WECONOMY: Saving the World With Business

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WECONOMY: Saving the World With Business: Weconomy Start - A global innovation programme for companies and low-income communities

Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

From ME business into WE business! We facilitate interaction and co-creation, which results in new business models, products and services that create value for low-income communities as well as companies by offering grass-root knowledge of the BOP (Base of the Pyramid), innovative ways of delivering the services to under-served segments, hands-on inclusive co-creation with the local communities and ethical, sustainable and scalable business.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Weconomy Start aims at solving wicked problems of the world by fostering new kind of partnerships between private sector, academia and civil society. The programme builds bridges and facilitates rights-based collaboration between companies, low-income communities and other relevant stakeholders. It offers a practical path for companies to develop sustainable and profitable business at the BOP. It fosters new, innovative and sustainable solutions to economic, ecological and social problems identified by low-income communities such as lack of opportunities, unemployment, poor sanitation, malnutrition etc. On the other hand, companies need new markets: there are 4 bln people living under by 5 € per day with needs and capabilities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

During the one-year programme companies will be able to indentify new business opportunities, do fast-prototyping, innovate together with end users and make implementation plans for starting a business in new markets. It includes 1) practical knowledge of local needs, challenges and opportunities; 2) understanding the purpose and benefits of co-creation with communities and NGO’s; 3) identifying viable business concepts and selecting the most promising ones and 4) refining the selected business concepts to business plans. The programme brings together the expertise of its partners: the NGO offers a platform locally and globally for innovation, academia brings research knowledge and businesses have their business and marketing skills.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Finnish company Palmroth Consulting went to Indore with Weconomy Start to develop a concept of importing handicrafts produced by Indian women to the Finnish business-gift market. They set four key targets 1.To learn about BOP business opportunities and methods in India. 2. To find out how the co-creation process between community members and the company could work. 3. To develop a business model around the concept and to start a new business. 4.To generate employ ment for local artisans. People living in the slums of Indore are lacking employment opportunities and skills. As a result, a new company brand was launched, a business with a group of local artisans was started, first products are being exported - all this in 14 months.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The programme will be scaled-up through World Vision's network of almost 100 countries, starting from Europe (potentially first Germany and Austria) on the other hand and Africa (potentially first Kenia, Tanzania) and Latin America (potentially first Peru, Brazil) on the other. During 2014 negotiations for scaling-up are made and new countries will start in 2015. The programme is alsocontributing to a policy reform process going on in Finland about development and corporate funding & aid-for-trade. It is one of the first examples of getting private sector involvement into the development work in a new way. Low-income markets are a great but so far unused market for European companies. Apart from getting new customers, reverse innovations and know-how flowing back to Europe can be major changemakers in the future of our continent.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

As far as we know there are no other similar NGO organisations offering exactly the same kind of solution. There are some approaches, for example in Denmark and Netherlands, that have more an academic focus or offer on-line courses on the subject. Some Finnish projects organise short co-creation field-visits for companies to low-income markets, but with no long-term commitment. We see that there is definitely need and market for our solution.


In Weconomy Start the partnership is in the center of everything. The whole idea is combining expertise from different sectors, bringing together development work and business and involving academia actively in the process. The team is multi-cultural, cross-sectoral and involving several organisations. It is challenging but truly fruitful at its best. It is important that there are members involved from the grass-root operating level to the top management. Obviously the companies that take part in the programme also play a crucial role - without them there would be no co-creation and innovation happening. From the companies' side the top management has a key role. They need to see the benefits from stepping into this kind of endeavour right from the beginning and be committed. Developing sustainable business in new markets needs to be in the core of their strategy as well.