Response to Salkowitz’s Young World Rising: What are the benefits & challenges of cross-sector partnerships?
Technology is the only way for Africa to get rich, Herman Chinery-Hesse was once quoted [p. 185]. I suppose I hadn’t thought much of development in these terms, but it makes sense for Ghana—a country that Chinery-Hesse describes as lacking infrastructure and unable to compete in manufacturing [p. 185]. What he has identified here is the opportunity presented in a knowledge economy. The bright, young, entrepreneurial minds of emerging markets are able to compete “brain for brain” [p. 185] as Chinery-Hesse puts it, with individuals from across the globe, leveling the playfield. This is not to downplay that lack of access to other resources and cycles of poverty still don’t make opportunities to compete the same. But, it’s a new economy that’s being taken seriously.
An emerging partnership model in these economies: cross-sector partnerships. Often times thought of as competing markets, commercial and social are coming together to create common good. Salkowitz has identified markers of Young World entrepreneurship: blending social and commercial objectives; creatively aligning public, private and NGO resources; leveraging communities and collaboration; well-adapted and sustainable in Young World environments; embraces globalization of knowledge workforce; solves systemic problems while meeting market needs [p. 114] that are causing us all to rethink organizational structures, risk-taking, foreign aid and indigenous entrepreneurism.
Schwartz’s article on the Grameen, MTN Uganda and Google initiative is an example of the good that can come out of cross-sector partnerships. Using “trusted intermediaries” to work among communities who lack access to essential information and those who can provide it, the parties worked with local and global partners who were able to help create models that were both sustainable and scalable, while addressing the needs of the most underserved in Uganda. By working with partners who shared interests in gathering and making important information accessible, the poor of Uganda were empowered to participate in creating their futures.
Though I do appreciate Salkowitz’s focus on the distinctives of the Young World and ways to engage with them, I will end with the fact that I was disturbed when he referred to the billions in the Young World under age 20 as “an enormous opportunity to reach young consumers” [p. 220]. It’s a dangerous path we tread when we think of the young people in emerging markets merely as new segment to breed (and sell brands to). What I hope Salkowitz is getting at is that young consumers in emerging markets are tech savvy and know how to tune in and out of conversations with organizations that don’t know how to listen and respond to the needs of this emerging demographic.
Salkowitz, R. (2010). Young world rising: How youth, technology and entrepreneurship are changing the world from the bottom up. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Schwartz, M. (2009). Grameen, MTN Uganda, Google empower Ugandan poor with mobile services. Retrieved on October 5, 2010 from http://www.developingtelecoms.com/grameen-mtn-uganda-google-empower- ugandan-poor-with-mobile-services.html