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Anthony Muljadi, a former BRAC Bangladesh intern and a student at Harvard Business School writes about the importance of partnerships for the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference blog.
Last summer I took a microfinance internship in Bangladesh with BRAC, the world’s largest development NGO serving over 110 million people across 14 countries. I arrived in Bangladesh with a simplistic belief that microfinance was the end-all solution to poverty. After spending a few weeks in the field, however, I quickly realized that while microfinance alleviated financial poverty for many poor Bangladeshis, it did not directly address their educational, health, and enterprise needs of borrowers. BRAC has long recognized this gap, and thus takes a holistic approach to addressing poverty by offering a portfolio of resources (education, health, training, etc.) to its clients depending on individual needs. In this way, BRAC behaves as a social enterprise conglomerate – a one stop shop for all of its clients’ basic needs. Seeing the breadth of services that BRAC offered, I started thinking about how smaller enterprises could broaden their community impact without needing to become conglomerates. Partnerships appeared to be the best option to accomplish this goal. After doing some research, I realized that partnerships could take on many forms (e.g. corporations with non-profits, governments with social enterprises, etc) and create a number of mutual benefits, including brand awareness, access to new networks, and resource sharing.