D. Talk – Addressing ‘Unfinished Business’ with the Sustainable Development Goals

By Monica Dey

The MDGs will expire in 2015. Photo credit: the United Nations Information Center

In 2000, leaders from around the world came to an agreement on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight ambitious goals, from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Since then, the MDGs have spurred cross-disciplinary debate and prompted significant action from the global development community. As 2015 – the MDGs’ expiration date – approaches, everyone from Bono to Bill Gates has weighed in on the goals’ success and provided input on what the next development agenda should include.

In 2012, international leaders convened an Open Working Group at the Rio+20 Conference to start creating a new set of goals, which will be integrated into the United Nations’ overall agenda and slated for achievement by 2030. So far, the Open Working Group has published a “zero draft” of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would replace the Millennium Development Goals in September 2015.

Dalberg recently hosted former Dalberg Partner Daniella Ballou-Aares, who is now Senior Advisor for Development to the U.S. Secretary of State, for a D. Talk. Speaking to an audience in Dalberg’s Washington, D.C., office, Ballou-Aares offered insight into why the SDGs are being created, who’s involved, and what we can expect between now and September 2015. Below we give some context on the MDGs and SDGs, along with Ballou-Aares’ perspective on the transition.

First of all, why are the Sustainable Development Goals being created?

Global development experts from around the world have offered differing opinions on whether we have made significant progress towards the MDGs. While some are hesitant to attribute the world’s progress to the establishment of these eight goals, others believe that the goals have been a resounding success, we have already met the target of reducing extreme poverty rate by half, for example. Our Dalberg analysis in Devex found the MDGs were associated with significant upticks in progress in some areas.  Regardless of differing opinions on causality, most agree that the world has made true progress in addressing poverty since 2000.

Daniella speaking on the role of the private sector in shaping and achieving the post-2015 global development agenda. Photo credit: CSIS

Daniella Ballou-Aares speaking on the role of the private sector in the post-2015 global development agenda. Photo credit: CSIS

Some advancements are very promising – the economic growth rate in Africa now outpaces other continents – but, as Ballou-Aares noted, the work is not complete. “1.2 billion people still remain in extreme poverty,” said Ballou-Aares. “We have a lot of unfinished business with the Millennium Development Goals.”

The SDGs aim to address this “unfinished business.” Development leaders have reframed the SDGs’ central purpose around pursuit of the “triple bottom line”: social inclusion, economic development, and environmental sustainability. Leaders are taking a deeper look at how issues of extreme poverty, climate change, human rights, and socioeconomic inequality are intertwined— and the SDGs aim to tackle them in a holistic manner.

Who decides what to include in the SDGs?

The SDGs are optimistic and hopeful in nature, so shouldn’t it be easy for world leaders to agree on them? In fact, Ballou-Aares remarked that arriving at a consensus might not be as easy as outside observers might think. The 30-member Open Working Group has convened numerous sessions, each highlighting a different area of development, to come to consensus. Members of this group hail from nations around the world. While this makeup incorporates an important diversity of views on global development issues, it also inspires heated debate and thorough discussion.

The United Nations has made an effort to include opinions from citizens in every country through the My World Survey. In this survey, participants choose six issues – including education, gender equality, Internet access, and better healthcare – that are the most important to them. So far, participants from around the world have cast over three million votes. What’s most striking is the survey’s number of youth respondents: approximately 74% of survey respondents are under the age of 30. Ballou-Aares remarked that the United Nations knows that youth will be a huge force for change in the coming years – and the My World survey allows their voices to contribute to the global development agenda.

So, what comes next?

By the end of 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s high-level panel will prepare a synthesis report that incorporates opinions from many voices to create a unified vision for the next fifteen years of global development.

While the development community is excited to incorporate many voices into the next set of goals, Ballou-Aares noted that setting the agenda is just the beginning. “Yes, it is difficult coming to an agreement,” she commented, “but what’s even more difficult is creating real change.”

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The Companies Act Has Promise, But Will India Inc. Cash In?

By Gaurav Gupta
This post was originally published on NextBillion

There is much excitement here in India around the potential of the year-old CSR component of the 2013 Companies Act to deliver on social impact.

It’s the world’s first nationally-mandated CSR law and stipulates that 2 percent of corporations’ profits must be spent on CSR. However, the surge in CSR spending stemming from the new law will only be successful if execution looks markedly different from how CSR and philanthropic money has been spent in the past.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for increased CSR on sanitation in a recent Independence Day address

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for increased CSR spending on sanitation in a recent address. Photo: Global Panorama, Flickr

Two percent of profits is a sizeable number for any major business. For some of the larger corporations it represents over 100 crore (over $16,000,000 USD) of annual expenditure, and approximately 15,000 crore ($2.4 billion USD) for the economy as a whole, annually.

To put that in context, 15,000 crore is enough to provide clean solar lighting to all the 400 million people currently dependent on unsafe kerosene lanterns or candles, according to calculations from the work we’ve done in the sector. These funds can send 40 million children back to primary school, and keep them there for an entire year, based on Dalberg analysis. Hence, it is imperative that such funds are used wisely.

Sub-scale, Unsustainable, or Both

Most traditional CSR spending has suffered from either being sub-scale, or unsustainable, or both. Some of India’s largest corporations have compliance-based CSR programs that provide an unending drip of funding year-on-year, with no clear sense of what change that is really achieving on the ground. Consequently, instead of creating both social and economic value, many have simply created a culture of dependency between the community, the partner NGO, and the company.

With the new act in play, there will be increased management scrutiny especially given the level of financial outlay. The added accountability itself means that companies need to think about what they are getting from their investment. This is where the opportunity lies. Every company has a set of social issues, conspicuous or not, which play a strong role in its profitability and financial health. A successful CSR strategy can help address these. We see three core principles for the creation of an effective CSR approach.

Successful CSR Should:

About 8,000 Indian companies will fall under the new CSR law.

  • Focus on the company’s core competency
  • Promote the company’s broader strategic objectives
  • Connect CSR activities with the team’s passion

Core Competency

Most social initiatives, government led or not, suffer due to weak implementation. There are massive funds, at both the state and national level, to tackle nearly every major social challenge. Yet hundreds to thousands of crores lie unspent for want of execution capacity.

A recent study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy revealed implementation gaps in the central government’s flagship social development schemes. In 2012, the unspent balance across these schemes was 24,519 crore (over $4 billion USD). Corporations have strong execution capacity, which is why it is critical that CSR activities be designed according to the core skill sets that a company can bring to bear.

In many cases these skills not only relate to the end product, but also are embedded within the processes of the company. For example, many food and beverage manufacturers are in reality highly efficient logistics and marketing companies. They can tap into existing knowledge and resources to help deliver medicines at minimal costs in hard-to-reach areas or create health awareness campaigns.

Similarly, Ashok Leyland, a truck manufacturing company, runs AIDS awareness and prevention programs in its factories in Hosur (Karnataka), for about 350,000 commercial vehicle drivers. The initiative stems from the company’s access to a high-risk group, existing training facilities, and its long-term stake in the health choices of the driver community. There remains significant opportunity for corporate India to leverage actual execution strengths in its approach to CSR.

Promote the Broader Objectives of the Company

Similarly, it is critical that corporations link CSR tightly to broader strategic aims. Social initiatives often change based on the personal passions of senior management or short-term pressures. Prioritizing issues to target on an abstract sense of need is the wrong place to start—need is everywhere. This limits social and business value creation.

A Starbucks - Carcafe C.A.F.E. Certified Sustainable Farm. Photo: William Murry, Flickr

A Starbucks – Carcafe C.A.F.E. Certified Sustainable Farm. Photo: William Murry, Flickr

Aligning CSR initiatives with broader strategic business objectives maintains long-term focus and effort. Starbucks, in its bid to both secure its supply chain and enhance its brand, launched the C.A.F.E. Movement. This initiative helped coffee farmers become more productive, self-sustaining, and improve skills. Several large-scale NGOs are now partnering with Starbucks to continue expanding this initiative. It’s a clear win-win for the business and farmers.

Novartis’ Arogya Parivar initiative in India, has similarly driven value by combining health education and low-cost sales force models to provide medicine to previously untapped markets. While it began as a social initiative, its success can help position the company to more profitably serve a large market at the base of the pyramid.

Tap Into Employee Passion

Beyond strong execution and a link to strategy, a connection with employee passion is a must. Palpable evidence of change—in even the most well designed and brilliantly executed initiatives—becomes visible only over an extended period of time. Shared passion can help sustain effort and provide an important emotional connection with employees. Many companies have been able to use the internal and external goodwill driven from social initiatives as a way of achieving either cultural change or winning the war for talent.

A 2013 global survey found that Indian employees place a premium on corporate social responsibility, and 51 percent of the employees surveyed believe that is important for them that their employers act responsibly towards the society. Both the Tata and the Mahindra groups continue to enjoy a significant premium in the marketplace with their reputation for ethically minded senior management and for being frontrunners among businesses that contribute to the social fabric of India.

The above are simple principles, yet these are often lost when companies have to either be reactive or respond to an influx of proposals from well-intentioned civil sector organizations. Doling out cash is the easier way out. To create tangible impact requires that company managers think of implementing CSR initiatives like they would think about a new line of business. This means starting with strong leadership alignment and commitment. It is time to move beyond compliance and use CSR to more effectively drive business and social value.

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How to Grow the Social Lending Sector and Help Smallholder Farmers

By Rasesh Mohan and Laura Goldman

Smallholder farmers’ lack of access to finance inhibits economic growth and slows poverty alleviation efforts around the world. Globally, smallholder demand for finance is estimated at $300 billion, excluding China, and most of that demand is unmet. Social lenders play an important role in addressing this financing gap. Social lenders are impact investors that provide financing to small and growing agricultural businesses, including producer groups and private enterprises, in low- and middle-income countries.

ISFbriefIn April 2014, seven leading social lenders – Alterfin, Oikocredit, Rabobank’s Rural Fund, responsAbility Investments AG, Root Capital, Shared Interest, and Triodos Sustainable Trade Fund – launched the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF), an industry alliance that will “convene regularly to exchange learning, identify best practices, and develop industry standards.” Recently, Dalberg worked with the Initiative for Smallholder Finance to publish a guide for investors and funders looking to improve smallholder access to finance by supporting social lenders. The guide points to an important element of smallholder finance that needs more attention: pipeline building.

What is pipeline building?

Pipeline building is the process social lenders use to reach clients that are new to the sector, thereby growing the lenders’ collective reach. To do this, lenders need to first identify new potential clients, often through their local networks, and then assess whether they are credit-worthy and mission-aligned, through document review, analysis and site visits.

In core social lender markets – the coffee market in many Latin American countries, for example – these new clients are typically earlier stage agricultural businesses with limited financial track records. Social lenders report that it is often unprofitable to lend to these early-stage businesses, as it can take three to five years for revenue from these clients to cover their loans’ operating costs.

In non-core social lender markets – new geographic and commodity markets for the sector – new clients may be larger and more mature businesses. Thus, although pipeline building always involves reaching new clients, these new clients could be small, or relatively large, depending on the market they are in.

Why is pipeline building important for the social lender sector?

By reaching new borrowers in core markets, non-core geographies, and non-core commodities, pipeline building promotes growth and diversification in social lenders’ portfolios. Such diversification reduces systemic risk, and helps ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the social lender sector.

Specifically, pipeline building enables:

Lending growth in core markets: While many existing social lender clients require additional trade finance or other financial products as they grow, social lenders’ growth opportunities among current borrowers may be limited as competition for their business increases.

For example, in the Peruvian coffee market, 50% of CSAF clients (representing nearly 90% of disbursements) are borrowing from multiple CSAF members. Pipeline building promotes additional growth in these core social lender markets.


A coffee farmer in Laos. Photo by Asian Development Bank via Flickr.

Geographical diversification: Social lender activity is heavily concentrated in Latin America; 70% of 2013 CSAF disbursements were located in the region. This concentration is largely due to the relatively higher prevalence of well-managed producer groups in Latin America, given the region’s strong historical tradition of farmer cooperatives.

Such geographic concentration leaves social lenders vulnerable to macroeconomic fluctuations. Social lenders can mitigate this vulnerability through pipeline building activities that bring in new clients from a broader range of geographies.

Diversification of commodities: Coffee clients represented more than 50% of CSAF members’ 2013 disbursements. In addition to the relatively stronger producer groups found in the coffee sector, this concentration is also driven by the coffee sector’s progress towards socially responsible and environmentally sustainable production.

However, this concentration leaves social lenders vulnerable to the effects of market fluctuations, as the recent coffee rust outbreak in Latin America demonstrated. The outbreak caused significant crop damage and losses, resulting in decreased demand for financing among coffee farmers. Pipeline building can therefore increase the sustainability of the social lender market through commodity diversification.

How do social lenders help build the client pipeline?


Pipeline building promotes growth and diversification in social lenders’ portfolios. Photo by Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security via Flickr.

Although social lenders typically share similar missions and goals, they differ from one another across a number of dimensions – particularly, what level of net returns they target. This differentiation influences how specific social lenders go about building the client pipeline.

Social lenders with lower return targets (0.5% to 2.5%) typically have lower minimum loan thresholds that allow them to work with clients in less mature stages of development and with smaller loan requirements. These social lenders can work to build the client pipeline across markets, including in core social lending markets where the larger and more mature borrowers are already served.

Social lenders with relatively higher return targets (ranging from 2.5% to 5%), on the other hand, typically focus on lending to larger and more mature businesses. These lenders typically only work to build the client pipeline in new geographic and commodity markets, where some new clients may have larger financing needs.

How can investors encourage pipeline building?

Pipeline building can help the social lending sector improve its long-term financial sustainability and achieve its social objectives. Investors interested in supporting the growth of the social lender sector should encourage pipeline building by allowing for:

Appropriate return expectations: Investors targeting net returns of 0.5% to 2.5% can support lenders who focus on bringing smaller and less mature businesses into the sector as new clients – a need observed across both existing and new markets.

Investors targeting higher net returns of 2.5% to 5% can support social lenders who are building pipelines in new geographic and commodity markets, where some new clients will have large financing needs sufficient to meet investors’ return expectations.

Early-stage financing: Currently, there is a gap in the provision of financial products and services to meet small agricultural businesses’ needs for asset financing in the $10,000-$50,000 loan range. It is difficult for most social lenders to make these very small loans within their current capital structures with their existing products.

An early-stage financing facility with “right-sized” financial products could help address this gap. This facility would include diligence and underwriting processes that fall somewhere between the “character” lending of microfinance (in which lenders assess borrowers’ reputation, community relationships, etc.) and extensive cash-flow analysis for larger working capital loans and trade finance.

Grant capital for technical assistance to complement investments: Technical assistance can develop and strengthen new producer groups, while helping other early-stage agricultural businesses become eligible for social lender loans. Investors should consider coupling their investments in social lender pipeline-building with grant capital for technical assistance, either by providing it directly through the social lender or through a partner technical assistance provider.

With these opportunities in mind, investors and funders should be cognizant of how critical pipeline building is to the sustainability of the social lender market and proactively encourage this work, improving the livelihoods of the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers in the process.

This article originally appeared on the Skoll World Forum.

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“Combining Prosperity with Purpose” at the US-Africa Leaders Summit

USAID administrator Raj Shaj speaks with Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn during a food security conference at the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Photo by USAID via Flickr.

USAID’s Raj Shaj (L) and Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn (R) at the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Photo by USAID (Flickr).

Over 50 African heads of state, and hundreds of other African leaders, gathered in Washington, DC this week for the first-ever US-Africa Leaders Summit, hosted by the White House.

Centered on a theme of trade and investment in Africa, the Summit served as a backdrop for meetings and announcements seeking to strengthen ties between the US and African nations. One example was the Global Resilience Partnership, a $100 million initiative launched by USAID and Rockefeller on Monday at the Summit. Dalberg supported the strategy and design for this new partnership, which aims to build resilience to chronic stresses such as extreme poverty, food insecurity and climate change in communities across Africa and Asia.

Beyond the US-Africa Leaders Summit: What’s Next?

As Dalberg Senior Advisor Jonathan Berman commented on NPR this week, we hope the summit has helped change the narrative about Africa from one of “war, disease and poverty to one of hope, aspiration and opportunity.” Africa is, after all, home to six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies.

Dalberg’s Global Managing Partner James Mwangi recently sat down with Africa Leadership Dialogues host Julie Gichuru to discuss Africa at large, including the right way to do business in Africa, how the continent can harness digital jobs to make the most of its “youth bulge,” and how innovative financing projects are bringing private and public sector actors together to improve health outcomes in Africa.

James concluded the interview with a message for Africa that should resonate with Summit participants and observers alike this week: “Our challenge in Africa is ultimately to combine prosperity with purpose. You can’t do it with one or the other – it has to be both.”

Watch the full interview:

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What’s the Real Risk of the West African Ebola Outbreak?

By Julia Shen

Note: This article should not be construed as clinical advice, nor does it supplant updated travel guidance by authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Public Health England (PHE).

Ebola’s deadly sweep across West Africa has raised global alarm: Nigeria recently became the fourth country affected by the virus when a traveler fell ill and died in Lagos after flying there from Monrovia. With the Nigerian case, Ebola has entered Africa’s largest economy and a global transit hub, after first emerging in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Amid escalating travel precautions and airline restrictions, deaths of emergency responders, and headlines about national security meetings, we’ve answered a few key questions below to put the risk in perspective.

Is Ebola going to become pandemic?

Probably not.

Ebola Guinea education

Education programs have sought to prevent the spread of Ebola in West African countries since the outbreak began. Photo by UNICEF Guinea via Flickr.

The situation is quite serious: this is the largest and deadliest outbreak – and the first in this region – since Ebola was first observed in 1976. The latest CDC notice  has officially elevated travel advisory on the three principally affected countries to “Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel” although the WHO has not yet echoed this call. As Dr. Ian Mackay has depicted in his Virology Down Under infographic, these figures are equal to almost 90% of cases and 70% the total deaths from the first thirty years of Ebola epidemics, combined.

Ebola has no treatment or vaccine, and many of its victims die after multi-organ failure and internal and external bleeding, leading to a fatality of 50-90%. Yet the biology that makes Ebola terrifying actually limits its potential as a Hollywood-style superbug. Ebola’s unfortunate victims suffer a few weeks of acute infection very visibly, allowing for rapid identification and containment. The virus incubates for a maximum of 21 days, contrasting sharply with HIV, which patients can have – and pass on – for years without ever showing symptoms.

How does Ebola spread?

Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids. This mode of transmission is dangerous – especially for health care workers – but much less so than a water or food pathway, as with cholera and typhoid. Unlike tuberculosis in cattle or influenza in poultry, zoonotic diseases endemic in us and our livestock that are co-evolving with intensified agriculture, Ebola has previously disappeared from humanity before re-emerging. Filoviridae, the virus family Ebola is a part of, seem to prefer wild bats and apes as a host reservoir. Contradictory to a nightmare mutation scenario, Ebola’s genetic diversity is limited compared to HIV or the flu, and recent experimental evidence suggests the virus is not airborne.

A cornerstone of epidemiology is the basic reproductive number or “R0,” which describes the average number of further infections that a given sick individual will cause. Higher values mean more widespread epidemics. Ebola’s short incubation period and mode of transmission contribute to the virus’ relatively low R0 of 1.9-2.8 in previous outbreaks. Although not precisely comparable across different mathematical models, R0 is a useful benchmark; Ebola’s is much lower than that of measles (12.0-18.0) or polio (5.0-7.0). The best published model suggests that Ebola’s R0 falls to elimination levels – in which individuals infect <1.0 further cases and the epidemic eventually snuffs itself out – with careful contamination controls, especially in burial and hospital settings.

So what’s the appropriate response to Ebola?

Real-world complexities make R0 a moving target. It is conceivable that Ebola will spread farther, including to pockets outside Africa. Recent incidence is worrying, especially in Sierra Leone. Nearly 900 people have died in the eight months since the current outbreak started in rural Guinea.

This visceral danger sells papers. But everyday diarrheal disease killed almost the same number of people in the West African sub-region today alone; malaria killed even more in the same 24 hours. In terms of absolute risk in the affected countries, road injuries still exceed Ebola.

Estimated total deaths Ebola, malaria, diarrheal disease, and road injury over the past 8 months.

Estimated total deaths from Ebola, malaria, diarrheal disease, and road injury over the past 8 months.

Sources: CDC, ‘Outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone’ as of 5 August 2014; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2010; World Bank, 2013 World Development Indicators. Dalberg analysis is rounded to hundreds and calculated from national population * GBD 2010 reported population death rates * eight months of outbreak.

The root causes of mortality from malaria and diarrheal disease also accelerate the spread of Ebola. Post-conflict Liberia and Sierra Leone are among the poorest countries in the world. Despite their natural resource wealth, Guinea and Nigeria have under-resourced health sectors, below the African Union’s 2001 Abuja Declaration health targets. Only $67 – $205 is spent annually per person on health in these four countries affected by Ebola.

A distrust of medicine and lack of health education are worsening the outbreak – infected patients sometimes even flee treatment wards. But suspicion of health services is more understandable in a context where clinics are usually short of qualified staff (Liberia has all of ~260 doctors), drugs regularly stock out, and life expectancy may only be 45 years.

In an age of air travel and worldwide trade, closed borders are simply not a sustainable solution to preventing the spread of diseases such as Ebola: it is not a matter of if, but when, the next disease emerges, potentially as a more dangerous respiratory illness. While more infectious risk is inevitable for a growing human population, however, the histories of smallpox and polio show that massive death and suffering are preventable.

The current Ebola outbreak is not an occasion for panic but should raise an urgent call for public health investment in West Africa and other underserved regions, for our shared global health security. Leadership from national authorities and international partners can curb the economic damages and public anxiety, ending the loss of life from Ebola – and the longstanding pandemics already affecting hundreds of millions of people every day.

UPDATE: This blog has been updated to reflect a WHO/Global Fund source document from 2010 which estimates the number of doctors in Liberia. A previous version of this blog cited an figure of ~60 based on 2008 estimates from the WHO.

Julia Shen is a project leader in Dalberg’s Dakar office. This article was reviewed by Dr. Manpreet Singh (MB BChir MPH), a senior consultant in Dalberg’s Nairobi office.

Quel est le risque d’une propagation du virus Ebola en Afrique de l’Ouest?

(Texte et graphique / Version française mise à jour 14 Août)

Note: Cet article ne doit pas être interprété comme des conseils cliniques, ni supplanter les conseils de voyage publiés par les autorités telles que : l’Organisation Mondiale de la Santé (OMS), le U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), et le Public Health England (PHE).

La portée du virus mortel d’Ebola en Afrique de l’Ouest a attiré l’attention de toute la communauté internationale : Récemment, le Nigéria est devenu le quatrième pays touché par le virus suite au décès d’un voyageur à Lagos après son arrivée par un vol en provenance de Monrovia. Depuis lors, les cas se sont multipliés à Lagos incitant l’état d’urgence. En effet, le virus Ebola après avoir fait des ravages en Guinée, au Libéria, et en Sierra Leone, a réussi à s’infiltrer dans la plus grande économie d’Afrique qui représente également un important axe de transit. Au sein des multiples précautions de voyage et de restrictions aériennes, de décès du personnel médical, des Unes sur les réunions concernant la sécurité nationale, nous avons répondu à quelques questions clés ci-dessous en analysant  les risques sous un autre angle.

Le virus Ebola deviendra-t-il une pandémie?

Probablement non.

La situation est très grave: Depuis la première apparition de l’Ebola en 1976, l’épidémie actuelle est devenu l’un des plus grands et des plus meurtriers—et par la même occasion le premier dans les pays affectés. La dernière note de CDC a officiellement élevé le risque de voyage dans les trois pays touchés à une « Alerte de niveau 3 : spécifiant d’éviter les voyages non essentiels » bien que l’OMS n’ait pas encore adopté la mesure.  Comme le révèle le virologiste Dr Ian Mackay sur son site web Virology Down Under, les chiffres actuels représentent à elles seules 100% des cas de malades contaminés et environ 90% du total des décès cumulés depuis les trente premières années d’épidémies d’Ebola.

L’Ebola reste une maladie sans aucun traitement ni vaccin et plusieurs de ses victimes meurent après une défaillance multi-viscérale et une hémorragie interne et externe, conduisant à un taux de mortalité allant de 50 jusqu’à 90%. Pourtant, les caractéristiques biologiques qui rendent le virus Ebola si terrifiant limitent ses capacités à devenir une pandémie. Les malheureuses victimes de l’Ebola souffrent visiblement d’infection aiguë, durant quelques semaines permettant l’identification de la maladie et la prise de mesures adéquates rapides. La période d’incubation du virus est de maximum de 21 jours, contrairement au VIH, que les patients peuvent avoir— et transmettre—pendant des années sans jamais présenter de symptômes.

Comment le virus Ebola se transmet-il?

Le virus Ebola se transmet  par contact direct avec des liquides biologiques. Ce mode de transmission est dangereux—surtout pour les agents de santé—mais, contrairement au choléra ou à la typhoïde, la transmission se fait moins à travers les aliments et les boissons. A l’inverse de la tuberculose qui affecte aussi bien les hommes que les bovins ou la grippe sur les volailles—et qui représentent des maladies zoonotiques endémiques qui évoluent parallèlement avec l’agriculture intensive—le virus Ebola avait disparu avant de réapparaitre. La famille des Filoviridae, à laquelle appartient le virus Ebola se retrouve généralement chez les chauves-souris et les singes sauvages. Contrairement au scénario alarmant de prolifération rapide, la diversité génétique du virus Ebola est limitée par rapport au VIH ou à la grippe, et les preuves empiriques récentes informent que le virus n’est pas transmissible par voie aérienne ou respiratoire.

Un élément fondamental en épidémiologie est le taux effectif de reproduction (d’infection) ou «R0», qui décrit le nombre de nouvelles infections qu’un malade peut provoquer. De ce fait, des valeurs plus élevées signifient des épidémies plus répandues. La courte durée d’incubation du virus Ebola et son mode de transmission contribuent à un R0 relativement bas du virus de l’ordre de 1,9 à 2,8 au cours des épidémies précédentes. Bien qu’il ne soit pas exactement comparable à travers différents modèles mathématiques, le R­0 est une référence utile: celui de l’Ebola est inférieur à celui de la rougeole (12,0 à 18,0) ou de la polio (5,0 à 7,0). Le meilleur modèle publié indique que le R0 de l’Ebola baisse à un certain stade – ce qui veut dire que les individus infectent moins d’une personne et l’épidémie finit par disparaitre – avec des contrôles prudents et réguliers, en particulier dans les milieux funéraires et hospitaliers.

Dans ce cas comment réagir face à l’épidémie?

Les complexités de la situation rendent le R0 difficile à évaluer par rapport à l’épidémie actuelle. L’on peut donc imaginer que le virus Ebola pourrait se propager dans des zones hors de l’Afrique. Récemment, le taux d’incidence s’est accru, avec plus de 1.000 cas de décès durant les huit derniers mois, suite à la propagation de l’épidémie en milieu rural en Guinée, en décembre 2013.

Cette menace viscérale défraie la chronique. Pourtant les maladies diarrhéiques tuent presque le même nombre de personnes en Afrique de l’Ouest quotidiennement; le paludisme tue encore plus durant les mêmes 24 heures. En termes de risque absolu dans les pays touchés, les accidents de la circulation dépassent l’Ebola.

Légende : Estimation des décès dus à l’Ebola, au paludisme, aux maladies diarrhéiques, et aux accidents de la circulation

Ebola french

Sources:CDC, ‘Epidémie d’Ebola en Guinée, au Libéria, et en Sierra Leone’ au 5 août 2014; Institut de métrologie sanitaire et d’évaluation, Charge mondiale de morbidité (GBD) 2010; Banque mondiale, Indicateurs de développement mondial 2013. L’analyse de Dalberg est arrondie aux centaines près et calculée à partir de la  population nationale * taux de mortalité de la population selon GBD 2010 * huit mois d’épidémie.

Le contexte socioéconomique des pays touchés accélèrent également l’expansion du virus Ebola. Par exemple, le Libéria et la Sierra Leone sont des pays post-conflit, classés parmi les plus pauvres au monde. Malgré leur richesse en ressources naturelles, la Guinée et le Nigéria ont sous-financé leurs secteurs de la santé, et restent en dessous de la norme fixée par la Déclaration d’Abuja de l’Union Africaine de 2001. Environ $ 67 US à $ 205 US sont annuellement dépensés pour la santé d’une personne dans ces quatre pays touchés par le virus.

Une méfiance envers la médecine moderne et l’absence d’éducation sanitaire ont aggravé l’épidémie — les patients infectés désertent même parfois les hôpitaux. Mais les soupçons sur la qualité des services de santé sont compréhensibles dans un contexte où les établissements médicaux manquent de personnel qualifié (le Libéria a ~260 médecins au total), la rupture des stocks de médicaments est régulière, et l’espérance de vie n’excède pas 45 ans.

Dans une ère où les flux aériens et les échanges au niveau mondial sont constants, il est évident que la fermeture des frontières ne constitue pas une solution durable pour freiner l’expansion de maladies comme l’Ebola: la question n’est pas si, mais quand, la prochaine maladie émergera-t-elle, potentiellement sous une forme d’épidémie respiratoire plus dangereuse. Bien que le risque d’infection soit inévitable du fait d’une population croissante, les exemples de lutte contre la variole et la poliomyélite démontrent que la mortalité et la souffrance des populations restent évitables.

« Les maladies telles que le paludisme, sont la cause de centaines de milliers de morts en Guinée, au Nigéria et en Sierra Leone chaque année. Pourtant elles ne défraient pas autant la chronique. Les investissements nécessaires pour contrôler l’Ebola incluent la formation des médecins et des infirmiers, l’assurance que le matériel médical est disponible au moment et à l’endroit opportun, avec une amélioration de l’équipement destiné au diagnostic. Renforcer ces éléments essentiels est crucial non seulement pour réduire le choc des épidémies potentielles à l’avenir, mais aussi pour prévenir et traiter les causes les plus fréquentes de décès dans les années à venir. » Manpreet Singh, docteur en médecine et consultant senior chez Dalberg Global Development Advisors à Nairobi.

L’épidémie d’Ebola ne devrait pas créer de panique mais devrait être perçu comme un appel d’urgence à l’accroissement de l’investissement en santé publique en Afrique de l’Ouest et dans d’autres régions mal desservies, pour assurer une sécurité sanitaire mondiale partagée. Le leadership des autorités nationales et des partenaires internationaux pourraient limiter les dommages économiques et l’angoisse du public, mettant également fin à la perte de vies humaines dues à l’Ebola – et aux pandémies déjà existantes qui touchent des centaines de millions de personnes par jour.

Julia Shen est gestionnaire de projet à Dalberg à Dakar. Cet article a été revu par Dr. Singh (MB BChir MPH). La traduction en français est réalisée par Monica Dey de Dalberg Washington avec l’appui de Vanessa Diouf et Fatoumata Cisse, consultantes associées, basées également au bureau de Dakar. 

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Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPOS) Devices for Financial Inclusion: Motivating Merchants in Indonesia to Switch to e-Payments

square credit card reader

Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices – such as Square and iZettle – use smartphones to process digital transactions. Photo by Shardayyy via Flickr.

The last time you bought something from a street market vendor, you probably didn’t swipe your credit card through a small white cubical reader set atop the vendor’s smartphone when it came time to pay.

But that might change soon. Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices – such as Square and iZettle – use smartphones to process digital transactions. They are mobile, operating on wireless networks, and are significantly cheaper than traditional credit card payment devices.

mPOS systems are not only more accessible for small businesses, but can also increase access to financial services for many customers around the world (including 60% of the population in Indonesia) who remain unbanked.

Despite the benefits of mPOS systems, however, the vast majority of small merchants in developing countries use cash or traditional transaction devices instead.

Indonesia Market

In Indonesia, over 99% of all transactions by volume occur in cash. Photo by Mo Riza via Flickr.

In Indonesia – where over 99% of all transactions by volume occur in cash – a Dalberg team recently worked with CGAP, Telkomsel, and frogDesign to find out why merchants haven’t adopted mPOS devices, and what might motivate them to do so.

The team spoke with over 40 traditional merchants, including restaurant owners, taxi drivers, and electronics retailers, and other micro and small entrepreneurs who typically handle cash transactions daily with their customers to better understand their motivations.

Dalberg’s Gaurav Gupta and Swetha Totapally, who worked on the study, explain what they found:

“While the responses varied significantly by merchant and merchant segment, three key themes emerged from our findings:

  • Value-added services providing business solutions increase merchant interest in mPOS. Most of the merchants interviewed had already been offered traditional POS by Indonesian banks and were less interested in mPOS for its payment acceptance features alone. Many had POS devices that were infrequently used, others didn’t care about being able to accept card payments, and some simply believed the technology was too new for them.Instead, we found that merchants are excited by value-added applications on the smartphone, such as data analytics, marketing and inventory management that are complementary to mPOS and provide business linkages to Telkomsel. Indeed, they saw these applications as potentially transformative business solutions. Specifically, they were excited by features that would improve business processes and relationships with customers.
  • Merchants prioritize accuracy, speed and transparency. Traditional merchants were concerned about how safety, security, and network quality could impact their business and cash, as well as the need to build consumer trust in digital transactions. Their personal experience with dropped calls and lost SMS messages made them cautious about adopting a device that relies on wireless technology. This was especially true for rural businesses, where the signal was less reliable.Additionally, when there were occasional glitches during prototype demonstrations, participants simply became disengaged. Merchants who use POS devices, for example, are used to generally reliable service and fast transaction times, so are hesitant to move to a new device that could be more risky, resulting in lost income for the merchant or client. The product at minimum needs to be at least as high quality as existing solutions.
  • Trust is an issue: Strong preference exists for at least a partial association with bank and transaction receipts. There is a trust deficit around security of new payment systems, especially those which are offered by telcos rather than banks. mPOS is seen as a money-related solution, and merchants consistently said that they would feel more comfortable if the product was offered by a bank instead of a telecom provider. Some merchants were comfortable with the idea of a co-branded product, given the offering also relies on wireless technology, which a telecom is better suited to provide than a bank.We also heard stories about people who have fallen victim to SMS scammers and credit card manipulation. People fear that when they use a card they will be charged more than they should be without knowing about it. While this may largely be an urban myth, this concern was expressed by many of the merchants we spoke with. As such, many merchants specifically stated that SMS or e-mailed receipts would be insufficient and physical receipts would be an important part of any mPOS solution. Similarly end-clients have trust issues with traditional merchants, which they consider less professional than modern retailers.”

Read the rest of Gaurav and Swetha’s article on CGAP >>

For more on Dalberg’s financial inclusion work, click here. You can also read the second blog in this CGAP series, “Using Human-Centered Design for e-Payment Systems in Indonesia” here.

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How to Be an International Dealmaker: Building global vaccine markets

By Angela Rastegar Campbell and Ya’ir Aizenman

Vaccines are among the most effective and high return-on-investment health interventions in global development. However, while the work of innovative health actors such as the GAVI Alliance and its donors has massively expanded access to basic lifesaving vaccines over the past decade, many potential vaccines are never developed, distributed, or tailored to work effectively in the Global South, causing millions of children and adults to suffer from ailments that could have been prevented.

For-profit pharmaceutical companies in both developed and developing countries should be the best placed actors to remedy this situation, given their extensive experience with vaccine research and development (R&D) and production. But pharmaceutical companies often do not enter these markets because developing and expanding vaccine production lines is both extremely expensive (with costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars over several years, including high up-front costs) and risky (given potential adverse outcomes such as failed R&D, lack of funds in the Global South for purchases, or competitor entry). Companies selling other products in developing markets often employ a basic low-cost, high-volume business model, but this method is less feasible in the case of vaccines because success is usually dependent on reaching scale in the tens of millions of doses.

What can be done to build global vaccine markets?

Measures to reduce the costs and risk of developing global vaccines can take a number of forms; all of these methods allow third-party donors such as developed country governments, foundations, nonprofits or consolidated groups of private donors to lubricate global vaccine markets and accelerate vaccine production for the Global South.

The most basic of these methods is for donors to directly subsidize the purchase of vaccines by health nonprofits or governments in the Global South. Subsidies can be complex, however, as it is still unclear how to most effectively balance paying pharmaceutical companies prices that are high enough to motivate further development, while also prioritizing reasonable costs and good value-for-money for the purchasers of these vaccines.


Many potential vaccines are never developed, distributed or tailored to work effectively in the Global South. Photo via DFID on Flickr.

Measures that reduce risk for pharmaceutical companies offer a more promising solution; they often achieve the same results as subsidy models, at a much lower cost for global donors. One common example of risk reduction is for donors to provide some form of insurance to a pharmaceutical company – in case its R&D efforts do not pan out – in exchange for better pricing when the product is released. Effectively, this method allows donor programs to use their large size and balance sheets to act as insurance agents for pharmaceutical firms, especially smaller companies. To help pharmaceuticals manage upfront capital investments, global donors can increase the transparency of market sizes by providing pharmaceutical companies with improved market intelligence (such as GAVI’s Strategic Demand Forecasts) or can help reduce unpredictability in funding flows (with programs such as the Pledge Guarantee for Health).

Donors can also leverage volume guarantees to lower vaccine prices and jump-start markets. Volume guarantees commit nonprofits or donors to purchase a predetermined, minimum number of vaccine units from a particular pharmaceutical company, guaranteeing that supplier a certain market size.

The GAVI Alliance has used volume guarantees to achieve a record low price for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines with Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, lowering it from the U.S. price of about $130 per dose to under $5 per dose in developing countries. The Jadelle Access Program has reduced the price for a best-in-class contraceptive implant from $16.50 to $8.50 by providing a purchase guarantee of 27 million doses over five years. Additionally, GAVI’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) for Pneumococcal Vaccines provided a guarantee to would-be manufacturers of pneumococcal vaccines that if they developed and produced the product, the demand would be there. In the end, the AMC secured a price per vaccine of $3.50 instead of the earlier price of more than $100 per dose.

How can donors deploy these innovative methods of market creation?

When done right, insurance, volume guarantees and market interventions are extraordinarily powerful mechanisms to drive markets for vaccines.

When done right, insurance, volume guarantees and market interventions are extraordinarily powerful mechanisms to drive markets for vaccines. Photo via GAVI Alliance on Flickr.

Dalberg’s evaluation of the Pneumococcal AMC revealed several specific lessons on how to negotiate and partner with international vaccine manufacturers to reduce their risks while setting affordable prices for vaccines in the developing world. Providing commitments such as insurance or volume guarantees to pharmaceutical companies can be difficult for donors, however. Such commitments require donors to put substantial funds on their balance sheet years before they are actually spent, which can be challenging for governments or organizations with budgets allocated on an annual basis. Moreover, guarantees need to be well-tailored in timeline, scope, price and structure. Yet, when done right, insurance, volume guarantees and market interventions are extraordinarily powerful mechanisms to drive markets for vaccines.

Often, the dialogue on how to increase innovation and reduce costs of expensive pharmaceuticals for low-income countries focuses on how much donors should directly subsidize product development. In the past, donors focused on the price and negotiation process rather than considering a broader suite of risk mitigation strategies that can encourage pharmaceutical company interest. A new approach – reducing risk for manufacturers by using donors’ balance sheets and the promise of future purchases – may more effectively entice pharmaceutical companies to enter and compete in the market.

Recent risk reduction measures such as the GAVI Alliance’s deal for HPV vaccines, the Jadelle Access Program and the GAVI Alliance’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) for Pneumococcal Vaccines show the promise of such approaches to reduce prices and increase access while engaging manufacturers and stimulating innovation in the vaccine market.

This article originally appeared in NextBillion.

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Improving sanitation: It starts with the community

By Lucy Johnson

Leaders from around the world gathered in 2000 to establish the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in an effort to reduce extreme poverty by 2015. As we near the expiration date for these goals, one particular target – to halve the number of people without basic sanitation by 2015 – is the furthest from being met.

Proper sanitation is critical for public health; it prevents the bacteria, viruses, and parasites found in excrement from infecting water, soil, and food. Yet by 2015, an estimated 2.4 billion people, or one-third of the world’s population, will lack improved sanitation, which has been defined by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program as (1) a facility, such as a flush latrine or pit latrine with a concrete slab over it, to prevent human contact with excreta, and (2) hygiene practices that help prevent the fecal-oral route of infection, such as hand washing at critical times including after using the toilet or before preparing food.

Creating an environment free from the health risks of open defecation requires cooperation from the entire community. Photo by WSSCC via Flickr.

A community hygiene committee meets in Malawi; Creating an environment free from the health risks of open defecation requires cooperation from the entire community. Photo by WSSCC via Flickr.

According to a recent report from Water Aid, progress toward improved sanitation lags for a few reasons. First, aid is not well-coordinated between donors. Second, political priorities have led recipient governments to allocate funding to other sectors traditionally more popular with voters, such as education, or to improve sanitation in areas with existing infrastructure rather than focusing on unserved regions. Finally, governments have not given sufficient attention to ensuring that the sanitation services that they do provide are sustainable, correctly used, and otherwise actually addressing sanitation concerns.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon discusses sanitation in Haiti. Photo by Minustah Photo via Flickr.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon discusses sanitation in Haiti. Photo by Minustah Photo via Flickr.

In light of these hurdles, world leaders and industry experts in water and sanitation gathered in New York in February 2014 to discuss how the post-2015 development agenda can better drive progress toward universal sanitation. According to Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene is “a matter of justice and opportunity” and the development community must take action.

One voice in the post-2015 sanitation debate is the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a United Nations-based organization of individuals and groups. The WSSC aims to accelerate the availability of sanitation, hygiene, water, and waste management services to all people of the world. To further this objective, a multi-donor financing mechanism within the WSSCC, the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF), was created in 2008 to gather and direct finance toward helping poor people attain safe sanitation services and adopt good hygiene practices.

Most national or donor-supported programs to improve access to sanitation focus on subsidizing latrines, but GSF mandates that its funding recipients use a non-subsidized approach and focus on creating demand for sanitation. Most often this is done through a method called community-led total sanitation. The rationale for community-led total sanitation is that unless people understand the importance of using and maintaining hygienic latrines, they will not reap sustained benefits from them. Accordingly, community-led total sanitation programs educate community members on the importance of good hygiene practices and latrine use, rather than simply providing them with latrines – thereby avoiding some of the pitfalls other latrine-providing programs have faced, such as recipients using sanitation facilities for other purposes, like food storage.

A woman from the village of Antanambaobitavola in Ampasanimaningory commune, Madagascar, stands next to the latrine her community built. Photo by WSSCC/ Katherine Anderson.

A woman from the village of Antanambaobitavola in Ampasanimaningory commune, Madagascar, stands next to the latrine her community built. Photo by WSSCC/ Katherine Anderson.

Community-led total sanitation requires that community members analyze their sanitation conditions, decide on a plan to improve the status quo, and take action accordingly. Because they develop solutions tailored to their community and build their own latrines, people feel ownership over the project and gain skills to maintain the latrines in the future. Community ownership of the effort is essential to success; creating an environment free from the health risks of open defecation requires cooperation from the entire community.

Over the long-term, the best chance for local sanitation practices to take root is if they are consistent with national sanitation strategies. For this reason, GSF also establishes a Program Coordinating Mechanism in each country to convene government, civil society organizations, and donors to set the vision and strategy for the GSF country program.

Since 2008, GSF has used these strategies to improve access to sanitation for 2.7 million people in 11 developing countries. WSSCC and Dalberg recently worked to help GSF expand its country programs and start several new ones. As a result of this engagement, GSF anticipates that, by 2016, it will have helped 16.28 million people gain access to improved sanitation and 24.58 million people live in healthy and safe environments free from open defecation.

In other words, GSF will have made a significant contribution towards achieving the MDGs’ sanitation target if these numbers are realized. The target of universal access to sanitation and hygiene is still ambitious – but as GSF’s efforts show, with greater global aid coordination, prioritization of sanitation in national-level policy, and the continued creation of sustainable sanitation services, it can be achieved.

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D. Talks – The “Sweet Spot” of Social Impact and Business Value: CSR Lessons from Christine Bader

By Sneha Sheth

Traditionally, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has ranged from donations to a CEO’s favorite nonprofit to company-sponsored employee volunteer days. But in recent years, CSR has started to change. Growing awareness of corporations’ potential to help solve global challenges has spurred innovative CSR practitioners to shift from the “charity” CSR model, in which CSR programs operated in a silo apart from the core business, toward CSR initiatives that make investments in areas central to a business’ strategy. These CSR programs tend to proactively solve problems rather than merely ameliorate the effects of those problems, and to be mutually beneficial to corporations and others.

Forward-looking global business leaders have already begun to make this shift; according to a survey of 250 global business leaders, at least half of their companies are already integrating CSR into business strategy, expecting that integrated efforts will help grow revenue streams or control costs.

Girl Meets Oil pic

Christine Bader gives a D. Talk at Dalberg’s New York Office.

Christine Bader, author of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, recently gave a D. Talk in Dalberg’s New York Office. Bader urged CSR leaders to identify the “sweet spot” in which incentives to carry out CSR initiatives are aligned with a company’s overall business goals. Drawing on nine years of experience helping oil giant BP manage the social impact of projects in developing countries, Bader offered the following guidance to companies:

  1. Seeing is believing – Give executives first-hand experience with the environmental or social issues linked to your company so they are willing to commit resources to CSR. Bader shared a story about Darryl Knudsen, Senior Advisor on Business and Human Rights at Gap. After a factory fire in Bangladesh, Knudsen met with survivors and their families. He told Bader that witnessing the people and situations affected by his company strengthened his commitment to the company’s CSR work. “I need to be confident in representing the choices we’re making as a company, and I need to know I’m going to fight hard for the right choices,” he told her. Bader noted that in lieu of physical visits, sharing photos and stories about the people and places affected by a company can also help senior leaders feel confident in their decision to commit resources to CSR and even integrate CSR efforts into their business’ strategy.
  1. Align incentives and create ownership – Listen to your employees’ goals and help them see where CSR fits in. Rather than evangelizing about sustainability and social issues, said Bader, CSR leaders should understand what employees care about, what they are paid to do, and what motivates them. While some people might be intrinsically motivated to champion CSR initiatives, others might get on board only after seeing that CSR efforts will give their project world-class status. Bader’s point echoes advice from Amir Dossal, founder and chairman of the Global Partnerships Forum, at a D. Talk in February 2013: companies will help lead social change if they can identify “what’s in it for them.”
  1. Baders b

    Bader’s book on CSR

    Embed CSR efforts throughout your organization’s policies. According to John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative on business and human rights (whom Bader advised), “The era of declaratory CSR is over.” In other words, it is no longer acceptable for companies to make verbal commitments to achieve social good – without corresponding actions. Companies should track, assess, and report on CSR activities and investments with the same rigor they use to track business metrics – and embed this rigor into standard practices. For example, some companies have begun to require that project proposals and third-party contracts incorporate a social and environmental risk assessment. When tactics like these become standard policy, there is less risk that they will fall by the wayside, even if a particularly supportive leader or employee leaves the organization.

  1. Recognize that progress will be slow and difficult to measure – but don’t get discouraged. While CSR practitioners may prevent human rights violations or disasters, they rarely get rewarded for what doesn’t happen. Scrutiny tends to coincide with accidents like Deepwater Horizon, but Bader contends that CSR leaders are dealing with thorny issues at the heart of global development every day. Despite leaders’ best efforts, it is possible that things will go wrong. Even so, Bader urges the CSR field to recognize that progress is incremental – and even tiny steps can move giant companies in the right direction.

Dalberg has helped many organizations – from a large pharmaceutical company to an Indian chamber of commerce – align their business goals with social impact activities. Indeed, Dalberg Asia Regional Director Gaurav Gupta commented  earlier this year, “The more strategically you think about CSR, the more you can start to think of creating a business impact while creating a social impact. When you disconnect the self-interest, it’s not sustainable.”

Gupta’s comments come on the heels of a new law that has brought CSR into the spotlight in India. As of April 1, 2014, Indian corporations that fall above specific revenue, net worth, and net profit thresholds are required to contribute 2% of their net profits from the preceding three years to CSR initiatives. The new law has been called everything from “vague” to a “one-of-a-kind legislation,” raising both hopes and questions about the role of Indian corporations in charitable ventures. In light of these new regulations, Indian corporations have a chance to incorporate strategic CSR of the kind touted by Bader and Gupta – if they, too, seek out “the sweet spot.”

To contact Gaurav Gupta regarding CSR activities in India, click here

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Inspiring Innovation: Dalberg Alumna Gayatri Datar Wins Echoing Green Fellowship

Gayatri Datar is a Dalberg alumna and co-founder of EarthEnable, a social enterprise with a mission to improve the health of low-income Rwandans through the use of earthen flooring created by locally trained masons. Last week, Gayatri was awarded an Echoing Green fellowship for her work with EarthEnable. We sat down to chat with Gayatri before she heads to Rwanda to work on EarthEnable full-time.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in global development?

Gayatri Datar

Gayatri Datar

When I was in my sophomore year of college, a tsunami hit Southeast Asia. I was in India at the time (thankfully, nowhere near where the tsunami hit) and decided to take a semester off from college to do relief work. I worked at a local NGO, and it became painfully obvious to me how inefficient the development sector was in many ways. My experience at the NGO showed me that the sector needed help, and that as a 19-year-old, I was already positioned to make a difference – it was shocking, for example, how much money I could raise for the organization just because I could write grant proposals in fluent English. I realized that development was my calling. After taking more semesters off college to work on development issues, it took me nearly six years to graduate. But because I learned so much during those years working in various developing countries, I knew it was the right choice.

What inspired your social enterprise, EarthEnable?

I was in business school at Stanford and had the chance to take a class at the design school (d.school) called “Design for Extreme Affordability” that focused on human-centered design for the base of the pyramid. Human-centered design approaches the world’s poorest people with respect – they are clients, rather than beneficiaries. That way of thinking truly resonated with me.

Durable, dry, and easy-to-clean floors can reduce unnecessary health risks that dirt floors create. Photo from Gayatri Datar.

Durable, dry, and easy-to-clean floors can reduce unnecessary health risks that dirt floors create. Photo from Gayatri Datar.

Part of the d.school’s methodology is that students spend their spring break learning and gathering information in the field, so my team and I went to Rwanda for two weeks and spent time speaking with people in their own homes. We would search for “pain points” as we spoke with residents, and we found many. Through these discussions, we realized that the floors in people’s homes were causing huge problems. During the wet season, floors were mired in puddles – these would sometimes be covered with mats, but they would get moldy and wet. During the dry season, people would sweep their floors, causing dust – which contains pathogens, parasites, and bacteria – to fly up everywhere. Kids would start coughing and entire families would be susceptible to respiratory disease, parasitic infections, and diarrhea. People’s own homes were causing them significant, unnecessary health risks. But these risks could potentially be mitigated by durable, dry, easy-to-clean flooring. However, concrete floors cost up to $500 for a small Rwandan home. The desire to design a healthy but affordable floor is what inspired EarthEnable.

What was the design process like after you came back from Rwanda?

It was long, and consumed the vast majority of my energy and time. The d. school encourages students to “Fail early and fail often,” and we definitely did a lot of that. After many bad ideas in the search for a cheaper solution, we came across earthen flooring, which has actually been around for generations. We wanted to see if it was a feasible solution, so we played in the mud and experimented by building a bunch of tiles. While it was a labor intensive process, it was surprisingly easy to master! Additionally, almost all of the components necessary for earthen tiles—gravel, clay, sand, and labor—existed in Rwanda. There was no reason this solution couldn’t work there. The most expensive component was actually the drying oil that hardens to form a plastic-like resin on the surface of the floor. To get around this problem,  we brought on EarthEnable cofounder Rick Zuzow – a brilliant Ph.D candidate in biochemistry at Stanford – who developed a way to dramatically reduce the cost of drying oil. This meant that the total cost of materials to install an earthen floor was only $30!

earthen tile flooring

A man creates tiles that form earthen flooring. Photo from Gayatri Datar.

What are some of the most important lessons you learned through your experience with EarthEnable?

One lesson I’ve learned is that it’s important to keep your plans open and fluid. As recently as nine months ago, I honestly had no intention of working on EarthEnable full-time, but I’m glad I allowed myself the flexibility to change my plans, or I would have missed out on an opportunity to make a big impact.

A second lesson I’ve learned is to be completely honest with yourself and your team about any frustrations or obstacles that may arise. I took a class in business school nicknamed “Touchy Feely,” where I sat with a group of twelve students and two facilitators for five hours a week, and talked in an unstructured format. The goals were to understand how you are perceived, how you can give more effective feedback, and how to develop better working relationships. This was an important class for me. I think I am now much better at giving and receiving feedback, even when it’s negative.

I’d say a third lesson is to always remain humble in what you can learn from other people, especially your customers. Spend a lot of time with your customers. Don’t undervalue empathy—this is part of the d.school’s core philosophy.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Gayatri Datar working with earthen flooring, the centerpiece of Earthenable.

Gayatri Datar working with earthen flooring, the centerpiece of Earthenable. Photo from Gayatri Datar.

Recognize that your youth is often full of moments when you can take a lot of risks; take advantage of those moments. There is likely going to be a time when you will have less freedom and flexibility, so capitalize on this moment to do meaningful work! I’ve seen many friends start a corporate career right out of college with the intention of leaving after a couple of years to pursue social impact work, but that path that can be very difficult to leave and a social impact career can be difficult to break into. If social impact work is something you’re passionate about, do it! And if you are passionate about the developing world, go spend a lot of time in a developing country. You will gain empathy and be humbled by communities different from your own.

Lastly, social entrepreneurship can be very tough and often thankless. While there are moments of glory and success, there are also many moments of failure and near-failure. So remember why you’re doing the work you’re doing, find inspiration in your customers, and keep fighting the good fight!

Interview conducted and condensed by Monica Dey.

Posted in Dalberg Community, Global Health, Human-Centered Design, Social Enterprise | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment