Unlocking potentials of social entrepreneurs

Tasbeeha Mirza | Published: January 30, 2019 22:03:30 | Updated: February 02, 2019 19:57:01

The entrepreneurs analysing a case at the workshop of Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation

From January 16 to 19, Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation conducted a four-day long workshop as part of its Impactor Programme. This workshop, named ‘Unlocking new models for impact’ was part of the year-long business incubation programme which was launched in October 2018. This workshop covered three main themes: 'Problem - opportunity fit: Are you solving the right problem?' 'Problem - solution fit: Can you translate your opportunities into a viable solution?' and 'Product- market fit: Can you take your product to the market?'

 The final 15 Impactor teams consisting of 30 social entrepreneurs were introduced to new concepts and frameworks during the workshop. The sessions brought them closer to the objective of transforming their ideas and early stage businesses into sustainable and scalable businesses.

On the first day, Impactors solved various case studies from Bangladesh, ranging from postpartum depression to quality of rural primary school education. They approached the case studies in a holistic manner: who is the "impact group", who suffer from the problem and what are the social and cultural factors that affect this problem. The 'Who are you solving the problem for?' session circled back to identifying the pains, gains and jobs of each customer in each Impactor's own venture. The day ended with a session on "Introduction to impact measurement and frameworks", it was conducted by a guest speaker from UNDP,  Ashfaqul Haq Chowdhury.

The second day began with mapping each venture's value proposition and paving the path to a minimum viable product (MVP). Impactors voiced their own experiences at building early version of products. They cautioned each other to avoid the pitfall of wanting to share too many features in early versions of the product. In a session called 'Monetising innovation', the Impactors learned about various pricing models and reflected on which pricing model is best for their own customers.

Toru invited Syed Javed Noor, general manager of IDLC Asset Management Limited, to speak from his experience about investment readiness for the Impactors. Investment is an essential part of building a business; entrepreneurs valued his insights from the investor's perspective. He spoke about what investors looked for when they are approached and the factors that demonstrate that a venture is ready for investment.

On the third day, the facilitators focused on business operations, sales and distribution and the power of storytelling. Risalat Siddique from Analyzen spoke about 'Minimum viable branding for startups' on the final day. Impactors learned how to evaluate their marketing and branding efforts using key metrics and key elements of branding.      

Throughout the workshop, the participants reflected and updated their mission and vision. They improved their pitches. They were encouraged to account for the various ways information should be tailored for different audiences. This prepared them for the jury pitch that was held on the final day and a deciding factor in their selection to the next round.

Finally, the Impactors presented their pitches in front of six external juries. The jury board members were Head of Treasury at IPDC- Nawed Wahed Asif,  Founder and Executive Director of HerStory Foundation-Zareen Mahmud,  senior expert of PUM Netherlands- Ludo Kockelkorn,   CEO of Bangladesh Angels-Nirjhor Rahman, Bangladesh Country Manager for Christian Aid- Shakeb Nabi, and Managing Director of ME SOLshare Limited- Sebastian Groh.

Nirjhor Rahman commented, "I was really impressed with all the teams. I love their enthusiasm and their passion for the problem that they are trying to solve. Clearly, they have done a lot of work on their products and have thought a lot about their markets and the business model."

Sebastian Groh shared, "Toru continues to be able to pick such fantastic representatives of the entrepreneurship landscape here in Bangladesh. We saw a wide variety of entrepreneurs at different stages of development, all very unique in their own sense. Great solutions!"

Shakeb Nabi added "It's been a huge learning opportunity to be part of this event. I am sure some of these ideas will make a mark in Bangladesh."

From the evaluation assessment of both the internal mentors and the jury board, Toru will select the top 10 Impactors for next stage of the programme. The top 10 team will receive a series of rewards along with a six-month business incubation journey under the mentorship of Toru.

The writer completed her post-graduation in International Sustainable Development from The Heller School, Brandeis University, Massachusetts, USA. She can be reached at tasbeeha.mirza@toruinstitute.com

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