How do we go from here?

I read Atanu Dey’s take on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India in response to a question put forward by Sramana Mitra on her blog Why is the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India not coming together as well as it needs to?

Atanu makes a strong pitch for leveraging existing solutions for development, reasoning that India has not yet reached a stage where we need “cutting edge research and development.” It is sufficient to implement known innovations, he conjectures. A compelling argument but I feel there are a lot of points that need to be bought out in this respect.

To start with, let us understand that we are talking about two things “Does India need (more) innovation?” and “Why does India not innovate as much as it needs to?” And, in my opinion, the answer to the latter does not lie in the former.

Coming to the first question, India does need more innovation, in fact it needs lots of that. Why? A few reasons:

1. India cannot simply follow the development process that US followed. It can take cues but trying to imitate exactly the same cycle will lead to half baked results. To be sure, innovation does not necessarily imply high technology. It also implies a technology/concept that apart from being “innovative” is implement-able too. We did not have to go through the “pager usage phase” to reach “cell phone mobility” even though we did try that. Lets take up rural innovation. We need to innovate and find out ways to increase yields on small land holdings. We need to innovate when it comes to connecting villages to the national mainstream using IT and Internet. Innovation not just in terms of technology but in terms of pricing, marketing, sales & distribution. Isn’t the Amul cooperative model innovative? Ecoflo from Bhinge Brothers[PDF] is one such innovation in rural technology.

2. India needs scale. Incidentally while attending a class at CSIM, Chennai on Saturday, I had stated the same point. India cannot blatantly import models of growth or innovation from developed countries because of its sheer size. Being a democracy makes the task even more challenging. Taking cues from countries like Brazil seems more pertinent especially when it comes to designing solutions for the masses. Dr K L Srivastava at CSIM Chennai made a point in the class, that scale is not always the case – citing disability related issues as an example. In my opinion, looking at absolute numbers the “niche” in India dwarfs similar numbers in US. Scalable solutions are really important.

3. India is a unique country. When I say this, my point is not to allude towards our rich culture and the related. I am trying to draw attention to myriad languages, populations, cultural differences, attitudes, motivations. Even solutions customized for India may not necessarily work for the entire country. Regional innovation is also important. To give you an example, an Internet based micro lending organization like Rang De faces a lot of initial skepticism from lenders because of the non-profitable NGO thinking that social development is generally associated with.

4. India needs to leverage the technology to create more technology. The “low hanging fruits” of existing innovation may have either gone bad or may not even suit my palate. But I can use the seeds of these fruits to create hybrid varieties which I may be able to consume.

Coming to Sramana’s question of why are we not as innovative as we need to, a lot of answers have already been put on her blog. However, innovation is an exponential function. And the required start has been made. Readers can read this blog to find out innovations being undertaken in the social development sector. Not to mention, the Indian solutions like Tata Ace and Nano, Bajaj’s experiment with fuel efficiency. Aravind Eye Care may be cited as an exception that proves the rule – innovation is to be expected from the youth. But, nevertheless, it does prove that innovation can come from any field/age. We have organizations like RIN (Rural Innovations Network) and SRISTI which are fostering and encouraging innovation. One field that is seeing considerable traction is financial inclusion and for the right reasons, of course. I am hoping to see more progress in this one field which in turn will be one of the catalysts for more innovation.

I have been amazed at the optimism we share at TC-I, but it should not be mistaken for foolhardiness. It may be because we have the right balance in terms of experience and intellect.

Back to the drawing board? — A harsh look at microfinance

To start, I want to say that my mind has been racing despite sleep deprivation and jet lag since I touched down in Mumbai at 0135 IST this morning. This is the first I have set foot in India since 2005 and thus my first visit since the inception of TC-I, which makes the experience all the more exhilarating. But on to the post …

In the past, I have criticized microfinance’s shortcomings, particularly with regard to its inability to actually stimulate significant job creation. However, I also have recognized that despite its downfalls, microfinance still serves as a useful tool in the arsenal of a poverty alleviation strategy.

Now, microfinance has come under more scrutiny, as opponents argue that this financial product actually hurts the interests of the poor and that it can lead to the romanticization of the bottom of the pyramid, creating dangerous consequences. These new arguments further support my point that microfinance is relative to other approaches not an effective tool in combating poverty.

Continue reading

On Bailouts, Boons and Bill Clinton

So living in New York City has made it damn near impossible to not be wrapped up in the minute by minute saga that is the US financial crisis. Moreover, the fact that here at Stern Business School, over 50% of our job prospects have evaporated with the slew of bankruptcies and buyouts has effectively forced this issue to the fore of nearly all of my conversations with people.

Given the magnitude, surprise and potential dangers of this crisis, I am about to break one of the unofficial rules of this blog and actually talk about something that is happening outside of India’s borders. I am doing this for three reasons: first, the effects of this financial crisis will no doubt have ripple effects the world over including people all the way in rural India; second, this financial crisis has very unique characteristics that we can learn from with regard to microfinance; and third, the global implications of how the US deals with this crisis has huge symbolic and practical ramifications.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: The Potential Marriage of Private Equity and Microfinance – Dysfunctional or Blissful?

The composition of the microfinance sector is becoming increasingly hybridized, as microfinance institutions (MFIs) morph into profit-making entities, and global financial institutions such as Citigroup, Inc. or HSBC Holdings become (unintended) vectors of poverty alleviation (refer to “Global Financial Institutions and Microfinance: A Promising Marriage?” for further context). The equation isn’t anything new (in fact, I’ve waxed philosophical about it at length) – “self-interest” + “social good” = “sustainability”, but the actors involved are becoming increasingly fluid, and therefore, so is the landscape. In this post, I will analyze the emergence of another actor – private equity firms – and its implications for the Indian microfinance sector (also refer to and “Should SKS Microfinance go Public? for further background).

Currently, India’s microfinance sector reaches 36.8 million borrowers, of which approximately 25%, or 10 million customers, are associated with the 60 largest microfinance institutions (MFIs). Despite the rapid proliferation of these MFIs, however, the remaining 50% of the borrower market remains untapped, translating, therefore, into a reservoir of untapped profit. For this reason, the involvement of profit-oriented entities such as private equity firms is rapidly accelerating, with at least 4 PE investments totaling USD 43 million since 2007 alone.

For the purposes of providing some background on the nature of private equity firms, a brief summary from Microcapital.org follows:

Private equity firms typically seek extraordinary returns and are seen as aggressive, non-transparent, difficult to regulate and uninterested in the broader social aspects of businesses they invest in. PE firms typically invest in closely held companies in which they see possibilities of extraordinary returns that can be obtained through an exit strategy involving initial public offer (IPO) or takeover by large firms.

Naturally, the question that follows, then, is – for what specific reasons are PE firms interested in MFIs? The aforementioned article cites two reasons:

First, there is a perception that the microfinance sector is capable of providing extraordinary returns. Compartamos, a Mexican bank specialising in microfinance, made a successful IPO of 30 percent of its shares with a valuation at 12 times its book value, implying an internal rate of return of roughly 100 percent per year from the time it became a for-profit entity.

Second, studies indicate that returns from the sector are not sensitive to swings in global economic cycles. This makes such investments desirable for risk diversification.

This post continues after the break. Continue reading

Op-Ed: The Intersection between Self-Interest and the Social Good

Today, I attended a lecture at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) entitled, “Social Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Strategies,” by Lisa Nitze, Vice President of the Global Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur Program at Ashoka. One of the themes that the lecture touched upon was the concept of “self-interest”, and how the effectiveness of social entrepreneurship ventures lies in aligning the interests of public, private, and non-profit parties. As an example, she cited an Ashoka fellow who enabled slum dwellers to organize into collectives, invest in slum property, and negotiate with corporations in need of land for commercial purposes. From this transaction, slum dwellers were then able to purchase another piece of land, construct low-income housing units, and build small stores for the purposes of sustaining income. In this case, a a win-win situation, right? Everybody goes home happy.

So where am I going with this? I don’t disagree with the premise that human beings operate on the basis of self-interest, though the statement does sound like a rather dismal assessment of the human condition to me. Neither do I disagree with the point that there is immense potential in the nexus between self-interest and social good – if I did, it would be impractical, and to a large extent, irrational, because it would be too idealistic to expect both the end and the means to be driven by “unselfish” principles. Clearly, profit and social good are not mutually exclusive, and neither should they be for the purposes of long-term sustainability.

So here’s the question – to what extent is the intersection between self-interest and the social good viable? If a private party is involved in a project intended for the benefit of the underprivileged, to what extent can profit be extracted (to put it crudely) from the community before the partnership becomes exploitative? In a transaction that is not dictated by social / moral values, but rather, profit maximization, how can we account for these types of conflicts of interest? More broadly, with the sudden surge of interest in social entrepreneurship and socially minded business models, where can the line be drawn between mutually beneficial and inherently exploitative ventures?

Continue reading

[Guest Post] (Op-Ed): India announces “safe” climate change action plan, misses a chance for international leadership

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Jordan Bower is an intern at Indicorps, where he is promoting growth of Ultimate Frisbee in Ahmedabad as a means of inspiring leadership and community integration among local youth.

The defining struggle with climate change is that we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

The economic development boom currently occurring in India is directly related to the increased production of carbon emissions believed to contribute to climate change. Policy makers are faced with an uncomfortable choice between capping growth outright or encouraging “responsible” development without restrictive limits. Yesterday, in announcing a draft of its national action plan on climate change, India’s government sided with the latter option.

From the Indian Express:

India has decided to stick to the safe path on dealing with climate change. In the much-awaited draft of its national action plan, there is no word on carbon cuts or caps on industry. Instead, it is “avoidance of emissions.” In the penultimate draft, there were caps specified for various sectors, including industry, which have been dropped — for now. The catchword for the action plan is “saving” or “efficiency” rather than capping.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: Why Traditional Income Generating Activities Simply Aren’t Enough

Recently, traditional income generating activities, specifically those associated with self help groups (SHGs), have gained acclaim as effective tools for poverty alleviation. The assumption is that if, for example, Sunita, a woman from an agricultural community in Gujarat, learns how to make papad, she will then have the skills necessary to sustain a productive livelihood, and hence, support her family. Typically, Sunita, who now knows how to make papad, will be part of a collective such as an SHG, and together, these women will produce papad in bulk to be sold on the market. So far, so good, right?

But what if the demand for papad in Sunita’s region plummets? Or what if the prices for the raw materials or the equipment required to produce papad spike upwards? Or, even more fundamentally, what if the market for papad simply does not exist? How will Sunita transition from papad making to another entrepreneurial activity when she (as well as her fellow SHG members) have been trained only to produce papads?

This is precisely where skills-based income generation activities falter – when women are required to draw upon a larger, more holistic skill set in order to transition to another, more profitable business venture. Because these types of trainings teach women only how to produce a specific product, rather than how to assess market needs and then produce, women like Sunita are poorly equipped to tackle market fluctuations or competition. In other words, training Sunita with the skills required to produce papad is effectively the same as teaching her how to read / write her name, but neglecting to teach her the remainder of the alphabet. How can we then expect Sunita to read a book, unless, of course, she teaches herself?

What is required is a paradigm shift away from skills-based, production oriented income generation to training on how to think like an entrepreneur. In other words, Sunita should be asking herself questions like, “What are the needs of the market?” and “How can I meet those needs?” before seeking to learn a specific skill set. This type of thinking turns the traditional income generation model on its head, as it places women in the position to negotiate the terms of their engagement with the market, rather than being pigeon-holed into a narrowly defined skill-set that is unsustainable over time.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: Should SKS Microfinance go Public?

A recent article on www.sramanamitra.com postulates that SKS Microfinance, which offers “several microfinance options to the poor in India for a variety of businesses from agriculture and livestock purchase to basket weaving and photography,” and has to date “provided over $550 million in microcredit,” will most likely follow Compartamos’ model and go public. According to CEO Vikram Akula and CFO S. Dilliraj, plans for growth in the upcoming years include the following:

By the end of 2008, SKS plans to add 770 new branches to its existing 696 branches to increase its members from the present 1.8 million to 4.2 million and the gross disbursement from Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 5,000 crore. Their aim is to reach 5 million families by 2010.

However, for MFIs like SKS Microfinance, the question of going public is taking place against a fractious backdrop, as debates brew furiously between microfinance gurus such as the founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, and co-founders of Compartamos, Carlos Danel and Carlos Labarthe, who have been vilified by critics as “pawnbrokers” due to a recent public offering of their former NGO.

According to a recent article from the NY Times entitled, “Microfinance’s Success Sets Off a Debate in Mexico,” at the crux of the debate lies the extent to which MFIs should contribute interest income towards profits (rather than cycling profits back into the organization for the benefit of their borrowers), and to what extent accountability to investors, rather than the borrowers themselves, impacts the fundamental premise of microfinance – poverty alleviation:

Microfinance started in the 1970s with a focus on using this breakthrough to help end poverty,” said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, a nonprofit endeavor that promotes microfinance for families earning less than $1 a day. “Now it is in great danger of being how well the investors and the microfinance institutions are doing and not about ending poverty.” He said the situation posed the danger of “mission drift.”

Even though both sides agree on the need for the sustainable infusion of capital (consider this in the following context – “Deutsche Bank estimates the global demand for microfinance loans at about $250 million, 10 times the amount that has been lent out”), the question comes down to this: at what cost? Critics argue that the model adopted by Compartamos comes at a grossly high cost for its borrowers, skewing the mission of MFIs in favour of the investors rather than the interests of the borrowers themselves, which, in the case of Compartamos, has resulted in disproportionately high interest rates (read more after the break): Continue reading

Op-Ed: Parle-G Biscuits or Daal and Rice?

The answer, in terms of nutritional value for children, should be obvious.  However, in terms of government policy, the question is much more complicated.  Even policy-makers responsible for implementing the Mid-day Meal Scheme don’t seem to have any definite answers.  Why?  First, let me rewind.

In response to dwindling school enrollment rates and rising rates of malnutrition in children, the Indian government devised the Mid-day Meal Scheme, which is supposed to provide daily, nutritious cooked meals for attending students.  The government attests to the scheme’s effectiveness to date:

The government claims over 90% enrolment through the introduction of the midday meal scheme. [Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development], M. Fatmi said that, of these, 82.5% were in government schools. He added that since the launch of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, all out-of-school children in the 6-14 age-group had been brought into the fold of elementary education from the figure of 32 million in 2001-02.  

Despite these gains, however, problems persist.  A recent controversy in Madhya Pradesh regarding corruption paints a dismal scenario:

Regularity in serving mid-day meals is a major issue here. At some places there is shortage of food material, while at others the local PDS shop is not making food supplies available. At many places, suitable cooks are not available. In Rampur village of Kharwahi block in district Satna, children were not getting mid-day meals from January 2007. Similar is the situation in Kakarwaha, Binagar, and Suklai village of Tikamgarh and in Kot village of Athner block in Bhind district.

There’s more. At some places, there are allegations that teachers themselves earn money by selling mid-day meal supplies in the market, alleges Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad, an NGO that has a substantive record of involvement in the state.

Now, that brings us back to our original question.  In response to rising inefficiency, corruption, and lack of fiscal, managerial, and human resources, the government has recently proposed that cooked meals be replaced with packaged food, i.e. biscuits.  They argue that packaged food will eliminate problems associated with the labour-intensive process of cooking food, and ensure that more children actually receive food as promised by the program.  I argue this is great for Parle, but bad for children.  Click “Read More” to find out why. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Microfinance revisited and its role in reaching the missing middle

Two weeks ago I wrote about James Surowiecki’s article in the New Yorker that brought forward the inherent limitations of microfinance to actually generate a substantial number of jobs in a developing country. Since then it seems as if I was not the only one (surprise surprise) to take notice of Surowieki’s conclusions and it has even brought pioneers like Acumen Fund‘s CEO

Novogratz gave some credit to Surowiecki’s argument that not everyone in society is an entrepreneur and that in fact most people simply want a predictable, stable job with defined roles. Novogratz, however, distinguished her stance through her anectdotal experience with women’s access to credit and how throughout her experience they have overwhelmingly been favorable towards it. She says that this desire for credit provides the rest of us with critical lessons on how to address poverty.

However, the desire for credit on its own in no way makes someone an entrepreneur. Every teenager in America has an affinity for credit, but just because they are willing to spend that money somewhere does not make them some sort of innovator. Likewise, Surowieki’s argument highlights that for the most part microloans are not utilized for business expansion, but rather they help tide businesses over during rougher times, a la a bridge financing round. These funds like simple credit cards are used to cover funds that someone has already spent before — not towards future capital investments. It is that ability to reinvest ones funds towards scalability and expansion that is truly entrepreneurial.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: Migration and its Discontents

There is no doubt that the issues of migration and urbanization within India are wrought with controversy.  In the case of rural-urban migration, which is overwhelmingly the case, the impact on the social, economic, and psychological structure of villages and cities, both on a macro and micro level, is significant. 

In my experience within the Adivasi, rural communities of Gujarat, migration holds a sense of urgent promise, of a future with exponential financial dividends for the family.  Local community members themselves believe that village life is inferior to that of urban India, and that migration / urbanization leads to social and economic development, both on an individual and community level.  Therefore, instead of looking inwards by initiating local-resource driven campaigns for the development of their respective villages, local inhabitants tend to look outward, towards the city.  Rural communities, therefore, come to signify stagnation, whereas the city comes to represent progress, opportunity, and most importantly, money.  Artisanship, agricultural expertise, and other local-level skills atrophy as community members come to regard these skills as unvaluable, or in many cases, unmarketable, in comparison to more the more “lucrative” skills necessary for “urban jobs.”  This mentality, I believe, is a self-destructive one, as it leads to the devaluation and decomposition of potentially rich local resources within the rural landscape.

More after the jump… Continue reading

Op-Ed: Transcending Theories, Entering Reality

Victimized. Marginalized. Stigmatized. Wayward. Downtrodden. Immoral.

Vandana is a poor woman in prostitution. But that is not all that she is defined by, although academic discourse may be rife with theories about how she should conceive of her own identity. Vandana defies definition or categorization, for that matter, as I sit comfortably wedged between her and dozens of other women, en route to the communities SANGRAM has partnered up with for their women-led condom distribution program. We stop at a dhaba (food stall) on the way, and she insists on paying for my meal because I’m her guest. I nod my head in acknowledgment of this profoundly humbling gesture, and in that moment, realize something no theory could ever capture in the form of words – despite our disparate backgrounds, Vandana and I have a commonality that transcends feminist or academic theories on sex work. In that moment, we are just two women laughing over two cups of tea, buttered naan, and a plate of really greasy chicken tikka masala.

As the days pass, I listen to women’s stories of triumph, of struggle, of everyday joy. I listen to a woman who speaks to us candidly about her dilemma – her boyfriend, a riksha wala (taxi driver), has contracted AIDS, and is now pressuring her to elope with him to another state. I listen to another woman, as she tells me how she left an abusive marriage in Nepal, and found a community of women in Sangli, through SANGRAM. I listen to Vandana as she tells me about her day job as a bhaji wali (vegetable seller), and her loving relationship with a man that she cannot call her husband. I see their lives – vibrant, deeply textured, beautifully human – taking form before my eyes. They are mothers. They are daughters. They are sisters. They are lovers. They are friends. They struggle to support their families. They put their children through school. These are women who aren’t defined solely by their work – women with varied identities, stories, and voices that defy dichotomization.

Vandana is not a victim. Neither does she believe that it was completely her choice to become a sex worker. She does not, however, believe that see needs to be “reformed”, or “reintegrated” into society. She doesn’t understand why activists get indignant on her behalf, when what she really wants is to be respected as a human being. She wants justice for her fellow sex workers who are harassed by corrupt policemen. She wants to unveil the truth about men who frequent her brothel, and yet condemn their existence in public. She wants basic, human dignities – and so, she boldly stands up in the face of hypocrisy and corruption and claims her own stake in this process. Because that’s her basic, fundamental right as a human being – not despite, but regardless of her occupation.

Op-Ed: Microeffect of Microfinance

A recent article in the New Yorker echoed sentiments expressed by many venture capitalists that have begun to shift their focus on the developing world and BoP markets that microfinance, while an amazing concept for enable entrepreneurs, cannot in itself lift countries out of poverty. James Surowiecki writes:

Microloans are often used to “smooth consumption”—tiding a borrower over in times of crisis. They’re also, as Karol Boudreaux and Tyler Cowen point out in a recent paper, often used for non-business expenses, such as a child’s education. It’s less common to find them used to fund major business expansions or to hire new employees … [I]t’s also because most microbusinesses aren’t looking to take on more workers. The vast majority have only one paid employee: the owner.

I agree with this opinion, particularly because I think that the current obsession with the ‘globalizationally’ sexy structure of microfinance tends to ignore the need for the creation of domestic consumption demand in struggling nations to jumpstart development.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: Surrogate Wombs and Reproductive Outsourcing

Today, the NY Times published an article entitled, “India Nurtures Business of Surrogate Motherhood.” The article describes the rapidly expanding business of “reproductive outsourcing” to India, through which fertility clinics “provide surrogate mothers for foreigners.” The cost for the procedure comes to roughly $25,000 for the foreign couple, and pays the surrogate mother approximately $7,500. In order to regulate the enterprise and maintain ethical standards, the Indian Government is considering the passage of legislation to “govern surrogacy”, but both the content of the legislation, including enforcement mechanisms, remain unresolved.

In the meantime, there are only a few doctors providing this service in India, but the business is certain to expand as demand for surrogate mothers rises from foreign countries. Critics fear that the surrogacy business will fall prey to exploitation, victimizing underprivileged Indian women in the process. As of now, proponents of this new phenomenon contend that both parties stand to benefit from the transaction, but I do not believe it is quite as simple as that. More than market forces are at play here.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we are speaking of transacting in lives, not goods. In fact, one could argue that the only reason this is possible is because the Indian women involved in this transaction are poor, and the foreigners are (comparatively speaking) wealthy. Would these women opt to be surrogate mothers if they were not poor? Most likely not. Are these surrogate mothers really making the choice (and this is a tricky word in this context) to be bear these children? My concern is that this isn’t truly a choice, because unfortunately, poverty speaks louder than anything else

This seems to be a blurry line. Effectively, what are we saying here? Are poor people in developing countries objects that their rich counterparts can rent out cheaply? Are their body parts for sale? Poor people’s body parts should not be bartered, rented, or sold to the highest bidder in a developed country. It speaks to a gross inequality – condoning this practice, to me, seems an implicit way of accepting global economic and social disparities. In a country like India, which has a bloated bureaucracy as it is, something like this would be very difficult to regulate, thereby potentially jeopardizing the lives of poor women.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that this is the modern-day equivalent of imperialism. Developed countries may not be physically occupying poorer developing nations, but in this case, they are certainly occupying the wombs of its women.

But I have another, even greater concern. If women do decide to become surrogate mothers of their own free will, it is important to take into consideration the physical, emotional, psychological, and social dimensions to surrogate motherhood. There is the very real concern that having a child taken away from you (whether you agreed to it or not), is traumatizing. How do these fertility clinics account for traumatized women post-the transaction? Are there follow-ups with the woman to ensure that she is faring well, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and otherwise? Also, carrying around a baby for 9 months is not only expensive (because quite simply, she needs to eat more, and she needs to eat more nutritious foods), but there is also an opportunity cost involved. Either the woman can do less work (and thus get paid less on a daily basis), or continue to work (and thus endanger her health, and possibly that of the baby). With these questions in mind, how do these agencies care for the woman during the course of her pregnancy? Do they provide her with a nutritious diet and a stipend that accounts for her expenses? Do they compensate her for the work that she misses because of the pregnancy? What about complications? Do these organizations / individuals also pay for medical expenses incurred as a result of the pregnancy? And of course, there’s the social dimension – how do these women deal with the social stigma of carrying a fatherless baby? How does the agency work with the woman to minimize alienation? What if the woman loses her social network as a result of this work? Clearly, the agency / individual wouldn’t take responsibility for that, but what happens then?

These are all very real questions we need to be asking ourselves, because of first and foremost concern is the health and safety of the surrogate mother. In order for this business to be even minimally ethical, we must ensure that the surrogate mother is treated like a whole human being with needs (not just a uterus), both preceding, during, and following the pregnancy.

Op-Ed: Arrogance today, humility tomorrow

A curious micro-debate seems to be emerging in the blogosphere on what is more critical to a social entrepreneur’s success — their humility or arrogance. This is an interesting discussion, as both qualities provide varied paths to success and failure.

For example, often times organizations are inextricably tied to the charismatic, larger than life personalities of their founders or current leaders. Two that immediately come to mind are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Here arrogance, or what could at least be described as leveraging celebrity status, was a crucial component to the rapid success and growth for both organizations (w/r to the Gates Foundation immense capital also did not hurt).

Continue reading