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.