Whenever, the narrative about development is written it is always the rural poor which is focused upon. The narrative often forgets that there is something as the urban poor which live in the flavellas of Rio to the slums of Dharavi. Slums in global megapolis’es are the economic engines of those regions. These are the areas which serve us. The domestic staff, factory labor and the minimum wage staff all live in urban shanty town’s. The inner cities are the heart of our cities really. Social Enterprises (or simply SE from now on in the article) mostly cater to the rural folks in selling artisan products or bringing skills training. Or the success story of Microfinance in Bangladesh brings credence to the story in circulation. Grameen and BRAC are both case studies in their own right because of their spectacular success. Microfinance is unique not only to the rural poor but also to the urban poor as credit access is limited by lack of identity proof and hence there is no question of credit history in this regard. Singapore based Microfinance SE Milaap is reaching poor urban communities in southern India in their quest for better life for the borrowers.
We can see in a Singaporean context that SE’s or Social Enterprises in short can fill up a niche, which is hard to bridge either by corporate s or by the Government. Old School is an educational SE that serves people who dropped out of formal public education early on. Or a World Toilet Organization which spreads the ‘good word’ about sanitation across developing countries globally. In Mumbai, India Ambulance 1298 is providing emergency access to ambulances during the ‘golden hour’, which saves lives. Embrace, a Stanford D School based SE is providing affordable non power based incubators for infants. In the developing world, power cuts are the norm rather than the exception even in urban spaces. As the world is getting more urbanized with China already crossing the psychological threshold of more residents in cities than in the rural areas, SE’s are the way ahead in building sustainable communities, one at a time complimenting local civic governments.