08 Mar Focus on the End User in selecting high-impact solutions
The continued growth of low-income markets has meant that a vast number of business plan competitions and grants have been established to find and select high potential solutions in the form of both products and services for these communities. Ennovent’s Discover expertise enables clients to identify and select a wide range of globally distributed solutions to solve sustainability challenges, increase market share or develop a strong investment pipeline.
However, most competitions within the space defer only to experts in the selection of ‘winners’. While experts are valuable, the local end-users of the products must also be involved for the selection of truly worthy winners. This is because, the success of any innovation for these markets hinges critically on the acceptance of the consumers it serves and their motivation to adopt the proposed solution. Through our work discovering 1,666 solutions in 14 countries, Ennovent has learnt that greater involvement from local end-users is required to ensure that the best solutions are accelerated.
For example, it doesn’t matter how cheap or accessible a health care centre is if the value and perceived opportunity cost of preventative healthcare is not adequately communicated to the end-user. Consumer evaluations about the perceived value of a solution can bridge the necessary gap of viability assessment of the innovation’s potential impact. Failure to undertake this consumer evaluation may mean that ‘winners’ receiving the funding are unable to make an impact in the long-term as they are unable to develop a sustainable business model that generates profits.
This focus on the end user was evident in the Tropical Forest Challenge organized by WWF Switzerland and managed by Ennovent. As part of the Challenge, nominations for solutions in two categories – Company and Startup – were sourced through the Ennovent Network. The winner under the ‘Company’ category was Runa LLC, an enterprise that creates livelihoods for local farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon by creating a market for indigenous products. Planting Empowerment of Panama, was selected as the winner of the Startup category, in recognition of its development of agro-forestry projects that tackle the problems contained in slash and burn agriculture. Winners of the challenge not only received endorsement by WWF Switzerland, but also benefited from an array of in-kind rewards such as access to experts and investors, training courses and increased global visibility and promotion.
A comprehensive applicant assessment process is required to ensure the selection of the ‘right’ winners for such grants. A mechanism must exist to ensure that local customer consultation is included in the judging process of such competitions. Such a mechanism ensures that only the most suitable solutions, backed by strong business cases and sustainability prospects, are taken forward.
An example of such involvement is Ennovent’s recent work for GDN’s Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project initiative. Ennovent conducted a multi-stage assessment process by involving experts and conducting on-site due diligence support to the shortlisted projects. Interviewing and interacting with the end-user of the applicant organisation provided a more holistic view of the solution, and witnessing the impact on the ground, enabled for a more sound decision on which enterprise deserved the award.
“Ennovent helped identify and determine the top three winners of the MIDP competition by assessing the top submissions in a multi-faceted, multi-stage, demanding external review process. GDN appreciated the consistency across the review stages and the involvement with Ennovent to inform the review process,” said a senior representative from GDN. However, Ennovent recognises that such comprehensive consumer evaluations might not be economically feasible if the funding sum is relatively small. In such instances local market experts or community leaders could potentially be consulted to evaluate the viability of such innovations.
Social impact professionals should all strive toward finding the right balance of sectoral and local knowledge to select and build the best solutions for end-users. An amalgamation of industry experts, users of products and business diligence professionals will constitute the best possible selection panel.
Design and run a customized challenges to globally source innovations within low-income markets through Ennovent’s Discover Challenge service