decentralizationThe brand of whole-systems design we call “zero-based design” describes how to establish and manage a large-scale enterprise — from scratch — that will reduce the incidence of poverty in many nations. Among the principles of this field is that the whole, multinational social enterprise must be envisioned at the outset and business-model decisions made that will facilitate rapid scaling up.

Decentralization is one of the keys to building a large, transnational business capable of making headway against global poverty while making a generous profit.

Why decentralization? Because languages, cultures, infrastructure, the natural environment, and the nature of economic challenges can vary greatly from one locality to another. Ultimately, problems can only be solved at the local level by local managers empowered to act without stifling direction from above. At the same time, only a modular approach to expansion will permit smooth and rapid scaling up — whether through franchising or a network of local partners. In any case, a decentralized social enterprise will require full utilization of state-of-the-art telecommunications to exchange and compile information and to share learning experiences.

Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s award-winning book, The Business Solution to Povertyhighlights 20 “takeaways” that encapsulate much of the book’s essence. Today we have featured the seventeenth of those takeaways. Future posts will include others.

3 Responses to “Decentralization is key in scaling up to fight poverty”

  1. Peter Dougan

    hi Mal, you mention the need for state of the art communications to support scalable social enterprises.

    Do you have any examples of enterprises that have these systems – how they work the benefits to business efficiency and growth ?

    An example id like to learn more about is Living Goods – ive heard they have a smart system (as well as a smart overall business model).

    Thx, Peter

    • Mal Warwick

      I wish I could cite chapter and verse. I can’t. What I wrote is based on the conviction that communications systems supporting micropayments, funds transfer via SMS, and data-gathering through wireless networks are all tools that will prove essential for any social enterprises that seek to reach large scale.

  2. Jeff Mowatt

    Indeed Mal, as it was reasoned in our position paper describing a business for social purpose ‘Top-notch education is leaving the confines of physical campus and four walls. A student in remote Zaire, given an Internet connection, can become a Duke-educated Master of Business Administration, while remaining mostly in his or her home village to the village’s benefit. The prospect of such decentralized localization of education and economic activity allows a great deal of autonomy, freedom and self-determinism in the village’s own character and identity. It need not be a risk to cultural heritage and integrity to benefit economically; the means by which such benefit will occur, how local citizens can have food, shelter, health care, and a basic sustaining human standard of existence can be determined at the local village level and then communicated at the regional, national, and global level simultaneously at virtually no cost via the Internet and a web site. It is this basic level of human sustenance, coupled with self-sustaining enterprise to provide this basic level of support, that I refer to as sustainable development — which is just another way of saying “people-centered” economic development’


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