by Emily Fockler, Village Enterprise
As Village Enterprise looks forward to all the things to come in 2020, we also are taking a look back at the incredible progress we made in 2019. It was a year full of exciting developments and real progress towards ending extreme poverty through entrepreneurship and innovation. None of it would be possible without the support of our fantastic partners, funders, and staff, so we thank you with all our hearts.
Here is just some of what we accomplished in 2019:
1. In May 2019, Village Enterprise reached the important milestone of one million lives transformed! As of the end of 2019, we have started 48,000+ businesses, trained 185,000+ entrepreneurs, and transformed 1,042,00+ lives.
2. Our program participants’ income soared! Their increase in income* grew from 35% in 2018 to 71% in 2019, more than doubling. Learn more about our impact. (*Income is measured through participants’ consumption and expenditure.)
3. We continued to learn from two years of implementing Africa’s first Development Impact Bond for poverty alleviation. Learn more about Village Enterprise’s Development Impact Bond.
4. We revamped our training materials, making them more interactive and adding new digital tools for our business mentors. Better training has led to the increased success of our business owners. Learn more about our innovations.
5. Village Enterprise was a 2019 Drucker Innovation Award Finalist out of 403 applicants! Innovation continues to drive our organization forward with a focus on human-centered design and data-driven decision-making.
6. We were named one of the Top 10 Poverty Nonprofits in 2020 by ImpactMatters, in recognition of our high cost-effectiveness and sustainable impact on the lives of our business owners and their families. Our results were featured in the New York Times.
7. We launched new partnerships with Mercy Corps to continue our work with refugees and out-of-school youth in Uganda. See our partnerships.
8. We developed award-winning dashboards for our field staff to better monitor the progress of participants’ small businesses and savings groups.
9. We were featured in the 10th edition of Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save, and our Uganda Country Director, Winnie Auma, narrated one of the chapters of the audio version, alongside celebrities such as Kristen Bell, Paul Simon, etc.
10. Village Enterprise invested in creating policies and training materials for our organization that ensure the welfare and safety of our program participants, community members, and employees, and we trained other organizations on best practices at the Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting in September. See more about our Safeguarding training.
Focus on Women
Over 75% of our business owners are women. Why is this important? Seven out of ten of the world’s hungry are women and girls. According to the UN World Food Program findings, women and girls are most affected by neglect in rural, poverty-stricken areas. In East Africa, women are more likely to be illiterate, perform unpaid work and eat less in lean times than men. However, when women are financially empowered, they prioritize things like health care, nutritious food, and education that benefit their families and communities. Increasing the bargaining power of women creates a virtuous cycle as female spending supports the development of human capital, which in turn fuels current and future economic growth. Successful women entrepreneurs also strengthen social justice in the communities where they live.
According to sub-analysis of our Randomized Controlled Trial results, Village Enterprise program households with female participants benefitted more than households with male participants in regards to increases in total asset ownership and consumption as well as access to savings groups. Moreover, women participating in the Village Enterprise program reported increased standing in the community and subjective well-being including improved mental health and an overall sense of happiness.
2020 will be another transformative year for Village Enterprise. We look forward to our continued collaboration as we 1) expand to Rwanda and at least one other African country, 2) continue to scale up in Kenya, Uganda, and the DRC through groundbreaking new partnerships with Catholic Relief Services through the USAID DFSA program, Wasafiri Consulting and Open Society Foundations, and continued collaboration with our existing partners, 3) collaborate much more closely with other poverty alleviation organizations to achieve greater impact in the areas of women and youth empowerment, 4) develop with technology partners a digital toolset for our business owners to increase the profitability of their businesses, and 5) achieve positive results from the first round of the randomized control trial of the Village Enterprise Development Impact Bond.