Powering entrepreneurs to end poverty
The evolution and adoption of an iDE tagline
At iDE, there are certain truths we hold to be self-evident: Start with people. Design to context. One entrepreneur can change their community and millions can change the world. While we’ve stumbled, backtracked, and started over from scratch many times in the last 38 years, one thing has been unchanging—the motivation and innovation of the clients we serve. Fanning that spark into a flame is iDE’s role and purpose, which is why we turned the “one entrepreneur” sentence above into our official purpose statement.
Propelled by what we know to be true, we are always looking for new friends, partners, and champions to join our boots-on-the-ground, market-development journey. When we introduce ourselves, a purpose statement addresses why we operate, what we believe. And our name—either iDE or International Development Enterprises—answers who we are and have been. But answering the question “What do you do?” with a simple and memorable answer has always been a challenge.
Our methodology is memorable. Our impact is memorable. We should be too. We considered a name change but, rather than creating a new brand when we feel our identity is still genuine, we decided to implement a tagline.
Designing, refining, and workshopping
Because our internal Marketing Team is only three people strong, we knew we had a big challenge ahead of us. Fortunately, a member of our Board of Directors connected us with Global Prairie, a purpose driven marketing firm with an office in Denver who acted as our mentor during the process. They did so on a partly pro-bono basis as giving back is a cornerstone of their agency model. Agreeing to this was no small undertaking because iDE is complex and what we do across the world is incredibly varied. But when the team came back with “Powering entrepreneurs to end poverty,” we knew the line was just right for us. It’s intriguing, audacious, and unique enough to be memorable.
Arriving at the final tagline wasn’t a simple “ask and deliver” arrangement—Global Prairie took the time to understand who we are and why we do what we do. We held brainstorming and refining workshops with people across the organization, from field staff to headquarters. We also engaged in research that revealed foundations are increasing their funding in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, motivated by the crisis to step up their efforts in order to achieve change. We want them to see and support us and need a tagline that will catch their eyes. “Powering entrepreneurs to end poverty” rose to the top and offered the most potential. Before we unveiled it, however, we deliberated on each and every word to ensure they reflected iDE’s core.
We chose to use the word “Powering” quite purposefully. “Empowering” is trendy but feels disingenuous. We’re not in a position to empower anybody. We’re not superior or perfect. Our own cultures and economies have flaws and we certainly don’t have all the answers. When we say “Powering entrepreneurs,” we are referring to all the ways we help entrepreneurs thrive within a market ecosystem: training, technology, finance, and connections within the market ecosystem itself.
“Powering” fits our strategy to achieve our mission without conveying the imbalance inherent in the word “empowering.” “Powering” means providing access to knowledge and resources that people can use as leverage to earn a living through providing value to their community. “Powering” captures our role in relationships without trying to speak for others.
We’re also using the words “to end poverty” purposefully, bucking the trend toward asset framing and avoiding negative connotations. The word “poverty” may make people uncomfortable but to address a problem, you need to understand what it is. Poverty is real. To hide or obfuscate its existence delays and minimizes the efforts to stop it. We need to state what we do clearly in order to reach more people and cut through the noise.
“To end poverty” is supported by our ambitious aim for scale and our data-driven practices: measurement, evaluation, learning, adaptive management, and thought leadership. “To end poverty” puts a stake in the ground and clearly communicates the problem we’re solving. “To end poverty” is the moon and we know how to build a rocket.
Behind the power
The elements contributing to poverty are complicated and the work that we do to address them is also not something that can be easily distilled. Solving poverty takes more than a one-size-fits-all, short-term solution. Our new five-word tagline is true for the entire organization, but for the moments when we need to be more specific, we created a tagline system. When it’s time to cut to the chase and speak to how we know entrepreneurs are ending poverty, we can use tagline alternates that were created to fit under the larger umbrella. When we say we are “powering entrepreneurs to end poverty,” we may also simultaneously be powering them to: address climate change, promote health; provide water and sanitation; build resilience; create inclusive markets; and achieve gender equality.
Poverty is not a dirty word that must be avoided; it needs to be faced head-on to end. Our new tagline will ensure that everyone we meet knows we see the problem and are confident that our sustainable market approach—and the entrepreneurs all over the world challenging the status quo—can solve it. What about you? What do you think? What will it take to end poverty? Share your thoughts with us on social media. We would love to talk.