Transform, Innovate, GoSustainable
Innovation for success
Coming up with new ideas is essential for the success of a business. Innovative enterprises are pro-active in solving problems, for instance, in reaching new customers or to refining their value proposition. An often unexplored opportunity for innovation is to integrate social and environmental dimensions into a company's business model.
Business (not) as usual: eco-inclusive innovation with SEED GoSustainable
How to innovate sustainably?
The aim of SEED GoSustainable is to showcase such opportunities for eco-inclusive innovation. Conventional enterprises are encouraged to integrate low-income groups into their value chain and to create a positive impact on the environment, whilst keeping their eyes on generating revenue. In a six to eight months innovation cycle, the participating enterprises develop business models or new products, services, and processes that have social, economic, and environmental impacts at their core.
The first step of the GoSustainable innovation journey: Marketplace and Kick-off event
Out of experience with supporting micro and small enterprises through SEED around the world, we are well aware that in order to innovate successfully, enterprises need targeted support. However, we also found that it can be challenging for micro and small enterprises to find the right service provider that corresponds to their needs and steers business innovation.
BDS Marketplaces – an innovative matchmaking format
In order to match businesses with the intention to “go sustainable” with suitable Business Development Service (BDS) providers on the ground, we introduced the BDS marketplace as a new and innovative format. Recently implemented in the course of two workshops in Durban and Polokwane in South Africa, supported by the Government of Flanders, we achieved to match more than 20 enterprises operating in sectors as diverse as housing, transport, waste management, and health with business providers trained in the SEED GoSustainable toolkit. The core of the marketplace event entailed a pitching session by the BDS providers to the participating enterprises.
During a rehearsal session at the beginning of the marketplace event, we supported the BDS providers to get their message across. That way, the pitches were very concise and demonstrated the individual business development service portfolio in areas such as agricultural supply chains, marketing, or financial advisory. After the pitching session, the enterprises were asked to choose one service provider they would like to work with during the SEED GoSustainable support phase. Almost every BDS provider found a new client among the participating enterprises, being evidence of the quality of the service providers present and their well-designed pitches.
Kicking off green and inclusive business innovations
The newly matched teams of enterprise representatives and BDS providers were invited to the subsequent kick-off workshop where they delved into the first stage of the innovation process: the design phase. Supported by us as SEED facilitators, the BDS providers worked with the enterprises on topics such as supply chain integration, value proposition refinement, and distribution chain innovation to identify potential entry points for green and inclusive business innovations. The participatory methodology of the SEED GoSustainable toolkit addressed the particular questions of each enterprise, based on their existing business operations.
The participant feedback we received underlines that eco-inclusive innovation is a new territory for many conventional enterprises that brings opportunities but also challenges.
For experienced entrepreneurs, it is not always easy to link the ‘business as usual’ questions – such as “Who is my market?”, “What is my value proposition?” - to concrete steps that increase their green and social impact. This is a lesson also for us: it underlines how important it is to steadily grow the number of BDS providers who can skilfully find eco-inclusive answers to day-to-day and strategic business questions. SEED contributes to this for instance by working towards a BDS standard in South Africa and with our Training of Trainers in multiple countries.
This workshop was very informative and enlightening. It gave us direction as to how our business can be led into the eco-inclusive direction. What we plan to do in the next six months is to start the process of producing our own hives as it will help us with skills transfer, job creation and it will ultimately lower production costs. I look forward to future meetings with SEED and I will [..] learn as much as I can so that I put it back into my business.
--Maite Mabela, Limpopo Valley Honey Farms, South Africa
This workshop has been very exciting and educational to me as the BDS provider. It has given me an opportunity to use the skills and tools learned from the first SEED GoSustainable Training of Trainers and share such skills with the enterprise that contracted me. We will use the tools to implement the Action Plans developed to turn around the Enterprise "Limpopo Valley Honey Farms" toward an expansion which is centred around environment, the people and sustainable economic development [...].
--Thati Tladi, BDS provider Limpopo, South Africa
What is next: Walking the talk
Coming up with new ideas is only the first step in the GoSustainable innovation process. The most exciting – and demanding – phase is the ‘demonstration phase’ when these ideas are tested and refined. As a final point on the agenda of the kick-off workshops, the enterprises hence developed Innovation Roadmaps for the next six to eight months. During that period, they will work with their chosen BDS provider and receive regular follow-up support by SEED. After the very inspiring kick-off events, there is a great reason to look forward to the two closing events next year where the enterprises will not only showcase the results of their eco-inclusive innovations but also have the chance to pitch to potential new partners, supporters or investors.