Social Innovation to Bridge the “Middle Gap”

Shivani Siroya, CEO and founder of InVenture, with a micro-entrepreneur in India

Some of the most successful social innovation initiatives lie within the microfinance sector, most notably the Grameen Bank set up in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus. Social entrepreneur Shivani Siroya, a Fellow of the Unreasonable Institute, launched a new mobile-based initiative that follows a similar model, but is designed to cater to the so-called ‘middle’ economy – businesses that fall between micro-loans and the traditional banking sector. These still lie within the cash-based economy, and often tend to be neglected.

Dowser interviewed Siroya to find out more about InVenture, which hopes to offer a solution of

“quasi-equity,” which bridges these micro-entrepreneurs with equity-like instruments, or InVestors. After a successful launch with InVenture, Siroya and her team set up a mobile-based tool, InSight, to track the financial workings of this cash-based economy, enabling them to earn a “credit” score and providing data on an informal economy that’s been largely neglected.

Interestingly, the service is by no means limited to emerging economies and rural communities in India and Africa, but is also being tested in the US as well. Siroya explains,

We are in fact running a small pilot in NYC in the South Bronx with immigrant cash-based businesses using InSight. It is interesting to see that even here, these businesses owners prefer SMS (text-messages) rather than smartphone applications. It is interesting to see the similarities in the use case for SMS accounting and the need to create simple tools that people can easily access regardless of what country you’re working in.

Read the rest of the interview here.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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