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Social Enterprise Merger To Help Empower One Million People by 2020

7 May 2018 at 4:59 pm
Luke Michael
Two award-winning social enterprises have announced a merger, hoping to expand their reach and empower one million people living in poverty in India and Nepal by 2020.

Luke Michael | 7 May 2018 at 4:59 pm


Social Enterprise Merger To Help Empower One Million People by 2020
7 May 2018 at 4:59 pm

Two award-winning social enterprises have announced a merger, hoping to expand their reach and empower one million people living in poverty in India and Nepal by 2020.

Australian enterprise Pollinate Energy – a UN Momentum for Change winner and a DRK Fellow – will merge with US-based Empower Generation, which won an Ashden Award in 2017.

Both enterprises aim to empower entrepreneurs to establish sales and distribution businesses, which deliver useful products and meaningful income to marginalised communities in India and Nepal.

These products – including solar lights and solar fans – help to address climate change and human rights issues around poverty, and are distributed through a unique network of a predominately woman-led salesforce who either own their own franchise or are employed directly by the organisation.

Empower Generation’s founder Anya Cherneff, said the decision to join forces with Pollinate Energy was an easy one.

“Merging with Pollinate Energy is an incredible opportunity for our organisations to learn from one another and to empower more women into positions of leadership across a global organisation that is changing millions of lives,” Cherneff said.

“This is a crucial milestone on our path to scale, and we are showing the world that innovative collaborations can break down barriers to growth for social enterprises like ours, especially in the last-mile distribution sector.”

While the combined reach of both organisations is currently more than half a million people, by 2020 the joint organisation aims to positively impact 1 million people, recruit, train, and support more than 1,000 women and increase the rate of reach to 4,000 families per month.

Anna McGregor, the Australian general manager of Pollinate Energy, told Pro Bono News that collaboration between these social enterprises offered many opportunities to better help people in need.

“Social enterprises that are working on their own face so many barriers and so working together, they will reach millions faster and more efficiently,” McGregor said.

“We will be better placed to empower women to play a central role in the development of their communities and families. Empower Generation has huge experience supporting women and that’s something that Pollinate Energy has identified as something that we’d like to do better in India.

“And aside from that it allows us to scale more efficiently. We’re talking about reaching one million people by 2020, which is massive numbers that Pollinate could never do on its own as a much smaller social enterprise.”

McGregor said Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation had strong records of success in achieving their mission-related goals, but stressed that this merger would help to fine-tune some areas of weakness in each organisation.

“So with Pollinate Energy for example, we haven’t tackled the rural market as much as we would have liked because we’re strongly focused on the migrants that are coming from those rural areas into the cities. And so we traditionally have focused on the urban poor in those slums,” she said.

“But what we know is that there’s a huge need out in that rural market as well. So how we reach those people effectively when they’re potentially quite isolated in their location is what Empower Generation does in Nepal so well.

“They are using a different business model with sales agents, similar to our [workers], but in shops to be able to sell those products to families in those areas.”

She said Empower Generation’s knowledge would help Pollinate with their pilot initiatives, and also with their product development.

“It takes a really long time for us to establish what products families need, what is affordable, what works best and then looking at the energy side of things as well and what is most appropriate for use,” McGregor said.

“So [Empower Generation] in Nepal has tried and tested a lot of these agricultural type products that we just haven’t. So we already know what products they’ve trialled that have worked well and that we can bring into India, so our own trialling process will be a lot quicker than normal.”

Pollinate Energy decided to go ahead with a merger after realising how many organisations were doing similar work to them, and recognising the benefits of sharing knowledge with different connections.

“We realised we were going to be able to scale most efficiently with [Empower Generation]. Obviously geographically it was pretty easy for us to do that. And it makes really good sense because our customers are very similar,” McGregor said.

“So that’s where it started. There’s such good connections in the sector with this type of work and Pollinate Energy has always been very transparent and open with our business model, and wanting others to learn from us around what works and what doesn’t work.

“And that’s the only way that we can reach people more quickly.”

While the organisations have now officially merged, a formal united brand is not expected to be announced until 2019.

Pollinate Energy CEO Alexie Seller – who will remain CEO for the new merged organisation – said that while the joint-organisation has developed a formal mission, structure and governance, for now it was business as usual.

“We are excited about this transition; however merging our communications and brand will take some time and is not an immediate priority,” Seller said.

“We will remain focused on our families and the transition operationally on the ground in India and Nepal, and work towards a streamlined brand launch for 2019.”

Pollinate Energy also announced it would hold a 24-hour live crowdfunding event on 30 May, hoping to raise $50,000 to help recruit 1,000 women over the next two years.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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