Acumen Fund Business Canvas

  1. Customer Segments: The Acumen Fund has a segmented market for recipients of its venture capital. The look for low income entrepreneurs located in developing countries. However, subscribers to their courses are a diversified segment or maybe even a mass market. Their online courses are mainly free, but the ones available for purchase are available to anyone who may be interested in the business modelling that goes into an organization that is trying to aid development or leave an impact.
  2. Value Propositions: The Acumen Fund offers financial resources and expertise to low income business builders who are looking for investments to sustain their companies. Acumen was really on the forefront of the impact investing wave. Started in 2001, their value proposition was unique for its time. It was entering an industry that opened up in 1983 with Grameen Bank, but had not yet been built out in the way it is now. The Acumen Fund tailored its offerings to the businesses in need. Beyond offering financial support, the Acumen Fund offers access to networks and expertise with deep sector understanding and critical insights. They offer post investment support to help companies grow and guidance in strategy, governance, customer insights, and fundraising. Their offering is a unique blend of superior in terms of the intelligence and resources available working with them, but also low cost for its customers.
  3. Channels: Acumen acts as an intermediary between philanthropists and social enterprises. They have headquarters in New York as well as in India, Kenya, and Pakistan, so they focus their efforts in Africa, India, Pakistan, or the US. There they are able to reach social entrepreneurs. The sectors that they focus in are energy, agriculture, health, and education. Within the United States they also focus on financial inclusion, health, and workforce development. They work through the internet as well as in-field experts.
  4. Customer Relationships: The Acumen Fund is extremely driven by mission. Their customer relationship falls into the category of dedicated personal assistance. They are all in when it comes to helping their customers become strong businesses. They are dedicated to making sure their customer relationships are driven by generosity and collaboration. They want collaboration to cross boundaries, and they are driven to make ordinary people know they are capable of accomplishing extraordinary goals. They focus exclusively on companies that are working to provide a product or service that addresses a critical need for the poor. They also look for companies that have the potential to scale the numbers of end users or be leading service providers.
  5. Revenue Streams: Acumen deploys equity, quasi-equity, or debt capital finance for early stage social enterprises. Some of their funders include the Rockefeller foundation, the Hitachi Foundation, Goldman Sachs, The Omidyar Group, the Knight Foundation, Philanthropy University, Newman’s Own Foundation, and One Foundation. They also have revenue from some of their online courses in effective social entrepreneurship and investing. Most of these courses are 45$ if not free. They are sold in the form of a usage fee and once they are available to students, they are available for an unlimited amount of time.
  6. Key Resources: Acumen Fund’s key instructors include Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Anderson, Seth Godin, Krista Tippett, Al Pittampalli, Angela Duckworth, Emily Esfahani Smith, Kim Scott, Scott Sonenshein, Daniel Pink, Sheila Heen, Jonathan Greenblatt, Prasad Setty, and Mihir Desair. These people are their intellectual assets, and are key to their value proposition and success. They also work with ideo.org to leverage their customized online learning experience.
  7. Key activities: Acumen Fund’s primary activity when it started out was offering financial services to low income social entrepreneurs in developing countries. Since then, they have expanded to offer courses and create an online community of social investors and entrepreneurs to share their insights through blog posts and web forums.
  8. Key partnerships: The Acumen Fund’s listed key partners are the US Department of Labor, ideo.org, the Omidyar Group, Teach for India, and International Planned Parenthood. These partners help to provide resources in the countries they are active in.
  9. Cost structure: I was not able to find a lot of information on the details of their cost structure. However, it seems apparent to me that the Acumen Fund has worked to build out their economies of scope more than their economies of scale. The companies that they invest in must demonstrate the potential to finance themselves beyond Acumen’s investment. This would take place either through follow-on capital or internal cash flows.

Sources:

https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/acumen-funds-model-social-investment/

https://www.guidestar.org/profile/13-4166228

https://thegiin.org/acumen-fund

https://thegiin.org/acumen-fund

Investment Criteria and FAQ

Business model

What stands out in my mind the most from this talk is the amount that he simplified the core values of entrepreneurship. No matter how complex of an idea or concept, there are only really a few key issues that investors look at when they are looking at potentially investing in a company. I found it very refreshing when he said that as an investor, if a corporation is only looking to make money, he knows they will not have what it takes to make it in the market. Investors must know that the product is serving a greater mission for its customers, because that is what consumers will see and more importantly, that is what will attract high quality talent. Employees must be passionate in the beginning phases of a business. If a company is not dedicated to delivering something unique and valuable, then investors know the company will not have what it takes to make it. It is not much of a stretch to apply this concept to Global Social Impact Fellows projects. We all agreed to take on these projects because we are interested in being a part of a unique experience that will deliver value to people who really need it. I think that there is no shortage of passion coming from the students involved with these projects, and the missions unquestionably value customers.

Another aspect of entrepreneurship that he simplified is delivering something of unique value to customers. No matter what the project, if a new company is not set on delivering something that is unique, but also undoubtedly provides value to customers, then the company will have a very low chance of survival. For our projects, it is imperative that we truly understand what is valuable to our target consumers without asserting our own understanding of what consumers may be interested in. For our project in India in particular, identifying the value will be a task that requires intense studying of our target demographic. We are looking to promote transparency and understanding of nonprofits and corporations, so our business model will be centered around promoting knowledge. It will be difficult for us, as foreign college students, to position our information as unique and valuable to people that are already integrated into the community.

He talked about simplifying your pitch. It should not be too technical and easy on the eyes. Our topic is pretty complex, and the only way we can deliver value is to make our information seem superior to what may be common knowledge, so this part of our project will be tricky. We will need to make sure we find unique ways of analyzing the partnerships that are not overly complicated. He also talked about finding your ‘entrepreneurial soul mates’. While we didn’t have much of a choice in our partners, this is definitely a lesson I will keep with me. What we can do before going to India is strengthen our relationships and understanding of how each of us works in order to simulate one of these relationships that he referred to. Our project is made up of five people, and I think that is a good number to be able to play off each other with. Personally, I think I am developing a stronger understanding of when it is a good time to share my opinions and when someone else in our group may be more qualified. This will be crucial during our interview process. We must understand this dynamic so that our interviews don’t come off as cluttered or unprofessional.

He also talks about how a good product should not be afraid to polarize people. This is another difficult element to our project because we want anyone who may be interested in the topic to want the information we develop. However, I think the most impact would come from targeting our findings towards companies that are not engaged in CSR or have low engagement with CSR. If we specify that what we have researched will help companies from a strategic standpoint, then they will be more likely to want to look into our findings and apply them to their spending an CSR relationships.

In partnership with one or at most two team members, present a business model canvas for your venture.

Customer Segments- corporations, nonprofits, Indian professionals

Value Propositions- we will provide valuable insights that can help you to leverage your company in the eyes of potential customers by making the most of your CSR partnerships

Channels- online, digital

Customer Relationships- heavy focus on making our product appealing to people who may not initially consider being customers

Revenue Streams- usage or subscription fee

Key Resources- e-mail, phone call, video-making devices

Key Activities- gathering information from companies, organizing and promoting in an accessible and appealing format

Key partners- Lehigh University, every company interviewed

Testing Our Work

1. List ten non-obvious assumptions about your target customers (or organizations) that you need to validate.

  1. Non-profits are reliant on business donations to continue their operations
  2. Corporations are acting out of obligation rather than passion
  3. Corporations operate with a high level of professionalism and formality
  4. Corporate hierarchy is extremely important in the dynamics of respect between coworkers
  5. Non-profits are less formal than corporations
  6. Corporate employees that are not directly engaged with work the non-profits are completely uninvolved with non-profit work
  7. Caste is highly influential in institutional relationships
  8. Citizens look upon corporations more positively as a result of their work with nonprofits
  9. Political discussion is inappropriate in these professional settings so political affiliations are kept private
  10. Culture is much more traditional in rural areas than in Mumbai

2. List ten hypotheses about your project that you need to test during fieldwork.

  1. CSR can be used as a marketing tool by corporations and can be proven to improve sales in the areas that their nonprofit funds are going.
  2.  On average, corporations are not highly involved with the management of the nonprofits they give the portion of their profits too.
  3. Corporations do not typically share physical resources with non-profits.
  4. The strongest relationships between corporations and nonprofits are the ones that have been established for a long time.
  5. Corporations that donate more than 2% of their profits to the NGOs are more invested in the success of the NGO and work more alongside their operations more than corporations who donate exactly 2%.
  6. Corporations that give profits to a single charity are more easily able to measure the difference their making and so are more motivated to help the organization get results.
  7. The most successful non-profits are the ones that work with corporations to strengthen their management and operations.
  8. Non-profits have had to strengthen their marketing to compete with each other over who receives the funding.
  9. Castes discretely affect which organizations receive funds
  10. Non-profits have become much more effective since this law was passed in 2013.


3. What do you think you bring to your team? How has your perception of your own strengths and weaknesses changed over the course of the class? Please be specific.

I think what makes me distinct in any group is my ability for critical thinking and quickly coming up with solutions or new perspective to analyze situations with. Lately I have come to identify with the word creative more and more because I feel like I process and connect what I experience in unique ways. I would say that this is my strength, however I think the entire GSIF class is working to strengthen our critical thinking skills, so what I can personally bring with this ability may not be as valuable as the entire group is becoming sharp with their critical thinking. The other trait I bring to the table is intuition and an ability to make people comfortable and bring people together. I tend to think ahead with how people will react to things based on what I understand about their personality, and I think this is a skill that can be useful when navigating and strengthening group dynamics. Understanding my place, not necessarily as a leader, but as a guide in this project will be helpful going forward in assessing how I should react in certain situations and also how I can shed light on my team members when they may have a valuable insight that they have not realized may be relevant or that has been shut out.

I would say in general over the past year I have come to realize that I am much more of an idea person than an action person. Through other projects I have been involved in, I have been thrust into leadership positions because of an initial passion and outburst of ideas in meetings. The trouble that I tend to have is follow through. This is where I rely can become uncomfortable in leadership positions because of the constant need to plan, update, organize, and motivate others. I have learned the importance of open communication and delegation as well as communicating things in groups instead of just individually. Someone else may be better at motivating another person than I am.

I have seen this with our project. Although I am not a group leader, I can assume sort of a leadership position when others do not speak up or when we are brainstorming. I would say that the other team members are much better at planning for presentations and meetings than I am. The topic of our project is incredibly broad, so I have learned that I may think adding an opinion to a discussion seems relevant to we are discussing when really it only distracts from a particular issue. I think that I have had to work to streamline my focus in both research and action throughout this project. Luckily, team members and Professor Deo have helped me to do so.

IRB

Ten specific things to strengthen next presentation and responses:

  • I think that we may have been guilty of elaborating on details that were not part of the questions we were asked. I think I personally thought I was helping by adding a new point to what someone said that the judges may have asked about as follow up questions, but this may have harmed more than helped.
  • Perhaps just having one person answer each question
  • Practicing the question round more
  • We received feedback that the end game of enhanced corporate engagement was too broad. I think if we had more clearly defined this that would’ve helped. I tried to sum up different ways these relationships could play out, but it was difficult to fully explain in the time that we had.
  • Use more specific examples of the ways corporate money going to nonprofits has had significant results on improving the standard of living for Indian citizens
  • Have a more specific timeline
  • Explain how we will address IRB
  • List the specific corporations and organizations we plan to work with
  • Clearly outline what we are looking for with our deliverable
  • Explain more specific elements of the problem (since it is very broad) that we plan to address with our research.

IRB:

Our work will require an IRB approval because we are researching human subjects. Our faculty member has mentioned that she does not believe it will go beyond exempt status.

Because we are starting the interview process before we go to India, I think we will have an advantage with the application. We will already have some concept of effective questioning. We will need to develop a systematic approach to conducting our research, with specific objectives for the kind of information we expect to discover. I am currently involved with a marketing research class, and we are learning a lot about effective ways to gather research on human subjects. There are many techniques that can be implemented to have a more effective interview. I think we may have some trouble with the phone interviews because it can be difficult to convey your interest so that the interviewee continues to elaborate without facial cues. In practicing interviews in that class, I’ve found it easy to make the interviewee comfortable because we have a lot in common, but this step may prove to be more difficult when we have less in common with our subjects that I had with my classmates.

I do not believe we will have to adjust our interview process based on a language barrier because English is widely used in corporate India. However, I do think that it is important that we double check to make sure that there is no confusion with meaning or different ways of expression because Indian English is largely based on British English.

One element of the IRB presentation that stuck out to me that I think we will have to keep in mind is clarifying privacy of the information we discuss. It may adjust how apprehensive interviewees are to elaborating on their experiences with us. We will also have to consult the International Research Appendix before sending our application to make sure we have addressed any extra elements. We will also make sure to include our interview questions and other aspects of our interview process we can outline.

Logic Model

The primary inputs into our project that we are concerned with are planning and research. We must ensure that these are thorough so that we have the most effective conversations with organizations that we can and to make sure that we don’t waste anyone’s time. Additional inputs include funding, scheduling, and planning what we want to provide at our interviews such as snacks or tea.

The measurable output we plan to gather is organized information. We are hoping to reach a variety of subjects from different types of nonprofits and corporations in search of similarities that can be broadly applied. We will compare similarities between our subjects to see if there are similarities between positives and negatives that these organizations are encountering. Then we will create a rubric to rate corporations and nonprofits on as well as a guide for how to enhance relationships between corporations and nonprofits. This will be done in the form of a template or digital pamphlet along with potentially a video or a website.

The outcome that we hope will happen as a result of this work is an increased dialogue about how to make meaningful results out of India’s CSR law and hopefully make a difference in the effectiveness of these nonprofits.

Business Model

Based on your life experience, skills and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

How will you validate your project concept, technology, usability, operational / business model?

Articulate your philosophy of engagement with communities, partners, and markets.

I think like most people, my design process will probably have a waves of messiness and organization. When we were brainstorming during the Saturday workshop, we started just by asking a lot of questions. We wrote down all of the questions we had on the white board, and then we divided up the process we would go through to research and answer those questions. The first part of our research process, before we go to India, included doing deeper research into the Indian legal and financial system, which will probably lead to more questions. We will also engage in preliminary research by speaking with companies before we to India. This will deepen our understanding of what it takes to get answers from people in Indian companies. The next two phases include the questions we will answer when we are in India, and then finally how we will make it come together in a deliverable afterwards.

I think our design process will be messy because there is not a clear cut problem. Our job is to define the problems. So first we need to know what has been answered by previous researchers, what information previously researched needs to be deepened or updated, and what questions of our own will we be able to pursue for a fresh perspective on the issue. Because we will be categorizing, defining, and updating our information throughout the process, it will be difficult to stay by one process. However, I think personally, developing a constant list of questions I have, definitions and examples we have, and then blank spaces of information we are lacking to keep things organized will be effective for me in continuing research and creating deliverables. We also have a general timeline of when we would like to have certain information by that we will do our best to stick to as well.

To me, this project is inherently validated by the importance of the issue. However, to those who may not be fond of the law or those who aren’t able to clearly see the issues that can arise with this kind of a law, or to stakeholders who see little room or need for improvement in how they are managing their CSR relationships, our project must be validated. An important peace of information that I have found is that many companies have reduced spending on marketing because they are engaged with more CSR. This kind of communal engagement may not work for companies of all industries, but many companies can certainly benefit from becoming involved in CSR. Particularly for companies that give aid to local non-profits, this law has been somewhat of a blessing in disguise. Local customers look on these companies more favorable when they see that they are a positive force within their community. As I have learned from my marketing courses, many companies work tirelessly on marketing efforts to make customers associate their product with happiness or a good feeling. Many successful marketing efforts are indirect, and corporate engagement with CSR are an example of indirectly creating a positive brand association among customers. I think showing these companies the benefits they will experience as a result of CSR engage will be key to motivating them to engage with our research. We will also validate our research just by organizing it in a format that is engaging, professional, accessible, and specific.

It is difficult for me to dedicate myself to a ‘philosophy of engagement’ because I usually prefer not to set expectations for the unknown. I think I worry too much that developing my own standards is wasteful because they may be let down or changed in the process depending on the types of people or situations I encounter.  However, this project obviously requires a degree of planning, and we will need to anticipate our interactions with these companies. I think areas that will come more naturally to me in terms of working with these companies are remaining open-minded and inquisitive about the types of CSR these companies are engaged with or their reasons for not choosing to engage with CSR (it turns out this is a common problem based on the research we have done so far). What may come less naturally is maintaining a serious composure in developing relationships with these companies, because it is usually my nature to build relationships with others based on humor. I think it will also be hard for me to let go of other research routes we could have gone down once ours becomes very narrow. I think the primary values I will try to stick by for this project are curiosity, a dedication to results, and open-mindedness.

Natural Inspiration

With our project, CSR in Inida, it is difficult to inspire the design of our project with nature. However, I think that there are some lessons that we can take from natural behavior. I think that there is definitely an element of biology for many organisms, and definitely many mammals, that entails taking care of one another. I think business by nature tends to take out this human factor in its design, but this law, if businesses execute on it properly, adds back some of that natural element to life. I think we will find throughout this project that appealing to peoples’ emotions and more human side, despite the professional setting, will help to get people to talk more. There is a dominant rhetoric within business of ‘survival of the fittest’, but this rhetoric tends to ignore the species that have higher survival because of how social they are. Many animals work as a pack and refuse to leave members of their pack behind, and this part of their nature enhances their ability to survive. The same concept can be applied to business if businesses take on the philosophy that the demand for their product comes from every day people outside of their business, and if they are more well off, then they will be more likely to spend their money on what they have to offer. Another element of nature that could be incorporated to this philosophy is ecosystems. In ecosystems, every element of life affects other elements. When one species dies, this will negatively effect the species that feeds off of it. Society can be thought of in the same way, it needs the conditions to be healthy for all in order for anyone to have the best circumstances. Nature will probably also effect our work in assessing companies that work with nonprofits on sustainability. If we assess this kind of a company, it will be interesting to take note of whether or not they practice sustainability in their own offices beyond working with a nonprofit that promotes sustainability.

I think the Life principle that will apply to our project the most is “Be Locally Attuned and Responsive”. Beyond being encouraged by the writers of the 2% policy to give their money to local nonprofits, this strategy is also likely to have the best results for the companies. Giving their money locally will improve the impression that locals have of the company and its worth, so they will be under less scrutiny. On top of that, if the connection between corporation and nonprofit is obvious because it is seen at play by people nearby, they will be more likely to look on the company fondly and buy their products.

It will probably be difficult to incorporate the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ design concept into our project because we are not working with a lot of physical material. However, I think the idea of making the most of every element of your resources could be used in our project. I think a strong assessment of every way in which nonprofits and businesses can benefit from having a relationship will help our research dramatically. If corporations can gain publicity or customers while nonprofits are able to gain management knowledge or other resources from corporations, this could be very beneficial to both ends of the relationship. Instead of ‘reducing waste’ by keeping ties limited between nonprofits and corporations, they can make the most of this law and their relationships and seek out overlap in their goals. Another element that was discussed in the Cradle to Cradle Ted Talk was competing together. I think it is important for us to take note of whether or not businesses are teaming up to work with nonprofits together and if they are getting strong results from doing so.

It is difficult to simply list three things I’ve learned from friends that I never knew before. I would say one of my friends has introduced me to a lot of interesting random groups that I did not know existed on facebook, which has helped broaden my awareness of the ways social media has been used outside of how I understand it and also the issues of cultural relevance in other regions. A lot of my friends have introduced me to music that I did not think I would ever like at first. Over time I have come to appreciate, enjoy, and pursue these types of music and explore their genres, and this has been very important for me. Perhaps the most important thing that a friend ever introduced me to was ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’. This completely opened up my concept of humor.

Result Tangibility

I think I speak for everyone involved with the Global Social Impact Fellows when I say that I wanted to become involved for the primary objective of seeing real results. With the Corporate Social Responsibility project in India, it is difficult to know what kind of results we can expect because we have no way of knowing how important our findings will be to the people they are meant to affect. However, I think the harder we work to understand our stakeholders and the more specifically we outline and define our project, the more valid our findings will be to our stakeholders.

The policy makers that passed this law are an obvious stakeholder in this project. A large part of the reason that this law passed in the first place is that the Indian government has had a turbulent history of passing policies that work towards enhancing the country’s infrastructure and social welfare. This law came as a bit of a solution to that problem. Policy makers want to see non-profits filling the gaps in providing services for the well-being of Indian citizens that the government has not been able to provide. In order to make this more possible, the Indian government sought to create a source of reliable funding for Indian NGOs. Policy makers will want to see that what they come up with is effective at achieving these goals.

Another stakeholder in our research are the corporations that must give 2% of their profits. While it is a law that they can abide by and choose to largely ignore, many companies will want to see that their money is not going to waste. On top of that, if there is a way that this law could actually be helping their business they would probably also like to know this information. Perhaps interaction with NGOs can be used for marketing material, and if not directly for marketing material, contacts with NGOs can give businesses more attention and in turn more customers. If we conduct research that demonstrates any correlation between the amount of positive attention that companies receive and their cooperation with NGOs, this information could be valuable to them.

The primary stakeholder in this research is probably the NGOs. We would like to find out how integrated relationships between businesses and NGOs have become as a result of this law passing. If businesses are sharing tactics, resources, and management advice with NGOs, this could go a long way with the success of these nonprofit organizations. If our group creates a rubric that measures the success of these relationships, it could help NGOs understand how to manage these relationships better in order to glean the strongest results.

Other stakeholders in our project include Indian citizens and other countries taking note of the policy. Indian citizens have a stake in the success of their NGOs because NGOs are largely responsible for filling gaps that the Indian government does not cover with infrastructure and welfare. If NGOs are able to substantially improve welfare and infrastructure in India with increased funds, this will improve the quality of life for many Indian citizens. This could come in the form of cleaner water, easier transportation, care for students or workers with special needs, or many areas that are commonly covered with government resources in other countries. Other countries may also be considering passing a similar law. The more successful this law is in improving the quality of non-profit work, the more interested policy makers in other countries will be in passing similar legislation.

We will want to make our work as valuable as possible to these stakeholders. We want our conversations with companies before the trip and during the trip to be as beneficial as possible. One way of doing this would be to make our findings as appealing and widely available as possible to all stakeholders. The more people are informed about how to measure and define the success of this law, the more it could increase a dialogue among stakeholders about the strongest methods. We are considering accomplishing this in the form of a documentary or website. The appeal of a documentary is that it requires little effort on the part of the stakeholders to inform themselves of our research. If it is made in an engaging an entertaining format, more people will want to inform themselves of our research. Another element to our research will be developing a rubric that we can compare all companies or NGOs on. This will help to universalize our findings.

Cultural Issues

One of the cultural issues our group is very concerned with is caste. Because it is a discrete factor affecting personal relations in India, we are worried that it may have a strong effect on the NGOs that companies are picking to work with that we simply would not be able to see or understand. From our research and understanding, it seems that caste has a profound effect on Indian society but it is hard for outsiders to measure its effects because it is a complicated and discrete system. I think India is probably generally effected by the cultural norm of ‘keeping things in the family’, which would be difficult for us to measure and inquire about.

On the flip side, it could be beneficial for caste to have an effect on business relations with NGOs. Perhaps familial relations between corporations and NGOs ensure greater progress for NGOs because businesses have more of a personal stake with the NGO. Either way, if this is a factor in the relationships behind the law we are studying, it will probably be difficult for us to get a thorough understanding of the way it effects these relationships.

The caste system is extremely different from the values that dictate American culture. Although there are undeniably benefits from coming from a well off family that are heavily institutionalized in the United States, the culture in American society has a lot of pride in ‘working for what you earn’ and ‘working your way up the ladder’. It is considered very noble in American society to come from an unfortunate situation and work your way into some wealth. These notions have probably deeply worked their way into our groups reasoning skills, as we have grown up in the United States, so values that may come as common sense to us may not exist in Indian culture.

I think that another implication of the caste system that affects cultural differences is the emphasis on family versus the individual. In the United States, there is a strong belief in individual freedom and bringing honor to your own name. In Eastern societies, the focus shifts to living life in order to bring honor to your family. Although we may not run into any issues regarding these beliefs, the nature of our project includes measuring the progress of social welfare, so these inherent biases may come out through a different understanding of social welfare than Indians.

Another issue that we discussed is the poor infrastructure of roads and transportation throughout much of India. Mumbai is highly developed, but the issue may also affect who corporations are lending their money or the strength of their relationships with their chosen NGOs in ways that we may not be able to fully understand initially. Transporting resources may be riskier and more problematic with weak government infrastructure. The lack of government interference into social welfare in India is something we will need to deepen our understanding of as a group in order to understand the holes that need to be filled by Indian NGOs. However the weaker infrastructure and government services affects these companies, it will be something that would not come as common sense to Americans and that we will have to remember to remind ourselves is a factor that plays into these relationships.

Asian business relationships also operate very differently than American business relationships. Americans are quick to come to decisions and make deals because of an emphasis on speed and innovation and an intense focus on spending time wisely. Asian marketplaces work differently because it takes time to build trust. This could affect the way we are treated by the companies we are studying, or it could be a major factor that affects the success of the relationships between corporations and NGOs. It will be important for us to keep this in mind when we are studying these relationships.

Another business factor we will have to consider is whether or not work with NGOs can be used as marketing material in India. Perhaps this law has detracted from work with NGOs affecting consumers perceptions of the company. It could also be the case that publicizing CSR never had much of an effect on consumer preference in Indian culture. We will need to make sure we try to measure this before we begin work with them. If promoting these relationships can aid the marketing for these corporations, that will be a major incentive for them to give us their best in working with them.

 

Passion for CSR in India

Coming out of our first class, I felt like I had a much better understanding of the gravity of the commitment and the real chance to make an impact. I was worried that this work would not really serve anyone but ourselves, deepening our knowledge and our skillset. While I am confident that I will come out of this experience with a wide new range of skills and a much deeper knowledge of business in India, after our first class I feel much more responsible for making an impact on the companies that we are working with as well. I think that this kind of a study is very necessary in order to make that kind of a law actually have the kind of results that the Indian government probably wanted to see.

The panel discussed the real business of performing research on site. Although I will not be able to travel to India to conduct this research, I think having this perspective really made me think of this project as much more than a class. It is a chance to conduct meaningful research and learn about gathering, organizing, and publishing effective research.

My passion for this work comes from a topic that we discussed in class but that I had also learned about before. When I was in Belgium this summer, I took a global marketing class in which we learned about reverse innovation. I had heard about microfinance before, but this is really where I began to think of it as the career path for me. We read about the ways in which microfinance implements reverse innovation in order to give customers in emerging economies the kind of financial tools that they need. It requires looking at these markets in an entirely new way with a thorough understanding of the culture, not just taking a concept that has worked in the west an assuming you can adapt it to foreign economies.

We learned about an example of microfinance in which loans were given out to people in groups, and then it was up to the group to pay it back. This model would be unpopular in a individualistic society like the United States, but in collectivist cultures, this model solves many of the problems that can arise when trying to implement a traditional western financial model in less developed economies. I fell in love with the idea of effective cultural understandings creating market potential that has not yet been realized. This is especially needed in finance, because foreign direct investment can create a culture of dependence that can harm countries in their economic development.

Since then I have done some of my own research on the topic. I’ve learned about the reassessment of traditional risk models because in new cultures, different individual traits can have different implications for financial risk. I’ve learned about new ways of assessing financial metrics in order to evaluate performance in the impact investing space. I think most importantly I’ve learned that this space is still very young with a lot of potential. As an economics and marketing major, I want to be involved in the kind of consumer research necessary to create these new and more effective financial products that can help bring impoverished peoples out of poverty with opportunities made possible with new forms of loans.

So how does this relate to the research in Indian corporate social responsibility? First, microfinance is still largely considered charitable. While I hope that one day it can be looked at as a viable investment option for profit, there is lots of opportunity for companies to build out corporate social responsibility through microfinance. I think that this could be an exciting option for companies, because until microfinance becomes realistically profitable, companies can invest in building out loan options for the poor, and then one day it may become a profitable business venture. Until then, they can use this portion of their profits to do good and observe best practices.

Another way that this research relates to a future career in social research, hopefully in microfinance, is that I want to develop my statistical skills in the space of human based research. I also want to learn effective business practices in businesses that are looking to aid a cause. I am really passionate about learning about all economic policies and practices that can aid the financial standing of the poor, and India is a very exciting place to do this research because of the allocation of wealth throughout the country.