SEVEN Fund Call for Proposal

SEVEN (Social Equity Venture Fund) is a virtual non-profit entity run by entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. It does this by targeted investment that fosters thought leadership through books, films and websites supporting role models - whether they are entrepreneurs or innovative firms - in developing nations and shaping a new discourse in government, the press and the academy around private sector innovation, prosperity and progressive human values.
Foreign economic aid and government programs have spent billions of dollars during the past five decades to alleviate the high number of people living in poverty. No country has been lifted out of poverty as a result of these efforts, but the mindset remains the same: aid programs are the key to poverty alleviation.
Entrepreneurship, as a solution to eradicate poverty (i.e. a focus on wealth creation rather than poverty reduction via re-distribution), remains controversial because it goes against the prevailing mindset that solutions to public problems are created by the government, rather than from the private sector. The notion of creating wealth is often stigmatized, and businesspeople in developing nations are sometimes regarded as too self-interested to be a force for positive social change.
There are efforts by international organizations and personalities that aim to correct this, but these efforts often turn into “top-down” and “social engineering” solutions, or into calls for philanthropic donations and handouts, rather than focusing on economic integration, improved productivity, and growth. The prevalent mindset in trying to “solve” the problem of poverty focuses too little on the opportunity these new, vast markets represent as a way to create producers and consumers, and to connect all people to networks of productivity and exchange.
At the core of the approach to poverty alleviation is the basic question: Are individual persons, no matter where they live, able to determine their own future? Does positive change come from the ingenuity of the individual or does a group of us (well-educated Westerners, primarily) have to tell the rest what to do? The answer to these questions goes to the core of our view of how we see the person, as fatalistic or self-determined and it determines whether our proposed solution to an issue like poverty involves a “top-down” approach or a “bottom-up” solution. Indeed, to what extent do we rest the locus of responsibility for a person’s future on him or her or on others, out of their beneficence?
The aim of SEVEN Fund sponsored research is to challenge the prevailing state of mind in this field. We want to answer the question of whether wealth-creation may be the most effective solution to alleviate poverty. We invest our efforts and resources to find, research, and document examples where entrepreneurial success is shown to have led to poverty alleviation. In the process, we will seek to inspire entrepreneurs in developing countries with advice, investments, role models, and services.
At SEVEN, we believe that enterprise solutions to poverty already exist, but are not sufficiently studied, analyzed, and exhibited as examples. There are specific questions that have no formulated answers – it is our aim to sponsor research to explore and find these answers. For example:
  • What are the most significant qualities of a successful entrepreneur, especially in the uncertain environment of a developing economy?
  • Can entrepreneurship be taught, inspired, and diffused through a society?
  • Could support for the entrepreneurial spirit serve as role models of sustainable solutions to poverty?
  • What is the relationship between prosperity and progressive human values?
  • How can enterprises contribute to making stronger societies?
Questions like these lie at the heart of enterprise-based solutions to poverty, and at the foundation of our understanding of how to help an economy grow and, ultimately, help bring about a high and rising standard of living for the vast majority of citizens. Answers to these questions will have implications for governments, multilateral donors, corporations, financial institutions, investors, and citizens in general.
A key aspect of SEVEN’s approach is that we believe that entrepreneurs and their companies can be competitive and profitable, while providing a positive impact on society. In fact, we believe that this is the only sustainable business platform. There are four different constituents to any business model: consumers, owners, workers, and future generations. All business models serve the purchasers, or the business model wouldn’t exist. Most serve the shareholders or the business model wouldn’t exist for long. Fewer still serve the employees of the world; and in fact, there are only a handful of countries where employees regularly participate in the value created in a business model. Even in these few countries, there is precious little thought given to future generations. We call this focus on Customers, Owners, Workers and the Future the COW-F approach. With this integral view, businesses are the key contributors to sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
The prevailing approach is to focus on top-down projects with government-led conceptual frameworks, rather than on the less defined and often interdisciplinary methods required to develop and encourage entrepreneurial approaches to wealth creation and poverty reduction.In addition to curtailing the potential for massive poverty reduction, this mode of thinking greatly diminishes the excitement and meaning of entrepreneurship in the public consciousness.
SEVEN encourages rigorous researchers to tackle the questions and the potential of enterprise-based solutions to poverty head-on and we are committed to promoting and diffusing the answers found.
Goals
This SEVEN Fund RFP has four goals:
  • To expand scientific inquiry to include disciplines fundamental to a deep understanding of entrepreneurship and economic development that are currently unsupported by conventional grant sources. This includes the broad topic area of research that we encourage, as well as the inclusion of qualified “researchers” from various fields and backgrounds that other institutions would not fund. Our goal is to introduce fresh thinking and new directions into the discourse of poverty reduction and sustainable economic development;
  • To forge and maintain useful collaborations between researchers and on-the-ground actors of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty;
  • To provide the public with a deeper understanding in this area, and its potential implications;
  • To find, research and analyze role-model entrepreneurs and companies whose lesson may inspire others.
RFP funding therefore favors research that has two characteristics. First it aims at supporting research that is foundational, with potentially significant and broad implications for our understanding of how entrepreneurs lift people out of poverty. Second, this unconventional view will enable research that, because of its speculative, non-mainstream, or high-risk nature, would otherwise go unrealized due to lack of funding. SEVEN especially welcomes proposals that are integrative, and recommends that interested researchers see “That’s My Duck: The Case for Integration” by Michael Fairbanks, in "In the River They Swim: Essays on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty from Around the Globe" for more perspective on the importance of integration across domains to inform innovative approaches to poverty.
About SEVENSEVEN (Social Equity Venture Fund) is a virtual non-profit entity run by entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. It does this by targeted investment that fosters thought leadership through books, films and websites supporting role models - whether they are entrepreneurs or innovative firms - in developing nations and shaping a new discourse in government, the press and the academy around private sector innovation, prosperity and progressive human values.
Questions & Answers
Does SEVEN have a preferred philosophical or scientific agenda?We see a number of experts who opine about poverty and prosperity: i.e., macroeconomists, businessmen, educators, political scientists, social scientists, etc. We rarely see enough integration, where the experts of one domain borrow insights from another, and attempt to create an even more robust intellectual framework. We intend to foster this kind of integration at the level of thought leader and practitioner.
Who might receive SEVEN grants?Anyone may submit an Initial Proposal in order to compete for a SEVEN RFP grant as long as the proposal reflects the scope and guidelines stated in the call for RFPs. The winning parties will be required to enter into a contract with SEVEN prior to final award. We expect applicants to be Think-Tanks, Economists, Professors from Business Schools as well as other departments, Researchers, Entrepreneurs, Business Experts, Strategy Experts, Graduate and Post-Graduate Student Researchers, Economic Development Experts, Business Strategists, Non-Governmental Organizations, etc.
How and when do we apply?You enter into the RFP competition by completing an Initial Proposal of no more than three pages, with the PI’s (Principal Investigator’s) CV attached. Submission deadline for this RFP (Initial Proposals) is October 15.
What kinds of programs and requests are eligible for funding? The RFP competition focuses on academic and scientific research in the field of Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty. We intend to award up to two grants for a cumulative $200,000 and duration of no more than twelve months. There is no geographic or other limitation on who may compete for these funds – anyone may compete for these funds.
Evaluation Criteria & Project EligibilityIn this RFP competition, SEVEN will award grants of varying value (no single grant will exceed $100,000 and twelve months) to exceptional research proposals meeting the criteria. Researchers in academic and other institutions may apply for projects up to one year in duration, beginning March 15, 11. Grant applications will be subject to a competitive process of confidential expert review similar to that employed by similar grant funding agencies.
Contact detail: S.E.VEN Fund, 1770 Massachusetts Avenue, 247, Cambridge, MA 02140United States of America. info@sevenfund.org
Moreinfo: http://www.sevenfund.org/enterprise-solutions-poverty/index.php
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