Saturday, February 02, 2008

Harvard University research on the role of private sector in expanding economic opportunity

Harvard University's CSR Initiative hosted a leadership dialogue on the role of the private sector in expanding economic opportunity in developing countries.

A brief report (12 pages) summarizes some of the key points and follow-up actions that emerged from the dialogue.

Three common themes emerge from the collection of ideas and proposals:

* The need for intermediation to fill the gaps in the market environment – for example, to get information flowing, build skills and technical capacity, facilitate access to finance, broker relationships, and help operating norms and standards coalesce
* The potential for greater cross-industry collaboration, both in filling these intermediation needs and in stimulating inclusive business model innovation
* Collaboration, especially across non-traditional partners, is still emerging as a management discipline, and it requires much experimentation, analysis, and evaluation

Harvard University's CSR Initiative is also rolling out a series of papers on this topic. An introductory paper (48 pages) explores 4 key strategies companies can use to expand economic opportunity:

* creating inclusive business models – involving the poor as employers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, distributors, retailers, customers, and sources of innovation in financially viable ways
* developing human capital – improving the health, education, experience, and skills of employees, business partners, and members of the community
* building institutional capacity – strengthening industry associations, market intermediaries, universities, governments, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups who must all be able to play their roles effectively within the system
* helping to optimize regulatory and policy frameworks – shaping the regulatory and policy frameworks and business norms that help determine how well the economic opportunity system works and the extent to which it is inclusive of the poor

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