This February, in conjunction with the MIT Scaling Development Ventures (SDV) conference, D-Lab convened representatives from 15 organizations including multinational corporations, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations in Cambridge to discuss the creation of a collaborative, global network of organizations actively engaged in scaling up innovative, market-driven solutions for global poverty reduction.
The participants, who included representatives from companies such as Unilever, General Electric, Vodafone, and Mars, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as the Grameen Foundation, responded enthusiastically to the proposition. “The most urgent need is for academia, nonprofits, social enterprises, and global corporations to roll up their sleeves and work on taking existing ... innovations to scale,” Alex Counts, CEO of the Grameen Foundation, said.
Following continued engagement to refine the goals of such an initiative, the Practical Impact Alliance (PIA) at MIT is scheduled to launch this fall. MIT’s D-Lab Scale-Ups program will lead the initiative and is in the process of recruiting founding members to participate in a pilot this fall.
“The idea of PIA emerged when D-Lab started engaging large organizations in scaling up MIT innovations against poverty,” explains D-Lab Scale-Ups program director Saida Benhayoune. “We saw the opportunity for much greater impact if those organizations were to share and collaborate not just with institutions like MIT, but with each other.”
While many corporations and social ventures are exploring inclusive business models to create global shared value in developing markets, this kind of innovation often happens in relative isolation. As members of the PIA, practitioners from diverse organizations with well-aligned missions will be able to share learning, collaborate, and develop best practices, thereby increasing their individual and collective impact – all while leveraging and supporting the work of MIT programs focused on global poverty alleviation.
Members of the PIA will have access to a variety of benefits, including opportunities for networking and collaboration, as well as access to MIT innovation, expertise, and student talent. They include:
Themed workshops: Member-driven workshops at MIT or a partner site in which participants will advance thinking on a subject of shared interest — from how to improve small farmers’ livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa to how to get life-enhancing goods into the hands of low-income consumers in rural markets — resulting in open-source resources for the benefit of both alliance members and the broader development community.
Co-design summits: Field-based seminars in which PIA members will be immersed in local markets to collaborate with community members and local innovators to co-create solutions to local issues, while gaining first-hand experience with market constraints and stakeholder needs.
MIT innovation challenges: Leveraging the IDEAS Global Challenge platform, PIA members will be able to sponsor a challenge focused on a topic area relevant to their business, allowing access to fresh, market-relevant innovations through supporting student teams.
Internship placements: PIA will facilitate internship placements at member organizations, allowing members to access MIT’s exceptional student talent for focused projects and enabling students to gain valuable experience within organizations at the forefront of social value creation.
Scaling Development Ventures (SDV) conference: The annual SDV conference convenes international development and business practitioners from across industries and geographies to examine how best to bring poverty-alleviating solutions to market. In addition to regular conference programming, PIA members will have access to special workshops and networking events with conference speakers and contributors.
Case study development: MIT will work with leading business, social, and academic organizations worldwide to capture and disseminate their experiences with market-driven poverty alleviation in the form of case studies, thereby enabling shared learning across the sector.
PIA’s founding members will gather in early November in Ghana to kick off the initiative with a special launch event offering a co-design summit and multiple themed workshops. This event will provide an opportunity for participants to engage with each other from the start and for PIA to identify areas of shared interest, which will inform programming decisions for the duration of the pilot.
To request additional information on the Practical Impact Alliance, member benefits, or the launch event in November, please click here.