolved since the seminal works by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart had been published. Two big ideas were expounded. The first was the need to consider environmental impacts of enterprise. The poor, said Prahalad, are often the ones most impacted by pollution. Job creation at the expense of environmental damage could generate short-term income but ultimately further marginalize the poor. The second was the idea that many corporations that had adopted BOP principles had largely focused simply on creating affordability and access for existing offerings, but had not pushed the envelope of innovation. A new wave, which Stu Hart labeled as BOP 2.0, was focused on co-creation with people at the BOP. This offered the potential of greater impact and scaleabily, as well as the potential for disruptive innovation.

I came away from the conference impressed by how much the field had progressed. The academics, corporations, NGOs, and governmental organizations present were all working together – leading together – to chart a new course that I believe in time will lift billions out of poverty … by enabling corporations to think more innovatively about markets they’ve failed to serve, and by unleashing the potential of social entrepreneurs to birth socially-motivated businesses that can scale up to span the world.

1 comment:

Lyndon Rego said...

Presentation videos and files from the conference are now available at: