It is no secret that social entrepreneurship is trending. Not just on Twitter (via the hashtag #socent) but in real life, too, with thousands of socially minded innovators pioneering new, market-based solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges.
But this “movement” has hit some roadblocks. In many parts of the world, communities are too poor to qualify as viable customers, leaving little if any revenue to be made. In other places, social enterprises have found success cultivating a market, but haven’t been able to scale up their operations beyond a small region or population. And in particularly vulnerable areas, NGOs have saturated the market such that businesses have no way of contending for customers. After all, how can anyone compete with free?
This last challenge is especially prevalent in Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake devastated hundreds of thousands of people and an ensuing cholera outbreak killed thousands more and remains endemic throughout the country. In light of this, foreign aid has flooded in from all angles, comprising two-thirds of the government’s budget and paving the way for unprecedented NGO activity: There are an estimated 16,000 NGOs in Haiti – more than one per square mile.