Businesses created with the primary aim of creating broader social benefits bring the self-sufficiency of business and the incentives of market forces to bear on the problems of poverty in a way that neither pure capitalism nor pure charity has been able to match.
These social enterprises deliver benefits in a self-sustaining way by using their revenues to finance activities that generate social benefit. They can also scale to benefit large numbers of people by incentivizing other players in the value chain and by attracting financing from a mix of sources including consumers, franchisees, patient capital funds like Tandem, and commercial sources. These are businesses with the potential to transform markets for social benefit.
Today, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. 3.6 million people die each year of water-related disease. WaterHealth International is a social enterprise that uses franchising to deliver clean drinking water to small villages. WaterHealth provides village entrepreneurs with UV filtration technology, which is used to process and sell clean drinking water to remote villages at low cost. Through its network of franchises, WaterHealth provides access to pure and safe drinking water to half a million people in 4 countries.
While some charitable water projects languish because beneficiaries have no money to fix pumps when they break down, WaterHealth technicians are available to help troubleshoot equipment and village entrepreneurs pay for maintenance using the proceeds from their business.
Waterhealth is one of many social enterprises emerging to provide innovative ways of delivering water and sanitation, prenatal healthcare, early education, and agricultural technology to disadvantaged communities often out of reach to conventional businesses.