Interview: A grassroots-approach to innovation

Interview: A grassroots-approach to innovation


Rien Hazeleger (left) and Vincent van Dugteren (right)

30 March | 2016

The business development unit at Oikocredit’s Amersfoort office has expanded. The team now comprises two full-time business development specialists, Rien Hazeleger and newcomer Vincent van Dugteren, and director equity and business development Bart van Eyk. We spoke to Rien (RH) and Vincent (VvD) about what drives business development at Oikocredit and how innovation will be nurtured within the cooperative.

What is business development? Why is it important for Oikocredit?

RH: A dedicated business development team is vital for innovation at a strategic level. Oikocredit is 40 years old and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We’ve made our name as a pioneer and we should continue building on that, but if we neglect what’s happening around us, we lose the opportunity to make a greater impact.

VvD: We’re looking at new market sectors and positioning Oikocredit as a catalyst for opportunities in these areas, focusing on the needs of our end-clients. We also want to leverage on the networks of contacts within our organization. Partnerships aligned on our vision and mission are a great opportunity to develop new business initiatives.

In your opinion, what will differentiate Oikocredit’s approach to business development from the approach of its peers?

VvD: Oikocredit has a unique position — 40 years of investment experience in developing markets, an extensive worldwide network and vast knowledge of doing sustainable business in emerging economies.

RH: Every project will be tested against Oikocredit’s vision, mission and organizational values. Oikocredit is a triple bottom line investor — we measure our social, environmental and financial performance — and therefore new business initiatives are triple bottom line initiatives by definition. Our adherence to our values gives us a unique approach in the sector.

Oikocredit is a cooperative. How will member organizations be involved in business development?

VvD: Business development at Oikocredit is a cooperative undertaking. Our organization is full of good ideas — we’re here to channel those ideas and develop them, providing a structured approach. Business development must happen from the grassroots. We know Oikocredit’s members are keen to meet the needs of disadvantaged people around the world: innovation can help us to continue doing this.

What are your targets?

RH: Out of every 50 ideas, 10 should make it through the ‘QuickScan’ phase at the start of our process. Every year, a minimum of two ideas should move through the business plan stage into real-life implementation.

Which areas are of most interest for business development at Oikocredit right now?

VvD: What we’re really looking for are bold ideas we can scale-up and replicate throughout multiple countries and regions. Those ideas should have the potential to generate sufficient volumes, margins and impact, and of course be in line with Oikocredit’s values and strategic plans.

RH: Taking a wider view, some say we’re entering the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ — with new financial technologies offering radical new possibilities to improve on what we do and how we serve our clients. We see these as tremendous opportunities we can embrace, and which will enable us to continue Oikocredit’s pioneering tradition.

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