Micro-enterprises are the lifeblood of many communities and a critical source of employment and livelihoods. Larger companies rely on the effective operation and growth of micro-enterprises in their value chains, often as suppliers, distributors, retailers and customers. However, many micro-enterprises today are struggling just to survive. Research points to five areas of need (business and technical skills, access to fair and well-functioning markets, access to affordable, appropriate financial services, infrastructure and services and enabling policy and regulatory environment) that limit the ability of micro-enterprises to thrive, of companies to realise the commercial value of their relationship with micro-enterprises, and of the full potential of micro-enterprises’ social impact in communities.
These needs are also highly interconnected and cannot be tackled in siloes, which is why there is growing appreciation amongst stakeholders that interventions that do not address the full range of micro-enterprise needs can reduce the potential for achieving greater sustained impact – both for micro-enterprises and the companies supporting them. In recognition of this, a new report by SABMiller, CARE International UK, Business Fights Poverty and the Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Responsibility Initiative highlights the need to move towards a more holistic form of collaboration with the aim of strengthening the broader “market system” in which their value chain and micro-enterprises operate. The report also identifies five critical success factors which are essential for designing and implementing market systems approaches.
To mark the launch of the new report, Business Fights Poverty is hosting an online discussion to explore the following questions:
- The report highlights five key interconnected needs of micro-enterprises that would enable them to thrive – how do these needs exist for the micro-enterprises you engage with and support? Are some more important to address than others?
- What are some of the limitations of current approaches to supporting micro-enterprises in value chains? How can taking a more “market systems” approach deliver greater commercial and social value?
- What are the key challenges that limit collaboration across companies, governments, civil society organisations and donors? What are examples of effective collaboration and what has made them successful?