Why is it that so many organizations, seeking to do good in the world, miss opportunities to do so – and indeed sometimes exacerbate the very problem they seek to address? The Business of Doing Good reveals six insights for microfinance and other social purpose organizations using the marketplace to tackle a range of pressing social challenges. To deliver on good intentions, we need to do more than simply deliver ‘good products’, and become organizations designed to do good.
Table of Contents
The insights focus on creating a business model that moves beyond conventional wisdom about clients and marketplace. This means getting to grips with the realities of clients’ lives, and delivering products that address their real needs (rather than simply chasing market demand). It also means recognizing that our vision is realized through our people. By tapping into their potential, and supporting them to do difficult work, we can do quality work – and innovate to constantly do it better. Finally, the insights challenge us to make our social value proposition work from a business perspective – defining our own trade-offs, and evolving our approach to respond to a fast-changing world.
The Business of Doing Good charts the course of one remarkable and profitable social enterprise (AMK) that has, with single-minded purpose, made radical choices and reached deep into rural Cambodia, touching the lives of almost two million people living in poverty.
This book is important reading for microfinance and development practitioners, social entrepreneurs, impact investors, philanthropists, researchers, and students of international development.
Prelims [About the authors |Foreword |Preface |Acknowledgements |Abbreviations and acronyms | Key people in the history of AMK]
Prologue: Seila’s story
Introduction: Going beyond good intentions
Building a business model for good
Does it work?
A brief history
Part I Shedding assumptions about clients
Meeting needs as well as wants
Balancing the needs of different groups
Chapter 1 Insight: Don’t just offer products; respond to client needs
Understanding client livelihoods
Designing products that respond to needs
Chapter 2 Insight: Ask good questions; have good conversations
Asking good questions
Having good conversations
Using data better
Part II Translating good intentions
Managing what matters
The end of ‘command and control’
Chapter 3 Insight: Do what it says on the tin
Laying the foundation for growth
Stress testing the model
Learning the lessons
Chapter 4 Insight: Motivate staff to do difficult work in an excellent way
Creating a learning culture
Supporting the learning culture
Building the right Board to deliver value
Part III Building a business model that works
Choosing the dirt road
An evolving business model
Chapter 5 Insight: Own the dirt road
At war with conventional wisdom
AMK’s ‘outside-in’ strategy
Making the maths work
Maintaining a focus on poor people
Chapter 6 Insight: Adapt to the changing landscape
Balancing your offering with capacity and context
The dangers of standing still
Exploring the limits of the product offering
The savings story: Bringing it all together
Conclusions: Taking the road less travelled
How can we do better at doing good?
One organization in a big world
“This is an uplifting, hugely insightful read with key lessons for all of us. How to deliver societal as well as economic value is a challenge faced by big business, social enterprise and voluntary sector organisations like Concern and Oxfam alike. The blurring of our organisational boundaries has led to exciting innovation in this space that we all need to analyse more... It's a story of learning, innovation, resilience and the simplicity and importance we often forget of people connecting with people. Organisations like Oxfam support and learn from many local partner organisations like AMK. We all share the ambition that local organisations will become self-sustaining, dynamic contributors to overcoming poverty at national scale in poorer countries, but there are very few success stories of social enterprise at scale. Here is one.”
Penny Lawrence, Deputy Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
“For funders, investors and donors, The Business of Doing Good is a must-read. In its granular portrayal of a value-laden, client-focused microfinance institution, the book asks us to re-evaluate and re-dedicate ourselves to designing funding mechanisms that strategically favor and fund the social enterprises which love their clients first and care for their investors second. This book calls us to be the kind of engaged, thoughtful, mission-focused bankers, accountants, investors, lawyers, analysts and auditors the world deserves.”
Jonathan C. Lewis, Founder/Chair, MCE Social Capital
“A lucid and thought-provoking account of how things actually work in the field, based on the history and experience of AMK in Cambodia. It should become a well-thumbed staple for many of us working in social investment generally and microfinance especially.” David Woods, Managing Director, Oikocredit International
“Anyone who thinks too much of the discussion about social impact is theoretical - READ THIS!”
Tris Lumley, Director of Development, New Philanthropy Capital & Co-chair G7 Social Impact Investment Taskforce
"The story of how something happens is endlessly fascinating to restless change agents. In this important new book, readers have the opportunity to dive deep into a successful social enterprise and distil important lessons for a range of future impact investments."
Susan Davis, President & CEO, BRAC USA
“Anton Simanowitz and Katherine Knotts have made an important and practical contribution to the discussion about how social enterprise and inclusive business can be more client-centered and contribute the most to the battle to end global poverty by 2030. By rigorously focusing on the critical issues related to client-centricity in a microfinance institution that has been off the radar of many industry observers, they provide a fresh and practical guide that will shape theory and practice for years to come.”
Alex Counts, President, Grameen Foundation
"Based on the journey of one remarkable institution, the authors of "The Business of Doing Good" suggest six lessons on how to align an entire organization behind its social value aspirations. These lessons are a worthwhile read for anyone interested in what organizations need to do to sustainably improve the well-being of poor families in the context of market-based development."
Tilman Ehrbeck. CEO Consultative Group to Assist the Poor
Simanowitz and Knotts have produced a comprehensive and highly readable chronicle of AMK’s successful quest for growth combining financial viability with social relevance. It is not only an important document for microfinance sceptics as well as supporters but also for the growing numbers of people with an interest in social business; investments that support the lives of the under-privileged while generating acceptable returns for investors.
Sanjay Sinha, Managing Director, Microcredit Ratings International (M-Cril)