Tuesday, January 26, 2010


As my first posts have not created much of a rhythm for this blog I thought I would step back and try to put more context around what has brought me to Jakarta and what my role is here. I hope this will lead to a more fluid and interesting story that is easier for me to write on a more frequent basis. Everyday I have fascinating experiences but I haven’t managed to put them into a format that makes it easy to share. I guess there is an art to blogging and as this is my first attempt I ask for you indulgence as I try to find my muse.

After retiring about one year ago I began looking for meaningful activities where my experience in international banking and consulting could be impactful in socially relevant ways. I am very grateful to Grameen Foundation for giving me this opportunity to be a volunteer on its project to help launch a social enterprise in Jakarta called PT Ruma. “RUMA” is an acronym that comes from the words Rekan Usaha Mikro Anda which means “your micro-business partner.”

The company was conceived by two talented young Indonesians, Aldi Haryopratomo, currently at Harvard Business School working on an MBA, and Budiman Wikarsa, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Both earned engineering degrees at Purdue and have extensive experience working in consulting for companies like BCG and McKinsey. They have put together a very impressive team of young Indonesians, who I will try to introduce in subsequent posts, to implement the mission of the company which is “empowering the poor and the poorest with profitable microfranchise business opportunities and delivering socially relevant products and services to underserved communities.”

Grameen Foundation’s role has been to organize initial support for the company in the form of both finances and technical assistance. Qualcomm corporation has partnered with Grameen to provide grant money and assistance with the technology that drives Ruma’s business model. Sean DeWitt is the Grameen’s manager on the project. He coordinates the contributions of assistance from various sources, including me, and provides advice to the leadership team on social enterprise management.

My introduction to the concept of the “social enterprise” came through reading Professor Muhammad Yunus’ book Creating a World Without Poverty. Dr. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his pioneering efforts in developing micro credit for the poor. The basic premise of the book is that poverty can only be eliminated by creating business opportunities for poor people so that they, through their own initiative and ingenuity, will lift themselves out of their impoverished condition. This will require, Dr Yunus posits, social entrepreneurs such as Aldi and Budi, who are willing to invest their resources in “social business” which manage to both social and an economic bottom lines. Investors in a “social business” forego an economic return unless and until the social bottom line objectives are achieved.

PT Ruma’s Articles of Association provide that dividends cannot be paid to shareholders unless and until it is sustainably achieving its social mission as defined by scorecard targets derived from the “Progress out of Poverty Index” (PPI) created by Grameen Foundation for Indonesia. The PPI is itself a fascinating and ground breaking concept that I will write about in my next post. If you are interested in reading about it in detail I recommend you go to http://www.progressoutofpoverty.org/.

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