1. Tell us about your mission.
Village Enterprise’s mission is to end extreme poverty in rural Africa through entrepreneurship and innovation. We currently work in rural East Africa to serve the extreme poor who have very limited numeracy and literacy, and who also lack access to capital, formal banking, and markets. With few income-generating options, the extreme poor struggle to meet basic needs for themselves and their families. They cannot pay for children’s education, adequate healthcare, and disease prevention, or other essentials.
Village Enterprise runs the Graduating from Ultra-Poverty program, developed by BRAC in Bangladesh, and rigorously empirically evaluated in RCTs in multiple countries. Typically, 75%+ of people whom Village Enterprise helps are women, with on average 6.5 dependents.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
The West Foundation has been a part of Village Enterprise’s community since 2002, supporting all areas of Village Enterprise’s Graduation programming.
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
With the support of The West Foundation, Village Enterprise has been able to grow significantly and professionalize our Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning processes. At the time of the West Foundation’s first generous grant to Village Enterprise in 2002, Village Enterprise had impacted approximately 100,000 people. In 2019, we were thrilled to report: we had impacted over one million lives. The West Foundation invested in us when we were quite a small organization and has been an integral part of our growth journey as one of our longest standing foundation partners.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
Village Enterprise works primarily in Kenya and Uganda. We have over 30 years of experience as a pioneer helping rural Africans to lift themselves from poverty. Our community-based, participatory program, directly implemented by Village Enterprise staff on the ground, reflects a bottom-up approach to microenterprise development. By equipping people living on less than $1.90 a day with resources to create successful businesses, our program allows our poor people to access educational, mentorship, and financial services that help them to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Village Enterprise uses a highly effective targeting method to identify the extreme poor (poverty wealth ranking combined with Poverty Probability Index). We then provide access to business savings groups, business, and financial literacy education (9 modules), ongoing mentorship, and a cash grant as seed capital. Types of business include retail, agriculture, livestock rearing, services, including restaurants, bicycle repairs, and butcher services. Village Enterprise has a field team of over 200 employees in Uganda and Kenya who deliver the program, 95% of whom are East Africans. To date, we have launched over 48,000 businesses, trained more than 185,000 individuals, and impacted over 1,000,000 lives in Kenya and Uganda. Our impact measurements include increased income, savings, and productive assets, which contribute to better nutrition, greater access to education for children, higher-quality housing, individual empowerment, and a sense of hope for the future.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for Village Enterprise, as it has been for everyone around the globe, we have nonetheless adapted to the new reality. After a period of remote programming from March through June, we are now back to working with our entrepreneurs in the field using appropriate safety measuring and social distancing protocols. We are also happy to report that we have preserved all organizational jobs and have embarked on a digitization design process where we aim to fully digitize our program to both increase efficiency and prepare us for a similar shock in the future.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
Village Enterprise is a data driven organization, and we believe that community input is necessary to truly solve problems. With this in mind, we approach all problems using a human-centered design process. Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving that starts by connecting directly with the people who are affected by the problem and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to fit the needs of the end user.
6. How can people reading this help you?
Gift: We constantly strive to diversify our revenue, and your donation would help us to reach our ambitious goal of impacting 20 million lives by 2030. You can donate here.
Partner with us: If you are interested in partnering with us, I urge you to reach out to our Senior Manager of Institutional Partnerships, Alexandra Strzempko at Alexs@villageenterprise.org.
7. What are your deepest needs as and organization?
We know that to scale as an organization and to ensure resiliency we must digitize our programming. Progress is already underway at Village Enterprise on a design challenge framed by the question, “How might we significantly scale our reach through digital programming while maintaining impact?” A team of ten individuals from across functional teams is conducting research in academia, from experts in the industry, analogous experience in other industries, contextual observation, and interviews with community members. The research (inspiration) stage of the challenge has been completed, and we are now carrying out the ideation process to synthesize and apply the research findings to design potential solutions.
We know that in the future we will need additional resources in terms of staffing and technology in order to be able to achieve these ambitious goals and fully digitize our programming.