Monday, January 19, 2009

Ashoka and Gates announce partnership

Over the course of this blog I have highlighted multiple models focused on agriculture. I tend to become excited about agricultural innovations because I believe enhancing agricultural productivity is one of the most highly leveraged points of investment when tackling rural poverty and the myriad of negative outcomes that stem from that poverty. I am not alone in that evaluation: research continues to support those claims as do the entrepreneurial experiences of organizations such as IDE and Kickstart. I think the Gates Foundation also found that it could not fulfill its global health goals without investing substantially in agriculture and rural development.

Which brings us to this latest announcement of a partnership between Gates and Ashoka. Now that it is public I can likewise publicly share my enthusiasm for this opportunity and what it could mean for the sector. $15 million does not put this partnership in the top tier of grants made by the Gates Foundation by any means but I think the knowledge and models that can come out of this partnership could dramatically drive the spread of innovation across the entire Gates portfolio. Ashoka's expertise in grassroot, early-stage identification as well as pattern and trend identification across their network will be powerful tools for Gates who then has the resources to really bring those innovations to the rest of the world. It will be an interesting experience for both organizations.

When it comes to franchising I'm anxious to see if it surfaces in the early rounds of identification by Ashoka. Traditionally franchising has not been associated with agriculture and farming but that could mean innovation is right around the corner.

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