Tear Down Walls to Build Better World: Ashoka

Tear Down Walls to Build Better World: Ashoka

Ashoka founder Bill Drayton shares what’s most exciting about hybrid value chain business model

A theory Ashoka has been testing through several years of on-the-ground implementation just received a significant accolade, winning a first place spot in an international long-term capitalism challenge co-sponsored by Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company.

       Ashoka founder Bill Drayton

Ashoka founder Bill Drayton says winning the 2012 Global Long-Term Capitalism Challenge, which convened more than 200 of the world's most respected corporate executives, management consultants, and leading social institutions, is a sign that Ashoka’s model to create Full Economic Citizenship “is ripe.”

The model pioneered by Ashoka’s Valeria Budinich makes the case for traditional business to collaborate with community sector organizations to solve problems neither sector can do alone.

Referring to the approach as “tearing down the walls,” Bill says the result is hybrid value chains that increase collaboration, productivity and invention in sectors where it’s needed most: affordable housing, agriculture, health, water, finance, and nutrition security.

Bill says hyrbrid value chains work because business and community organizations bring complementary skills. Businesses bring scale, expertise in manufacturing and operations, as well as financing, while social entrepreneurs and organizations contribute lower costs, strong social networks, and deep insights into customers and communities.

According to Bill, 600 of Ashoka’s nearly 3,000 fellows are working on advancing hybrid value chains, demonstrating impressive results that promise extraordinary growth.

For example, considering the fact that one-sixth of the world’s population lives in slums or squatter cities, Ashoka is pioneering hybrid values chains in housing.

In Latin America, Ashoka introduced a for-profit ceramic tile maker wanting to enter the low-income market for ceramics and home products to a community organization helping people displaced by armed conflict.

The two organizations collaborated on research and the development of a business plan that sees women in need of employment sell the products directly to potential customers. Without the need of a storefront, distribution costs were lowered allowing for profits to be funneled to the women sales promoters and community partners.

In India, Ashoka is working with mortgage companies, for-profit housing developers, and local citizen-sector groups to deliver affordable new apartments for the “informal” members of the local workforce. These consumers often have a steady source of income but lack proof of stability and therefore are ineligible for mortgage loans.

According to Bill, change and collaboration is vital to an organizations’ future success. Understanding how to be flexible and adaptive is also reaching a tipping point as the old business model of repetition can no longer suffice in a world that’s changing rapidly.

“If you’re organized for efficiency and repetition and things change that leaves you like a beached dinosaur. Instead, you need a very fluid, open team-of-teams architecture, which is the ecosystem you see emerging in Silicon Valley,” says Bill, adding the model is in line with Social Venture Network (SVN) and Ashoka.

“This completely fits with what SVN is about, tear the walls down and get people to work together,” he says.

“We’re in the same game, with the same goal, on the same side, and now things are going to move very quickly.”

For Ashoka’s ground-breaking work, Bill is being inducted into SVN’s Hall of Fame as a Visionary Social Entrepreneur.

SVN’s Hall of Fame celebration, which will recognize 25 SVN members for their pioneering contributions to the socially responsible business movement, takes place Nov. 13 in New York City.

Related Story:
How Ashoka is Making Everyone a Changemaker

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Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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