Training Business Development Service Providers to Boost Eco-Inclusive Innovations
Ten years ago, David founded the enterprise ‘Esam’s Best Chicken’ to reduce his country’s dependence on chicken imports and to provide a reliable source of income to smallholder farmers. Today, he and his team run a successful enterprise with a network of 210 smallholder farmers. Now they would like to widen their business model: contract new committed producers particularly from the base of the pyramid, add organic eggs to the product portfolio, and improve upon their social and environmental impact. Where can they go to get the support they need?
Like in many countries, ‘Esam’s’ can choose from several providers who offer business development support (BDS); however, a lack of standardised training and certification systems make it difficult for enterprises to assess who is worth the money. On top of that, only a fraction of BDS providers know what an eco-inclusive enterprise is and shares the values of enterprises aiming to be eco-inclusive. Working with eco-inclusive enterprises for more than 10 years, SEED decided to help fill the gap through ‘Training of Trainers’ (ToT) for service providers. Just a few weeks ago in August, we shared our tools and support approach with service providers wanting to support enterprises to become more eco-inclusive at our first GoSustainable ToT in Pretoria, South Africa.
Tools, tools, tools – Structuring enterprise support to enable tailor-made solutions
Working with more than 220 enterprises in 38 countries, we soon realized that although each enterprise is unique, topics are reoccurring. Instead of re-inventing the wheel each time, we put time and effort into ‘toolifying’ our support. For each key topic – from target market analysis, overvalue chain analysis to triple bottom line planning – we developed a ‘tool’. The tool breaks a complex topic down into step-by-step logic. In the end, you get tangible outputs like an action plan the enterprise can implement. This step-by-step guide allows service providers to spend less time searching for a general approach. Instead, they can dive right into the specific questions relevant for their client and adapt the tool to their client’s needs. Each time a person uses the tool, she’ll gain new insights and can improve her approach, the same way we have.
What’s a Tool? The Example of ‘Value Proposition Refinement’
The tool ‘Value Proposition Refinement’ allows you to derive what is essential to your enterprise in just three steps. First, the team members identify the values they offer to customers, partners, the community they operate in and relevant institutions in its business environment, as well as the values they receive in return from those actors. In a second step, the group asks itself: Are the values we create rather environmental, social or economic in nature? Finally, the enterprise puts these thoughts all together into their value proposition and evaluates it with the “4C-Approach”: Is our solution crucial, compelling, concrete and credible? The discussions of getting there can be heated, but eventually the enterprise gets to take away the crisp idea of the added value they want to create, with a particular focus on going more eco-inclusive.
We now have a ‘Toolbox’ for eco-inclusive enterprises consisting of more than 20 business and management tools. Based on this knowledge base, we’ve recently also developed a toolkit for setting up new enterprises, and of course, the GoSustainable Toolkit: A set of 15 tools supporting conventional enterprises to identify eco-inclusive innovations. Service providers participating in our ToTs gain access to the toolboxes and experience our SEED approach to support.
What to do with a toolbox? – The SEED Approach to Support
Let’s go back to our example of ‘Esam’s Best Chicken’ which is not an existing enterprise, but a case study we use for our GoSustainable ToT. In the first GoSustainable ToT, 13 local service providers worked on the cases of ‘Esam’s Best Chicken’ and ‘Milling Africa Z.A.B. Limited’. During three days the service providers began to identify with their new ‘clients’ while they worked their way through the GoSustainable Toolbox. Directly applying the tools to case studies does not only make it easier to remember the content of the tools, but service providers also have to think through every step of the tool. This raises difficulties and leads to discussion within the group – a great peer-learning opportunity that turns the participants into active actors. And, it demonstrates one of the key support principles at SEED: the best outcomes are derived from lively discussions that bring out crucial points.
Many enterprises have more knowledge and ideas that they believe: the key job of a good business development support provider is rather to ask the right questions than to provide answers. From our experience, a well-facilitated workshop using the right tools and bringing together the key team members of an enterprise and its key partners will yield better-suited results than suggestions from an external consultant. Moreover, the needed actions are also much more likely to be implemented and stand the reality check of the day-to-day business.
At the end of the August workshop, all service providers would recommend the ToT, and even add another day to the experience! They enjoyed the “truly ‘toolified’ workshop”, bringing together tools with an open space for peer-learning and discussions.
SEED GoSustainable: The goal of the programme is to promote eco-inclusive innovations and enable conventional enterprises to create new or improved products and services by integrating low-income groups into their value chain and having a positive impact on the environment. The programme is made possible by the kind support of the Government of Flanders. The Training of Trainers is also made possible through the multi-country project “Promoting Eco-Entrepreneurship in Africa” implemented by SEED under SWITCH-Africa Green (SAG). SAG is implemented by UNEP with the assistance of the European Union.
This blog post was first published by our partner The Practioner Hub for Inclusive Business.