Category Archives: Blended Value

The role of interdisciplinary data and stories

Microfinance has grown into a multi-billion dollar asset class extending financial services to the world’s poor because sufficient data was made available to investors to unfold a new way to understand risk and opportunity
Well communicated data, science & stories will unleash pent up demand to accelerate investment and business practices  that further resilience in biocultural landscapes.
The Bio-cultural resilience has a goal of not reducing narrative value down to commodity spread sheet value.

Considerations for M&E capabilities during Farmerline’s early-stage pilots

In the past week, I’ve been working with the Farmerline team on how we can take the next steps to expand while in the middle of a pilot (and beginning another). Farmerline plays an integral role in getting stakeholders the information they need to better manage crops, reach markets to sell those crops, and appropriate market prices for inputs and outputs. One of the toughest things I am constantly thinking about is what will be able to prove our business model. Right now, they have had strong interest from non-profits with large groups of beneficiaries, but the hope is that farmers would be able to pay for the service to sustain business. While all its value-added services are extremely important in the process of getting vital information to farmers in Ghana, what do farmers demand the most? Right now, they need information from non-profits and government to reach the market and manage crops. But what services do they demand where the net benefit of Agro-Calls and Call-Ins is positive for their growth? At this expansion phase, we know we have to take advantage of growth at the right time and make decisions quickly, all of which is difficult while in the middle of the pilots.

The uniqueness of Farmerline is a combination of ease of use, wide applicability and its specific focus on small shareholder farmers. At a glance, this seems like a win-win for so many organizations working with differing cultures, languages, and access to a mobile phone. I’ve learned that in Ghana, the country in which they operate, researchers have cited up to 91% of the target population for mobile use is saturated. The vast use of mobile phones has seen an explosion of apps targeted at solving deeply entrenched social issues, but the new space has created what one article from SSI calls “pilotitis” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). Writers Khan and Joseph highlight the need to move beyond the “conceptualizing and testing phase” in order to “catalyze systemic change” (Khan & Joseph 2013). This “innovation cult” drives inventors to seek new solutions to endemic problems, which is inherently good, but ultimately change needs execution to scale. Even though the founders developed this technology as they themselves lived and worked on smallholder farmers, wide adoption is still key to success.

One of the suggestion the authors recommend is “linking pilot approval phases to the solving of associated executional demands” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). For us, each hypothesis Farmerline posits during its pilot can have a decision-making step once it is proved or contradicted. That way, we can hopefully take advantage of quickly moving opportunities and adapt the product to how farmers and stakeholders best need it. One of the benefits of having a widely applicable technology is that during the pilot phase, Farmerline will be able to test which of the umbrella options in its technology are most beneficial. For non-profits seeking monitoring and evaluation technologies, the Agro-Polls technology is tailored to their needs to compute statistics and qualitative research. But in testing the buying power of individual farmers or farmer-based groups, Farmerline can understand if calling in a hotline or receiving weekly/monthly subscribed updates is worth paying for to help them increase yield and reach access to market. As we work to scale the current services, we focus on these needs.

As I think about the BCR tool in relation to how Farmerline enhances monitoring and evaluation, it becomes tricky. We are currently facilitating better M&E for nonprofits with our real-time dashboards that come with polling systems. Real-time data collection and analysis is possible for non-profits. The key is to make the product sticky enough so that when the pilot ends with a non-profit, its beneficiaries will realize its benefits. The flexibility of the pay-as-you-go platform creates affordability for low-income farmers, and allows nucleus farmers to regularly send updates to the hundreds of smaller farmers they support. After testing the nucleus farmers’ receptiveness to the service, Farmerline could then develop in-house M&E tools that measure farmers’ increases in yields and productivity since the time they have been using their ICT. At this pilot stage, developing potential impact metrics to put in place later on will test M&E capabilities. As an ICT organization, Farmerline addresses very specific pain points along the agricultural value chain; however, quantifiable impact is more indirect as it allows faster communication and facilitates better management practices among stakeholders. Providing in-house workshops on BMPs is one example of how direct impact can potentially be linked to Farmerline’s services.



Putting Oceans & Fisheries on the Agenda: Accelerating Sustainability in Business for Nature in Crisis

It’s been an energizing and intense week working with project partners around the world to articulate a vision for building the Operating System for the Good Economy that begins with….building biocultural resilience for oceans and fisheries. I am sharing a summary here.

Fisheries Resilience Project Summary

Fisheries industry in Beruwela

Fisheries industry in Beruwela (Photo credit: Dhammika Heenpella / Images of Sri Lanka)

Examples of biocultural resilience in food

I need a place to capture the endless and provocative examples that I am learning about of biocultural business – commerce that builds environmental and social resilience drawing from traditional ecological knowledge.

Stevia is taking the natural foods industry by storm purporting a healthy alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stevia is a small shrub native to the region of South America. The scientific name for stevia is Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni and it is a member of the largest family of plants, Asteraceae which is also called the “sunflower family”. There are 240 close relatives of stevia and they are all herbs or shrubs originating from the tropical and semi-tropical areas. Indigenous Peoples used the leaves of this herb to counteract the bitter taste of the popular drink ‘’mate’ (a tea-like beverage), and also as an herbal remedy for various ailments. Dry stevia leaves are about 40-60 times sweeter than sugar, steviol glycosides extracts are about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia leaves contain sweet tasting components called steviol glycosides.

Real Stevia is one company brought to my attention today sourcing from Paraguay and China.

Earlier this month, I watch an inspiring pitch for a start up by Love Grain offering ancient grains for modern diets tapping into the Ethiopian grain teff.  It’s definitely an African superfood. You gotta love being around the start-up energy and determination people like the founders of Love Grain.

An updated powerpoint describing our accelerating biocultural resilience

I am sharing here an update to our presentation.

I just  gave Alloyssius Attah of Farmerline and Katie Athaide, the Frontier Market Scout assigned to this project, privileges to blog on our place holder site for the biocultural resilience tool. Alloy and I are blogging together here, on his site and on the SOCAP site. This is part of the Oceans Theme with my SOCAP hat on. KDJ

Mapping the Operating System for the Good Economy from Farmerline outward

Working to help an efficient mobile messaging platform that does metrics and evaluation (M&E) while helping entrepreneurs make more money, save money and do their jobs better is where we are starting as we evaluate what part of the Operating System for the Good Economy is already in software. We are doing our experimental pilot of how we work with tech companies with and Alloysius Attah II. His growing platform already has people centered M&E. His goal is to add planet focused M&E functionality. We are also working with NYU journalism student Dezelle Bennett who is running this Indigogo campaign to finance her trip to Ghana to do a video on Farmerline. We have a Frontier Market Scout, Katie Athaide, working on helping Farmerline, too.