Market-based Solutions that Also Create Social Impact

You might know eBay just as a direct auction website. However, it has also created almost one million full-time jobs for people who have to work from home, were handicapped or had other medical conditions that made conventional employment unlikely. eBay is in actuality a market-based solution that creates a profound social change for the better.

So says Peter Rabley, at last week’s IFC Knowledge Talks (see 5-minute summary video), a regular speaker series sponsored by the Global Knowledge and Learning Office. Rabley is a venture partner at Omidyar Network, a philanthropic and impact investment firm that grew from the belief of Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, that market-based approaches can change lives and communities by creating opportunities that weren’t there before.

eBay is just one example of this. Sometimes new businesses, technologies, and innovations meant to derive income from filling a market opening can have alternative or complementary uses that benefit the world in social or cultural ways. The Open Learning Campus offers dynamic learning on these types of ventures—how to learn from, develop or capitalize on such enterprises to help accelerate or co-create solutions to development challenges.

For example, the talk, “City Planning with Satellite Imagery,” looks at how satellite imagery can modernize the urban planning process, ensuring that officials have access to precise, up-to-date information. The video, “Easing Urban Congestion with Smartphones,” shows how the Open Traffic Program uses big data generated from taxi traffic patterns to help manage urban congestion. The podcast, “Guinea Fowl Could Hatch Thousands of Jobs in Ghana,” discusses how the livestock market in Garu Tempane buzzes with economic activity for its residents.

Learning from the examples of Ebay and other ventures that create social impact could help us look at new ways to plan and monitor policies and programs and fill service delivery or income gaps for certain populations.

Related links

•  Blog on eBay Knowledge Talk