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Entries in economics of mutuality (33)

Friday
Apr012016

The race to connect the next billion, and the business models to get there

Google and Facebook both have a mission – to “connect the next billion,” as Google puts it. This Financial Times article, “Facebook, Google and the race to sign up India,” explores the tech giants’ initiatives that are “bringing internet access to India’s masses as a way of alleviating poverty, improving education and creating jobs.”

Google, in partnership with NGO Tata Trusts, is sending thousands of tech-connected bikes to women in rural Indian villages. (In these regions, women are much less connected than men.) The bikes, loaded with two Android smartphones and two tablets, educate women about using the internet, and these women can then pass their knowledge on to other villages. Google also aims to launch its pilot technology, “Project Loon” later this year, sending balloons into the sky that will provide internet connectivity to remote areas. Additionally, the company, through a partnership with India’s railway ministry, is in the process of rolling out high-speed wifi to a hundred train stations this year.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been heavily focused on its “Free Basics” program. This program, an app that is part of the social network’s Internet.org initiative, offers users of partner telecoms networks free access to Facebook and a number of other well-known sites (Wikipedia, BBC News, Accuweather, etc.) Since it’s 2004 launch, 38 countries have come on board.

Both companies’ goals are echoing those of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes an aim of universal internet access. What’s notable is that these tech giants aren’t using funds they’ve set aside for corporate social responsibility, rather they’re driving these initiatives with money from their core budgets. This speaks to their belief that connecting the unconnected is more than just a charity effort, rather that there is “solid business logic of investing in connectivity in India and other developing markets,” according to the Financial Times article, and a benefit for both companies to gain a first movers advantage in these regions.

Despite their grandeur and reputation, these companies still face challenges developing business models that incorporate their social impact efforts. Recently, Facebook’s Free Basics app was blocked by India’s telecom regulators, after they ruled that “differential pricing” by internet companies infringes on the principles of net neutrality. While the ban wasn’t targeted specifically at Facebook, it has created a major roadblock for the company. However, the tech giant isn’t ready to wave the white flag allowing Google to take the lead in this race to connectivity just yet, saying it plans to pursue other connectivity projects in the region.

-- Clara Shen

Monday
Mar212016

Bureaucracy (and worse) vs entrepreneurship in fighting poverty

The trailer for the documentary Poverty Inc. challenges the traditional charity/aid approach to fighting poverty, and starkly suggests that--while intentions may be good--the donor-driven approach will never bring about real change. 

At what point do aid efforts become so entrenched that they effectively compete against real business development? And how can real, sustainable economic growth be cultivated?  These are important questions to ask. As one interviewee in the film states,

I know about countries that developed on trade and innovation and business. I don't know of any that got so much aid they suddenly became a first world country."

We are focused on developing mutual solutions based on real business models, and are interested in your point of take on the issues raised here.

 

POVERTY, INC. | Official Trailer from POVERTY, INC. | The Movie on Vimeo.

 

-- Clara Shen

Monday
Feb222016

Connections and globalization

We enjoy -- and encourage you to explore -- Catalyst Fellow Parag Khanna's exploration of how shifting demographics and increased global connectivity are reshaping civilization.

His 2011 book, How to Run The World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance, contemplates a world in which non-state actors have as much influence on the course of world events as countries do -- in many ways similar to the 16th century.

More recently, Khanna has focused on connectivity and how it redefining how we approach issues of commerce and government. His new book, due out in April, is titled Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, views current market trends and international conflicts through the lens of how each is related to connective infrastructure. This was also the theme of his 2016 TED talk (while waiting for the video to post, you can read the Tech Insider review). "Connectivity, not sovereignty," Khanna says, "has become the organizing principle of the human species."

And although the transformation can appear chaotic, Khanna is optimistic about the future -- that beneath the chaos of a world that appears to be falling apart is a new foundation of connectivity pulling it together.

 -- Bruno Roche and Clara Shen

 

Tuesday
Feb092016

Economics of mutuality briefly explained

For most of its history, the foundation of Mars operations and culture has been the Five Principles of Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom. It is these principles -- particularly Mutuality -- that has driven our work in the economics of mutuality.

But how to explain our research and how it fits into past and present economic and business theory?  We have produced two videos to introduce our work -- a short version (above), and a ten-minute one that goes into slightly greater depth, which you can watch here.

 

Friday
Feb052016

Mutuality reading recommendations

Mutuality is a concept that many are exploring, from various angles and under diverse names. We are interested in exploring the work of those outside of Catalyst who are applying their knowledge and efforts to develop these ideas.  Two authors have recently been recommended to us:

  1. Peter J. Boettke  is the Deputy Director of the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, and a professor in the economics department at George Mason University.  Boettke is particularly interested in interdisciplinary work integrating politics, philosophy and economics.  He is associated with the Global Prosperity Initiative (GPI), which was founded to explore through ethnography and economic theory why some nations prosper while others are poor.  In addition to his published books and articles, his commentary can also be found here.
  2. Harry Barkema is a professor of management at the London School of Economics. Professor Barkema is also the founding Director of the Innovation Co-Creation Lab (ICCL) where currently 20 people work on fundamental research and teaching (MSc, PhD, Executive education). This research includes; how to design innovative teams, innovation communities around websites, innovative science parks & corporate campuses, and successful business model innovation in close cooperation with companies. One set of new initiatives focuses on business model innovation at the base of the pyramid (BOP), in cooperation with multinational corporations, NGOs, and local businesses in South East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.

-- Bruno Roche

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