Bridging the Gap Between Development Programming and Social Enterprise Creation


CARE International is one of the world’s largest international development NGOs, and has promoted sustainable solutions to poverty issues in the most marginalized areas of the world for more than 65 years. Directly reaching more than 82 million people annually, in over 87 countries, they work alongside communities to provide people, especially women, with appropriate resources to lift themselves out of poverty.

In today’s diverse eco-system of social and environmental responsibilities, CARE sees the development of Social Enterprises as a powerful approach in the fight against poverty, and a natural evolution of those development programs which utilize market-based solutions. From micro-finance programs to innovative last-mile distribution projects, such initiatives are bolstered today by CARE’s strategy to promote market creation and enterprise development using a value chain approach.  

To accelerate its work in this area CARE recently established “CARE Enterprises” – a Social Enterprise pilot and scale up organization.  For private and public players seeking efficiency and scale in their social enterprise activities, CARE has a large pipeline of completed and in process pilots. Their focus for these is on models which either efficiently distribute quality products and services to people living in the informal economy, or models which aggregate products from small producers as a source of needed supply, generating employment, income, and access to markets at the Base of the Pyramid.

For example, in Bangladesh CARE developed a distribution system composed of 66 hubs in 18 districts, employing 3,000 marginalized women and providing access to products to 1M+ vulnerable people. They spun-off the project in January this year as an enterprise, and secured an injection of equity capital from an investor to fuel its growth, increase the number of employees to 12,000 and the reach to 10M+ households.

Unlike organizations seeking out entrepreneurs with new ideas, where infrastructure and support need to be established for them to be successful, CARE has access to proven people already working in successful pilots.  

International NGOs such as CARE bring in-depth on the ground knowledge (in arenas from agriculture, healthcare, to financial products), deep understanding of local customs and politics, and operate at a scale which can take them from communities in urban slums to the most remote villages.  

Whilst the existing gap between development programming and social enterprise creation is still considerable it is CARE’s hope that, in collaboration with other like-minded organizations, they can play an important role in bridging this over the coming years.



Tim Bishop is heading CARE’s private sector initiative in Asia.