Challenges participated in a RSAN Spring Conference Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries hosted by Raboud University. This conference was supported by DFID, and aimed to further exploring themes of the DFID-funded four year research project around ‘Enabling Innovation and Productivity Growth in Low Income Countries’ (EIP-LIC).
Madeleine White, Challenges Director of Impact, explored how technology is able to contribution to a new language of transformation by democratizing access to markets. The focus was on addressing key challenges presented for dicussion:
- Research on innovation and entrepreneurship in developing countries is relatively scarce.
- Understanding the driving factors of innovation and entrepreneurship is especially vital in these contexts, as they are key drivers of…
- Economic growth and social welfare (linked to the impact of social capital)– both much needed in developing countries
The Entrepreneur: supporting and measuring key behaviour patterns
Over the last 16 years Challenges has identified two behaviours as key in terms of people who are able to start and grow companies successfully, and have built the digital frontline infrastructure to reflect this learning.
- The first is the appetite to absorb and use knowledge, skills and tools – our College E-learning platform allows us to prove learning and engagement.
- The second is the discipline, strategic thinking, controlled risk taking and insight – our Marketplace platform demonstrates this through structured, monthly reporting, building a picture of business understanding over time.
Understanding the importance of Challenges digital frontline infrastructure
Challenges has therefore built digital infrastructure which is able to measure progress of enterprises, but also the effectiveness of interventions – understanding how these impact enterprise growth. This is important because it redefines the limits of our expectations and allows us to scale the ability of individual enterprises to contribute to connected value chains by:
- Empowering the people who start and run them
- Upskilling the people who work for them
- Connecting trade and investment organisations to them
- Accrediting each step of this interrelated learning journey
Data and their decisions recorded monthly is power.
Right at the centre of the new language of transformation is the ability of a bottom of the pyramid enterprise to determine what the world is looking at.
A language of transformation created by enterprises through their own reporting data
Challenges uses technology and people to help enterprises create live reporting data which they themselves use to manage their businesses on a monthly basis. By setting indicators based on the value chains and investment opportunities they can see through Challenges technology, enterprises themselves become the driving force of this ecosystem. Trade and investment stakeholders are therefore able to create connections based on being able to track actual progress – saving time, money and hassle.
It is important to note also that the digital collateral the Marketplace platform helps enterprises helps them negotiate key barriers as it invites collaboration around their specific needs.
The SME visibility gap
There is currently a significant, identified gap re the visibility of SME’s and indeed social enterprise. Quite simply, the right kind of rich data needed – to allow people to connect and make relevant investment, trade or indeed intervention and training decisions – does not exist (in a way that is deliverable at scale). Challenges is making it possible for enterprises to provide a picture over time and therefore gives them the chance to be part of the global business dialogue on their terms.
Knowledge is abstract, anyone can have knowledge. Even the most amazing transformative insight, if it remains with one person or in a small group of people, is passive. By harnessing the power of all enterprise stakeholders to collaborate, it is possible to move from passive knowledge to innovation. Innovation is active, it requires participants who want to experiment, experience and transform.
Challenges technology offers a platform able to frame-work knowledge transfer in a way that is meaningful to all stakeholders. This type of digital frontline infrastructure is therefore at the heart of a new language of transformation, allowing all of us to participate in innovation and opportunity, wherever and whatever it may be.