FINCA
FINCA International helps small business owners in more than 23 countries worldwide by providing the finances and resources they need to keep their businesses up and running.

The innovative nonprofit focuses on four core areas: financial assistance, social intermediation, enterprise development and social service impact.

FINCA International serves as a financial intermediary by providing developing business owners with loans, teaching them how to open savings accounts and helping them find insurance tailored to the products and services they offer. This helps new businesses blossom into full-running operations that help women and men provide for their families.

Their second facet, social intermediation, is also an important part of their business model. Because they are serving entrepreneurs in countries that may be lacking in gender equality, they have to serve as people who can help bring change to these communities. FINCA International provides this intermediation through education in financial literacy and Village Banking loan programs.

In addition to enterprise development, they also help developing communities through educational programs, nutrition services, and health training. These programs contribute to the success and growth of the villages and towns they serve.

FINCA International was launched in 1984 by former Peace Corps member Dr. John Hatch. Hatch started the organization as Village Banking, which operated in Bolivia and served as a financial intermediary for farmers struggling through tough economic times. The following year, Hatch started the organization.

In its early days, FINCA International operated primarily in Latin America, including the Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador, but by the early 1990s, its services had spread to Africa and Eurasia as well. Since its inauguration, FINCA International has lived up to its name and has provided services in countries all over the world.

Subsidiaries exist in countries in Africa, Western Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: FINCA, Give, Philanthropedia, MicroCapital
Photo: Flickr

Women’s_World_Banking
Women’s World Banking raises money to provide women with the resources and tools needed to become successful entrepreneurs in their respective regions.

The organization operates primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but has left footprints in other regions, such as the Middle East and Western Europe.

Women’s World Banking recognizes that although many women globally use their earnings to give back to their families and communities, the demographic continues to be underserved and underrepresented.

Once the group determines the tools needed to empower successful female entrepreneurs, they network with financial institutions to guide women through the business startup process.

Women’s World Banking consists of an executive team, staff members, fellows and a board of directors, all of whom help keep the organization afloat. These individuals have dedicated themselves to the development of innovated products, micro-insurance programs and enterprises.

The team helps women develop credit, savings and insurance programs that fit their needs. Through research and on-the-job experience, the organization also creates innovative methods that they share with hardworking women throughout the world.

This year, roughly 530,000 women have accessed tools and resources provided by Women’s World Banking, with the total participants each year totaling over one million. Eighty-five percent of people participating in their leadership programs each year are young women looking to make a living for themselves and their families.

For more than 35 years, Women’s World Banking has created and networked with more than 38 organizations dedicated to empowering women throughout these regions, leaving a worldwide impact on the state of poverty found within predominantly female areas.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Womens World Banking, Microfinance Gateway, Friends of Women`s World Banking
Photo: Flickr

female_entrepreneurs
The World Bank recently established a line of credit for female entrepreneurs in the world’s poorest nations. The program has already helped more than 3,000 female entrepreneurs in Ethiopia start their own businesses and escape poverty.

In poor communities, women are far less likely than men to own valuable assets to use as collateral to get a loan. Without these loans, many business ventures never make it off the ground.

An estimated 70 percent of women who own small or medium-sized businesses are unable to stabilize and improve them because of a lack of funding credit. This challenge creates a huge loss in potential income within a community.

According to World Bank economists Francesco Strobbe and Salman Alibhai, investing in female-owned businesses results in one of the “highest return opportunities available in emerging markets.”

The World Bank is helping to put an end to this opportunity loss and stagnation of female business opportunities by offering female entrepreneurs loans through the International Development Association and several international development organizations in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Between January 2014 and September 2015, Ethiopia’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Project disbursed 768 million birr (about $38 million) worth of credit to 3,227 female entrepreneurs. Currently, nearly $2 million in credit is being disbursed each month with an average individual loan size of approximately 219,605 birr (approximately $11,000).

Research shows that female entrepreneurs are more likely to hire other women to work in their businesses, opening up employment opportunities in communities where positions for women were scarce before.

Thus far, 76 percent of the women who have taken advantage of the program are first-time borrowers, unlocking untapped capital and opening up a new route to closing the gendered financial gap.

Despite the majority being first-time borrowers with little to no collateral, the repayment rate is 99.4 percent. Besides the success of the small loans, the program also offers entrepreneurship training to inspired women throughout the nation.

So far, more than 5,000 women have taken advantage of training and hope to enter into the exciting realm of business ownership. This trend is likely to drive down the overall rate of unemployment throughout Ethiopia, which currently stands at 17 percent.

Claire Colby

Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

social_entrepreneurs_in_education
Entrepreneurs are individuals that go beyond the status quo in order to make change happen. “They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices,” says the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

Reform and change are never made without a struggle. Social entrepreneurs in education are no different.

Many struggle with receiving the support and funding necessary to keep programs running. But despite hardships, they press forward in order to make improvements.

Occasionally, an entrepreneur will find a break in the form of investors. Schwab, Skoll and Ashoka are three such foundations that provide this relief to individuals making change happen around the world.

One such fellow, or entrepreneur, that found relief works for an organization by the name of abcdespanol. Based in Colombia, the organization worked to create a new methodology for teaching reading, writing and math skills.

Javier Gonzalez discovered that the issues across Latin America were not due to the people, but the methodology while playing a game of dominoes. “González then created abcdespañol and “ABC de la Matematica”, an innovative learning solution employing games as a teaching methodology.”

For many, this is how it works. Social entrepreneurs in education see an issue and then fight to find and put into practice new ideas to correct the issue. The journey doesn’t stop there, though.

Going back to Javier, “he continued searching for additional ways to make the learning process more interesting.”

Education isn’t an easy fix and is not a one solution fits all circumstance ordeal. Teaching the world’s future leaders takes innovation and improvement. Social entrepreneurs, like Javier, know this and continue to seek out a better way.

Ashoka fellow Flick Asvat of South Africa is another excellent example of this.

In the country of South Africa, Asvat found that many youths become more discouraged than not by the truism that education is the path out of poverty due to the strikes, violence, and other issues that have continuously interrupted such attempts.

To fight this, “Flick is putting children in control of their own out-of-school educational programs. She has developed a concept, Bugrado, based on the idea that human beings have the power to change their circumstances.”

Through innovative new techniques, real change was seen in schools. “Flick has successfully created five pilot programs around Johannesburg and is now focusing on Alexandra Township, where the program is operating in four schools, reaching approximately six thousand students.”

As a social entrepreneur in education, Flick resigned from her job as Minister of Education to solely focus on the implementation of the Bugrado program.

Such stories have become increasingly common. Through simply opening one’s eyes and caring about making a difference, individuals have made change happen. When one thing doesn’t work, new ones are tried. In this way, education is constantly improving.

Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation has expressed the importance of these social entrepreneurs around the world.

On their site, it is stated that it has become, “the premier global event for social entrepreneurship…the Forum has increasingly become a showcase to highlight large scale impact that social entrepreneurs are having on the big challenges facing the planet.”

By connecting social entrepreneurs with the resources and connections they need to improve conditions, the Skoll Foundation helps millions experience the impact of positive change.

In short, these entrepreneurs are alike in a fundamental thought process. As Skoll puts it, “I believe “a lot of good comes from a little bit of good,” or, in other words, where the positive social returns significantly outstrip the amount of time and money invested.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: Schwab Found 1, Schwab Found 2, Ashoka, Skoll
Photo: Wikimedia

injaz
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a new emphasis has been placed on teaching children about entrepreneurship. In Morocco, four out of every five young people between the ages of 15 and 34 are unemployed and not taking an active role in changing their circumstances.

The idea behind encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs is that they will eventually create jobs for themselves and others as well. Injaz is a non-profit at the forefront of this initiative.

According to their website, Injaz aims to “reveal to youth their potential and stimulate their spirit of initiative through a partnership between the corporate and the public worlds.” They have 10 offices all over MENA that are carrying out programs that teach young people about how to create a business.

Injaz has volunteers on the ground who are engaging students at all grade levels for two hours during a three-week period in each location. During their time at each place, volunteers attempt to implement Junior Achievement programs, which has been a global leader of entrepreneurship since 1919.

These programs work to get unemployed youth engaged and re-energized about their futures.

The high unemployment rate can be attributed to several factors: public sector employment preferences, lack of “high quality” jobs and a mishandling of skills and the education that is provided when it comes to what jobs are most needed in the job market.

These and other intricately interwoven factors contribute to the lack of engaged youth and the clear need for an entrepreneurial initiative.

Although the governments in MENA have recognized and attempted to enthusiastically rectify this growing problem, they haven’t been able to gain the trust and respect of its people due to their predecessors. The public is skeptical because there have been many failures on the part of past government officials when it comes to this initiative.

It is important to remember that there have been failures, yes, but also many success stories, some of which are shared on Injaz’s website.

In 2014, the efforts of Injaz helped to provide almost 11,000 students with hands-on classes on global business, practical entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy and an encouragement towards imagination and creativity.

As Sarah Alaoui, a team member of the American Moroccan Legal Empowerment Network, says, “the fairies of innovation and entrepreneurship will not magically dissipate the hurdles faced by unemployed youth in the country, [but] if cultivated properly, they are a long-term channel for Morocco’s youth to contribute to the country’s growth and development as valuable members of society… [and] the ship of entrepreneurship must be encouraged to stay afloat in Morocco.”

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: Al Jazeera, Injaz Morocco, Huffington Post
Photo: Morocco World News

z1 miniature people
Since independence, the long civil war and recurring natural disasters have led to widespread poverty in Tajikistan. About half of the country’s population is poor and depend on agriculture to survive. The majority of the poor are unemployed, underemployed or self-employed.

On Oct. 12, 2015, a Youth Entrepreneurship Forum took place in Dushanbe with support from the World Bank Group. The goal of the event is to increase awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship for job creation and economic growth and to share ideas about entrepreneurship for youth in Tajikistan.

The World Bank has an active portfolio of 24 projects, including regional projects and Trust Funds. It intends to make a net commitment of U.S. $383 million to support economic growth through private sector development and investments in better public services, such as education, health, municipal services and social protection.

As part of the World Bank Group-financed Central Asia Youth Empowerment and Jobs Project, this event aims to improve the business climate and foster youth entrepreneurship in Tajikistan through improving the capacity of state entities and offering skills training for youth.

The event involved around 200 young entrepreneurs, private companies, civil society organizations, development partners, World Bank Group experts, representatives from the Government of Tajikistan and participants from the Slovak Republic.

At the forum, international and local experts introduced key concepts of entrepreneurship, including how to set up and manage a business, how to make entrepreneurial decisions and identify new business opportunities.Representatives from Tajikistan private companies and the Slovak Republic shared their experience of starting a business and discussed with young entrepreneurs about how entrepreneurship works at the individual and company level.

embassy_dushanbe_0
Moreover, officials from the Secretariat of Consultative Council on Improvement Investment Climate under the president of Tajikistan and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic focused on policies that foster youth entrepreneurship and how to better link the private sector with education institutions.

The forum also includes the discussion on business and entrepreneurship opportunities offered by local and international civil society organizations, development partners and local associations and companies.

In order to put words into action, following the forum, a master class started on October 13 for start-up businesses intending to collect individual business advice from successful entrepreneurs from Tajikistan and the Slovak Republic.

“Young people are eager to work and need good job opportunities. A society that can deliver these opportunities is promoting growth and investing in its welfare,” said Patricia Veevers-Carter, World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan. “The World Bank Group’s efforts in this area in Tajikistan are going to focus on helping youth develop skills and increase employment opportunities, as well as on assisting the Government in designing policies that help youth thrive.”

This project will benefit the society of Tajikistan with more jobs created by entrepreneurship and improved economy.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank, Rural Poverty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: DIPNOTE

bpeace
Bpeace, short for Business Council for Peace, is an organization comprised of business savvy individuals who have combined their efforts to aid business owners in areas who have suffered from violence and war.

Bpeace volunteers help decrease violence in conflict-ridden communities by accelerating job creation and, in turn, decreasing poverty. They have aided business owners in countries like Rwanda, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Guatemala and more.

Bpeace was founded in 2002 in New York City. Serving as a pro bono management consulting firm, Bpeace helps entrepreneurs scale their businesses, create significant employment for members of their communities and expand the economic power of women.

The founders of Bpeace believe the most efficient way to spread world peace is by creating jobs, and they apply this philosophy to all of their practices. Jobs have a big multiplier effect. This creates local purchasing power, which helps families become sustainable.

Since 2009, Bpeace has held an event called Pedal for Peace that brings together donors and bikers to raise money for local entrepreneurs in developing countries. Participants ride either a sixty-mile or 25-mile race while donating at least $500. Every dollar is donated to families in Afghanistan, El Salvador and Guatemala.

In 2015, Bpeace provided mentoring to over 65 entrepreneurs, with their efforts reaching 2,657 employees. In total, 12,000 families have been positively affected by Bpeace’s effort. Bpeace also assists business owners with finances to keep violence away from their businesses.

Karina Koper, a business owner in Guatemala, uses the financial assistance she receives from Bpeace to pay for her employees to take cabs to and from work to avoid being mugged or assaulted and to pay off gangs from messing with her shops.

Another example of this is Veronica Mejia Handal, a business owner in El Salvador, who received social media marketing training from Bpeace and used her newfound skills to market herself to potential customers around the world.

Today, Bpeace continues to help entrepreneurs, creates jobs and helps end gang violence by spreading employment to constituents of all backgrounds.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Fox Business, Bpeace 1, Bpeace 2, Indiegogo
Photo: Pause for Thought

Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda: Overcoming Barriers
In Africa, women entrepreneurs are rare. They struggle to obtain loans from banks and do not receive the same educational opportunities as their male counterparts because of traditional views that the role of women is in the home.

A disproportionate percentage of women applied to the Anzisha Prize this year— only 27%. The Anzisha prize provides young entrepreneurs with funding.

However, Rwanda defied this norm in 2015 as 60% of applicants to the Anzisha prize in Rwanda were women this year.

This reflects Rwanda’s recent efforts to empower women. In 1994, Rwanda experienced a devastating genocide; 70% of the population was female. Today, Rwanda still has a higher percentage of women in their population. For this reason, President Paul Kagame has implemented initiatives to support women in business, education and politics.

Of note, Rwanda’s parliament has more women than men. “It is exciting to see Rwanda take such progressive steps. Women empowerment has considerable benefits for any economy’s growth and development, and we hope that other African countries follow Rwanda’s example,” explained Grace Kalisha, senior program manager at the African Leadership Academy to How We Made it In Africa.

Four outstanding female Rwandan applicants to the Anzisha Prize, including Gisele Iradukunda, Henriette Dukunde, Alice Igiraneza and Nancy Sibo are featured below.

Radio Stations in Bus Stops

Twenty-year-old Gisele Iradukunda founded Radio Gare Project, a company that installs radio speakers in bus stations to communicate important messages to commuters.

Iradukunda realized bus companies would pay to have a radio system installed so they can provide information to bus users. Other companies can advertise their products to a large group of people waiting at a bus stop.

Her first sound system was installed in Nyamata, a town in southeast Rwanda. She obtained a bank loan, then placed speakers in four corners of the bus station. Today people can hear the sound in a 500-meter radius around the speakers.

Since then, Iradukunda has installed speakers at two more bus stations and hopes to put them in every station in Rwanda in the future.

Iradukunda also uses the bus station radios to notify the public about HIV prevention and healthcare issues. “The District also uses our radio to pass on information about events, meetings and all other affairs that they would like the public to attend,” said Iradukunda.

Rice Cooperative to Support Women

In 2013, Henriette Dukunde, a twenty-one-year-old biology student, co-founded the Rice Project. It is located in Huye, southern Rwanda, and supports over fifty women in a farming cooperative.

The Rice Project places the women farmers into four groups. Each group receives a piece of land, seeds, fertilizer, and other farming materials so they can grow and harvest rice in Nyanza marshlands.

65% of profits goes to the cooperative, and the rest supports the sustainability of the Project.

“The Rice Project has improved the lives of poor vulnerable women. It has both created jobs for them and enabled them to afford their basic daily needs,” explained Dukunde.

Health and Nutrition Promotion at University of Rwanda

Alice Igiraneza, a twenty-one-year-old medical student at the University of Rwanda, started the restaurant Kiza. The restaurant promotes healthy eating at her university by providing a section of healthy options for students and staff at the University of Rwanda.

The restaurant’s goal is to educate the public about diet and nutrition and to fight diseases like diabetes. The restaurant currently serves food to around three hundred people, and provides twenty medical students from impoverished families with employment.

“We pay them a salary of $60 a month and provide them with food so that they can continue their studies and become good doctors for the future well-being of the population,” said Igiraneza.

Along with her restaurant, Igiraneza is the head of a consultation center that teaches students and staff about health and nutrition.

Accessories from Recycled Drinking Straws

In 2013, twenty-one-year-old Nancy Sibo founded Miheha Straw Bags. The company is a social enterprise that manufactures purses, earrings, and belts from recycled plastic drinking straws.

“In developing countries like Rwanda, garbage collection and recycling services are often not available or are inadequate. We have decided to turn waste into opportunity for the enterprise, the environment and for the women,” explained Sibo.

Sibo provides training for women so they can make a living through the company. “Suzanne is a young mother who joined Miheha in 2013 when she was extremely poor with no access to some basics of life. But, through the trainings she received from our initiative, she has changed her life and is now training other women at our enterprise,” said Sibo.

Margaret Anderson

Sources: Anzisha Prize, How We Made It in Africa
Photo: Venture Burn

Wonder Women Initiative Takes Off in Indonesia
For decades, the iconic comic book superheroine Wonder Woman has been a representation of justice, strength and all that is right in the universe. Today, the spirit of Wonder Woman is as present as it has ever been, but it has been breathed into the organization titled, appropriately, Wonder Women. In 2015, it is this plural variation of the legendary superhero’s name that resonates the most with global change.

The Wonder Women Initiative is a movement to revitalize poverty-stricken areas by teaching the women of these communities to sell new pieces of technology and equipment to their neighbors and members of their towns or villages. The effort has been especially successful in Indonesia over the last few years. Some of the items sold include solar lanterns, clean cook stoves and water filters.

An article by CNBC detailing the Wonder Women program recently said, “Since the program started in 2011, more than 300 women have become ‘micro-social-entrepreneurs,’ selling around 10,000 clean technology products to their communities.” The Wonder Women initiative has been extremely successful because of its grassroots approach to eradicating poverty. This project operates under the umbrella of the large non-government organization Kopernik.

Kopernik was founded on the belief that only a simple piece of technology can drastically turn around poverty situations all over the world. The NGO’s website provides certain statistics such as “780 million people live with dirty water, when a simple filter can provide safe, clean, convenient drinking water” and “1.3 billion people rely on dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene for lighting, when simple solar lanterns can provide clean, bright light at night.” Kopernik receives money directly from donors all over the world and in turn uses these funds to produce cost-effective technology products that can be sent to third world countries and commercialized by an initiative like Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is impacting thousands of lives every year and revitalizing the way nonprofits work. By teaching women how to sell technology at cost-effective prices within their communities, Wonder Women is positively affecting the global economy. Kopernik has a quote on its site that reads, “Our namesake, Nicolaus Copernicus, changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.” Much like its namesake, Wonder Women is promoting justice and all that is right with the world.

Diego Catala

Sources: CNBC, Kopernik
Photo: Dorkly

whole_planet_foundation
Poverty alleviation through microcredit is the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. This foundation was created by the Whole Foods Market chain. It provides microcredit to different organizations in areas of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. These organizations in turn offer loan programs, training and financial services that provide help to self-employed people living under poor conditions.

According to the Whole Planet Foundation’s website, they are currently supporting more than 1,000,000 micro-entrepreneurs in around 60 countries throughout the world.

Partnerships are an important pillar of the foundation because they help support these micro-entrepreneurs. The foundation has microfinance partners, supplier partners, collaborating partners, custom contributions and musicians for microcredit.

The foundation’s microfinance partners are the ones in the field. These foundations are located across the globe in places such as Honduras and China.

The Adelante Foundation in Honduras, Aga Khan Foundation in Ivory Coast, Association Costa Rica Grameen in Costa Rica, Banco do Povo Credito Solidario in Brazil, Banigualdad in Chile, CASHPOR in India, CAURIE in Senegal, Chamroeun Microfinance Limited in Cambodia, Entrepreneurs du Monde in Togo, INMAA in Morocco, KOMIDA in Israel, Pro Mujer in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru and the Women and Family Development Fund in Laos are some of the microfinance partners that the Whole Planet Foundation works with.

On the other side, the foundation’s supplier partners have donated millions in order to advocate for the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. These partners support the foundation’s mission through different fund programs: the $100,000 Fund, the Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund.

The partners supporting the $100,000 Fund are Frontier Co-op, Living On One, Papyrus-Recycled Greeting and Whole Foods Market.

The Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund are supported by different organizations like Alaffia, Allegro Coffee, Amazing Grass, Blue Avocado, Garden of Life, Hain Celestial, Organic India, Suja Juice, Greyston Bakery, Rainbow Light, Chavez for Charity, Teatulia and Gourmet Guru, among others.

The foundation also has a scan-back program in which Whole Foods Market supplier partners can donate a part of their sales to the Whole Planet Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, they have more than 600 suppliers in this program.

The Whole Planet Foundation’s collaborating partners are organizations that help to increase the foundation’s reach, potency and success. A Glimmer of Hope, Aldea Artisans, My Social Canvas, The Rainforest Alliance and Valley Credit Union are some of the collaborating organizations of the foundation.

The custom contributors collect sources that help the Whole Planet Foundation support poverty alleviation. Some of their contributors are Aurora University, Hand in Hand Soap, Pura Vida Bracelets, Barefoot Wine, Crafted Peru and FedEx Office, among others.

Another way for the Whole Planet Foundation to support poverty alleviation is through the use of music. The foundation partners with musicians that are advocating for poverty alleviation and empowering entrepreneurship around the world.

Musicians like Rocky Dawuni, Aziza & the Cure, Patrick Bradley and Tiffany Parker are donating part of their album sales to the foundation.

If the general public wants to get involved and support the Whole Planet Foundation mission, they should know that fundraising is an option. People can create a fundraising campaign page in order to support entrepreneur communities around the world, and spread the word to their family, friends and colleagues.

Partnerships are an important aspect and pillar of the Whole Planet Foundation. These partnerships have helped the organization to support poverty alleviation throughout the world and use entrepreneurship as a crucial way to target poverty.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Whole Planet Foundation 1, Whole Planet Foundation 2, Whole Planet Foundation 3, Whole Planet Foundation 4, Whole Planet Foundation 5, Whole Planet Foundation 6, Whole Planet Foundation 7, Whole Planet Foundation 8, Whole Planet Foundation 9
Photo: Whole Planet Foundation