What do we mean by ‘Shared Value’?

June 19, 2013

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  • This is what shared value can do: Rigoberta Cha Xol opened this village pharmacy as part of TISA, Mercy Corps' micropharmacy franchise pilot. Now Guatemala's largest pharmaceutical chain is taking the model to scale, with plans to open an additional 500 stores providing low-cost medicines to 88,000 people. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in FSG’s Global Shared Value Leadership Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The summit brought together 200 visionary leaders from governments, non-profits, corporations and foundations in 20 different countries to discuss how to make shared value work.

“Shared value” is a relatively new term among those who care about social change. It essentially involves working with companies to find new ways to develop products, services and distribution models that benefit those at the bottom of the economic pyramid — while also supporting business objectives. This represents a huge market opportunity, and if we’re going to create enduring solutions to poverty, we’ve got to make markets work for the poor.

In order to create collective impact we first take a good look at the problem, and then bring the right partners together to solve it. At Mercy Corps, we often find ourselves in the role of bringing unconventional combinations of groups together to tackle the tough challenges. There are no fast fixes for what we’re facing. Solving the problems of today is about networks and partnerships — none of us is going to change the world alone.

One of our signature shared value initiatives is TISA (short for Tiendas de la Salud or “health stores” in Spanish). In rural Guatemala, many people live hours away from medical providers or pharmacies. When someone needs medical attention, the choices are limited: do nothing, self-medicate with whatever you have available, or take a couple days off work and travel to a larger town to see a doctor — then hope that you can afford whatever medicine is prescribed!

To address this challenge, we worked closely with the Linked Foundation, which provided risk capital to help us get a micropharmacy franchise pilot started. Together we enabled 50 local entrepreneurs to start rural health stores, providing high-quality, low-cost medicines to 88,000 people.

Having proved that TISA was a viable business model, we invited the largest pharmaceutical chain in Guatemala to help us take it to scale across the country. They plan to open an additional 500 stores in rural Guatemala, reaching more than 450,000 people, in the next few years.

Watch the video and read the case study to learn more about the evolution of this social enterprise ▸

Most established NGOs understand the challenges that confront poor consumers. If companies and foundations bring NGOs to the table early in their discussions about bottom of the pyramid products or services, we have the insight to ensure that the solution is both viable and delivers real social benefit. I look forward to having many more inspiring conversations with companies and foundations that are looking for ways to make business a part of the solution to global poverty.

To learn more about Mercy Corps’ approach to Shared Value or to discuss partnership opportunities, contact our corporate and foundation partnerships team.