Working Sessions

July 16th | 11:00 AM | Working Group I: BoP Labs
Jost Foundation Room Research  
Mildred Livak Room Strategy Development  
Frank Livak Room Business Model Implementation  
Chittenden Bank Room Training  
July 16th | 3:00 PM | Working Group II: BoP Challenges
Jost Foundation Room Filling the Donut Hole in Finance: Bridging the Pioneer Gap
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Fifteen years of pioneering efforts by NGO’s, governments, MNCs and Impact-oriented investors has created a vast pipeline of seed stage investors, small and growing businesses offering market-based solutions to BoP challenges and early stage success stories. Today, a welcome challenge has arrived: successful BoP enterprises need mission aligned capital to scale their enterprises, fulfill their missions, and achieve liquidity, but yet they face huge challenges in finding it. Solving these problems offers, potentially, the largest opportunity for wealth creation and impact today. This session focuses on filling the “donut hole,”-- creating the ecosystem for scaling capital for successful BoP entrepreneurs. It will include a review of the market opportunity, market challenges, recent innovations and an interactive discussion of the roles of NGOs, governments, MNCs and to- be-formed, large scale Impact and BoP focused Private Equity funds. The role of government policy in filling this gap (CRA in the US and potentially CSR in other markets) will be examined critically as will the various terms and definitions used for this investment class.

Frank Livak Room Evaluating the State of Assessment: Focusing on Value Creation
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Recent debate regarding impact assessment has focused on whether or not businesses should assess impact. The focus should instead be on assessing responsibly – that is, collecting data that is right for the business. Assessment is an iterative process – metrics can build and evolve as a company grows from design to scale. Businesses should focus on collecting data that helps them improve their operations, such as data that can lead to them creating more value for their customers, producers and/or the communities where they operate. This could include data to forecast expected impact on the BoP from adding a new business activity, assessing impact to refine operations, taking metrics to the next level to inform innovation, using measurement to improve the effectiveness of supply chains and investment as well as to accelerate learning.

Creating impact and improving performance is thus tied to creating value for both the business and stakeholders all along the value chain. This session will highlight the tools and methodologies businesses are using to understand how they are really doing and to improve mutual value. The session will also explore how such metrics can evolve as a business progresses from design to scale. Participants will leave the session with a resource list that will help guide them in getting more value out of their assessment activities.

Sugar Maple Ballroom Scaling BoP Ventures: Learning from Failure
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Over the last 30 years or so, the social entrepreneurship movement has produced a wave of innovations that work; ( i.e., that have been proven to solve social problems in a commercially and environmentally sustainable way, including solar lanterns, water kiosks, enhanced cook stoves, micro-irrigation systems, and home improvement projects. The list is long, yet, these remarkable innovations have failed to scale. Finding ways to overcome these obstacles to scaling is the challenge of our times.

This session will open with a discussion of what we collectively believe are the greatest systemic obstacles to scale, considering the roles of the various players in the ecosystem: social entrepreneurs, corporations, financiers, philanthropists, development organizations, and governments.

We will then invite suggestions from the participants about initiatives that could help overcome these obstacles. Valeria and Olivier will happily propose their own ideas to the group and welcome inputs from all participants as well. We hope to end this session with a couple of new or improved high impact initiatives and group support.

Chittenden Bank Room The Government Challenge: Designing Effective National Policies
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Companies that are developing BoP strategies face many challenges. They may not fully understand the dimensions of the social problem they are trying to solve, they may not be able to find ways to make their business model work and sometimes they simply cannot find the right partners to work with. Governments can play a critical role in helping BoP strategies succeed; unfortunately, rarely do governments understands what it can do to help and why it should help. Some governments are suspicious of market solutions to social problems. Some try to help, but in the end, hurt efforts by distorting markets. Still others fail to act merely due to inertia. In this session, using examples from India, Peru, Chile, and other countries, we will explore what governments can do to support BoP strategies and how companies can better enlist government support for their BoP initiatives.

Mildred Livak Room Roadmap to 2050: Integrating BoP into Corporate Sustainability
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How are corporations moving beyond individual, piecemeal, inclusive business initiatives toward thinking more strategically about how the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) fits into their sustainability visions? The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has built an overall business vision for sustainability by 2050 in collaboration with its member companies, and has brought it down to an Action2020 platform (agreed upon, again, with its members), in which inclusive business is part of the key set of “business solutions” that will contribute to achieving the sustainability areas that were prioritized.

This session will focus on the importance of developing a corporate BoP vision that is underpinned by purpose, ambition, and capability. This session will also look at how the BoP can fit into strategies focused on corporate growth, competitiveness, and sustainability. It will outline the challenges of that approach and present solutions for addressing them.

July 17th | 10:15 AM | Working Group III: Domain 1
Jost Foundation Room Food & Agriculture: Linking Supply Chains with Product Innovation
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One of the big opportunity areas for reaching and benefiting the base of the pyramid is in food and agriculture. Innovations abound in the sourcing of raw materials from smallholders through "inclusive business models” that engage small scale producers in such a way that supports positive economic development, in distribution models that can create new opportunities for small scale businesses, and in actual products and business models that create affordable and nutritious products for low-income consumers.

This session will share a few cases for how companies are seeking to reach the BoP through sourcing and products in the food and agriculture sector, and will explore some key questions, such as:

  • How can companies (and their partners) increase their impact with the BoP through sourcing strategies?
  • Are there viable business models that global companies and use to bring nutritious products to the BoP? What are we learning?
  • Can we be make better connection through product design (including ingredient choices) and sourcing strategies to increase financial and nutrition security impact at the same time?
  • How do we move from pilots to scale? From projects to sustainable opportunities?
Chittenden Bank Room Materials: Creating Closed Loops
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The circular economy is a relatively new concept that has come to be seen as a model by which society should aim to operate. By creating closed loops and moving away from the traditional linear “take, make, dispose” model, which relies on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy, we can create not only a more efficient economy, but also prepare our society for future challenges. A circular economy is one that is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and values, at all times. Coined by Braungart and McDonough, the phrase “waste is food” summarizes the circular philosophy – though, as Braungart himself would say today, “the word “waste” should not even be in there, there is no such thing, everything should be food.” There are closed loops that can be created at all stages of the value chain of products, from the manufacturing stage to the consumer level. Industry has the ability to create closed loops for its own processes and stages during which it “own” its product, but industry should be also collaborating with entities at every stage of the value chain to truly close the loop.

This session will highlight emerging innovations, business models and materials-sourcing approaches that are helping to close loops and build a circular economy in a range of different industries and sectors. The session will also explore and seek opportunities to identify the potential for the BoP to be leveraged and where they can play a role to help build this new economy. Participants will leave the session with ideas of how they can apply a new way of thinking about the materials or models on which their business, organization, or industry are based and potentially reframe them to consider contributing to the circular economy.

Mildred Livak Room Mobility: Entrepreneurship for Tomorrow’s Sustainable Infrastructure
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Transportation is at a tipping point. On one hand, urbanization, congestion, climate change, poor air quality, an aging population, and increasing social disparity both challenge and are challenged by our rapidly evolving mobility needs.

On the other hand, a panoply of (disruptive) new services, products, technologies, business models, and planning and design approaches are emerging to supply the next generation of transportation to address these complexities. These innovations are helping businesses, governments, and civil society leaders to transform the emerging global New Mobility economy and to offer both customizable local solutions and innovation opportunities for export.

Recognizing that transportation is increasingly pivotal to increasingly diverse people and sectors, this session will start by presenting a range of emerging mobility-related innovations, approaches, and success stories related to the global BoP context. It will then share a practical yet transformational tool that brings regional and local players together to identify and apply innovative solutions and business models, and to advance and customize sustainable, smart, inclusive, multi-modal, door-to-door transportation systems.

A University of Michigan Certificate of Completion will be awarded to participants who have engaged fully in the session.

Sample Location:

  • Delhi, India (including the participation of resource people from Delhi)
Frank Livak Room BoP Finance: Structuring Partnerships to Enhance Returns
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Structuring financial partnerships to enhance returns when serving the BoP. Public/private partnerships are often viewed as a mechanism for bringing private sector resources, knowledge, and capabilities to bear on development issues. However, increasingly, such efforts are being led by the private sector, and more and more examples exist of the private sector identifying business opportunities and leveraging public or social sector funding to make them feasible. The concept of blended finance is becoming mainstream, and with it comes the opportunity for the private sector to access capital at below market rates for projects that have demonstrable social impact. The availability of subsidized capital, if used properly, can enable corporations to build strategic advantages by expanding their business supplier, employee, distributor, and customer bases. To capitalize on these opportunities, specific competencies will need to be built to identify opportunities, build social/public sector partnerships, and to structure projects that ultimately become financially sustainable and are not dependent on subsidies.

This session will focus on identifying opportunities for strategic partnerships and building the relationships needed to take them forward. The session will be moderated by Michael Tsan who leads the access to finance group at Dalberg Global Development Advisors. The session will begin with the presentation of a framework for identifying opportunities, attracting social/public sector partners, and launching such projects. A panel of practitioners will present three tangible examples of projects underway, and the remainder of the time will be set aside for questions, discussions, and idea generation across the session’s participants.

July 17th | 1:00 PM | Working Group IV: Domain 2
Jost Foundation Room Health: Inclusive Models for the Future
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Learning from high- and low-resource countries: approaches to health service delivery for the world’s poorest. Achieving universal health care (UHC)—where people are able to utilize health services when needed without fear of financial hardship—is a goal of many countries across the income spectrum. Both high- and low-resource countries hope to improve health outcomes for individuals living at the base of the pyramid (BoP) by making progress toward UHC. Low-resource countries are simultaneously attempting to meet global targets to reduce poverty such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set to launch later this year. Examples of successful innovations to provide health services to the world’s poorest exist in both high- and low-resource countries. This working group will highlight these models and discuss how they can be adapted for global impact.

Presenters will discuss health systems interventions that successfully reach the BoP with services and contribute to improved outcomes. Innovations from the public, private, faith-based and NGO sectors from both high-resource and low-resource settings will be highlighted, including lessons learned and indicators of success. Participants will discuss how these innovative approaches can serve as models for other sectors, how they could be adapted across countries and sectors, how the BoP can participate in the improvement of health systems, and how countries can learn from one another. Participants will leave the session with ideas for disrupting the status quo in health service delivery and options for adapting health systems to reach the BoP.

Chittenden Bank Room Global Affordable Housing: Business Models, Building Local Partnerships, & Measuring Impact
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Share and understand the challenges in three critical domains affecting affordable housing: business models, partner and support ecosystems, and metrics. The workshop includes a structured discussion involving all participants. Current challenges will be highlighted, along with next practices. The insights gleaned from the workshop should help participants to (i) better understand their challenges, and (ii) learn of new methods, practices, and approaches to improving performance.

NOTE: A pre-workshop survey will be sent to over 3000 architects, designers, and affordable housing companies to ask for input on the three areas highlighted.

We will ask for data on the challenges they face as well as solutions that have proven to be the most effective. This data will be shared with workshop attendees, and we will continue with knowledge-sharing activities after the conference is over at

Mildred Livak Room Understanding Digital Repertoires: The Need for User Research in Digital Services for the BoP
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As access to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) becomes widely available in BoP communities, the way in which members of these communities engage with technologies is often poorly understood, and the need to understand how they must be tailored to the specific needs of poor populations has become more critical. Fortunately, the body of research on how these communities engage with ICTs is growing, though more is needed. Panelists will discuss the overall need for a good understanding of how BoP users engage with digital products, how and where this is different (or similar) from existing Western market usage, and what we have learned that points to the value of understanding BoP user needs when designing digital products for these markets. The focus of the discussion will center on research outputs where possible, with an emphasis on recent data or experiences.

This working group will focus on water. Humans require 20 liters of water daily to function properly, but most people in developing nations have access to less than 5 liters daily. Over half the hospital beds worldwide are occupied by patients with water-borne diseases. The burden of water collection is disproportionately borne by women and girls; the 2-6+ hours they spend hauling heavy loads of water each day prevent them from participating in more productive activities, like work or school. However, globally, over 30% of WASH projects fail prematurely at the pilot stage.

Frank Livak Room Distributed Energy Resources: Bridging the Gap Between Technology Innovators / Providers and BoP Markets
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Sustainable, clean energy technologies are often first developed in hydro-carbon fueled economies where unleveled playing fields create initial barriers to market entry. It is common for these technologies, at various levels of maturity, to seek a home in developing economies where either present energy costs are very high or there is little or no energy infrastructure at all. Similarly, efforts in these BoP regions to enhance their standards of living with deployment and access to energy resources are thwarted by deficits in business experience and access to capital. Much as cellular telephony obviated the need for traditional telephone grids in developing economies, distributed energy resources (DER) can short-circuit the need for centralized electricity generation infrastructure. On both sides of the challenge exist talented and energetic entrepreneurs seeking to bridge this gap. Additionally, viable business models offer returns on invested capital for investor participation.

This working group will address innovative ideas seeking to connect technology innovators, local BoP entrepreneurs and capital providers to facilitate the clean electrification of developing economies.