Alchemize™: A catalytic methodology to trigger scale

Alchemize blog 1

Alchemize is an acceleration methodology designed and developed by the team at Innovation Alchemy. The approach is focused towards applying innovation thinking in a Social Enterprise context that is seeking to scale the impact of its work. The methodology goes beyond working with just the primary founder, entrepreneur, with an aim to introduce speed, scale and sustainability, into the working of the organization, to achieve significantly higher impact.

The Social Enterprise Opportunity

New age Social Enterprises and more traditional non-profit civil society organizations who form the formidable ‘third sector’, have over the last couple of decades demonstrated impact in areas that the Government and the private sector have had a challenge working within. Health, education, employability, potable water, nutrition… subjects where enterprising new social models have found ways to apply government funds, market mechanics and philanthropic money to demonstrate impact. These Social Enterprises have an edge over Government programs and large corporate initiatives in terms of understanding the core issue within communities and are far more innovative on the ground. Being agile enough to learn quickly by failing fast and cracking innovative models is a key strength that could go the last mile in efficient and low cost ways.

But…There is a Scale Challenge

More often than not the initial success at prototype stages does not always lead to large-scale adoption and impact. Limited resources, high costs of capacity building, poor infrastructure, fragmented value chains, lack of good management talent, limited working capital for operations are all reasons that good ideas seem to stop growing after a point. As a result organizations tend to compromise innovation and do a trade-off between the larger challenge and the potential feasible impact that they can create, through available current resources.

 The Alchemize™ Approach

The Alchemize methodology is a 12-18 month engagement, designed specifically to help teams at such a phase to uncover key Innovation levers that will enable their model to deliver significant impact, beyond organizational constraints. Going beyond Innovation at the idea stage, Innovation Alchemy gets involved with the teams at a deep level, facilitating, enabling and taking on co-ownership for demonstrating its impact.

The methodology facilitates a social enterprise to work on:

  1. Redesigned goals and objectives with respect to scaling impact through key finding & working on Innovation levers
  2. Seek insights around these innovation levers, build a portfolio of ideas that could help achieve significant impact, demonstrate prototypes of scalable, sustainable Models, implemented on ground with the core team, including impact measurement and unit costs.
  3. Helping build a trained and capable core team, able to carry the work forward and continue to bring in Innovation Value into the organization. The team is actively facilitated to build innovation skills and take this forward
  4. Focused interventions and support towards the model accessing growth stage funds and visibility, leveraging several platforms and relationships that Innovation Alchemy is nurturing within the larger social enterprise ecosystem in India.

In 2011, the Alchemize™ methodology was applied to incubate two social enterprise models under the Guiding Social Innovations program supported by Marico Innovation Foundation.

Projects Accelerated in 2011

The prototypes implemented with Yuva Parivartan  (rural school-drop out employability program) impacted more than 15,000 rural youth coming from remote, rural villages where the organization never had a presence before. The innovation and scale methodology was applied to help them significantly increase the scale of impact – and a key gap that was discovered was in the rural areas, where youth are not interested and have no opportunity to engage in employability adoption. The prototypes created significant social impact in the lives of these youth by linking them to real livelihood opportunities either through wage employment, self employment or on job training opportunities. This is all the more significant considering that over half of them were school dropouts and more than 80% of them were coming from backward categories. Read more about how the Alchemize™ methodology was applied to Yuva Parivartan.

The Innovation Incubation Process by Marico Innovation Foundation is a very good step to guide & handhold NGO’s like KSWA to take a big leap in an innovative manner. The inputs & insights on the Yuva Parivartan (YP) model, and (the support) thereafter in dividing YP activities into three different clouds was a great learning; hence innovative lever for us to invent the CAMP as backward linkage to the existing YP activity. Secondly, involving the energy of external experts in the overall YP innovation process helped us to find our way very easilyDr. Vivekanand Sawant, Director, Yuva Parivartan Skills Development, KSWA

WWT_Logo_1-300x155

The Waste Wise Trust model transformed itself from being the small NGO it started out as, 27 years ago, focusing on street urchins and rag pickers into a social enterprise that is prototyping solutions to holistically manage Solid Waste at a systemic level. As a part of the acceleration process, the WWT team took on a large challenge of finding systemic solutions to SWT. Currently it is partnering with Electronic City Industrial Association (one of the largest IT offices and Software Industry catchments that generate solid waste in Bangalore) to find answers to a pressing problem of how to sustainably manage the 5-8 tons of Solid Waste that gets generated everyday in the campuses of its 165 resident companies. WWT is also closely working with the municipal government to crack a model that incentivizes the existing system to better manage its waste. Read more about WWT’s adoption of the Alchemize methodology here.

The incubation period defined the value of scale in our operation.  From our current operation of 5 tons per day, to 100 tons per day or 1000 t/p/d, we buoyed over the notion of scaling and how it happens, current impact vs potential impact and uniqueness of crafting a change.   The creative exercise which is the hallmark of every session with Innovation Alchemy helped us in transforming existing facility of waste management to learning center that attracts number of clients and visitors; Establish a network across the city to mobilize, train and take on logistical support from every actor involved; and establish a for profit company in its legal terms and make it distinct with social and  business impact indicators. Anslem Rosario, Ashoka Fellow, Founder Waste Wise Trust and Mythri Sarva Seva Samithi

If you would like to learn more about this program or if you would like your organization to be able to join the portfolio of teams who are being accelerated through the Alchemize™ methodology, please email us at info@innovationalchemy.com with a brief background on your organization or project – and why you believe this methodology could be of help to you.

In addition, we curate a community of practice for social entrepreneurs called Alchemix. This is a series of open forum discussions  hosted by Innovation Alchemy, between Founders, Entrepreneurs, Innovators, Designers and Engaged Citizens and is an opportunity to learn more about innovative and impactful social models. Learn more about Alchemix and how you can attend one of these sessions.

For regular updates on our open programs and peer connect Alchemix Session, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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