In March, 20 fellows in an eBay Foundation-sponsored Ashoka Globalizer program gathered in southern India to assess the role that business can play in lifting people out of poverty.
Ashoka, a nonprofit organization that supports social entrepreneurs around the world, grants fellowships to such entrepreneurs who demonstrate creativity in their approach to a social problem.
eBay Foundation’s partnership with Ashoka dates back to 2011, when it sponsored a global competition to find new ideas for fostering economic opportunity. The Ashoka Globalizer program builds on that effort by taking some of Ashoka’s most advanced fellows and connecting them with the strategic support needed to bring their solutions to a global scale.
A number of the Globalizer fellows have created businesses that serve some of the poorest people on the planet: the 2 billion people who earn less than $2 per day. They do so by engaging the poor as producers and microentrepreneurs, generating employment and income opportunities for low-income populations and fostering even more economic opportunity. Katherine Lucey does this through Solar Sisters, a microfranchise model using women as distributors of solar lanterns that replace expensive and hazardous kerosene lamps. In India, Satyan Mishra has brought together more than 14,000 microentrepreneurs and created Drishtee, an efficient rural distribution network.
Lucey, Mishra and 18 other fellows gathered in Chennai, India, for a three-day program to assess how they could scale their projects. Prior to the summit, the fellows had spent several months working to strengthen their strategies for scaling with support from a team of advisors.
“The summit significantly exceeded our expectations,” said Amy Millington, president, eBay Foundation, who attended the summit. “It was truly an honor to be in the company of these social entrepreneurs who have dedicated their careers to achieving disruptive social change. We are more convinced than ever that mission-driven inclusive businesses are key to eliminating poverty around the globe.”
eBay Inc. Employees Jump In to Mentor
On the first day of the summit, the Ashoka fellows were joined by participants from the nonprofit, public, and private sectors – including employees Chris Yeo and Amit Ghosh from the PayPal office in Singapore – to share challenges and propose new ideas for tackling the systemic barriers many of these trailblazers commonly face like access to finance, access to talent, and the need for more advanced technology.
Teams are continuing to iterate on some of the strongest ideas brought forth that day, and will have access to a pool of funding created by the eBay Foundation and the international development organization GIZ.
On the second day, the fellows met individually with mentors, experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, including Lawrence Chan, vice president of merchant services in Asia, and Latif Nathani, managing director of eBay India. The mentors advised the fellows on growth strategies and contacts who might be able to help them grow their organizations’ impact.
Engaging employees in expertise sharing is one way eBay Foundation leverages additional resources to further the impact of its philanthropic commitments.
“I think I learned more from the participants than I gave,” said Chan, expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to participate.
The final day focused on building a community of peer support among the fellows, sharing best practices and pragmatic advice on leadership and organizational and personal development.
“The summit underscored the power of human connections as many partnerships were forged, new strategic directions were charted, and new investments were pledged,” said Julie Vennewitz-Pierce, senior manager, eBay Foundation, who also attended the event.
“We look forward to staying engaged and learning more from the outcomes of the program in the weeks and months to come.”