Inclusive business (IB) projects, by definition, tend to sit in areas outside of companies’ traditional comfort zones. In his blog on Inclusive Business in June 2015, TPI Executive Director Darian Stibbe noted that these projects are rarely business as usual – requiring a much stronger interaction with ‘society’ than traditional business.
The blog highlighted some examples of the kind of collaborations companies might need to engage in, with organisations outside the private sector, as as implementing, intermediary, capacity-building or knowledge partners, for their inclusive business model to work. This could range from providing incomes to disadvantaged people by including them in the company’s value chain, to developing new markets with pro-poor products or services.These kinds of partnerships all draw on the distinct competencies, resources, and perspectives of each organisation to design and/or implement business activity that provides opportunities for disadvantaged populations to participate in the value chain.
But partnering can be difficult, and time consuming, and requires the right level of commitment and investment of resources. And in addition, partnering is not always suited to all projects, or all business models. So, how can organisations know whether partnering is the best way forward for their inclusive business model? For organisations that haven’t worked in this way before, it is worth assessing whether collaboration with other organisations is appropriate to support their business model.
The Inclusive Business Checklist, developed by The Partnering Initiative and the Business Innovation Facility in 2013, provides a quick and simple way to determine how effective an idea, tool, or model might be for your inclusive business project. It can be used by inclusive business practitioners, to develop and scale up business strategies. They are based on the real-world experiences of companies actively expanding opportunities for people at the base of the economic pyramid through their core business activities.
The checklist helps organisations to identify features of their project that indicate collaboration with other organisations will be necessary. For example, an inclusive business project that requires new or improved infrastructure, or that sits in an unfamiliar geography, or that relies either on non-traditional distribution models, or on a supply chain that needs development to ensure quality. The checklist tool suggests next steps in working towards setting up the required collaboration, and links to a range of tools that can support the developing partnership.