Ambuja Foundation, in collaboration with LEAD at Krea University, organized a closed door half-day workshop on 17th February 2023 in Mumbai, bringing together corporates, entrepreneurs, government, CSR leaders, NGO professionals and research consultants to understand how nano and micro-enterprises, and livelihood opportunities, can be scaled up.
The team from LEAD presented its findings from a scoping study done at Ambuja Foundation’s Chandrapur location, identifying agri-allied entrepreneurial activities that have potential to scale up on a growth track, along with enabling factors that would aid scale up and formalisation of markets. The team also listed potential areas of collaboration where stakeholders could contribute to future efforts to scale enterprises in Chandrapur.
At the event entrepreneurs shared the strengths and limitations of the various available models and pathways for scalability which involved strategic vision, localised expertise and market linkages. Experts suggested learnings through other models and innovative methods to scale, including strengthening financial literacy. A few stakeholders also identified enabling factors that support scale: financial literacy, providing physical and organisational infrastructure, support with respect to credit access and formalisation of enterprises, intensive mentorship, and capacity building.
An important enabling factor identified was also holistic community engagement, where communities are engaged in the building and implementing interventions, and support is provided beyond just scaling their business (e.g. investing in community healthcare and insurance). Building aspiration among communities, aiding local models to benefit from existing market-driven government support, and exploring green opportunities were some pathways identified by participants in order to achieve scale to promote nano and microenterprises.
The second half of the workshop focused on exploring emerging practices and lessons in designing participatory impact assessment, as well as MEL frameworks (Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning) for complex enterprise development programmes and interventions. LEAD presented an analysis of what makes Ambuja Foundation’s work a complex program and the challenges in representing Ambuja Foundation work in a traditional Theory of Change (ToC) framework. Participants then shared their experiences of assessing complex programs, highlighting the lack of qualitative insights in such assessments and a failure of many programs to share the learnings from MEL efforts with the communities they work with as major gaps in the current approach to MEL. Some participants shared how they look at impact indicators that move beyond business outcomes and capture the overall well-being at the household level.
There was common consensus among participants that the way forward to create MEL frameworks that measure holistic impact of interventions need to be collaborative and participatory approaches that work with the end beneficiaries. In addition, the learnings from MEL efforts must be shared not only with the communities themselves but also to other implementing organisations, so the sector itself may learn from each other and continue to improve the impact of interventions that aid enterprise development in the country.