Friday, May 20, 2011

GIVE featured in Ode Magazine

In October, 2010, GIVE founder Steven Van Yoder published a feature story, "Fixing the free market", in Ode Magazine about the role of cooperatives in addressing global poverty. Fixing the Free Market provides a comprehensive take on how co-ops in general, but also details how they are playing a growing role in poverty alleviation in the developing world by merging economic growth with social goals. The story was recently recommended by the Tucson Citizen as one of Ode's top stories in 2010.

The story showcases GIVE's work in Manila, Philippines, with field partner Inner City Development Cooperative (ICDC), a cooperative that is bringing fresh life to impoverished neighborhoods in Manila. Through the Urban Entrepreneurship Center co-founded with GIVE in 2010, ICDC is offering microcredit loans, training in business skills and financial literacy, healthcare support, emergency programs and other services to urban squatter communities .

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Entrepreneurship in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Steven Van Yoder just returned from an exploratory meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia to discuss a possible project with several local Cambodian NGOs.

The meeting was organized by Michael Horton, founder of ConCERT (Connecting Communities, Environment & Responsible Tourism),  an organization committed to reducing poverty by connecting people who want to help with local organizations. GIVE has been in discussion with Horton for the past few months, who agrees that GIVE's entrepreneurship model could be a beneficial supplement to the efforts of ConCERT and its member organizations.

Steven led a discussion about the challenges and opportunities in Siem Reap, a province that is home to the world famous Angkor Wat temple complex which attracts over 1 million visitors a year. Steven provided an overview of GIVE's work in the Philippines, including a summary of GIVE's proprietary Entrepreneurship Center concept already established in Manila.

Despite the thriving local tourism industry, poverty persists. A number of ConCERT member organizations are applying social entrepreneurship, earned income and vocational training programs to help the local population.

Stay tuned for a possible partnership project in Siem Reap that applies GIVE's poverty alleviation model through existing local NGOs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching Barefoot MBA to Microentrepreneurs

Since February 2010, Inner City Development Cooperative (ICDC), GIVE’s field partner in the Philippines, has trained 1,700 microloan recipients in the Barefoot MBA. It was just last fall that their staff were trained in the program themselves, so they haven’t wasted any time passing it along to people who can benefit from the training.

Many of the Filipinos who receive microloans had to empty any savings they had in the wake of last winter’s typhoons. With huge sections of Manila damaged or destroyed, residents often had to spend everything they had to get food, water, and shelter for their families.

Because savings accounts looked so depleted, ICDC tailored the Barefoot MBA lessons toward helping loan recipients save money. One of the benefits of the program is that it is modular, so MFIs can tailor the training they offer to the specific needs of the community they’re in. This flexibility makes the Barefoot MBA ideal for a number of situations because it can be relevant to all of them.

In case you’re wondering, the program is working! 40% of the 1700 people trained this year have increased their savings. With this kind of response, ICDC and GIVE are excited about what could happen when they start teaching the other modules in the program, probably sometime this winter.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Projects for 2010

In our last post, we mentioned some problems with microfinance today. While difficult issues have arise in the industry, it's still one of the keys to poverty alleviation. In fact, GIVE is already working with MFIs and NGOs in Southeast Asia to combat some of the downsides of the microfinance industry so it can become even more effective at helping the poor and building stronger, more stable communities in the region.

Last month, we opened our first entrepreneurship center in Manila. In partnership with a local NGO, Inner City Development Cooperative (ICDC), we plan to offer education via the Barefoot MBA, an entrepreneurship course aimed at helping the poor start sustainable businesses, including other business training modules that are being developed. Additionally, we hope to integrate other business support services for the local community which we will announce when they become available.

We're working to develop a childcare co-op through the entrepreneurship center, too. Many women cannot utilize their microfinance loans to their utmost capacity because they have children at home and no one else to care for them. This co-op will help meet these childcare needs so the women have the time and energy to start businesses that will not only sustain their families, but also help their local communities.

Successful businesses are run by resilient business owners. Alongside these business-oriented opportunities, we're also pioneering a group-support program to help the recipients of microfinance loans combat learned helplessness. While learning business skills will give these microentrepreneurs the chance to improve their businesses by improving their minds, these group sessions will help them overcome culturally ingrained ideas that defeat them before they even get started.

We have three major MFIs in Cambodia on board with starting a similar entrepreneurship center there. We hope to have the details of this ironed out later this year so we can begin working with those entrepreneurs as soon as possible. This is a great opportunity for us to not only aid entrepreneurs, but to develop scales and metrics that will help us measure GIVE's success and grow an in-house set of tools aimed at giving microentrepreneurs the very best resources for success.

These are only the first of many ventures GIVE has in the works to support MFIs and the microentrepreneurs who receive their loans. Getting money into these communities is an important step, and GIVE plans to help take these loans even further by making them a more effective tool to combat poverty.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cambodian-Expat Social Entrepreneur Becomes An Advisor

I joined Debbie Watson, a long-time Cambodian expat, microfinance expert and social entrepreneur for a tour of her new venture, FunkyJunk, an innovative social enterprise that makes beautiful and functional products from discarded plastic bags reclaimed from the streets and fields of Cambodia.

Debbie is on a personal mission to tackle the scourge of discarded, non-biodegradable plastic bags that litter the Cambodian landscape, hoping to develop a model that can be expanded throughout SE Asia and other developing countries.

“People in many countries are now very aware of the need to stop using plastic bags in their own country,” she says. “But in poorer nations this is often not the case, and especially not in Cambodia. By purchasing FunkyJunk products, consumers can contribute to a cleaner environment in countries less fortunate than their own, as well as making their home or office look funky too!”

FunkyJunk operates in accordance with fair trade standards and each product is labeled with the number of bags that have been reclaimed. After success in the local marketplace, she’s looking to move into the export market, and is seeking GIVE’s assistance via our Marketers Without Borders program in opening up international markets for FunkyJunk products.

Debbie is currently working with Mercy Corps in Indonesia, consulting on a variety of microfinance projects. Drawing from her extensive knowledge on microfinance and poverty alleviation, Debbie is assisting GIVE in establishing operations in Cambodia, including a new Urban Entrepreneurship Center (UEC) that is slated to come online later this year.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teaching the Barefoot MBA

GIVE accompanied the first batch of Barefoot MBA trainers as they undertook their first round of trainings in ICDC-assisted communities.

ICDC is integrating business skills training along with their regular microloan activities, which involve going into borrower communities for weekly loan servicing, and have efficiently blended in 15-minute business skills classes.

The Barefoot MBA consists of 16 individual lessons that are being taught weekly based on suggested lesson pairs like Debt and Interest, Cost-Benefit Analysis and Incentives, Saving and Investing, Opportunity Costs and Spending, Price-Quantity and Planning and Records, etc. Each lesson is expressed through stories that illustrate how to apply the Barefoot MBA concepts in their businesses.

20 borrowers took part in the initial lesson. They were interested and engaged throughout the process. ICDC will be conducting the same lessons on a weekly basis in urban poor communities in Quezon City in the coming months, leading to a full, ongoing business skills training throughout ICDC’s entire microcredit operation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

GIVE Launches Urban Entrepreneurship Center in Manila

On March 1st 2010, GIVE officially launched its first Urban Entrepreneurship Center™ (UEC) in Tatalon, Quezon City in partnership with Inner City Development Cooperative, Babyloan and Entrepreneurs Du Monde, a French nonprofit organization (NGO) that focuses on poverty alleviation through microfinance and other socio-economic programs in Asia (Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Burma), Africa (Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso) and Central America (Haiti). 

The UEC model will serve as a centerpiece of GIVE’s work in Manila and other parts of SE Asia. The center will serve as a community resource that will support to our project partners and their communities through business skills training, computer workshops, technical and vocational training and other nonfinancial services that will assist our NGO and microfinance institution partners in better fulfilling their mission of poverty alleviation. 

As part of the opening ceremonies, Steven Van Yoder spoke to the ICDC staff and trainers, and shared the stage with ICDC founder and director Zeny De Jesus who explained the new programs that will be offered through the entrepreneurship center. Also on hand was local city councilman Atty. Bong Suntay who offered to support ICDC’s programs for small and medium size entrepreneurs. 

GIVE, along with ICDC, is developing new programs that will be offered through its first UEC, including childcare for single, working mothers and microsavings programs. We plan on using the center as a laboratory for new, innovative approaches to poverty alleviation that will ultimately become a transportable model for other countries.