Celebrating the “enabling environment”

“From the palm streets of Sierra Leone to the fireworks of Boulder, we bring you an episode throbbing with life and contemplation. This time our exceptional production team highlight the work of 2010 Unreasonable Fellow Ben Lyon. Ben talks about his company FrontlineSMS:Credit which provides an effective technological bridge between mobile money providers and microfinance banking solutions to deliver state of the art financial services to the bottom of the pyramid consumers”.

This is a great video for a number of reasons. It captures Ben’s vision, ambition and spirit perfectly, and gives him an ideal platform to tell his own story in his own words.

Stories are increasingly important, and this was reinforced recently during my week with National Geographic (who always need more than just solid science to justify a magazine article or TV slot). The best way to resonate with others, and inspire, is to have a story and a passion which resonates and inspires. As Fried and Hansson put it in their recent book, “Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditise your product. Make it something no-one else can offer”.

I met Ben through Josh Nesbit – Executive Director of FrontlineSMS:Medic – last June. That’s a little over a year ago. It’s incredible – and by no means unreasonable! – to see how far he’s got in such a short space of time, and with so little funding and resources (although that is rapidly changing). An early PC World article we pushed out was intended to generate some interest in his idea, but I think what’s happened since has surprised even Ben.

It’s also great to see the kind of support available to budding innovators and entrepreneurs today. When I started out in mobile in 2003 there was little by way of any genuine support network, and it was more a matter of everyone feeling their own way. Organisations such as the unreasonable institute now play an invaluable role identifying and nurturing young talent, and there’s very little doubt that many of the 2010 Fellows have got a great future ahead of them.

The term “enabling environment” may be ambiguous and over-used, but there’s little doubt it could be applied here better than anywhere else.

Related posts:
Mechanics vs. motivation: The two faces of social innovation
Enabling the inspiration generation

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